Sunset, Top to Bottom

When the sun has set, no candle can replace it.

A sunset is one of those things that happens every day whether you notice it or not. And when you do get a chance to see it, it never looks the same. Whether it’s the cloud cover, the landscape, or just the mood of the day; every sunset is different every day.

I’d like to say that I have a patient style of photography; that I go to a single location and wait out my time until the perfect opportunity arrives and capture the moment. But I don’t. I parse through a day’s photo like an eager child looking for one sweet after another. Occasionally, after an entire day of shooting, I’ll simply scrap an entire shoot. But sometimes, sometimes I get lucky. I’d been planning on just making a random stop, getting off the bus early in a place I’d never been before. It’s not often that I do this, and it’s not often that it pays off. The last time I’d done this, I didn’t get any photography done and I just wandered about in a small town for an hour. This time, though, it was jackpot.

Over the Paddy

For the past few weeks I already knew where it was that I was headed. Every Monday and Wednesday I take a one hour subway ride to Suwon where I hop on a 40 minute bus ride back to Ansan where my apartment is. In between the two cities, there isn’t much. A few dense apartment complexes separated by miles and miles of green field or empty pastures. But just before the bus enters Ansan, there’s a small village. The houses are separated by huge sprawling fields and greenhouses which sit in plain sight during the day, but at sunset they come alive. All of a sudden the greenhouses are back lit by the fading orange and clouded blue while the clear waters of the rice paddies reflect the sights above.

Covered in Green

Somewhere in the drive between Suwon and Ansan, there’s a small village. The landscape is dotted with house and filled with rice paddies. A single stretch of road weaves its way from one house to the next with barely enough room for two cars to pass each other. Houses are separated by long stretches with abandoned tractors marking the distance in between.

Lost in the Crowd

When I finally stopped walking, it was like standing in a painting. The sky was lit up above and the water in the rice paddies was just a reflection of the spectacle. I stopped long enough to enjoy the view and just a little bit longer to take a few photos. I left just as the last bit of sunlight was fading out behind the horizon lone but not before the sky darkened above my head. I left that for the view from the bus on my way home.

It Sets

 

 

 

seoul korea gyeongbokgung

a Nighttime Spectacle: Gyeongbokgung at Night

Forty years ago, Seoul installed the first subway system in the country. Sixty nine years ago, Korea won it’s independence from colonial rule. And while the Western world was gearing up for the first World War and the rise of socialist movements one hundred and four years ago, Korea ceased to be ruled by a monarchy. Compared to the Western world, the Korean continent had a very slow start to the last century. The current day Korea enjoys blazing fast internet, a subway system rivaling the length of those in larger metropolitan cities, and is currently presided over by an unmarried female president; at least, the southern half of the peninsula anyways.

This accelerated growth has resulted in numerous issues from social to economic with generational gaps getting wider as time goes on. But as a result, this has left the entire national with a cadre of leftovers from civilizations not so long past.

seoul korea gyeongbokgung

This past month, Gyeongbokgung held a nighttime opening for citizens and foreigners alike. The palace has stood (and fallen) for hundreds of years in the center of Seoul, like a jewel. Under the Joseon dynasty, the palace was the seat of power from which the King ruled the country until it was lost in an invasion by Japan. After having most of the surrounding structures burned and destroyed, only a few structures remained. The past decades have brought reform originating from a profound respect of the past.

seoul korea gyeongbokgung

Exploring the environment of many of the palace grounds means coming across many construction sites. Living quarters, guard barracks and other structures out of the past are being rebuilt slowly as space allows in accordance with blueprints and layouts that have been preserved over the past centuries.

seoul korea gyeongbokgung

During the day, the palaces are splendorous works of art. The columns, murals, and woodwork shine in the sunlight like standing portraits of the past. But at night, at night they shine like stars. Although the last event has ended, I would highly recommend everyone to buy tickets and attend at least one of the openings if opportunity allows. It’s an amazing testament to what once was, and how far the country has come.

seoul korea gyeongbokgung

For more on the palaces, take a look at my past blogs which I’ve linked below. Happy adventures!

gyungbokgung banner

korea seoul palace

August Desserts, Part Two: Bingsu’s in Seoul (Plus Fried Oreos)

I’d like to imagine that the food everywhere is great to someone and boring to everyone else, everyone else being the people who live there. Having lived in Korea for the past four years, I feel like I’m in a perpetual state of being in-between. Every new dish feels like either a trek through the mundane or a parade through the unknown; a gastronomic parade, a deliciously gastronomic parade.

For the month of August my girlfriend over at Seoul Searching decided to compile a list of her favorite shaved ice desserts. Shaved ice being a Korean dessert stable known as bingsu (빙수) with a variety of toppings and flavors and… well, varieties. Her search took us all over Seoul, a month of traveling about. Delicious fruit sorbets and milk tea shavings and red beans with rice cake constituted my weekends even as chocolate fondants and cranachans were obliterating my weeks.

