The remnants of Hurricane Ophelia have made land in the UK today. Being in the North of England, I have been fortunate to be out of the main storm’s path but for around four hours we experienced a strange phenomenon that seemed, to me, to be straight out of Korea…
Cutting down my photos for my exhibition, I realised that a lot of my images were shot in clear, beautiful days or balmy, electric nights and it took me a while to realise that this was not the Korea of my every day experience! Many days, of course, were filled with brilliant, high, pristine skies (like the one below) but many were also consumed with thick, treacle-y smog that scratched your throat and made your eyes strain for the nearest mountain.
‘Just another diamond day’ ~ Suwon
Hello! A lot of time has passed since I last wrote. Spring 2016 turned to Summer, to Autumn, then Winter, then Spring (and then almost all over again…).
During this time I have returned to the UK but, that shouldn’t fool you – I have not forgotten Korea! In fact, I’ve spent a lot of my time looking through my ridiculous amount of photos and trying to distil all these experiences to tell others about Korea in an exhibition I have coming next February. ^-^
Its been a long process and one that I have been lucky to draw on my museum curating experience to create. I’m still in the process of it all (and would love suggestions!) but here’s what I’ve learnt so far.
I am in East Asia. It’s Spring. Yes, it’s that magical time of year again:
Apart from, not if you go to the festival a week early. As I learned the hard way….
I wanted to visit the premium cherry blossom viewing location in all of the peninsula and so after many inquiries with friends and the dear internet, I made the trek to Jinhae (an hour by bus west from Busan and a bargain at only 5000won each way).
I had heard and seen a lot of images of Jinhae and I greedily wanted some for myself too so I thought that it would be a wise move to go a week early and avoid the crowds during the official festival.
This was a mistake, do not repeat this mistake.
Winter started with an abrupt punctuality that I had never experienced before. The very first official day of winter it snowed on cue and I played British institution ‘The Snowman’. Perfect.
I thought that this may be a fluke but it happened once more. On the Spring Equinox, I went outside and soaked up the first day of new season. A warm breeze, chattering of birds and groups of elated bees filled the air. Spring is here in Korea, at last, and I am so happy.
There are many places in Korea that sound similar to ‘Gyeongju’ but you do not want to get confused and miss the opportunity to visit this gem of a place. Gyeongju is extremely easy to get to from pretty much anywhere in Korea by using the wonderful bus and train networks (www.kobus.co.kr ; http://www.letskorail.com) . This small city was also the capital of Korea during the Unified Silla Dynasty before it moved to (at the time) the more centrally-located Seoul.
Being steeped in history as it is, I knew there was a lot to see in Gyeongju before I went. I only had four days and I was concerned that I may not be able to fit it all in but with a lot of coffee and geeky enthusiasm I walked non-stop for this time and can now tell you all about it.
Here are my top 7 things to see and do in Gyeongju (I couldn’t cut it down to 5, sorry).
Korea is a land of Ajummas. Middle-oldaged women, are often called ‘Ajummas’ – a term for an Aunty. They are an integral part of walking here; whether you are going for a stroll in your local park or climb a mountain, Ajummas with their fluorescent, clashing, headache-inducing outfits, bells, radios, hiking sticks and fondness for spitting will always be there. I have grown so used to their presence that it was a surprise to me to climb a mountain in Daejeon where there were so few (or indeed, many other people at all).
Welcome to winter climbing.
Who / what / where is Sintanjin I hear you ask? Well, Sintanjin is the area in which I spend most of my time here in Korea. Until a few years ago it was recognised as a separate town to Daejeon but was incorporated to make the outline of Daejeon stretch from an almost circle to a strange letter ‘d’ shape.
I haven’t ended the year with a retrospective list since the days of MySpace where I posted what young-me considered to be a ‘quirky’ list of stuff that I did; I think it included the words ‘toast’ and ‘kites’. In comparison to 2006, this year has been a bit more, well, everything. But on balance, there has been a distinct lack of kite flying in 2015.
Here are my highlights of the year that changed so much.
Who doesn’t like an interesting reflection?
Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon Stream is the setting for the capital’s yearly Lantern Festival. It seems that many cities in Korea have lantern festivals (for any reason at all really) but Seoul’s was the first one that I read about and it was high up on my list of things to see in Korea.
Cheonggyecheon stream was covered by the city above for many years but was reclaimed and reopened in 2005. It is beautiful all year round but at Lantern Festival, it is transformed into a magical place.