Saturday, November 19, 2016


The main theme of the Seoul Lantern Festival 2016 is "Han River". In view of that, the first section of the festival ground was dedicated to lanterns depicting the folklore, history and the social life around the Han River. But I am sorry to say, I was actually more excited about the giant-size lantern of Taekwon V located at the end.

During time before Transformers, there was Taekwon V to save the Earth from destruction.

Water-spouting dragon in folklore was believed to have formed the Han River

Amsadong archaeological site along the Han River reveals history dated back to the stone age

History of Han River unfolds as you walk down Cheonggyecheon

Life of people who used to ply their trade at Mapo port along the river

Lantern of the bridges along Han River. From right to left: Sogang bridge, Line 2 track, Yanghwa bridge and Seongsan bridge.

Duracell bunny that never runs out of battery

Christmas tree lanterns created out of supposedly used skincare product bottles

Lantern with a foreign theme

Every festival must have a wishing tree, board or something. Here, it is a rooaster because 2017 is the year of the rooster.

School of colourful mountain trouts "swimming" up Cheonggeycheon. It is the longest lantern at the festival.

Friday, November 18, 2016

파인애플 빙수

My quest for authentic Korean bingsu brought me to 경리단길, near Itaewon. In a cafe called "Reverse Brother",  they make specialty bingsu from fruits like watermelon, melon and pineapple. The bingsu has wholesome good look and as for taste, not far from expectation, it tasted like ice-blended real fruit juice. The portion is large enough for two persons and would be challenging if a person is to finish everything alone. An afterthought: maybe it is not a good idea to eat bingsu on a cold day. I was shivering from inside out after it.

A-plus for presentation with a price to match (KRW12,000)

싹 먹어 치웠음. Only the shell was left. Where has all the bingsu gone?

From 경리단길, I can clearly see Myeongdong Cathedral. It's amazing there is no high-rise building in this part of city Seoul.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

나 홀로 나무

What do you call a tree with no other trees around it? They simply call it "I'm Solo Tree", seriously. This particular tree is famous enough that if you key in "나홀로나무" in any of the Korean map applications, you will find its exact location inside the Seoul Olympic Park.

The tree inspired many thoughts. One of them: we have to remove clutter in our daily life to create space for beauty to enter. A beautiful place, just like a beautiful mind, has little clutter. Being a solo also does not equate to loneliness, it is just our uniqueness has become rather obvious. Look at the people having a good time around the tree and perhaps, you will know why.

양떼목장 - 가을편

On the way to Daegwallyeong Yangttae Ranch (대관령 양떼목장), my taxi driver tried to impress upon me that there is not much difference between Samyang Ranch and Yangttae Ranch. I did not know how to tell him that I do not get to see big open space, watch sheep grazing and breathe cool air of highland every day. If I can, I want to do ranch-hopping. Another visit to a ranch is never too much for me.

My last visit to Yangttae Ranch was during mid winter and the ranch's walking path was buried deep in snow. The freezing cold temperature also made staying outdoor quite unbearable. However, this visit, I was able to walk one complete round around the ranch under beautiful autumn weather. Now that I did that, the ranch was much smaller than I thought. It did not even take me half an hour to make one round.

The most scenic part of the ranch

Sheep are grazing in a fenced up area at top right corner

The walking path has gentle slope to climb but won't cause you to be out of breath easily

Half a view of Yangttae Ranch from the highest point

Nice autumn weather

After completing the walking path, the next thing to do was to enter the shed and feed the hungry sheep

Cuddly sheep

It was only about 1:30 pm but the long shadow make it seems like late afternoon

Annyeong, we meet again. How do you do?

Blue sky, rolling hills and autumn weather are all that are needed to re-energize a worn-out soul

Monday, November 14, 2016

하늘, 바람 그리고 목장

I finally made my way back to Samyang Ranch after seven years. My first visit was during early autumn. The high blue sky, cool breeze and wide open space made it a "healing" and memorable experience. This time, I was back during late autumn to the same sky, breeze and ranch. I would like to believe nothing much has changed but the road inside the ranch was quite busy with tipper trucks moving in and out, leaving thick trail of billowing dust behind. Pyeongchang is preparing for Winter Olympics 2018 and there is a lot of construction going on at Daegwallyeong area. Samyang Ranch is not spared. This is probably not an ideal period to visit Daegwallyeong. Despite that, I kept myself far away from the dirt track and still enjoyed my time walking down the ranch's meandering path. There is not much thing to do and think about at the ranch, that is why I consider a trip to the ranch a "healing" experience.

