Wednesday, 31 October 2012

An Autumn Dilemma: Gingko Trees Don't Want To Let Go!

It's been over week since I saw the first gingko tree change color. And each day, on the roads, on the lanes and in the neighborhoods I pass by everyday, I see those trees slowly succumb to the invasion of the fall colors: orange, red or yellow.
                       (The very yellow Gingko trees behind 
                                  Gyeongbuk Palace)

But today, when I made my way through the Hannam-dong lane in my neighborhood, which is full of gingko trees, I was surprised those trees seem confused as to whether they have to finally give in to Cory yellow or not.
               (The confused Hannam-dong gingko trees)

Even in the Seobinggo Street leading to Yongsan Station, those gingko trees couldn't seem to decide, too.  In the past, they all turned yellow at the same time, as if in one synchronized yellow airbrushing!
                (Green on the left, yellow on the right)

But this time, what's wrong?

Monday, 29 October 2012

The Seoul Square And Its Cool Hillside Garden

Before these autumn temperatures get to being winter temperatures, I had to enjoy lunch time outdoors while I could.

And spending lunch within a subway ride or a bus ride of my work place is usually a good idea during these cool autumn days.
So, I headed up to the Seoul Square, the basement arcade of the brick-colored building right across the Seoul Station. This arcade is full of restaurants, but today, my friend Dong-Eun, who works within the area, and I decided to grab lunch in that hamburger place.
               (Park Ji-Sung's goalless hamburger)

And when I saw the menu, I thought of tasting the Korean footballer's take on the hamburger. Let me check if he has a second career.
And how was his hamburger? Well, it tasted ordinary, no fireworks here. With just some funny sauce added, and the usual veggies thrown in, I say he'd rather stick to his football career. Ha-ha-ha!
And as tradition, after lunch, we grabbed coffee at the cafe upstairs and decided to walk to higher grounds, to the garden right behind the building.

At this time, all trees were still green. Only the cool breezes were autumn-ish. Maybe except winter, this place offers a quiet corner for office workers to chat, to smoke or to just forget about the stressful environment that lies within the buildings surrounding this garden. Even for just an hour.

                        (A church next to the garden)
I wonder who maintains this garden? Although Nam-san is just a few hundred meters up, it's rare to see lots of foliage and trees down here. This garden is hidden behind these buildings! 

A secret garden! Ha-ha-ha!

I had to take a lot of photos of these trees as I decided to return to this place when their colors turn red or orange within a week or two!

And when I return to Seoul Square for lunch next time, I'd suggest to Dong-Eun that we stick to Korean cuisine this time.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Korean Movie: Two Doors

Thanks again to Community Korea for invitation to the screening, and to Mi-Hui of the Korea Film Council for the tickets to the screening of Two Doors.

When I read the synopsis of the movie, I immediately decided to sign up so I could watch this film as I saw this whole thing happened way back in the winter of early 2009. 

Two Doors is a documentary that tells of the events on the tragic days of the Yongsan fire, which killed six people: five evictees and one police SWAT member. The protesters demanded higher compensation for their relocation as their stores and homes in this area were to be demolished for a planned redevelopment. From narrations of witnesses, testimonies of police officers and videos of the police action, the film educated me of what actually happened.

During the Q&A with the two directors, Miss Il-Rhan Kim and Miss Ji-You Hong, I told them I worked at the building in the neighborhood and saw for myself the standoff on the morning of January 19, 2009, a Monday. Little did I know that within 24 hours of that standoff, six would lose their lives and that this whole tragedy would turn into a huge issue. And most of Hangang-no, the main street, would be full of police buses and was always clogged with traffic everyday, especially after the fire while the case was being heard in the Korean courts.
This tragedy has a human face for me because my colleagues and I used to patronize the restaurants in the area during lunch and dinner. For all I know, I may have even seen those five evictees while these restaurants and shops in this area were still operating.

I could not even believe that the building, where the protesters holed themselves up and on whose rooftop they built a lookout, was the building of my favorite restaurant in the neighborhood, Nolboo Buddae-jiggae!  As I watched a small fire on one of the buildings from my 21st floor office window on the morning of January 19, 2009, I could just exclaim to myself in disbelief!

