After travelling through South Korea this autumn, the images are finally online in the Chocolate Fish Photos Korea Gallery. Korea is really an interesting destination. Culturally it has influences from both China and Japan which can be seen not only in its architecture but also in the everyday life. Korea is also a surprisingly cheap destination. While being more expensive than some of the SE Asian tourist hot spots such as Thailand or Cambodia, it is considerably cheaper than neighbouring Japan, in particular public transport. October is a perfect time to travel through South Korea as the rainy summer season is over, the temperatures more pleasant, and the trees show their beautiful autumn colours.
Trees in autumn colour near Haeinsa temple
You should plan at least 3-4 days to visit Seoul. The capital is home to almost 1/4 of all Koreans but it still maintains a pleasant and relaxed feel to it. You can stroll along the Cheonggyechon river, for instance, and almost forget that you are in a city with over 10 million inhabitants, were it not for the skyscrapers lining the river banks.
Cheonggyechon stream in Seoul
Another option to escape is the Namsan park, which is actually a small hill in the middle of the city from which you have great aerial views over the entire city.
Seoul by night
Another site worth visiting, especially if you have an interest in modern architecture, is the Seoul City Hall. It is a modern glass and steel construction that was only completed a couple of months ago. In its interior, it features these “Living Green Walls” which are used by architects worldwide now in an effort to reduce energy costs, while creating a more pleasant ambiance for the inhabitants.
The Green Walls inside the Seoul City Hall
Apart from its buzzing modernity, Seoul also maintains some architectural relics of its 2000 year old history. One of those include the Bukchong Hanok village or the Changdeokgung palace, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the main palaces in the city .
I also visited Gyeongbokgung palace, which is particularly popular with tourists due to its colourful guards at the gates. Every day, rather bored looking actors perform the changing of the guard ritual while wearing colourful costumes. A great photo opportunity.
Gyeongbokgung palace guards
No trip to Korea is complete without an excursion to the mountains that straddle the entire Korean peninsula. I chose Gyeongju as my base as it is conveniently located to explore both Bulguksa and Haeinsa.
Seated stone Buddha at Yongjangsa near Gyeongju
Gyeongju itself is also worthwhile exploring as the many sights make it an open air museum. I also found the people refreshingly unaccustomed to tourists, which meant that the local market really still is what it used to be, a place where locals trade their home-grown produce. In many places around the world, these once traditional markets have become mere tourist attractions with more stalls catering to the wandering tourists rather than the local.
Octopus for sale at Gyeongju market