I’m always excited to visit the area around Ansan station because it teems with multicultural diversity. It’s a melting pot of Korea’s migrant working class, and represents various points on the map including India, Russia, Malaysia, and Thailand, just to name a few. Visiting this area feels like I’m stepping outside of Korea, as my senses are overloaded with various languages, sights, and smells that I don’t usually experience in the suburbs of Seoul. This sensory overload immediately induces vivid flashbacks of travels through India and Southeast Asia.
Lady and the sausage
Fish for sale
With this diversity comes ample opportunity for authentic dining experiences and international grocery shopping. I made a stop at the Foreigner House, where I scooped up cans of coconut milk, green curry paste, various Indonesian spice packs, and snacks. Then, I was off to find a late lunch in the multicultural food district, where it’s always a struggle to choose between the endless amount of authentic and affordable options. For me, it usually ends in samsas from the Uzbek restaurant Samarkand, or the palak paneer and garlic nan from Kantipur.
On this day, the paneer was calling to be washed down with an extra sweet banana lassi, so Indian cuisine it was. If it’s not Uzbek or Indian you’re craving, you are in luck as your choices here are vast. You can find most any Asian cuisine within a short walk from the places I’ve suggested. I recommend visiting Ansan in the early afternoon, equipped with a camera, and some cash for the second-hand shops and eateries. Then, take your time and wander until you find a place that piques your interest. There will be plenty to see!
Teddy bear truck
This area is raw and alive. It’s a refreshing contrast to my usual haunts in Seoul, in the air-smells-like-durian and nothing-here-is-shiny sort of way. Honestly, the grimy nature of this area is half its charm. It’s not uncommon to see a street fight or public urination right alongside a street vendor selling teddy bears, or a few friends playing badminton. In the summer, hoards of couples can be found ballroom dancing in the public square just across the street from butchers selling fresh cuts of pig, chicken, and dog. Ansan is vibrant, bustling, and intriguing. Though it’s seedy reputation might cause it to be underestimated and overlooked, don’t let that deter you from experiencing all it has to offer. It’s a place you absolutely must visit if you live in Korea.