Thursday, July 23, 2009

The abandoned peninsula

Above is a map of the immediate neighbourhood of Banghwa-dong where I lived (at top left). The yellow areas have been demolished and have mostly been built into new apartment blocks within the last four years. The red areas will be demolished in the near future. What's interesting is that in the photo below, taken in 1996 from Balsan Station (it's looking across the Magok-dong fields), the patch of low rise houses in the center of the photo have mostly been demolished in the last 13 years, or soon will be. The row houses in red at top right in the map above can be seen on the right below, in front of the apartments. In front of the row houses, next to the fields are greenhouses.

Behind the greenhouses (or to their left, below) is a neighbourhood I've ridden through before, but rarely went to because it's in the middle of nowhere, a small urban peninsula jutting out into the Magok-dong fields and hidden by the four-year-old apartment complex to its left.

It was past this neighbourhood that I rode on my way home from exploring Magongnaru Station, and I returned there July 1.

Some of the houses (but not many) were still inhabited.

I decided to take a closer look at the house on the right:

On the wall in the living room was some graffiti left by no fan of president Lee Myung-bak.

It seems the previous tenants moved out in May.

Continuing past this house, there were many other houses, some abandoned for a much longer time than others.

A former church:

A pair of newer villas rise above the other houses.

There was a nice view from the back window, and from the roof. Below are the fields that separate the neighbourhood from the rest of Banghwa-dong.

The apartments that replace this neighbourhood will likely have a nice view... at least until the fields are developed.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Covering Bangsin Market

I've mentioned Bangsin Market before in less happier times - after a fire destroyed several shops back in March - but a month or so ago I was surprised to see construction surrounding the market, as a roof was being built. I went back the other day to take a few photos.

Here it is from above:

It's nice to see that the market is being supported by the local government. The market is usually quite busy, especially on weekdays, and usually serves as a source of vegetables, fruits and meats for nearby households (as opposed to heading to one of the nearby small supermarkets or to Nonghyup or E-mart). The market also branches off of Banghwadong-gil, the street which curves from north to south and from which Banghwa-dong originally grew. It can be seen at the top right of the map above, from perhaps 50 years ago.

Photo from here.

The street can be seen below running from north to south below, with the other streets from that time marked. The street running from east to west at the bottom of the map is Gonghangno, and was built when Kimpo Airfield was built in the early 1940s (as a Japanese air base). The red line represents Bangsin Market.

One of these days I'll do a post looking at the history of the area - I've just amassed so many maps and photos over the past few years that it's hard to know where to start...

Monday, July 13, 2009

My own private subway station

I've written about Line 9 and posted photos of Sinbanghwa Station before, but there is another station nearby, out in the fields of Magok-dong, called Magongnaru Station (due to the fact that there will be a marina and lake park there one day). This station is in the middle of the fields, with only farm roads to access it, and while the construction is essentially finished on it, it will also connect to the Incheon Airport Subway line, and that line (and that part of the station) is under construction nearby. I'd ridden past it before, but had only figured out how I might enter the last time I went by.

On my way I followed the street I (used to) live on and continued on into the fields. As there are scrap metal places all around, I'd assumed it was off limits and a dead end, until a student told me she walks to school using that path every day (we confirmed that was the entrance by using the 'road view' function on Daum Maps). So, I ventured off down the path.

There were several boards laid down at points over the mud, though why the fields were flooded I wasn't sure - for the first time, there are no rice crops being planted this year. It seems this area's development will come about in the relatively near future.

On the other hand, there were quite a few vegetable patches being planted by old people, and the spot where buildings for the Line 9 construction once stood is now a 'weekend farm,' with little plots for several people. At any rate, I headed off towards the main part of the Magok fields, and came across the construction for the Incheon Airport Line, which is quite a bit more extensive (and deeper) than it was two years ago (in fact, I find it hard to believe it's been that long).