Fruit Sorbet @ Haba Cosina

Fruit Sorbet @ Haba Cosina

Orea Green Tea Bingsu @ Pas des Deux

Orea Green Tea Bingsu @ Pas des Deux

Oreo Fries (Fried Oreos) @ Newyork Apartment

Oreo Fries (Fried Oreos) @ Newyork Apartment

Rooibos Milk Tea Bingsu @ Damas

Rooibos Milk Tea Bingsu @ Damas

Mercifully (and, maybe, a little thankfully) my month of delicious desserts and sugary confections has come to an end I don’t have to dream of strawberries in cream with mangoes, red beans, and sorbets piled on a tiny mountain of dreams. Delicious, but… well, nothing, just delicious. I can’t wait until the next one.

August Desserts, Part One: Itaewon

Taking photos of food has become an international pastime, no matter where you go or what you eat there are going to be people taking photos of their food. It’s a common sight from cafe to convenient stores and it’s easy to see why. Especially when I find a photo of a hotdog or cheeseburger on Instagram with hundreds of likes.

For the past few months I’ve been taking advantage of my job at Chip’s Maps by taking every opportunity I can get to take pictures of food, drinks, and desserts; most especially, the desserts. For month of July, it was one dessert dish after another for the cover story, “Sweet Summer.” I headed all over Itaewon to get some great sweets along with a bit of whisky. Unexpected treats aside, it was a great way to spend a month.

 

The Red Velvet Cheesecake & Amaretto Cheesecake @ Twiga

The Red Velvet Cheesecake & Amaretto Cheesecake @ Twiga

The Chocolate Fondant in English Custard @ Battered Seoul

The Chocolate Fondant in English Custard @ Battered Seoul

The Cranachan with a Laphroig cream @ Battered Seoul

The Cranachan with a Laphroig cream @ Battered Seoul

August macaroons @ Gaia

August macaroons @ Gaia

Tiramisu topped with chocolates @ Gaia

Tiramisu topped with chocolates @ Gaia

All in all, one of the better months I’ve had. Even if it was mostly due to a massive intake of cream and sugar. It’s hard not to recommend every one of these great places. If you’re ever, in the area I’d recommend stopping by Gaia for their August desserts, Battered Sole for their Cranachan, and Twiga for their awesome cheesecakes.

The Standing Fortress

My first trip to Suwon was a little over two years ago. I didn’t visit any landmarks, I didn’t eat anything out of the ordinary, I went to visit my dad. He’d just moved to the area and I wanted to see how he was doing. During one of my next few visits, he mentioned some of the historical structures and things to do. We discussed clearing out some time and making a trip sometime, probably with my girlfriend.

Fast forward to nearly a month ago when we finally had time to make the trip. My girlfriend, my father, my brother, and I made the trip on a warm Saturday when none of us had work. We visited the palace and walked along the wall for a few hours. It was warm, bright and sunny; and I knew someday that I had to come back.

Hwaseong Suwon  Turret

Hwaseong Suwon  River Bridge

The wall Hwaseong fortress wall is 3.57 miles long and originally enclosed 0.5 square miles of land. Most of the structures are built out of stone and wood although it’s been rebuilt and repaired several times since it was originally constructed in the late 18th century. Visitors can walk the entire length of the wall, but I warn you, it’s over uneven grounds and has more twists and turns than a maze.

The wall includes a lot of structures that still stand today from floodgates (above), to watchtowers, turrets for bowmen and archers as well as beacon towers. Unlike the palaces or hanoks, this place was built for war.

Hwaseong Suwon Gate and Tower

Hwaseong Suwon  Turret Wall Fortress

 

Hwaseong Suwon City Lights

Hundreds of years ago, the walls enclosed the palace, military barracks, and other structures. Now the interior is filled with residential homes, ㅐ, restaurants and cafes. Time has traded royalty, nobles and soldiers for families, office workers, and baristas.

For the most part, what can be seen has been rebuilt, and recently. Wars have been fought, the economy has risen and fallen, and wood-rot has taken its toll. But, the palace and fortress still look amazing; especially, at night. Most nights the walls are empty with the exception of a handful of people walking their dogs, families out for a leisurely stroll, and photographers (namely me).

Hwaseong Suwon  Turret Pagoda

Hwaseong Suwon Cameraman

I wouldn’t recommend making the trip unless you are interested solely in the structures and history. There aren’t many activities for visitors to partake in (there is archery, though) and once you’ve walked the structure, there’s little else to do besides eat some food. But if you find yourself with nothing else or if you find yourself in the area, it is a great place to just sit down and forget about the world. Just for an hour.

Hwaseong Suwon  Full

Hwaseong Suwon  Detail

Hwaseong Suwon Citywatch