CHASING THE GOBLIN

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Published on September 15, 2017 with No Comments

More than mere backdrops, lands in real life are the stars of K-drama, the “Goblin”.

Words ANIS RAMLI

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Daegwallyeong Samyang Ranch.

 

As far as Korean dramas are concerned, the recent tvN drama the Goblin, can be considered the most successful of the genre. Since its debut, it has captivated viewers not just through its engaging plot, but also its star-studded cast that included Gong Yoo, Lee Dong Wook, Yoo Inna and Kim Go Eun, to name a few. When the series aired its third last episode before the series finale earlier this year, more than 1.9 million viewers across South Korea tuned in, making this one of TVs most popular series with high popularity ratings.

But that was in February. If the producers think the Goblin phenomena would end with the finale, boy, were they wrong. Thanks to the series’ many scenic locations filmed not just in Seoul but around South Korea, the Goblin has made the lands in the republic stars overnight with fans eager to visit and recreate their own magical Korea.

Even the national tourism body, Korea Tourism Organization, has jumped onto the bandwagon, creating a special booklet, A Journey With The Goblin, that lists all the film’s locales. From the city’s back lanes to the highland’s sheep ranch and going beyond to the venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics, the itinerary allows fans to witness the Goblin’s most memorable moments and iconic settings.

But beyond the stunning locations, each and every distinctive place detailed in the booklet also allows visitors an intimate look into the country’s many attractions, bringing Korea’s unique culture and traditions alive like never before. The Hanmi bookstore, with its distinctive canary yellow and instragrammable-worthy storefront, will be familiar to many fans. What fans will also discover is that the neighbourhood, known as the Baedari Used Bookstore Alley, that once thrived in the 1950s almost came into oblivion in the last decade under pressure from development. But thanks to the villagers and artisans coming together, the alley and the surrounding area have been gentrified in recent years with a Baedari Cultural Festival to boot. The bookstores may no longer serve students and scholars for whom they were set up during the Korean War, but every bookstore will elicit nostalgia, regardless of whether you’re a booklover or otherwise. Walk into any antiquarian shop and you’ll be transported to a distant land through its wistful interiors.

In Pyeongchang where the Goblin was filmed at the Daegwallyeong Samyang Ranch and Woljeongsa Temple Fir Forest Path, among others, visitors to the area can also witness the preparations underway for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. A rural county a few hours’ drive east of Seoul, Pyeongchang residents are truly proud of their third-time-lucky winning bid for the Olympics. The area has long been a favourite training ground for professional marathoners and skiers who take advantage of its 800-metre-above-sea-level altitude serving fresh mountain air and ample seasonal snow. The DMZ, just under 65 kilometeres away, makes for an interesting conversation for visitors but, if that’s a bit too unnerving, then there is always the zen-like Fir Forest Path to calm the senses.

Also in PyeongChang, Joeng Gang Wong, the Institute of Traditional Korean Cuisine, is a notable place worthy of exploring. Set up with the purpose of researching and preserving Korea’s food culture, the institute has managed to avoid the trappings of being a tacky visitor centre with its dedication to maintaining age-old traditions. The grounds house different buildings that include a culinary hideaway where visitors can have a hands-on experience cutting rice cakes and mixing bibimbap. In one dedicated area, jars containing cooking sauces and pastes processed on site in onggis (Korean earthenware) can be seen arranged neatly in rows. Onggis are used to store and ferment gochujang (chilli paste) and doenjang (fermented soybean paste).

Back in Seoul, the traditional Bukchon Hanok Village becomes the starting point for Goblin fans in search of the various quaint little alleys that made it to the film. There’s the Seoul Jungang High School, the Yoon Boseon-gil (stonewall street) and the back alley of Jeongdok Library, all accessible on foot from Anguk Station. In one alley, local resident Jinny Kim walked thoughtfully towards an artisan coffeehouse, the Coffee Mill. This creative space, run by artisanal roaster, Lee Hwan, is a warm retro atmospheric place. The coffee is good, and so is the food. “This used to be my secret, go-to place. You’d be hard-pressed to find this on the tourist map but that changed after the Goblin,” Jinny says shaking her head, laughing. But perhaps there still is a silver lining amid the crowd that throngs the place, bringing with them their animated chatter and keen shutter clicks. It has, as Jinny says, given visitors the chance to feel the pulse of a typical Seoul neighbourhood that would have otherwise been lost in translation.

The trip was sponsored by Korea Tourism Organization (KTO). Visit Seoul packages are available from B$1,404 for 4D/3N and B$2,468 for 8D/7N. Golf packages are also available from B$1,855. For more information, contact Sinar Tour Sdn Bhd at +673 2418888 ext 77941, or e-mail: sinartourbrunei@gmail.com

 

Royal Brunei flies Incheon 2x weekly. Discover things to do in Seoul in www.muhibah.com.bn

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