DAVAO

Discovering Dongdaemun on foot

Jeepney Jinggoy

ON FOOT, that's always the best way to explore a new place. This has been a habit of mine when traveling to a new place, especially around the chosen place of residence. A centrally located hotel is always a good choice. Attractions are nearby and it would be advantageous if public transportation is just steps away.

First time in Seoul and Dongdaemun, South Korea's fashion hub, was the chosen address. Popular with tourists, the district is not only the fashion hunters' paradise but offers several important cultural attractions. Luckily, these are within walking distance from Novotel (plus the nearby subway station can whisk me away to farther places).

The most imposing of the structures in the area is the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP, the initials also represent Dream, Design and Play). From an angle, it looks like a shiny giant mushroom floating above the ground. Following a design concept of "Metonymic Landscape," renowned architect Zaha Hadid, aka the "Queen of the Curve," interprets the Fashion Town's dynamism and conceived a "swirling" cultural multiplex. No angles and corners, the fluid contours of the structure swirls through an expansive area in the district. The unique neo-futuristic architecture's interior design is as fascinating as its shell. It houses seven floors with diverse public spaces including a design museum, exhibition hall, media center and many others.

A few steps away is the Heunginjimun Gate, or commonly referred to the Dongdaemun. The Fortress Wall of Seoul has eight main gates which four of these were named after its orientation - East, West, South, North, with a Hangeul character attached that meant benevolence, righteousness, propriety and wisdom. "Ji" was added to the east gate's original name, Heunginmun Gate, to become Heunginjimun Gate, which literally means "Gate of Rising Benevolence."

The largest of four main gates, the Dongdaemun (meaning the Great East Gate) is designed with a semi-circular "onsung", a protective wall built in front of the gate. This feature makes the gate from the other gates in the fortress.

Crossing the road will take you to the Dongdaemun Seonggwak Park. The park sits on a hill. At its peak is an amazing view of the city. The panorama displays the mix of the old and new Korean traditional architecture and the modern structures.

Dongdaemun wouldn't be called a fashion district for nothing, and for this, the fashionistas and shopaholics love the area. Shopping can be a unique experience in this area. Yes, modern shopping complexes in the area but the flea market, small retail stores, traditional market and wholesale shops make the hunt more exciting. Chances are, one will buy more than what was originally planned. Did you know that the district was designated as Dongdaemun Fashion Town Special Tourist Zone?

The Cheonggyecheon Stream is another exciting attraction of the area and the beyond. One can take a leisurely, relaxing walk beside the waterway below road level not knowing which area they end up in, or just take a breather from a wild shopping spree and recharge with the sight and sound of flowing water.

The stream flows through the districts of Jongno-gu and Jung-gu, starting from the area of Gwanghwamun Square (the area across Gyeongbokgung Palace). The stream though is accessible from Dongdaemun. Now flow the water and count the 22 bridges that cross over it. How's that for a bucket list accomplishment?

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Email me at jinggoysalvador@yahoo.com.


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