Thursday, April 16, 2015

Spring at Seoul Forest

Spring in Korea means warmer weather (alleluia!) and flowers. Lots and lots of flowers. The cherry and plum blossoms were popping out all over the place, so I felt the need to find a new place for  some pictures and fun. One lovely day last week (which turned into two days, after we had so much fun the first time!), Michael and I headed off to Seoul Forest to explore.

Seoul Forest is a large area near Ttukseom consisting of five parks - ecological, nature study, cultural art, riverside, and wetlands. There are a ton of things to see and do there, so I knew we'd have a full morning.

We found the kid play areas, so our first stop was a romp in the sand pit.

Nearby is this cool sculpture, called "Love Letter" when translated, and the word for "love" is carved on it in 95 different languages...none of which is the English word "love" (this had us Moms giggling a bit as we told the kids to keep looking for it...).

Our day was made even better by the music that was playing throughout the park, through speakers like this one.

The large art culture park has some pretty interesting art pieces:

After wandering for a bit, we finally found what I had been looking - the flowering trees - so beautiful!

The above picture was taken on a Monday. As you can see, the blossoms were already starting to fall and these trees were almost completely bare by Wednesday. Spring moves along quickly!

Our journey continued through the park...

We passed this pine tree, which was 50 years old when planted in 2008 to commemorate cultural exchanges between children of South Korea and China.

We found a koi pond and heeded the signs to not feed them...especially since all we had to offer were goldfish crackers.

Two paths diverged in a wood...

...and since they both led here, we chose the shorter one! This climbing sculpture is awesome!

Michael made some new friends on the first day's climb and romp at the large kid area:

And had some fun in a cement tunnel:

He was eaten by a snake..

...but soon conquered it.

Glad we didn't meet any of its live cousins...or bees.

We tried to visit the deer to feed them, but that section was closed.

That didn't keep me from leaning over the gate to take this photo, however.

On our second visit, we met up with some friends and actually managed to get the kids together for a nice photo:

No deer this day, but the bunny area was open. Unfortunately, they did not stand a chance against...

...the exercise equipment. It's always a hit.

Hold on!

At this point, we said goodbye to our friends and headed into the Bug House (yes, there's one of those, as well!)

He was very concerned that this bee was not moving. That made for an interesting talk about things being alive and dead...oy.

The chipmunk was alive, thankfully.

The butterflies were not, but he was happy to be one for them.

And then we found the butterfly house, so all was right again.

The last room in this building had an assortment of reptiles, arachnids, fish, and amphibians. The tortoises, iguanas, and even this tarantula, lost all appeal once we found the pool of crabs and tadpoles.

It took quite a bit of doing to pull him away from there, since it was pretty cool to see all of the tadpoles with legs sprouting.

Hope you enjoyed our spring tour!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Visiting Gangnam...ChrisMichRob Style...

One of the places on our list of "things we still needed to see in Korea" was an area known as Gangnam. I am guessing most who read this will instantly think of the song by Korea's own Psy, called "Gangnam Style." Just in case, here's the video of the song, bizarre horsey dance and all:

And here is a picture of the Gangnam Style interactive stage by the subway station, at exit 11:

We, of course, had to take it for a spin. It plays a section of the song for you to dance to.

Our moment of ridiculousness behind us, we wandered down the street for a bit, which is lined by numerous stores and restaurants. 

This was also the site where a portion of the upcoming Avengers movie was filmed, so we snapped a pic of the billboard.

We then headed down a side street in search of lunch.

We ended up having some tasty dakgalbi at a Yoogane. Soooo good.

Since we're not really big shoppers, we jumped back on the subway and got off two stops down at Samseong Station, right near the Coex Mall. This is where we have gone to visit the aquarium a number of times, and where I had just been for my SMTown event. Today we had something else in mind, however, so we walked along the road to admire the variety of large art pieces along the way.

Dedicated to the Maritime Trade Emperor Chang Po-go

At the end of the block, we came to our intended destination - Bongeunsa Temple. It's a peaceful and beautiful working temple nestled in the middle of a bustling city, as you can see from this aerial snapshot. It was not so busy at its founding in 794 A.D.,  I am sure.

About the temple:

We entered through the impressive Jinyeo-mun (Gate of Suchness), which is guarded by the Sacheonwang-sang (wooden statues of the Four Celestial Kings) and features large, painted doors.

We passed through the gate and followed the walkway up towards the Beopwang-ru (Dharma King Pavilion), admiring the spring greenery and the monk's stupas on the hillside.

The stupas are memorials - places to hold Buddhist relics and the ashes of deceased monks.

We walked under Beopwang-ru, and its ornately painted ceiling, and emerged to a breathtaking sight under a newly built structure before the Main Buddha Hall (Daewoong-jeon).

The main hall was in use, so we kept back a bit out of respect for those inside. I was still able to capture some of the wonderful details of the architecture and decor, however.

The air throughout the temple grounds was fragrant, thanks to this large incense burner.

We climbed the hill behind the hall, walked among the spring blossoms, and then ventured towards the Mireuk Daebul (Great Statue of Maitreya Buddha).

This Buddha represents the future Buddha, who will come down to earth to save all those who are suffering. The statue is 23 meters (75 feet) tall.

We passed by an older bell pavilion on our way back towards the entrance.

This is the Haesu Gwaneum-sang (statue of Bodhisattva of Compassion) by a small pond. He is known for hearing the sounds of suffering and saving those in need.

This next very large pavilion, the Bell Pavilion, houses four musical instruments that are struck before the services at dawn and dusk to save all beings in the universe. They are the Dharma bell (which saves dead spirits in hell), the Dharma drum (saves animals), the cloud shaped gong (saves spirits in the air and birds), and a wooden fish (saves creatures in the water). 

As we exited the main gate, we found the Statue of Venerable Bowoo, the monk who revived Buddhism during the Joseon Dynasty in Korea.

Our last stop was at the gift shop, for a few souvenirs and gifts.

For anyone visiting the area, Bongeunsa does offer a Templestay program. It was one of those things I had hoped to experience while here, but time is short, so we shall see.