Visible from the streets that border Magok-dong is this massive pile of earth, the result of digging the tunnel for the Incheon Airport Line through the fields.

As dusk approached and the elderly people gardening near the slightly raised mound to the west that covers Magongnaru station started to head home, I headed for the only subway exit built so far (ironically, it's at the opposite end of the station from the guard houses).

There were a few workers off in the distance, but no one was near the exit, so I (quietly) headed down.

What was eerie was the recorded voice (set at too loud a level) booming from speakers at the bottom of the escalator repeating the same announcement over and over again...

...and in the empty, cavernous station, it echoed and could be heard almost everywhere.

Bathrooms and change rooms.

There was no one around, though there was still some work to be done. Below the wires sticking out of the floor for the as-yet non-existant turnstyles are visible.

I went off to the left and came to the escalators going down to the subway platform (I didn't see any stairs in the station at all).

The platforms were also empty, except for the train that passed by (but didn't stop, as this station, much like Magok station on Line 5) will not open for years. To the right above is the regular train, while on the left is the express train.

I then headed back upstairs into the still empty station, passed by the endlessly repeating announcement, and headed home.

On the way home, I passed by a neighbourhood next to the fields that I'd photographed last year, only to note that the buildings all lacked windows. I knew then how I'd be spending part of the next weekend.

Here's a short video of the visit:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Movin' on out

I quit my job and moved out of the apartment I'd lived in for over five years. All I can say is: Leaving packing to the last minute? Don't do it. Nothing like spending 24 hours straight packing.

What amazed me was how quickly everything disappeared (it was in a neighbourhood of villas, so it's lower or lower middle class housing). The chairs, TV, the metal on the bottom of the sofa chair, the fridge and washer, all of it disappeared within an hour or two of it being put out. One man knocked on my door and we had kind of a funny conversation, as he asked me if everything above had been thrown out, and I said, yes, everything. He then asked if he could take the wardrobe. Take anything, I said. It was when he thanked me in Mandarin that I realized he must be the guy with the Chinese name I've seen on the bills in the mailbox over the past few years.

Anyways, I enjoyed lots of food before heading back to Canada for a few months. Green tea-flavoured naengmyeon:


Jjim-dalk (not as good as that found in Andong, but pretty tasty, and with the friend who introduced me to it in 2001 (on the same street, to boot):

Dubu-jeon (while I'd eaten several 'dubu-dipped-in-egg" dishes over the years, I hadn't had anything quite as good as this (or with the name 'jeon' in it)):

Two friends drove me to the airport and brought along kimbap and jumeokbap to eat at the airport (along with our Dunkin' Donuts coffee). I'd never actually had real jumeokbap before, and filled as it was with tuna, it was delicious. It was purchased at the Kimbap 365 near my (former) home, which I hadn't realized was possible. A nice send-off snack.

And I can't even begin to describe my gratitude to my friends for the ride to the airport, as the weather last Thursday was horrible - pouring rain which made it hard to see the road. In fact, we saw three accidents on the Incheon Airport expressway, with this one being the worst:

A bus next to the car with a dent in its left front corner made it clearer what had happened.

It was a pretty painless flight all in all, except for the baggage carousel in Toronto - it was full, jammed, and no other bags could get onto it. I was thinking I should just start pulling bags off, when someone asked a worker if it was not his job to remove the bags. When he tried to shirk the responsibility, another guy in his late '20s asked if he could volunteer for the job, I said I'd help, and the two of us cleared the bags while everyone else watched. Within five minutes the carousel was cleared enough that the baggage was flowing again and I found and grabbed my bags and headed home. I still find it perplexing (and amusing) that people just sat there not helping, even though it was in their best interest to do so (it certainly turned out to be in my best interest!).

I'll be on a very slow, 26 kbps internet connection for the summer, so blog output may slow down a bit (especially when I'm at the cottage, where there is no internet at all (not even a road into the place, actually). I'll try to schedule a few posts though...