Sunday, April 24, 2016

Springtime at Garden of the Morning Calm

This past weekend, I went with a few friends to the Garden of the Morning Calm. Sure, I had plenty of things to do, but visiting this beautiful garden in spring was on my Korea "bucket list." I first visited this place in January during the winter Lighting Festival. Part of the garden was not included in the winter event, and I wanted to see its springtime transformation. Korea gets gardening right.
The 330,000 sq m. garden is open year round; during the higher season (mid-March - November), it is open from 8:30-sunset. Located about 40 km northeast of Seoul, it is an easy day trip. We took the subway from Hongik University, transferring once and arriving at Cheongpyeong Station. Although a city tour bus was available, we decided to pile into a taxi and shave off a little time, arriving at the entrance about 20 minutes later. Although it was fairly busy, the large area provided ample space to spread out and get some shots without hordes of people. As with any Korean destination, arriving earlier is best

Within the grounds, there are 20 different themed areas. Some areas were very manicured, and others felt more natural. Pavilions and other Korean-styled buildings provided shelter, picnic spots, places to eat/drink, purchase plants & gifts, and bathroom facilities. 
One could easily spend half a day, particularly if enjoying all the different paths, boardwalks, greenhouses, and facilities.

I'll be posting more on the garden. For now, here is the link to my Flickr album.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Changdeokgung Moonlight Tour and Injeongjeon Hall

This past week, I went with a few colleagues on the Changdeokgung Moonlight Tour. Held for two nights during the months of April-June and once in March, it is an opportunity for expats to see one of Seoul's favorite palaces in a whole new way. The tour started at 8pm, with the participants (limited to 100 in number) being divided into a number of groups. It was raining a bit, so ponchos were handed out along with LED-illuminated lanterns. After crossing the stone bridge (where a brief intro was given) and through Jinseonmun Gate,  our soft-spoken guide gave us further information at the main Injeongjeon Hall. 
The light rain added some sheen to the stone courtyard in front of the hall. The status markers leading up to the hall were individually illuminated and its ornate exterior glowed in warm light. 
We had a brief peek of the interior, as seen through the opening. 
Ray streamed from beyond the japsang figures on the rooftop of one of the nearby buildings.
With a tight schedule and other groups behind us, we had to move on to the next section of our tour.

See more photos from the Moonlight Tour and other photos of Changdeokgung Palace in my Flickr album

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Nature's Glow

With the azaleas much farther this week, I decided to go for a walk after school, exploring the color of nearby Yonsei University. I love photographing its well-maintained campus. While walking down one of its many slopes, my eye was drawn to the red glow beneath the shade of some trees. I loved how the red glow was reflected in the window of the Tudor-style building.

It's not the first time I've photographed this area. Below is the same spot in autumn.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Yesteryear's GPS

In a country with such a high saturation of technology, this scene struck me a bit by surprise. I guess this paperclipped map could help get the driver there. Road visibility might be something to consider. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Courageous Pinks

Although Korea's cherry blossoms tend to steal the show, they're not the only game in town. An equally beautiful blossom is the maehwa plum blossom. 
In Confucian times, the maehwa was considered one of the Four Gentlemanly plants. Still seen as one of the Four Seasons symbols (along with the wild orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum), the maehwa plum blossom represents courage. One of Korea's earlier blossoming trees, it was admired for blooming in the cold of early spring. A beloved symbol for scholars, the maehwa represents strength, fidelity, integrity, and nobility.  

I photographed these images on a late afternoon at a local temple. Although it had been a long day at school, I'm glad that my friends invited me to go on a walk with them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Visit to Seokchon Lake Cherry Blossom Festival

Despite the bad air quality, I was determined to visit Seokchon Lake for its cherry blossom festival. I met my friend there early, before the crowds came. Located in the Jamsil area of Seoul, it was a direct 45-minute subway ride, right on line 2. It was the first time that my Korean friend had visited the park during spring.
Melissa in Seokchon park

Colorful cloth lanterns lined part of the great path around the lake. Petals already were gently falling to the ground, dancing with the slightest breeze. Couples posed with selfie sticks, capturing themselves and the beautiful blossoms.
Thankfully, the pathway was not crowded, likely due to the earlier time of day and the air quality. It did make soft lighting for photography and easier navigation.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Lotte World Tower, Spring View

Despite the bad air quality, I met a friend outside of Jamsil Station to see the cherry blossoms around Seokchon Lake. Rising dramatically against the graceful blossoms and lake is the Lotte World Tower. At 555 meters tall and 123 floors in total, the just-finished tower dwarfs the shopping center and other skyscrapers in the area. Built to withstand a 9.0 earthquake, the controversial building is designed to house a luxury hotel, offices, retail, and an observatory.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Before the Crowds Come: Cherry Blossoms in Seoul

 When it's spring in Korea, everyone seems to want to get out and enjoy the blossoms. I'm no exception. However, I don't particularly like having my tranquil spring photos marred by lots of people. Getting there early is the key. No need to Photoshop anyone out in these photos!

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Spring Peek at Seoul Foreign School

Back from the EARCOS conference in Manila, Seoul Foreign School has welcomed me with its first signs of spring - the cherry blossoms. One of my favorite trees is by the school's beloved Korean Gate. The photo above is taken from a window on the fourth floor of the elementary building.
Framed by Christ

Opened gate doors in the early morning light