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Like stars, leaves express themselves to their fullest before death. Like the cherry blossoms of spring, Autumn in South Korea is a glorious sight to behold as nature burns with a bright orange, yellow and red flame before the raw, cold winds course through the peninsula.

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The sociable periods between the sauna heat of summer and the icy depths of winter can seem unfair in their abrupt departure. As the ice and chills of the cold, dark months descend on these lands, a leaf-crunching ramble up an inner-city mountain is a fitting way to give nature a final warm embrace before you start bitterly cursing it.

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The view from the top of An San, northwest Seoul, reveals the the immense urban sprawl below. From the jagged peaks of Bukhansan National Park in the far corner of the city, your gaze follows numerous mountains rising out of the concrete jungle as the wide berth of the Han river meanders effortlessly along as if the city was mere desert sand, casually brushed to the side as it snakes through.

With it’s blend of natural beauty, modern development and historical landmarks, it’s a truly phenomenal sight that defies any expectations you may have had.from Seoul’s somewhat uninspiring ground level aesthetic.

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A sunset here maybe accompanied to a soundtrack of drums and chanting from the mountain temple Bongwonsa, which, much like An San itself, maybe one of Seoul’s best kept secrets.

The beauty of this mountainside temple complex is shadowed by a dark recent history. In summer 2004, it was discovered that serial killer and cannibal Yoo Young-Cheo buried over a dozen of his victims near the temple grounds.

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The ceiling of the main temple is incredible; possibly the most colorful and architecturally intricate I’ve seen in any country. The three thousand golden buddhas add to an already powerful sense of spiritual presence as they all represent the deceased. In the same temple there are also rooms containing miniature shrines, ashes and all manner of tributes – from photographs to soju shots. When you look at how young some of the people were, it’s a stark reminder of the fragility and temporal nature of life.

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The overcrowded metropolis of Seoul is packed with human cattle piled into up bars, squeezed into subways, jostling on the streets; the rat race is as fast as the broadband out here.

Pit stops, thankfully, are never too far away.

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13 thoughts on “Korean Beauty

  1. Great pics and a more positive outlook on the aesthetics of Korea.I am so negative sometimes.I am constantly saying to myself how all the apartments look similar and the architecture is so cold and gloomy.Also, how the beaches would be so much nicer without all the fishing nets in there and the old orange-roofed buildings marring the natural beauty…Thanx for the positive perspective.

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  2. I’m glad I can inspire a positive outlook. Those grey Lego buildings are a necessary evil emerging the ashes of poverty but it’s changing now. Will be very interesting to return in the future and see how the landscape develops. Seoul has plenty of beauty though, in every aspect. Just let the grey buildings serve as a contrast to the rest of it. Unless you’re in the ‘burbs, then you’re in screwed.

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  3. Pingback: Transient Beauty | The Secret Map

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  5. Your photos are beautiful! Korea is on our future destinations list, but it has been bumped up a few places after seeing these posts!

    smorag.wordpress.com

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    • Even the temple? The temple is close to the Sinchon/ Yonsei entrance and the forest area is on the side facing the neighborhoods Yeonnam/Yenhui-dong. It’s got a nice boardwalk going through the trees on that side so i’d recommend having a good walk around the base of the mountain before going all the way up to get the best out of it.

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