Friday, July 31, 2020

월만즉휴 (月满则亏)

Once the moon reaches its fullness, it shine starts to wane. Anything that peaks will inevitably be set on a course to demise. No power has lasted forever and no amount of human ingenuity has ever broken the curse of being successful. When everything is over, all we can do is look back and sigh, "It has seen better days."

Location: Gyeongju Wolji (경주 월지, 慶州 月池)
Date: 9 May 2018

Tuesday, January 14, 2020


"It is the darkest before dawn", so they said as words of encouragement when you think it is probably time to stop and rest. But to witness sunrise, I have to wake up during the 'darkest hour' and find my way to the seaside. The night was not pitch black, the light beam from the lighthouse was searing through the darkness at regular intervals. It was cold nevertheless, as I waited for the light to recover the land. Slowly, twilight took over the sky as dawn arrived. Colony of seagulls was busy preparing for the arrival of a new day. I never quite understand others' excitement about sunrise but when I have my first glance at the egg-yolk red morning sun peeking through the grey cloud above the horizon, I knew, I saw hope.

Location: Homigot, Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province
Date: 25 April 2015

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

꽃길만 걷자

"Life is not a bed of roses" - the adage is as true as it is a cliché. But regardless how our life turns out, everyone would always desire to walk on a 'flower path'. To be able to walk this path, I have to travel great distance to Imja Island. The few hours spent walking it may not seem to commensurate the days of traveling but there is one valuable realization - life is beautiful if you put effort to go where your heart's desire.

Location: Shin-an Tulip Festival, Imja Island, Shin-an County, South Jeolla Province
Date: 21 April 2015

Monday, April 15, 2019

북쪽의 산천

I wish I could say it was last year but ten years have passed since I visited Hwacheon. It barely snowed in 2009 and my first winter was not turning out the way I was hoping. My trip to Hwacheon was a consolation. When there was no snow to wallow in, I could at least walk on a frozen river.

Hwacheon is north of 38th parallel line but not in North Korea. Sancheono, the "star" of the festival is a mountain trout found in Hwacheon and lends its name to KTX II, Korea's second generation high speed rail.

Location: Hwacheon Sancheono Festival (화천산천어축제, 華川山川魚祝祭)
Date: 17 January 2009

Saturday, November 19, 2016


I do not have to travel at the speed of light to believe time is relative. At Samyang Ranch, time seems to slow to a crawl. Every hour spent there seems like two. Life that only revolves around sunrise and sunset and the four seasons is like a dream to me. I know I will like Swiss Alps too.

Location: Daegwallyeong Samyang Ranch (대관령 삼양목장, 大關嶺 三養牧場)
Date: 1 November 2016

Saturday, November 28, 2015

겨울 팬터지

I remember when I started learning Korean, I have difficulty differentiating "가을" (autumn) and "겨울" (winter). Many times, I wrote "가을" as "가울" and "겨을" as "겨을", but fortunately, the two wrong words are meaningless.

Every change in life, every new journey makes one vulnerable to embarrassment and failure. But the flip side is a whole new world presents itself which get you excited, hopeful and motivated all over again. My sojourn in Korea many years ago started in winter. I just quit my job and was feeling insecure. There were worries because of a conscious effort not to become a liability to anyone. Then thing changed when it started snowing one night.

Looking out of the window, the snow was not falling straight, it was dancing in the wind. Illumination of the "dancing snow" was provided by a beam of warm light radiating out from the solo street lamp in the alley. In the midst of my indulgence, my mind finally yielded to my heart unconditionally and I did not know why. At last, I could let go the baggage of the past and embrace my future for the first time.

There is something magical about winter. The things I like about it are the lights and snow, preferably if the snow is mixed with a little bit of magic dust.

Location: Garden of Morning Calm (아침고요수묵원)
Date: 5 January 2013

Monday, November 9, 2015

가을과 한 몸

I was born late autumn but the irony was I only experienced it once. Maybe I should make it twice or thrice but I am too late for autumn this year. Sometimes I do believe I was imbued with melancholy since birth. I can draw beauty from departure, separation and the end of something since the world we live in is a world of duality. We depart only to return, we separate to meet again and an end means a start somewhere else. Melancholy is more pensive than sad. I do not see fallen leaves as dead, it was a year of good growth.

