This is an Avant Arte City Guide in collaboration with Trippin World.
For Hyangmok Baik, the perfect way to spend a summer’s day in Seoul is having “a cold beer with your friends by the Han River”.
During the pandemic, those peaceful days by the river seemed like a distant memory. So he started transposing them onto canvas, creating a utopia based on principles of pleasure and coming together. Now that lockdown restrictions have been lifted, Hyangmok takes us on a tour of his rediscovered paradise.
The colours here have found their way into my art
Find inspiration in the cultural history of Gyeongbokgung Palace – where the King once kept his office. The palette of Hyangmok’s dreamy creations were influenced by the yellows, blues and greens of the traditional tiles.
I saw a different side of the city during my military service
During this time he frequented the nearby MMCA Gallery. Here, he got a taste of the kind of art that he wanted to create before going back to school in 2019 for his MFA.
While in the area, Hyangmok also recommends visiting the Hyundai Music Library. With a collection of 10,000 vinyl records, it is a music lover’s dream. Then drop by cafe Onground with it's neighbouring gallery and underground music bar.
The view from this gate is beautiful at night
Before Hyangmok became an artist, he completed his mandatory military service. He was stationed at Sukjeongmun, one of the Four Great Gates to the old city of Seoul. It’s not a well-kept secret, but will always hold a special place in Hyangmok’s heart as a connection to his personal history and the history of the city. Go there at night for breathtaking views over the whole city.
If I could only eat one meal a day, I would eat bibimbap.
Sometimes, paradise is a warm bowl of food and Seoul has no shortage of options. Hyangmok’s favourite is bibimbap – a rice dish topped usually with vegetables, sliced meat and a fried egg. Try the mussel bimimbap, costing around ₩1600. You might have to wait in a queue but the meal and service is worth it.
Pocha street in Jongno
As anyone who knows Korean nightlife knows, I once sat and drank here from 7pm to 7am the next morning.
If you’re in a hurry, there are plenty of Pojangmacha (Pocha) streets across the city. Pull up a chair along the sidewalk, or under a tent for cheap eats and flowing drinks with locals. Hyangmok’s favourite is the Pocha street in Jongno. Seats are hard to get on weekends, so he recommends “going a little earlier in the evening or after you've finished your meal.”
I could spend a whole day at Leeum Gallery
The first place that Hyangmok wanted to visit post-lockdown was Hannam – to peruse the neighbourhood’s trendy art galleries. Hannam has become the artistic heart of Seoul – home to the likes of Pace Gallery and Gallery Jouen.
Hyangmok’s favourite is Leeum Gallery. It has one of the largest collections in the city encompassing traditional Korean and global contemporary art. The Journey of White Light exhibition hall on the third floor is unmissable. Don't miss Buncheong ware -unique porcelain made only in Korea in the 15th and 16th centuries, showcasing the original form of Korean beauty.
But before he gets to the galleries, a coffee at Anthracite – an experimental coffee house set against brutalist interior architecture. The coffee house is also open late for night owls.
It is easy to get along with people you meet for the first time while drinking soju.
According to Hyangmok, Hannam is also a great place to meet locals. So grab a seat at a crowded bar or a restaurant, and the ice will surely melt away after one or two glasses of this rice-based liquor. Nari is famous for its frozen pork belly, so you can bond over Korean barbecue as well as Soju.
Then take friends, both old and new, down to the banks of the Han River for those long-promised beers in paradise.
Photographer: Jun Lee @junleephotos