Saturday, October 31, 2015

Golden Flow, Seoraksan

There's something extra special when the painted hues of autumn leaves interacts with the gentle flow of water. It's a magical combination that magnifies the beauty inherent within each. 

When hiking in Korea's Seoraksan National Park, I couldn't resist photographing this duo, whether it was calm, tranquil water or rippling streams. The backlit leaves set against clear water beckoned my lens. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Paper Cranes and Flower Trees

My favorite part of the display at the Jogyesa Chrysanthemum festival was located near the back of the complex. Set next to the already graceful curved tiled roof and dancheong patterns of the temple buildings, the display added additional color. Floral sheep appeared to be nibbling the grass; a tiger also made from chrysanthemums seemed less ferocious. Undulating mounds of flowers turned into mountains of Seoul. Cranes made from hanji paper flew overhead, with the silvergrass below gently moving in the breeze.

With the skyscrapers jutting out in the background, I was reminded that I actually was in a huge metropolitan city. Traditions of Buddhist Korea set against the modern society.

 If you attended the Chrysanthemum festival, which display was your favorite?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Now that's a Green Thumb!

One of the more unusual displays at the Chrysanthemum Festival at Jogyesa Temple greets visitors just after they enter the gate. With its mossy-like surface and lavender painted fingernails, this sculpture sure caught my eye. The large Chrysanthemums trimmed so neatly in the shape of lotus petals completes the ensemble. That Buddha must certainly have a green thumb.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jogyesa Chrysanthemum Festival 2015

Fall is a beautiful time in Korea. The leaves here are more vibrant than they typically are in Wisconsin, perhaps due to the more gradual change in temperature. One way that Korea enjoys celebrating the change of seasons is through festivals. The Buddhist temple of Jogyesa gets in on the action as well, holding its annual Chrysanthemum festival. This is the fifth year of the festival, in which the grounds of this downtown Seoul temple are transformed with sculptural riots of colored Chrysanthemum flowers and other fall plants such as silvergrass. Every year the display is different, which makes it worthwhile to revisit.

Once inside the gate, viewers are welcomed by a massive tree of mums, surrounded by a rainbow maze of more Chrysanthemums. It reminds me of a giant marigold puff ball tree.

Several young monk sculptures decorated with flowers are part of the display. The money sticking out of his neckline must mean that someone really liked his outfit. 

There were several topiary pieces in the shape of animals. That's quite the colorful bullock and cart!

Just as with the lanterns, people could donate money for a plant, enabling their name to be prominently displayed. 

What a great way to spend a Saturday morning, surrounded by such rainbows of color on a bright, sunny day. Fall in Korea is great!

The Chrysanthemum festival goes from Oct 4 to November 15. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Vertical Autumn Landscapes, Seoraksan

During my hike in Seoraksan, I took several shots with some common elements. Slightly diagonal, meandering paths of stone or water, yellow-greenish foliage with a splash of reds & oranges. And interestingly, all of these here are vertical shots. Who says landscapes have to be horizontal?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Seoraksan Entrance

Due to the national holiday honoring the development of the Hangul alphabet,  we had a three-day weekend in earlier October. I knew that it would probably be a bit early for autumn colors, but decided to take advantage of a meetup group trip there. No need for me to do travel planning then - especially nice due to the busy parent teacher conferences that week and my lack of Korean language skills. As the national park of Seoraksan on the east coast is a very popular destination for nature lovers especially in fall, I also thought that visiting the park early in the season would mean fewer people to spoil any views.
Our bus ride eastward across the country did unfortunately take much longer than what had been budgeted, preventing us from visiting all the intended destinations on the first day of our travels. Because we had stayed at a pension hotel that night, we were able to get an earlier start the next morning. Had it been up to me, I would have left the hotel much earlier, but it sure is nice to have someone else in charge of logistics.