Location: Metasequoia Forest Road, Damyang (메타세쿼이아 가로수길, 담양)
Date: 13 November 2010

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

자유자재 (自由自在)

The Korean Alps is at Daegwalleong. I like to think of it as such though I have never been to the Alps. Being a highland region, it seems, the blue sky is much nearer to the ground and the green pasture stretches to the end of the world. View is especially clear when there is nothing to obstruct or obfuscate it. Mind wanders away easily when a gust of wind blows past and the tall grasses start swaying in tune with the rhythm of nature. I read that a new ranch in Daegwalleong, Sky Ranch (하늘목장), has open its door to the public last year after 40 years of operation. I wish I can visit it but I think I have enough of Korea. 어떻하죠?

Location: Daegwalleong Samyang Ranch (대관령 삼양목장, 大關嶺 三養牧場)
Date: 9 September 2009

Monday, April 20, 2015

다정다감 (多情多感)

You couldn't tell if it was 봄비 (spring rain) or 사랑비 (love rain). One umbrella isnt big enough to shield two persons but rain during spring isn't like those during monsoon; raindrops are very fine and none is going to get drenched. They would still be dry enough for dinner later.

Location: Daehangno (대학로, 大學路)
Date: 5 March 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

강심수정 (江深水靜)

The moment after sun set was perhaps the most peaceful time of the day at Hangang. Another day had ended and the reflection of my day started. I hoped I have done my best and not regret what I did or not done during the day. I was in total peace with myself, I guess that was a meaningful day.

Location: Han River, Jeomsu Bridge (한강 점수교, 漢江 潛水橋)
Date: 9 January 2013

Friday, April 3, 2015

매경한고 (梅經寒苦)

In Greek mythology, when Pandora opened the jar (more popularly known as the Pandora's box) given to her by Zeus, all the bad things were released into the world except for one that lay at the bottom - hope that is. Since hope was hidden from mankind, it has to be sought. I used to think it could be found at the end of rain, darkness or winter. But perhaps not, hope may have been lying in our heart all along. If not, how are we able to see rainbow, sunrise and spring.

Location: Changgyeong Palace (창경궁, 昌慶宮)
Date: 8 April 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

무아지경 (無我之境)

A friend gave me a bookmark during high school which has the following quote printed: Time and tide wait for no man. Good or bad, it's our common destiny that no matter what we do, we can never stop the passage of time or the movement of tide. But every morning I am grateful that I am given another new day.

Tide was rising as I walked along the Haeundae Beach during sunrise. The sun was hidden behind the hazy sky. Distant buildings look like they were covered in a veil. I stopped and looked out at the open sea. Wave after wave of sea water gently swept up the shore. I could feel time and tide slipping slowly past my limbs.

Location: Haeundae Beach, Busan (해운대해수욕장, 海雲臺海水浴場)
Date: 27 June 2009

Monday, March 16, 2015

춘화추월 (春花秋月)

Spring flower autumn moon (춘화추월) - all that are to be said of the beauty of seasons can be captured in just four words. I am lucky to have seen them all. For that, I can no longer say I have regrets in life.

I am not a believer of "grass is always greener on the other side" but I can take an oath that flowers are more beautiful in Jinhae. My memory of spring in Jinhae is captured in this video

I remember a story told by my Korean language teacher. While walking past her neighbour's house, she noticed a pot of Azelea which barely flowered last year was in full bloom. Out of curiosity, she asked her neighbour what she has done to the plant to make it flowers so beautifully. Her neighbour said she did nothing special. She recalled the year before she kept the pot indoor but this year she just left it outside. It seems in order to bloom fully in spring , one has to be through the full harshness of winter.

Location: Yeojwa Cherry Blossom Road, Jinhae (진해 여좌벚꽃로)
Date: 30 March 2008

Monday, March 9, 2015

유유상종 (類類相從)

A dinner of spicy mushroom soup was the first time S, K and I met as a group. I knew S because we were in the same Korean language class. As for K, I knew her because we were reader of each other's blog. To complete the triangle, S and K became friends through my blog, I guess, because I never asked. After the dinner, we adjourned to Twosome Place and chatted the night away. So this is how three Singaporeans met for the first time in Seoul who later became "noraebang buddies" with own "noraebang's anthem song" - "총 맞은 것처럼".

I believe the reason behind our meeting was "유유상종". We were all learning Korean langauge and of the same nationality. People who walk the same path and look in the same direction are bound to meet someday. Our meeting was "planned" and not accidental. In fact, I believe nothing in my life's encounters was a matter of chance. If I don't know the reason, it's because I'm not wise enough yet.

