Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chuseok in Boseong

For Chuseok (Korean "thanksgiving") a group of friends traveled to the green tea growing region in the Korean peninsula's southwest corner. Above is a picture of the perfectly manicured green tea terraces. Had no idea that tea plants are essentially plain bushes.

A tomb located amongst the tea plants.

Friends walking up into the terraced rows of tea.

Dragonflies were everywhere. Caught this guy sunning himself.

Looking into the canopy of a stand of bamboo the tea plantation keeps for wedding photo ops.

We stayed a "pension". Kind of like a bed and breakfast. Had a big room with lots of pillows/blankets/mats and a basic kitchen. At night we cooked in half drum barbeques and enjoyed some soju in the tent roofed building in the foreground.

The pension from below, Becky and Justin stand in front of our first floor room.

A cadre of old guys playing a dice game and drinking on the station platform as we waited for our train.

Sejongno - Heart of Seoul

Sejongno is my favorite street in Seoul. It runs from City Hall Plaza north to Gyeongbok Palace. It was completely remodeled recently and now has several beautiful public spaces. The picture above is a water feature that runs the length of the street's middle plaza.

The US embassy (an ugly '70s era building) is located on the street. I took the above picture on the day of Ted Kennedy's funeral in Boston. The stars and stripes fly at half mast accordingly.

A manicured flower garden occupies much of the street's center plaza.

Kids playing in the "headwaters" of the plaza's water feature.

Myself and friend Marshall in front of Admiral Yi, one of two statues that dominate the plaza.

Kids playing in the rapidly changing fountain jets.

....with dads capturing all the fun for posterity.

Seoul City Hall

A view of the temporary facade that has been erected at the front of the new City Hall, at the heart of Seoul as far as I'm concerned.

The facade is like a giant Seurat painting made out of plastic discs. Ambiguous up close but join together to create the scenes visible in the first picture. The scenes has already been changed at least once since I've been here.

Poking....couldn't help myself.

Looking up from the base.

A Christian service/concert/event set up on the lawn at night. The production value was pretty incredible.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mt. Namsan - Seoul Tower

N. Seoul Tower is the tallest object in Seoul - measuring 777 feet from the peak of Mt. Namsan - and it offers panoramic views of Seoul as far as the eye can see. There are several ways of getting to the tower, we took the gondola.

Waiting patiently for said gondola. Marshall (left) is sporting his newly purchased Harry Potter glasses. The lightening bolt had been washed off by this point.

Riding up towards the peak, and Seoul Tower, with the second gondola car about to pass.

The Tower is also home to the Seoul Teddy Bear Museum (still unsure why). These two suffered endless photo opps the whole time we were there. This was the least mean of our shots.

My friends Marshall, Kevin, and myself up in the tower. The windows all have the names and distances of the global capitals they face. We let Kevin join our picture despite being from LA. Go Giants.

Also, Kobe Bryant hangs out here a lot. Apparently he's into teddy bears.

The tower is a huge romantic destination for couples. They buy locks of all sizes from vendors at the tower's base and then bolt them to the fences that surround the tower, after writing romantic messages all over them (see below). This picture is actually of a metal tree they've planted for the purpose, with a lock covered fence in the background.

Not sure if the couples come and cut them off after breaking up. Did not see any bolt cutters for sale.

After dusk laser shows light up the tower and the grounds that surround its base. It looked pretty good in blue.

...but a lot better in red, white, and blue.

Korea VS. Australia

My friend Kevin and me in front of Seoul World Cup Stadium....built to host the 2002 World Cup along with Japan.

The most frenzied fans congregate here at one end of the field. They constitute the official Korean football fanclub.....named the Red Devils. The weren't so much mean as ceaseless.

The view from our great seats....8 rows back.

More play. Korea beat the Australians easily.

The halftime entertainment. You don't see many Korean men with flowing blonde hair. His juggling skills were even more entertaining.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cheonggyecheon Stream

A stream that had run through Seoul for millennia, Cheonggyecheon had been covered up by highways during the decades of enormous growth the city experienced in the last fifty years. Several years ago an urban revitalization project uncovered the stream, creating one of the coolest urban features I've ever seen. The nearly six mile long stream winds its way through the heart of Seoul. Complete with fish, aquatic plantings, and the refreshed feet of thousands of Seoulites.

The headwaters of the stream, a couple yards from the main boulevard that runs through Seoul.

One of several musicians playing along the banks of the stream.

Mom and daughter crossing from one side to another.

Brothers taking a dip in matching shirts.

A small waterfall just beyond the headwaters (see behind). The stream incorporates sculptures and the beauty of water flowing over imbedded lights, carved stone, and natural stream bed.

A view of the stream after sunset, from one of many bridges that crosses above it. The stream is only accessible every quarter mile or so, lending it a sense of isolation in a city of millions.

My friends Marshall, Robin, and Kevin braving the chilly water. Perfect after a long day exploring Seoul.

Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul - Laser Light Show

Weekend nights sections of the stream fill with mist, into which a laser show (set to music) is projected.

Joseon Tombs in Seoul

A mossy-backed statue watching over the tomb of a Joseon King.

The tomb itself, set atop a hill in central Seoul, surrounded by symbolically arranged statues. Notice the Seoul Ramada in the background.

Marshall feeding a 1,500 year old sheep.

This ram, and the big cat behind him, face away from the tomb in order to protect it for all eternity.

Fire extinguishers in the middle of the forest.

Seoul Olympic Park

The beautiful Olympic archway that is the centerpiece of the former Olympic grounds.

The park now plays host to myriad families and their preferred outdoor pursuits every weekend. The young kids in roller blades were by far the most fun to watch.

These four are practicing their speed skating maneuvers in front of their equally serious coach.

Said coach, wearing skates twice the length of her feet.

My good friends Becky and Marshall (and my chin) onboard the Olympic Park tram. Made us all feel a little lazy.....taking a tram to see olympic venues where athletes had performed amazing feats.

Becky giving thumbs up to an enormous thumb sculpture. Very original Becky.

Notice big sister's perfect technique.

Clutching the olympic torch with my BARE HANDS.