Discovering An Important Part of Busan’s History & Development at Choryang-dong (초량동)

It was my final night in Busan. Based on my research prior to the trip, Choryang-dong is actually an important part in Busan where much of the history & development lies. Although I’m no history buff, I was quite interested to explore the Choryang Ibagu-gil (초량 이바구길) (http://2bagu.co.kr/user/abt/intro.do), an old alley that tells the story of war & poverty during the Korean War from 1950 to 1953.

Since it’s pretty near to where I was staying (Hotel Foret Busan Station), I decided to give the place a shot by asking the hotel staff how to get there. Fortunately, at the point of asking, it was not the lady that I usually had problems communicating with haha. Instead, it was a young Korean male staff who gave me clear directions in fluent Mandarin. 🙂 But he did highlight a point of concern to me, that this road has a long flight of stairs to climb, 168 steps to be exact!

I only managed to proceed to this destination around 6pm as I took a breather back in the hotel after a long day out in Gamcheon Cultural Village & Yongdusan-Jagalchi Sightseeing Special Zone. From exit 12 of Choryang Station, I entered the station to head to exit 1, the nearest exit to Choryang Ibagu-gil. Upon exit from the station, just go straight ahead along this Jungang-daero (중앙대로).

On the right side of the road is the site of the Namseon Warehouse (남선창고터) – once known as a warehouse for pollack (an edible greenish-brown fish of the cod family). Only its fences remain at the site today. Then you will reach a T-junction with a prominent Choryang Traditional Market (초량전통시장) signage in Korean. Turn right into this street & continue ahead to Choryang Ibagu-gil. The Choryang Ibagu Night Market is within the traditional market, but it only opens from 7pm every night. At the end of the market is a traffic junction, just cross the junction & keep a lookout on the left for the Gallery Wall & Dong-gu Personage of History Wall showcasing Choryang-dong’s history & developments.

Choryang Ibagu-gil 1

These walls showcase the development of the area since the Korean War, as well as point out the significant landmarks, people & timeline in the history of Busan. Choryang-dong was home to millions of refugees who fled to the interim capital of South Korea during the Korean War. Some of them gathered at this hilly village in front of Busan Station to make a livelihood. Since then, this residential area has gone through the nation’s economic development from the 1960s to 1970s, & modern redevelopment in the 1990s and 2000s. Because of its rich historic & cultural assets, the local Dong-gu office in Choryang-dong launched “The Story Way” tour program in March 2013 along this 1.5 km of back alleys.

From the exhibits, I got to know 3 Hallyu stars who graduated from the Choryang Elementary School (in operations since 10 April 1937) – famous comedian Lee Kyung-kyu (이경규, I know him from Korean variety shows!), trot singer Na Hoon-a (나훈아) & musical director Kolleen Park (박칼린). The other milestones in Choryang-dong included the construction of the Busan Station in 1968, as well as the official opening of the high-speed KTX connecting Busan to other parts of the country since 2004. Furthermore, in 2011, the Busan Port International Passenger Terminal also began operations.

It was getting dark around 7pm when I finally arrived at the 168 Steps. These steps were created by the residents of Sanbok Road so that they could carry water from the well & coals back to their homes in the hilly village. My legs turned into jelly upon seeing these steps, because up till this point, I had already endured ascending up the steep & curvy road in this area for almost 1 hour! I remembered reading online that there’s a monorail service to bring people up these steps, but sad to see that it’s still under construction (or was it repair?). No wonder the hotel staff kept emphasizing to me that it’s a difficult course to embark on haha.

The Ibagu Station followed by the long flight of 168 Steps

The Ibagu Station before reaching the start point of the 168 Steps (construction on the right)

Walking up & down the path between the Ibagu Station & the 168 Steps for quite some time, pondering whether I should turn back, I spotted the 168 Dosirak Soup (168도시락국), a small & run-down eatery that has been serving traditional bento meals to the residents for a long time. It is said that the night scene after climbing this long flight of steps is especially beautiful, as the lights from every house twinkle & gleam when the surrounding area gets darker. However, the attractive night scene lost to the pleas of my feeble knees. 😛 Hopefully next time when I visit Busan again, the monorail will be in operations, then I can go up there to check out the night scene! 😉

It was the right time to head back as the Choryang Ibagu Night Market (초량이바구야시장) stalls would be open by the time I reached. This 2nd permanent night market in Busan only started operations in October 2015, in a bid to divert some of the crowds from the famous Bupyeong Night Market & to achieve more balanced regional development. From 7pm till around 11.30pm / midnight, 25 stalls line up along a 120m row within Choryang Traditional Market.

Choryang Ibagu Night Market 1

Not sure was it because it was a Tuesday night, the night market was quiet & not crowded. The food treats here differ from the markets I visited over the last 2 days in Jagalchi area, with quite a number of stalls selling delicacies from other parts of the world, such as Taiwanese 葱油饼 (Scallion Pancake), Japanese takoyaki besides the usual Korean street food suspects. The passageway was also wider than the other markets I visited, as it was a deliberate design attempt to make sure customers can move around freely without feeling too cramped. So thoughtful of them. 😉 After checking out all the stalls, I decided to buy from 2 stalls & bring back to the hotel to enjoy my dinner in comfort. Partly, it was also because I thought of catching the Korean drama live on TV at 10.00pm. 🙂

Choryang Ibagu Night Market 2

Choryang Ibagu Night Market 3

I bought a pack of potato balls (KRW2,000/ S$2.40) from the Potato Man stall & a kimchi pancake (KRW2,000/ S$2.40) from the pancake stall. Loved the crispy potato balls sprinkled with chilli powder, very addictive to pop them into the mouth quickly, despite turning cold upon return to my hotel room! The uncle operating this stall was also a friendly man whom I had a brief chat with. As for the kimchi pancake, I was quite disappointed because it was too floury & oily with little kimchi slices. It was somewhat hard after turning cold & I didn’t finish it, for 2 reasons, it was quite a big piece, & I feel nausea gulping down so much greasy flour. 😛 So I just gave up about 1/3 of it.

It was a short visit to this history-rich neighbourhood, something different & refreshing from the more popular destinations I went over the past few days in Busan. The hilly neighbourhood may look old & run-down, but it exudes an irrestible charm with its preserved buildings & friendly locals whom I had brief encounters with. I wouldn’t mind visiting Choryang-dong again next time, especially to get past the 168 Steps, soak in the nostalgic ambience & check out the historical landmarks!

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