If You Build It, They Will Come… Maybe
Last Saturday, we rented a car in order to pick up a used crib and high chair (I’m pretty sure any “savings” we got from buying used was spent on renting the car for a day…), and decided to take a mini road trip. We chose to go to Songdo 송도, out west near Incheon Airport. Songdo was built on reclaimed land from the Yellow Sea, and has been marketed as a brand-new international business hub due to its proximity to the airport (and therefore “one third of the world’s population”- according to the city website).
I first heard of Songdo from an NPR article I read: http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2015/10/01/444749534/a-south-korean-city-designed-for-the-future-takes-on-a-life-of-its-own
Coincidentally, Alex visited the city last year when he went to IBM’s datacenter for work. He was impressed by all the new high rises, but we both wondered WHY there were so many high rises (most of them taller than any in Seoul), given that there is so much land, and from what we could tell, not many people. The streets in Songdo were empty, compared to the bustling streets of Seoul (even in below freezing weather).
We parked our car at the local Lotte Mart and took a quick walk around “Central Park” (modeled after NYC’s, I guess). My complaint about the park, like much of Korea’s poor attempts at making places handicap-friendly, is that there were plenty of ramps that led to unpaved areas of grass and mud. So, we ended up pushing the stroller over some “rough terrain” after taking the handicap ramps up to the park. Since it was so cold, we didn’t dawdle, but the pond, complete with people in paddle boats (yes, even in 20 F degree weather!!), looked like it would be fun to visit in the summer. We learned that Songdo is actually accessible via Seoul’s subway system (although it’ll take an hour and half to get there – no high speed train!), we’re planning on making a day trip when the weather gets warmer.
It was past 6 PM (and therefore completely dark) by the time we got back in the car, so we unfortunately couldn’t get a good glimpse of the Jack Nicklaus golf course (잭 니클라우스 골프클럽 – it sounds exactly how it’s pronounced in English), where the 2015 Presidents Cup was played. Look at me, caring about golf (not really, but I thought it would mean something to Alex).
On our way out of the city, we drove by dozens of high rises with mostly dark windows. Maybe Songdo will become the international business center that it was designed to be, but probably not for a while. Young Koreans want to live in THE city, and that city is Seoul. (Alex and I would rather live in Songdo, but, we’re not city folk. Only drawback is that the air pollution was markedly worse than in Seoul.)
And, no day with a car would be complete without a trip to IKEA. Even though we arrived about two hours before closing time, the parking garage was a nightmare (not enough parking spots, even though the spaces themselves are TINY), with cars parked illegally. Once inside, we headed straight for the Swedish meatballs (and smoked salmon salad). Fortified by our full bellies, we made our way through the showrooms. “How can there be so many people here?” and “Why are the IKEAs back home so empty?” were questions Alex kept on asking. We had been to IKEA’s Memorial Day weekend sale (next to a major college campus, no less), where they were giving away free breakfast and massive discounts on furniture, but I swear it seemed there were more people at IKEA Korea on a normal Saturday night!