Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fall Foliage in Korea

Fall is unquestionably my favorite time to be in Korea. Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows about Korea's brisk, icy winters and steamy, dreary summers.  Fall finally becomes dry after sweating through the humid summer and the air, which tends to be excessively smoggy, finally clears and for a few weeks blue sky can actually be seen.

Late October and early November see the leaves change colors here. Getting out of Seoul is assuredly the best way to see autumn's many hues. Last year I went to Bukhansan and was blown away by the beauty of the landscape this time of year. This year, I considered a trip to Korea's most popular destination in fall, Seoraksan, but I wasn't quite up for a long, traffic-filled trip to a crowded mountain full of old men and women (ajeoshis and ajummas, for those who know a little Korean). 

Instead, last Sunday I visited Nami Island with a couple of friends that I met at a Buddhist temple stay in May. The island sits in the middle of a river east of Seoul and can be reached easily by train. I was warned by a couple Koreans that Nami is a "couples paradise", which could be annoying for single folk like myself. As the scene of the famous Korean TV drama "Winter Sonata" (famous, at least, in Asia), the island is full of tacky destinations like "A Place of First Kiss". But actually, on the day we went the island was mostly full of families on weekend strolls.

As she is from Vietnam, she had never seen anything but green leaves in her entire life!

Nami wasn't so bad, but I did find it a bit overrated relative to the hype. The leaves were pretty good, particularly along a ginkgo tree-lined street running through the center, but I felt like any decent park (at least in the US) would have leaves of similar quality. As this was in Korea, the island was of course super crowded (like everything worth seeing here), and with all of those people the island felt far more like a loud tourist trap than a peaceful nature retreat. But, I can now check Nami off the Korean "to see" list.

Finishing the day with one of my favorite Korean dishes: dak galbi (popular in the Chuncheon region)

Yesterday I hiked Bulamsan on the northeast edge of Seoul. The hike certainly had potential but unfortunately a chilly rain took away from the foliage and sights. I saw mostly soggy wet leaves rather than the stunning vistas that I had been hoping for. Thankfully, even Koreans don't tend to hike in the rain, and the hike was the calmest I have done in the (poorly nicknamed) Land of the Morning Calm.

The camera mostly stayed in my backpack yesterday

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