Monday, December 27, 2010

가을의 마음


Monday, December 20, 2010

명동 재발견

Myeongdong is a place in Seoul which I lost count of the times I visited. The problem when we get too familiar with someone or something or some place, impression of them becomes weaker until we become indifference. The fault doesn't lie with people, it's the body physiological mechanism which is at work, protecting itself from overload against repeated and 'useless' stimulation from the same source.

Despite my growing indifference towards Myeongdong, I still make it a point to visit it every now and then because the place changes quite fast. On my last visit, I discovered the famous stall that sold the 32-inch tall soft-serve ice cream was gone for good. Myeongdong is also fast losing its diversity as skincare and cosmetics product labels of any kinds are displacing shops which offer other products or services at a rapid pace. If diversity is necessary for vibrancy, Myeongdong's vibrancy could well be diminishing.

Myeongdong has been 'colonised' by skincare and cosmetics label of all kinds.

Noon Square - Singapore's 'footprint' in Myeongdong

Saturday, December 18, 2010

북 카폐

One of my friends wants to open a book cafe. Whether her idea will come to fruition is anyone guess. I've my reservation and it is not the idea but the feasibility of the idea. The environment is not quite favorable for entrepreneurship. Anyway, I shan't dwell further on the feasibility part. Rather, I would like to imagine what my friend's book cafe will look like if it is for real. I came across one small book cafe in Daehangno (대학로, 大學路) which I think can serve as a good reference.

A book cafe should have cute mascots to attract attention.

It should have beautifully-decorated window panels

It should have good photo-taking spots.

It should be easily accessible, preferably beside a road where there is a steady flow of human traffic.

It should have eye-catching sign and name.

It should have a beverage menu that includes: espresso, americano, cappuccino, latte, mocha, caramel macchiato, hot chocolate, green tea latte, fresh fruit juice and herb tea. Food menu should have sandwich, muffin, cookie, bagel and cheese cake as options. Used books should come with 60-70% discount. The collection of 'for sale' and 'not for sale' books should be around three thousands in number. Last but not least, it  must have wireless internet.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

시간을 초월한 사랑

The reason why I went Seomgmo Island was to look for a place where the seaside house in "Il Mare" once stood. I found it despite not knowing exactly where it was located on the island. Perhaps, I should say finding it was a matter of serendipity.

A decade has passed since the film was made. The filming site has undergone a lot of changes. Asphalt road and concrete barrier were signs of development that has taken place. However, the familiar mudflat and the misty late autumn morning were still there to greet me.

If there was a letterbox standing somewhere, I might be tempted to write a letter and drop it in. It will not be a letter to heaven, it will be for someone who will pick it up 2 years later. The letter will probably start like this, "By the time you read this letter, I will be already 2 years into your future..."

Scenes from "Il Mare"

Monday, December 13, 2010

자전거 타기의 즐거움

With a rented bike, I went exploring the southern coast of Seongmo Island. I like the feeling of riding bike on a quiet stretch of countryside road. It helps to restore the peace in my mind, made murky by mundane worry and anxiety. 

Loneliness amplified itself many times when you are out in the vast open while chilly autumn breezes blew. The cry of the wild geese in the field didn't help except to deepen the sense of loneliness already overflowing. Nobody was in sight. Traffic was occasional. It felt like I had the whole world to myself. The feeling was scary but at the same time, liberating. Everyone needs to have some quiet moment sometimes. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

석모도 (席毛島)

Flock of seagulls flying overhead at the stern of the car ferry

Going on a trip to an island is not an activity people will usually engage in during late autumn. I have my reason why I choose to visit Seongmo Island during a time when people would rather stay indoor than to be out exposed to chilly wind. I shall let the reason be known later. Meanwhile, this is my journey log to Seongmo Island.