The film narrates that this case had already reached and was decided by the Supreme Court, which concluded that the protesters were responsible for the death of the policeman.

I asked the directors whether the title, Two Doors, has a deeper meaning for them because the documentary mentions that the lookout built by the protesters had two doors. While they said, the title meant 'two choices' for them, others thought it meant 'truth and lies'. As to why is that, you have to watch the film.

Three years after that tragedy, the whole landscape of the neighborhood has changed. But even then, lives were lost and the lives of the families involved have been changed forever. 
After the screening, I asked one of the directors whether the film is available on DVD. She said not yet, but hopefully, someday it will be, as it will serve as a reminder for me of what happened that tragic day in what is now a memorable winter for me of my life in Korea.

P.S. Before the screening, my friend James and I rushed to Garuso-gil to grab a quick dinner, and we stumbled upon Bibigo, a good restaurant where you can choose the ingredients for your bibimbap with your own choice of meat or chicken, kind of rice and the sauce! A nouvelle idea! 

I know how to make Jeonju bibimbap  and I usually order bulgogi bibimap on occasions, but tonight, I had chicken teriyaki and black rice for my bibimbap! With sesame sauce! Thanks to James for dinner! I will definitely look out for this Bibigo place when I return to Garuso-gil some other time.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Naksan Park And Its Artsy Neighborhood!

I thought there wasn't any more to discover in the Hyehwa-dong neighborhood. I have gone up and down the main road, visited and enjoyed Pinoy cuisine at the Pinoy market, dined at the Daehang-no restaurants, had coffee at the numerous cafes and have even visited the hospital and the university in the area. But I was wrong.

And I thought once you see one neighborhood in Seoul, you've seen all. I was wrong again.


Because on one cool autumn Sunday, when I headed down again to Hyehwa-dong, I discovered the hidden alleys of Dongsung-dong and Ihwa-jang, that neighborhood right next to Naksan Park, where, the walls, the homes, the stairs, or practically the whole area was turned into an art gallery of sorts where artists and sculptors contributed their talent by painting and creating these colorful and interesting art forms, and placed them everywhere!  

According to the Visit Seoul website, this was the result of the Naksan Public Art Project under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture. And as I was really impressed at the transformation, I say that the project succeeded in elevating an otherwise bland-looking neighborhood (one that looks like any other) into a must-visit tourist spot. 

A heaven for tourists and photographers! 

And overlooking this neighborhood is the Naksan Park, where in its Naksan Gallery, I was educated about its history. In 1996, the city government rehabilitated the whole neighborhood because after the war, this place was full of apartment buildings and houses laid out in poor urban planning. The area lost its historical character and natural scenic beauty. So, they decided to overhaul the whole place. (I am writing a separate blog for Naksan Park itself).

After roaming this neighborhood, I decided to visit this place every once in a while as it is a tourist spot which is always alive as people actually live in it! It has colorful and sometimes funny drawings, stairs which connects the neighbors living up in the hills with those on the lower levels (and also serve as exercise ramps for all!), and offers another view of the city and the NSeoul Tower!

And now, as I make my way home after alighting from the Blue Bus 140 from Hyehwa-dong, I realized that, compared to the Naksan Park neigborhood, my Hannam-dong neighborhood, bereft of anything artsy and colorful, looks simply dry, bland and uninteresting. 

So, if I want to see another character of Hyehwa-dong, one that's quieter, I know where to go.

P.S. The Ihwa-jang neighborhood is just behind the Marronnier Park. From Exit 1 or 2 of Hyehwa Station, just walk inside the inner streets and you will chance upon the signs with arrows to Naksan Park

Part of the adventure is not to follow a map. Just go up and down the stairs, go in and out of nooks and crannies of the neighborhood. And I hope I will bump into you at one of the narrow alleyways.
   (Interesting art installations that overlook Hyewha-dong.)

         (An imaginary bridge between Naksan Park and 
                               the NSeoul Tower)

                                          (I wish they'd clear this wall.)
                        (I wish this car was parked somewhere else. 
                    It's blocking the art piece. Ha-ha-ha!)

(You can write down what you want to do 'before you die'.)

                                     (A neighbor's persimmon tree.)

              (A painting of a dog peeping from a window)