From Seoul to Busan: Two Weeks in South Korea with the Raven Trekker
For some reason I like to photograph the actual plane that is going to take me to my destination. On this trip, our ride is this massive Korean Airlines jet parked at the Dallas Airport. I am always amazed at how quickly one can travel to the other side of the world these days. I once read the novel "Shogun" by James Clavell, where Englishmen nearly died reaching Japan by boats after traveling months across the ocean. I think about those guys when I am 10 hours into a flight and realize just how awesome it is to reach a destination like South Korea in only 15 hours.
I went to Korea with a friend of mine, he was born and raised in Seoul. After high school in the early 90s, he served in the military which is mandatory for all men in South Korea. His life journey then took him to New Jersey, Chicago, and years later to Kansas where he became my neighbor. The story of our friendship and the reason I found myself in Korea with him is a long one, and part of the story is tragic. I won't go into the details here, but if you ever find yourself sitting next to me late at night after a watch event, you can ask me about it. So this story will be about what I saw and photographed during my trip, and the watch I chose to take along on this journey.
If I recall correctly, the photo above is one of the many I took while walking around parts of Seoul. This is the capital city in the Northern part of the country with a population of 11 million near the center, and a total metro population of over 25 million. I like this photo because of the crazy signs everywhere with lots of color and energy, but the people are walking with a calmness as if they are in a nature park. There is one tree in the photo and the leading lines point to it. I also like the sun light on the street reflecting off the building, other than that there is no nature on this street.
This photo in the subway shows the clean futuristic feel of public transportation in South Korea. It has a "2001 Space Odyssey" look with the colors and lights in the train car. Also notice that most of the people are on their phones, this will hopefully be something we turn away from in the future as a society, and photos like this will remind us of that time we all lived through the age of the smart phone.
Just around the corner of a busy downtown street you will find one of the many ancient palaces in Seoul. We visited most of them and as the days went by I could not keep the names of all the palaces straight. I believe the photo above and below are from a place that translates to be called "The Secret Gardens".
I travel a few times a year, and in the past I found myself bringing up to five watches for a trip that might only be 10-14 days. In recent years I have learned two things that have made travel more enjoyable for me. The first is to take less stuff for the comfort of weight, and the second is to take less for the joy of minimalism. For this trip I chose to bring only one watch, and that created a deeper bond between me and this piece. When I can create a bond with a watch, it minimizes the chances that I will flip it for a few bucks in the future. This watch can now sit in my safe for months, and then when I get around to wearing it again, it brings out memories of my trip to South Korea.
Our tour took us to many cities from Seoul to Busan. The photo above is from the historic town of Jeonju. When you are in Korea, there is no mistaking it or comparing it to any other country. The culture is distinct, the language, food, architecture, cars, and clothes. I noticed it is popular for young people to wear traditional costumes when they visit a palace or an area of historic importance. I saw this at the palaces, the folk villages, and here on the streets of Jeonju. What I like about the photo above is that the young girls on the left are wearing the traditional dresses and the older ladies on the right are wearing modern outfits. Whatever people chose to wear on this day, everyone was having a good time exploring the shops and restaurants and you can see that in the photo as well.
I have always been drawn to utility vehicles, and when we were in the rural area of Gochang I started noticing these mini trucks out on the farms. The Kia Bongo and the Hyundai Porter compete like Ford and Chevy back home. I favored the Kia Bongo for its 4x4 set up, a good example can be seen below. The low flat bed in the back just makes sense when it comes time to actually lifting heavy stuff onto it, and the sides of the bed even drop down like the tailgate to make it even easier to load cargo. In some ways this is a function over form vehicle and many will not be able to see the simple beauty of these trucks the way I see them.
This was my favorite photo of the Kia Bongo, a clean model driving into the golden light of the sunset which is shining on the drivers face. I wanted to bring this truck home with me as a souvenir. I can't remember where I took this photo but if I had to guess I think we were in Gwangju on our way to Busan.
The sunset photo above was taken around the Gochang area. This is the Yellow Sea, I am facing West towards China. Gochang is South Korea's farm country, and just like back home the rural area is quiet, relaxing, the people were friendly, and the food was excellent.
While in Gochang the photo above was taken when we were walking into a restaurant shortly after I took the sunset photo. What I like is the window light spilling out onto one of these farm trucks that I grew to love. I also like how the store lights are backlighting the Korean writing on the glass. I remember the restaurant was to the left of this store and we enjoyed octopus head soup and spicy BBQ octopus with gochujang sauce.
Half way through our two week trip we found ourselves in Busan and we stayed there a few nights with my friend's good mates from his college days. These new friends introduced me to freshly chopped octopus, the legs still moving and the suckers still sticking to your face as you try to chew up the meat. It was a good experience and something I can think of in the future when I am wearing my DLC Trekker and thinking back to that time we had.
These ladies are running their entire business out of of their Hyundai Porter. This one looks like an older series truck showing it's age with the paint style and the dents. Here you can see the usefulness of the trucks and how the sides of the bed lower down to unload their mobile grocery store onto the sidewalk. I am sure the growers back home that drive to the weekend farmer's market would appreciate these if we started importing them. I took this photo while we were walking around Daegu. We stopped there to visit my friends uncle on our way back to Seoul from Buson.
Back in Seoul I took this photo near the end of our trip. When the pollution levels get high, the sky turns orange and the sunsets look interesting. This isn't my favorite photo I took during the trip, but I like it because of the signs on the buildings and the people walking around, which was common everywhere we went. This picture just reminds me of Seoul. I remember we had street food just to the left where you can see the street leading around the corner. I had a great time in South Korea and I think I will have to go back sometime in my life, and when I do I will have to bring that DLC Trekker along with me.