Location: Twosome Place (Gwanghwamun outlet)
Date: 31 March 2008

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

상전벽해 (桑田碧海)

Much has changed since I started learning Korean language. NUS Extension has since discontinued its Korean language programme. The once humble Singapore Korean School has shifted and grown to become an international school. Paper dictionary and e-dictionary have been collecting dust in the drawer as I rely on Daum dictionary apps these days for the meaning of Korean words.

Change is a universal constant but the fast pace of change of city life is a nemesis of happiness. I like to savour a moment of peace whenever opportunity arises. On my trip to Taejongdae in Busan, the scenery of a peaceful fishermen port off Amnam Dong caught my sight. A solitary lighthouse, idling fishing boats, playful seagulls and rippling sea painted a picture of serenity. When things slow down, happiness starts to surface. I know it because I felt it.

Location: Amnam Dong, Busan (암남동 부산, 岩南洞 釜山)
Date: 2 April 2008

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

화기애애 (和氣藹藹)

수많은 사신 중 윗 사진은 가장 인상적이다. 화사한 겨울 날씨속 화기애애한 반 친구들이랑 경희대 본관 앞 함께 단체 사진을 찍었더니 문득 봄이 일찍 오는 듯 마음이 따뜻해졌다.

Everything was right in this photo - the weather, the exposure and the chemistry. We have just finished our winter school photo shoot and there was some time left for class photo. My camera lens first found Ga-ga, Asel and A-jeong. After two shots, the rest joined in. The atmosphere suddenly warmed up, like spring has arrived early without notice.

Location: Kyung Hee University
Date: 14 January 2009

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

격세지감 (隔世之感)

When I decided to bid farewell to my former life, I needed an unfamiliar place to start anew. Korea was the natural choice since, for three years, I put all my heart to learn the language. Despite moving to a place with different language, food and circle of friends, I have grown to like them all. To arrive at a life-changing decision was never easy but to be able to smile more and to hope and dream again, it well worth the leap of faith six years ago.

Location: Cheonggyecheon (청게천, 淸溪川)
Event: "Digital Garden" by Miguel Chevalier
Date: 24 February 2009

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

명약관화 (明若觀火)

It was a cold late autumn night when Gyeongbok Palace first opened its doors to visitors after sunset. The recently restored Gwanghwamun welcomed excited visitors with its pompous display of lights and colours befitting its royal standing. Gleeful crowd and enthusiastic photographers formed a steady stream into the palace ground for an experience that even the Joseon royalties could only dream of.

But what I remember fondly wasn't the alluring night scenery of Gyeongbok Palace; it was something better, a remark left by a friend after she read the posting on my night out at the palace. "You're in Korea?", she wrote. It was a simple question but I was full of gratitude. Thank you for remembering me.

Location: Gwanghwamun (광화문, 光化門)
Date: 10 November 2010

Monday, November 17, 2014

천진난만 (天眞爛漫)

A dog was told a paradise exists at the end of the world. It decided to embark on a long journey in search of it. After three years of travelling and many difficulties, it finally reached the end of the world. However, there was no paradise; there was only an ocean and a cliff. The dog fell into despair. Just then, an artic tern hovered above it.

"Hi there, I've never seen a dog in this part of the world in the last twenty years. You're awesome."

"Sigh, I've been fooled. There is no paradise at the end of the world."

"I've circumnavigated the earth twenty times, I know for sure there is no paradise on earth. However, when I revisited the "end of the world" every year, it looked more and more beautiful and more like paradise to me. The place has not changed but I have. Look inward, I believe the paradise is already in you."


An art installation of a dog standing "precariously" at the edge of its path caught my attention. As I moved closer to it, a view of Seoul in late autumn opened out before me. I was content seeing Seoul from afar. As the saying goes, "멀리서 보면 더 아름다운 세상".

Location: Naksan (낙산, 駱山)
Date: 15 November 2010

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

낙엽귀근 (落葉歸根)

"Fallen leaves return to roots", I was told. Walking under a gingko tree which has just been gently caressed by the autumn breeze, a fallen leaf landed on my outstretched palm. I could have stopped nature from taking its course, but I did not; I tilted my palm to let it fell so that it could go on to fulfill its destiny. The beauty of autumn should not be disturbed.

Location: Jeonju Confucian School (전주향교, 全州鄕校)
Date: 11 November 2010