By the time we arrived at he park, the early morning rains (which also produced a rainbow) had dissipated. I still brought along my umbrella, just in case. I didn't want to chance my camera to get wet.
The sunlight illuminated the leaves on the trees, which had changed ever so slightly. For this hike, we were going to do the shorter, easier trek up to the Biryong Falls. Once in the park, we walked across a stone bridge with dragons flanking the ends. Currently, the Sangcheon Stream was more like a path of large rocks, but I'm sure it swells at times.

Trees just starting to change colors lined the edge of the Sangcheon Stream.

How could anyone ever tire of seeing such beauty?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Autumn Beginnings, Seoul

Although I should have been working on my report cards, I instead went out for a walk. The lure of potential autumn trees, combined with the gorgeous fall weather, was just too much. I went to one of my favorite neighborhood places, the Bongwonsa temple. Thankfully, a few trees had begun to change, giving me some photographic fodder.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Two-Wheeled Floral Sellers of Hanoi

During the Korean fall festival of Chuseok, a friend and I headed out to Hanoi, Vietnam. Although this trip would be very short (only a few days off of school), it would give us a quick flavor of the country, utilizing some cheap airfare secured last spring. A driver from the hotel picked us up at the airport. It's so nice not having to think about transport.
After checking in at our hotel, we headed out in the late afternoon. The activity outside immediately hearkened me back to India. I love the activity on the street - people dining on plastic chair cafés, others selling their wares, transport of all different sorts. Gone was the go-go-go streets of Seoul, where every person was glued to their cell phones - even when crossing busy streets.  

Back again were the fresh flowers. Whereas in India I usually spotted the women selling their flowers at small makeshift stands along the street or near the temple, many of the floral sellers of Hanoi were on two wheels. In this flat city, no-speed bicycles were a perfect choice. Carefully arranged and secured to their mobile store, the women slowly pedaled their way through the busy streets.

With the city's hoards of motorbikes, I wasn't surprised to see some donning flowers as well. Not quite the same charm as the bicycle sellers though.

Unable to visit the big flower markets due to time, I would have to be satisfied with these mobile floral sellers. Such rainbow beauties definitely brightened my day.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Black Dragon Pool, Lijiang

Still early in the morning, I followed the main canal to reach the Jade Spring Park. Located just outside of Lijiang the park and its beautiful Black Dragon Pool is a worthwhile stroll. I was looking forward to photographing the Longshen Temple next to the white marble bridge, but alas, it was encased for reconstruction. 
The lush willow and other trees framing the pond and the distant Jade Dragon Snow Mountain still created a beautiful natural scene. 

As it was still early in the morning, the many paths and bridges were relatively free from crowds. 

 Some people were practicing Tai Chi along the water's edge, while others simply enjoyed sitting down on the benches to chat.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Lijiang - Seeking the Tranquility

Even though I knew that the streets of UNESCO World Heritage city Old Lijiang would be crowded, I felt it was important to spend at least a day there. Having just come from the small, rural village around Lashi Lake, seeing the throngs of Chinese tourists was a bit overwhelming. Although the architecture of the old shops was nicely restored, I didn't really appreciate how they were converted into stores selling cheap crappy trinkets, video game arenas, djembe drummers, etc. Nothing felt authentic. Along the main drags and town square, it was particularly crowded, making photography rather difficult.

Quite confident that an early morning start would change things, I went to bed earlier and set out the next morning when it was light. Streets that were overflowing with tourists the night before were now virtually abandoned. 
Wandering through the streets, I was able to explore and photograph to my heart's content. Occasionally a couple other photographers were spotted. 
 I loved being able to see the beautiful old buildings and enjoy the worn stone paving bricks, made smooth by the many travelers through the lanes.

Wandering through the streets of Lijiang during the early morning was a delight. Some great dramatic lighting, unencumbered by the throngs of visitors. I'm so glad that I had a different schedule than the majority. Tranquil, just the way I liked it.