To get my destination in Seongmo Island, I have to take one subway ride, three bus rides and one ferry ride. Starting from Jongno in central Seoul, I took line 5 to Songjeong Station. Outside exit 1 of the station, I boarded bus 3000 (or bus 88) bound for Ganghwa inter-city bus terminal. It took slightly over an hour to reach the terminal. At the terminal, I switched to 'Oepo-ri' (외포리) bound bus 31 which was waiting at platform 15. About 25 minutes later, I arrived at 'Oepo-ri' terminal. I found the 'Oepo-ri' jetty behind the row of buildings surrounding the small waiting at the ramp. The ferry ride was only 5 minutes and soon I was on the opposite side, at 'Seokpo-ri' (석포리) jetty in Seongmo Island. A village bus was waiting not far from the jetty. I paid 1,000won and told the bus driver my destination (the bus can stop anywhere along its designated route if you inform the bus driver in advance). My destination was 'Seongmodo Iyagi' pension (석모도 이야기) located at the south-eastern end of the island.

'Pension' is Korea's equivalent of chalet. The old couple who ran the pension were very nice people. I paid 50,000won for a small room but they upgraded me to the biggest room in their pension which would otherwise cost 200,000won per day. Through their help, I also got to rent a bicycle for a day. The rental shop owner didn't ask me to pick up the bicycle at his shop, instead he delivered the bicycle together with another scooter on the back of his truck. The scooter was brought along so that I could make a switch if I wanted but I chose to stick with my bicycle. This is a typical example of the service culture in Korea.

With my bicycle, I was ready to explore the southern coast of the island.

Cars queuing to go up the car ferry at 'Oepo-ri' jetty

Seagulls crowding at the stern of the ferry. Their target, food that was being waved at them by the passengers. Initially, it was interesting to see so many seagulls flying very close, but soon, it became a concern. Any of these seagulls could actually hit someone because they were really close, like right in front of your eyes. Not to mention, they might decide to hone their 'aerial bombing' skill when overhead. You definitely don't want to be under them when they decide to execute it.

Car ferry arriving at 'Seokpo-ri' jetty

At 'Seokpo-ri' jetty

On my way to 'Seongmodo Iyagi' pension. Light breaking through overcast sky.

'Seongmodo Iyagi' pension. I stayed in the 2nd level - a big room with a big LCD TV which could receive skylife programmes. However, internet connection was down. Being 'disconnected' from the rest of the world for a day wasn't a bad idea after all.


From Jeonju to Naejangsan to Damyang to Baekyangsa, my "autumn tales" are almost over. There is just one more place left in my itinerary. That's Seongmo Island (석모도, 席毛島). I was there not for the autumn leaves but for the sea. In Italian, the sea is known as "Il Mare".

Minmeoru Beach (민머루해수욕장) is the only beach in Seongmo Island. It is located south of the island. The pictures below were taken between 3pm and 5pm. If you want to see bigger picture of them, click on each of the picture.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

백양사의 가을 (2)

The poem written by monk 'Seo Ong' (서옹, 西翁) on his visit to 'Twin Stream Pavilion' (쌍계루, 雙溪樓) was engraved on a stone slab near the entrance of Baekyangsa.

次雙溪樓韻 (차쌍계루운)

尨眉緇衲一癡僧 (방미치납일치승)
倚杖隨溪步自能 (의장수계보자능)
看到雲煙醒又醉 (간도운연성우취)
翫弄神變錯還增 (완롱신변착환증)
金風暗換楓初紫 (금풍암환풍초자)
秋月方明水愈澄 (추월방명수유징)
凡聖都忘閑吹笛 (범성도망한취적)
倒騎須彌任運登 (도기수미임운등)

In this poem, there is a sense of unbridled freedom and perfect enjoyment. Who needs 'soju' to get drunk when you are surrounded by a beautiful sea of red and orange maple leaves?

'Twin Stream Pavilion' (쌍계루,  雙溪樓)

The pavilion has its back facing Baekamsan and its front facing a stream.

The view of the stream in front of 쌍계루

A family resting in 쌍계루 as the morning sun shone lowly in.

No artificial colourings added

Monk Seo Ong's poem was carved onto this slab of stone 

Fallen maples are equally attractive

The earth and water are like on fire

Topping up cool spring water outside the temple

Walking up to the entrance of Baekyangsa, guided by colourful lanterns.

The entrance of Baekyangsa

The bell tower

Baekamsan (back) and the bell tower (front)

On the way back

Fallen maple leaves collected at one corner

Pattern of autumn

Very old maple trees lined this maple tree forest road

Festival at Baekyangsa

Parting shot of autumn