I read quite a bit about Incheon's Chinatown before heading there one somewhat sunny day in March. I read that it is Korea's only official Chinatown and was formed in 1884. I read that some people absolutely love it and others, well, meh. There were some things I wanted to see and, truth be told, I sort of just wanted to get out of the house and out of Songdo.
I think the biggest complaint I read about Incheon's Chinatown is that it is small. I can confirm that it is. But I liked that. It felt approachable and was easily walkable (though hilly). I didn't feel like I needed to have any more. The second biggest complaint I read was that it sort of feels fake, kind of created to have a draw for tourists. Sure, sections of it felt this way, but for the most part I thought it was pretty authentic. Especially when you step away from the main roadway and onto some of the winding streets. Though when doing so, you could have been in any part of South Korea.
We had wanted to eat lunch in Chinatown and were thinking we would get some of the Korean-Chinese dish that they are famous for, jjajangmyeon or noodles in black bean sauce. I hadn't really planned on much in terms of restaurants as we've been having a devil of a time actually finding the places we've marked. I did have one dumpling place marked, but low and behold, we could not find it. So we wandered a bit but realized we were getting hungry. It was super odd as it didn't seem like many of the restaurants were open. I also didn't see many advertising this supposedly ubiquitous dish. We decided that we didn't really want to have the noodle dish after all and were both craving dumplings. A quick search pointed us in the direction of a strange shop where we ate some of the best dumplings we've ever had.
While we were wandering around looking for lunch, we passed this guy who was selling stuffed pancakes with your choice of red bean, chocolate, mango, and cream. I put this little fact into the back of my head and made a note to stop by later. This is always a dicey proposition as it can be challenging to find places once you've passed them. But seeing as Chinatown was so small I had no fears of this happening.
And so after visiting the Incheon Art Platform (which is an easy walk from Chinatown) and Jayu Park we decided that it was time to fill our bellies with more food and found my beloved red bean stuffed pancake. This was the best one I have ever had (and I seem to be racing toward having tons of them) and was so, so glad we stopped.
One thing I was not super enthralled with was the "mural streets". I was expecting some amazing, grand painted murals but what I saw instead were murals made of printed tiles. Granted the illustrations on the tiles are well done, but overall I was rather disappointed in the whole affair. We did see some nice murals in the form of "line drawings" but I'm pretty sure these weren't meant to be part of the draw. Who knows, maybe in true Zac and Jill style we were in the wrong spot for seeing any of this.
Overall I'm glad we came over to Chinatown. We took just a few hours to have lunch and wander the streets before heading back to Songdo on public transport. We did leave enough time for me to have my pic taken inside a dumpling and trying to use chopsticks on what is likely the world's largest bowl of jjajangmyeon.