When did our love affair with cherry blossoms begin? I think, it would have to be sometime after visiting Japan — post koyo (autumn leaves). Ever since, we’ve desperately wanted to revisit Japan during sakura (cherry blossoms). Things never really worked out. Oddly enough, we kept dreaming and hoping — without truly believing. And here’s the thing about travel, every now and then, the universe will conspire to give you a narrow window of opportunity — to experience a surreal moment. And what do you have to do? Make every moment count.
When we came to know that Basil’s work trip to Seoul, would coincide with beotkkot (cherry blossoms), we knew this was our narrow window of opportunity. As with every trip, we started reading blogs and sites, matching predicted dates with listed parks, for blossom sightings. Strangely, we saw our first bloom upon exiting the subway. So, no matter what they (or we) say — if you’re there at the right time — there’s no such thing as the right place.
The Local Park
On one of his earlier trips, Basil discovered a local park (we have yet to figure out its name) that probably was a site of an abandoned railway track. This 2 km stretch was lined with powdered trees on either side. There are few experiences which are find hard to forget. Walking under a canopy of cherry blossom trees — will definitely be one of them.
The predicted date for full blooms was around April 7. We were a couple of days early. Some of the buds had yet to bloom. Nonetheless, they looked heavenly .
What do I love about Seoul? There will always be some fantastic sculpture or art installation in front of a towering building. An excellent way to compensate for the gargantuan building behind, I suppose. So, it’s not about where you go as much as what you will see along the way. And if you find yourself heading towards Yeouido Park, ‘Big Fish’ will be hard to ignore.
Basil’s colleague suggested we visit Yeouido Park. There’s lots to see and do in the park’s sprawling grounds. We could barely cover a quarter of it. The park is also one of the most popular places for cherry blossom sightings. We were a week early and many of the trees were in the nascent stages of bloom.
On a weekend, Yeouido Park gets pretty crowded with couples, families, and groups of friends. There are a few quiet spots in the woods. Only true nature lovers made it here. Noisy magpies flew around, whilst other birds were content with eating or dreaming. I wouldn’t blame them. It was a magical place to be in.
We were lucky to spot few trees in full bloom. I could imagine how beautiful it would look when all the flowers would bloom.
Yeouido Hangang Park
We have a firm favourite in almost every place we visit. Especially, if we aren’t travelling around and trying to sample local life. Yeouido Hangang Park is our weekend getaway spot in Seoul. If you’ve got nothing to do — it’s perfectly alright to do just that here.
After spending a day in the park, we joined the rest of the crowd on the street that runs parallel. There was a lot happening here. And each one of our senses was fighting for our attention. Cherry blossoms above, tantalizing street food below, and the cold wet rain touching our faces — it was hard to ignore any of it .
Occasionally, a strong gust of wind would blow and create a downpour of cherry blossom petal rain. Such events were met with a spike in frenzied clicking. I did wish it was quieter with fewer people and lesser noise. The beauty of these places is best enjoyed in solitude.
The blossom frenzy lasted for a period of 3 days. Basil had a holiday for the local elections and we decided to explore a new park. Hyochang Park used to be an erstwhile burial ground for the royal family. It was modified into a garden during Japanese invasion. Currently, it is the final resting place of Korean martyrs and leaders. The park is also a recreational facility for locals. We walked around, Basil tried an exercise machine, watched the last few petals of blossoms lie on the ground, and admired the fresh sprouts of green.