A welcome sight at Samyang Ranch- the wind farm and meandering walking path

Wind turbines harvesting wind power from the East Sea

The sign read: Grazing grass is beef and milk. Please do not enter.

The land has taken on a yellowish hue of autumn

The sheep's fleece has thickened in preparation for winter. Grazing season is coming to end soon and so is year 2016.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


I thought it would be a lifetime regret if I only experience autumn once. So I packed my bag, put on my new hiking boots and left for Korea again. It has been 6 years since I last visited Korea during autumn and memories of autumn at Naejansan (내장산, 內藏山) and Damyang's Metasequoia Forest Road are still fresh in my mind. However, given an opportunity, it is always better to live in the present than past.

The main destination of this autumn trip is Daedunsan (대둔산, 大芚山). When I told the owner of the guesthouse I stayed in, I went to Daedunsan, he asked, "구름다리 (cloud bridge)?" Yes correct, that mountain with the "cloud bridge". Besides the swinging bridge, Daedunsan is also famous for its "samseon" stairway (삼선계단) and special rock formations.

View from top of Daedunsan (대둔산, 大芚山), at Wonju County, North Jeolla Province

End of October is a peak visiting season at Daedunsan. In order to avoid the maddening weekend crowd, I chose to visit it early on a Monday morning. The cable car operates from 9am onwards. I reached the cable car station at 8 but yet, I was not on the first cable car up. There were already more than 50 people ahead of me in the queue. Each car can take up to 51 passengers and there are two cars operating in opposite direction. In my case, I only waited about 15 minutes before the next car arrived. The six-minute journey to the mountain station felt much longer when I was distracted by the scenery around me.

Cable car with a capacity for 51 passengers. Traveling time in one direction - about 6 minutes

The first stop after getting off  the cable car is the observatory (전망대). From the observatory, you get to enjoy 270 degrees of unobstructed autumn view. But when I returned to it after descending from the peak, I found the view rather ordinary. In other words, the view higher up was much better.

Observatory - the first stop after getting off cable car

A view, from Observatory, of the rock formation and autumn foilage

The second stop is the must-visit "cloud bridge". There are some steep steps to climb and a short distance to walk to get there but not particularly tough. The cloud bridge does not swing a lot but walking across it can still be quite a challenging for some. My advice is just look straight and it will be alright.

Next stop - the cloud bridge (구름다리) of Daedunsan.

The "cloud bridge", a swinging bridge, hangs between two cliffs

The third stop is samseon stairway. The narrow path to the stairway demands a little bit more of physical fitness. It is like a one-way street where you cannot turn back once you embark on it because there will be many people behind you, pressing you to move forward. If you do not like exerting too much, then returning to the cable car station after crossing the cloud bridge is recommended.

Pine at the edge of mountain adds a poetic feel to the scenery

Looking down at Daedunsan cable car station. The autumn hue will become more intense in the following week.

Samseon stairway is very steep and narrow. Although not very high, it seems like I took forever to climb to the top. When I was halfway up, the height at which the stairway is located, gave me a bit of dizziness. This must be the highest "ladder" I have ever climbed.

The samseon stairway looks awesome from afar. I could not give it a miss after coming so far.

Special rock formations amid beautiful autumn foilage

The cloud bridge as seen from samseon stairway

One-man width samseon stairway on close-up. Once you step on it, you can't turn back even if you regret your decision halfway.

There no way back now. The only direction is up.

The last stop is Macheondae (마천대), the peak. The last lap was the most difficult. As I climbed up the rocky and steep slope to the peak, I have to stop multiple times to catch my breathe. For people who do not exercise frequently, leg cramps will most likely happen. It was definitely tough but if 60-plus years old grand nannies could make it to the top despite repeated complaint of "힘들어, 힘들어", anyone younger than them should have no excuse. It took me an hour to reach the summit after getting off the cable car.

Macheondae (the peak) looks so near with zoom but yet so far in reality

Finally, on top of Macheondae, the peak of Daedunsan (848m)

The best view is not always at the peak but in the case of Daedunsan, it is.

Looking back at the route I took to come so far, the cloud bridge and the samseon stairway

Walking below the cloud bridge on the way back to the cable car station

Back at base station

I spent about two hours up in the mountain, By the time I reached the base station, it was about 11 am. The crowd has built up. There were hundreds of visitors queuing for cable car. I was glad I have completed my objective early and did not have to jostle my way through the crowd. Going on a mountain trip always brings me great satisfaction. I enjoy overcoming the challenges on the way to the top. Beautiful autumn scenery was just a bonus.