Korea, Republic of
The bright lights of neighbouring big city Seoul might burn brightly but Incheon, just 27 kilometres away, has nothing to be ashamed of. The coastal city was the first to open its borders to the world in 1883, and as such has always enjoyed a special relationship with the west. So much so that it was granted “English Status” in 2007, with many residents priding themselves on their command of the language. The city’s love of English has made it a business powerhouse so expect soaring skyscrapers and smart technology as part of the landscape.
Incheon was also the first to welcome the Chinese and today the city’s Chinatown is one of the most vibrant and welcoming there is. A frenetic and exciting hybrid of Chinese and Korean heritage, it is said that Jjajangmyeon (black soy bean noodles), South Korea’s de facto national dish originates from here. Try a steaming bowl from one of the many vendors, then walk it off with the short 15-minute stroll from Chinatown to the traditional Sinpo Market for different kind of sensational feast.
The city is steeped in history, notably in recent times during the Korean War. In 1950, the US general General MacArthur led UN forces behind enemy lines in freeing the city from North Korean pressure. MacArthur’s victory is commemorated by a statue in the Jaya (Freedom) Park. The city’s history of course goes back much further, with the first historical record dating as far back as 475 CE. At the time the city was called Michuhol, only changing its name to Incheon in 1413.