Cheonggyecheon is a 5.8km stream that stretches through downtown Seoul towards the Han River. Once an eyesore, it is now an oasis of cool tranquility when tourists and Seoulites need a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.
As I strolled down the stream last May, I found myself part of an eclectic mix of people who have chosen to spend their afternoon by the water. There were families picnicking by the banks, office workers on a quick break, students studying on the rocks, school children on a field trip and me, a tourist snapping pictures every second.
As beautiful as Cheonggyecheon is now, it wasn’t always like that. Ever since the Joseon Dynasty, Cheonggyecheon has been undergoing some sort of restoration work. As time wore on, it became a slum, and was eventually hidden beneath concrete slabs to make space for roads and highways.
In 2003, Cheonggyecheon began undergoing a concerted restoration effort in a bid to introduce eco-friendly measures into Seoul and preserve the history and culture of the region. Re-opened in 2005, a relaxing breeze now flows through the area and visitors can view a ceramic mural of a royal procession.
Temperatures and air pollution in the surrounding areas have been found to be significantly lower than other parts of Seoul. A big achievement considering that the stream runs through an area filled with shops and businesses dealing in the machinery trade.