Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Unhyeongung Yanggwan

Built in 1912, this neo-Baroque home is located behind the Unhyeongung Palace in downtown Seoul. After attending the Royal Wedding Ceremony reenactment at the palace, the gardens of this home provided a peaceful end to the day.

I love the fragrance of lilacs - just wish they'd last longer.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Baseball, Seoul Style

This past week, I went with some friends to a baseball game in Seoul. The subway took us directly to the entrance of the stadium - very handy indeed. We had already purchased tickets (thanks to a Korean-speaking colleague), so we entered the shorter line, where I showed the reservation on my phone to the man in the booth. We saw some trying to "scalp" tickets; I presume those seats were a a bit more than ours, which cost less than $7. 

There were no "Racing Sausages" or guy to go down a slide with a home run, but there were cheerleaders. The "Wave" even went around a few times.

Some of the snacks and drinks available right outside the stadium. Gimbap, dried squid or fish, anyone?
Food/drinks could be brought in, or you could buy some inside. A large bottle of beer could be purchased for less than $3. No bratwurst though. With the affordable prices and convenient locale, baseball is an event that is actually open to families. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bongeunsa Temple in Pink and Yellow

I enjoy documenting the change of seasons against the backdrop of traditional architecture. For these spring shots, I used some scenes from Bongeunsa Buddhist temple, located in the hip, modern section of Seoul known as Gangnam.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Seoul Neighborhood Spring Walk

On Sunday morning, I headed out for an early morning walk. By going early, I hoped to take advantage of more dramatic light and not have crowds to contend with. Although it was an overcast morning, I did manage to capture a peek of the sun.

On the way to Ansan's cherry blossoms, I snapped this photo. If you follow your eyes past the forsythias down the steep hill and up the distant ones, you will see a snaking path of more cherry blossoms. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Tulips and Cherry Blossoms, Ansan

I photographed this scene on Seoul's Ansan a few days apart. The top one was in the afternoon, while the lower one was taken early on an overcast morning.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Jinhae - Ships and Blooms

As part of the Cherry Blossom festival in Jinhae, we walked to the city's Naval Academy and Naval Command base. (Buses were trying their best to take as many people over to the base as possible, but walking was quicker than trying to wait for a bus and dealing with the traffic). On the way, we walked past some Naval Academy guards. We had a little giggle to see two guards each holding up oars in a defensive stance as if they were spears. 

 Like much of Jinhae, the Naval area was enveloped with cherry blossoms. I especially liked the ones right by the sea.
Visitors could go into the reconstructed turtle ship, the original ones made famous in the naval battles under Admiral Yi. How it must have been during Yi's time, with the gun ports emerging from the dragon's mouth (as well as the top & bottom of the head and in several other places around the ship), fire arrows shooting forth, as well as canons booming. Even the ship's spiky roof looked rather menacing. Today's ships may be much more advanced, but I prefer the aesthetics of this wooden ship.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Shrek Loves Jinhae Cherry Blossoms

As part of the Jinhae Cherry Blossom festival, the city's stream is transformed into a magical walkway. Branches of cherry trees bowed down towards the stream, weighed down by its many blossoms. Rapeseed flowers framed both sides of the shallow stream. Sections along the 1.5km long walkway were decorated with suspended umbrellas, bicycles, and colorful hearts. Another section featured paper lanterns in the shapes of animated characters from Shrek and Madagascar. These displays must look equally dazzling when illuminated at night. 

 Needless to say, the walkways were already rather crowded at 7:30 AM, but that would intensify as the day went on. It was a favorite spot for couples, quite a number of which wore matching his/her outfits (top, pants, and even shoes). With around a million visitors flocking to Jinhae for the festival, vendors selling corn dogs, cotton candy, coffee, ice cream, and Korean snacks must do quite well. For romantics and photographers alike, it was indeed a beautiful scene to behold - despite the crowd.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Jinhae: Blossoms All Around Me

Last weekend I attended the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival in this southern Korean city located near Busan. Having arrived near the Gyeonghwa railway station pre-dawn, we beat the crowds that would later flock to see the 800 meter cherry-blossom lined section of the railway. Off to one side, I spotted some azaleas in early bloom. Like any dedicated photographer, I got down on my belly to get the perspective I wanted.  

