Every photo decluttering exercise is an opportunity to reminisce about my trips. This time, I am cleaning up the folders containing photographs of my 5-week trip to Korea in late autumn of 2010. I dugged out some photos of my favourite places to put up here. I have no idea why it has taken me several years to do so, but as they always say, better late than never.
I love visiting Korea, and I have gone back every year since 2007. With the exception of the 5-week trip, the rest of my visits were short trips lasting between 4 days to 10 days. I have been there in all four seasons and autumn is my favorite time of the year to visit because the fall colours are beautiful. Despite having been there so many times, there are still so many parts of the country that I have not seen. I haven’t been to the DMZ, for example; or gone to Andong, or seen the cherry blossoms in full bloom.
I cannot exactly explain what about the country that I am besotted with. I like the scenery. Both the urban and countryside landscope. I like the culture. I like the food. I have no problems eating Korean food three times a day, or kimchi everyday. I suppose it is also largely due the fact that it is a place that I feel comfortable travelling around on my own even though I cannot speak the language.
People have asked how I manage to get around the country, especially in the countryside, when I don’t speak the language. I bring along Korean versions of maps of the city or town that I am in, circle the places that I want to go to on the maps, so that I can show them to cab-drivers or to anyone whom I may be seeking directions from. I also copy down names and addresses of the hotels or motels that I would be staying at, in Hangeul, to reduce the difficulty of getting understood (or misunderstood) by the locals.
My preferred mode of traveling between cities or towns is by coach, and by cab within the area. Getting around Korea by bus is very easy, convenient and affordable even if you don’t speak the language. All I have to do is to take a cab to the city or town bus terminal, buy a coach ticket, stick my suitcase in the luggage compartment, board the bus, go to sleep and wake up at my destination several hours later. I have taken the KTX and comparing the train and coach, I find the coach a much easier way to travel between cities or towns because coach travel rarely requires me to change coaches, or lug my luggage up and down platforms. I never have to worry about missing the connecting train, or getting off at the wrong station.
During the 5 week trip, I started out in Seoul, then travelled to Gangneung, Jeju, Jeonju, Gwangju, Suncheon and Gyeongju. I liked Suncheon alot, especially Suncheon Bay and the Songgwangsa Temple.
Prior to Suncheon, I was in Gwangju. I took an early morning coach from Gwangju to Suncheon, arrived just before noon, checked into the motel, dropped my bags and went out to Songgwangsa Temple.
Songgwangsa is about an hour-half away by bus from the city center of Suncheon. I boarded the bus outside the Suncheon Station, and the scenic bus ride took me along the streets of Suncheon, into the outskirts, then the countryside before climbing up winding roads of a mountain to reach its final destination at Songgwangsa Temple. It is a short walk to the entrance of the temple from the bus stop. I recall paying a small fee – nothing more than 5,000 Won – to enter the temple.
Dotted with tall, beautiful trees, and some of these crowned in fall colors, the grounds of Songgwangsa were beautiful, tranquil and peaceful. The whole place is as pretty as a picture. I imagine how green and lush the place will be during spring and summer.