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Ah Ban Paper Oblation - Finished Piece

Later that afternoon, we returned to the Loh An Ban family Paper Oblation Shop. The piece the family had harmoniously been working together on had not yet been completed, but it was nearly done. Ean's mom brought over the garden stairway area that she was currently working on.
The brilliantly patterned paper piece reminded me of a doll house. Looking closer, one could see modern conveniences such as a car, bicycle, refrigerator, LCD TV, air conditioner, phone, cooking area (more traditional), and 3-d paper table and chairs. Representations of gold and silver were also included. 

Inside the paper oblation house

Ean estimated that the cost for a paper oblation house of this size and complexity typically went for around 1,100 myr, which is around $300. And to think that such a beautiful piece of handmade art would go up in flames in a matter of minutes. Ean's brother in law is training to take over the family trade from her father Mr. Loh An Ban. Let's hope that the art form is preserved through the unified efforts of this family.
Complete with a 3-d car

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Ah Ban Paper Oblation Workshop

Mrs. Ah Ban works on the paper figures
It was through a very unassuming narrow alley past a Trek bike shop that I experienced one of my biggest highlights of my time in Penang. A dog keeping guard at the shed announced our presence, but a young woman named Ean greeted us in English. She welcomed us to come inside the large shed where her father Mr. Loh An Ban, mother, brother, and another family member all worked to create paper oblations. (According to the brochure Ean gave us, the shop actually employs 8 workers).

For over 40 years, Mr. Loh An Ban has been making paper oblations for the Chinese community in the area. Daughter Ean explained that the Chinese believe that the spirit of the dead person needs a place to dwell and enjoy the comforts of life. In Chinese custom, miniature replicas of the home, servants, worldly possessions (i.e. TV, car, cell phones) are burned for the newly deceased to accompany them to the afterlife. Such oblations are only made for those who had been married. If a person couldn't afford an oblation at the time of death, the family would wait until another member died, at which time a figure for that person would be included as well. The paper oblations are typically burned at home or at a temple, but a fire department must be present at the ceremony.

Her family is one of a few that still make these oblations in Penang. The number of craftsmen in China is rapidly decreasing as well.  Special figures are made at the time of the Ghost Festival which is usually held around August. The large paper effigies of Chinese gods are also made to commemorate deities' birthdays. Ean has incorporated the skills learned from her father (it takes over 10 years to learn all the parts of this craft) and combined it with her graphic design degree training to create contemporary items for others such as Christmas trees.   

Ean's brother forms the main structure, attaching the wood with strips of strong rice paper and flour-based homemade glue
 Her family had all been working for a couple of hours on this particular oblation for a man who had just died. They anticipated finishing it later in the afternoon and encouraged us to return then. More complex ones might take several days to complete.
Mrs. Ah Ban attaches thin paper with flour-based homemade glue

Beautiful patterned paper

Ean, father Loh An Ban, and mother

Sunday, April 05, 2015

A Blessed Easter

Photographed yesterday at the cherry blossom festival in Jinhae, South Korea, I knew it would have to be used for today's post. A blessed Easter to all who celebrate Christ's victory over death and confirmed payment for our sins. He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

View from Sajabong Peak, Ttangkkeut

The efficient monorail took us to the top of Sajabong Peak. From here, we had a great view of the Korea Straits and coast of South Korea. Unfortunately, the air quality wasn't that great, reducing contrast with a slight haze. Yellow dust from China is common in Seoul during the spring, but I was a bit surprised to see that it filtered all the way down to the southernmost part of Korea. 
Well-marked paths were available from the observatory, including some with nice wood board planks. Korea sure emphasizes hiking for all. A few trees were beginning to get some leaves, but most still were rather bare. 

Even a few rapeseed flowers announced their arrival. I can't wait for the spring flowers and blossoms to show their glory!

A visit to Ttankkeut wouldn't be complete without a photo by the stele marking land's end. 

Next to the stele was a ship hull-shaped overlook. I wonder how many re-enactments of Titanic were done on this bow.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Ttangkkeut - Land's End

From the small bus station in Haenam, a couple friends and I took a local bus to Ttangkkeut. Also called Tomal, which means "the Edge of the Land" in Korean, it is considered the southern-most location on the South Korean mainland. Most of the others who also got off here were all geared up for some hiking. 
Before we did a little hiking, we first walked on the pier of this fishing village. Most of the boats we saw were on the smaller side. 

Note the two police boats, including the cute little one on the left.

Out on the pier, we had a good view of the Korea Straights along with the observatory on Sajabong Peak. I liked the small rocky outcropping with the small trees.