We don’t have a trip planned for the next few months and I really needed one — to escape the daily rut. I decided to become a tourist, in Seoul, and explore around. With nature playing along, it wasn’t too difficult to discover some fantastic places. I think, I may have taken it too far and if you’ve read my previous post, be prepared for an overdose of cherry blossoms.
Gyeongui Line Forest Park
Two years back, this old railway line was a sleepy neighbourhood park for local residents and few expats. I enjoyed many evening walks here and was taken by its tranquility. In 2016, it was the the first place that I’d seen cherry blossoms in full bloom. Over a course of time, the forest line grew to cover the old tracks.
Fortunately, the park hasn’t lost its charm or local flavour. It gets noisy during cherry blossom season, but it’s still worth the walk.
This park is an indicator of how the blooms are faring across the city. With local sites reporting different dates, I expected the peak to start a week later. Basil happened to see some blossoms on his way to work and messaged me to check the park. From that day onwards, I knew: it was a race against time. Once the flowers are fully bloomed, it’s just a matter of time before the first sprouts appear.
I had visited Seoul Forest in summer and autumn. But I never knew it was also a cherry blossom viewing spot. After a long day of chasing blossoms in Seoul National Cemetery and Seokchon Lake; I took the subway to Seoul Forest Station. It’s a short walk from there. Inside, I spotted clusters of cherry blossoms sticking out of green spaces. The forest was pretty empty and kids were the only ones to break the silence.
I kept exploring and walking without having to reach anywhere. I also realised: the further I walked away from the main entrance, the longer I’d have to walk back. But, I was too blinded by what I saw above to act rationally.
I finally decided to quit after I reach the exit. I hoped to figure an alternative way from here and that’s when I spotted Gate 11 — on the opposite side of the road. I saw few people entering and I thought: why not? Turns out, I had saved the best for last. I followed everyone else and they lead me straight to this piece of heaven on earth. White petals glowed in the evening sun and birds chirped gleefully. There was a flurry of activity above and below the bridge. But, I was too high on what I saw to be distracted by anything else.
My phone was slowly dying, but I continued walking over the bridge. It overlooked the deer enclosure and some isolated spots of the park.
Yeongdeungpo Yeouido Spring Flower Festival
On the weekend, we explored the most popular place for cherry blossoms. It was a sunny day and Yeouido Park was packed with people. We chose to walk towards the main festival arena — along the Han River.
National Assembly Building
There were few events held for families and kids on the lawns of the National Assembly Building. We crossed the grounds and entered a terrace with a vantage view of the parade below.
We were just in time to view the parade of drummers below.
And finally, we saw the street lined with cherry blossom trees. It was packed and wasn’t something I looked forward to. However, we continued walking and stopped only for performances.
Yeouido attracts families with kids, cutesy couples, wide-eyed tourists, and cherry blossom chasers like ourselves. Performances range from traditional Korean dance or music, juggling acts to western singing performances. It’s a happy place to be in; if you can successfully divert your attention from the crowd.
We walked further away from the crowd and tried to enjoy the view of the Han River and the clouds that floated above the skyline. It was beautiful day to be outside.
I visited Hyochang Park a week after we spotted the blossom trail in Gyeongui Forest Line. I didn’t expect to see many blooms in the park, especially after the rain on the previous day. The trees were painted green with fresh leaves and there other pretty flowers that kept popping out.
During Japanese occupation, the royal tombs were removed from this site and the area was developed into a park. Post Independence, the park was converted into a shrine for Korean martyrs. Unlike my previous visits, this time, the gates to the shrine were open and I walked to the top of the hill.
The site of the shrine lead me to a mini forest. Here, cherry blossoms were in transition and I could see leaves covering flowers. It was a quiet spot in a tranquil park.
I continued walking and following deserted trails. There were few people in the park. Most of the visitors were locals who came to enjoy an evening walk with their dogs. A group of young school boys used the trail for running practice.
The blooms may have faded away, but forsythia were spilling over wooden fences. The evening sunlight made them pop out in contrast with the green leaves.
I found this spot at the exit of the park. From here, I could see two cherry blossom trees in full bloom. Birds chirped and created music for me. It was the best place that I visited so far.
Inwangsan Mountain Trail
We hiked Inwangsan two years back. I was happy to discover two more trails to this mountain. I couldn’t hike the mountain because I was on a walking tour (first pic) and I was visiting a friend on the second time.
My Korean friend, Eunsoo, moved into a new apartment at the base of the trail that runs parallel to the Seoul Wall. It was the perfect location for someone like her. She’s an illustrator, mixed media artist, and an avid hiker who’s trekked the Annapurna Circuit.
I had come early and had some time to explore this trail. I could see cherry blossoms dot the mountain and it was nearly 2 weeks after the peak. I was tempted to continue climbing, but I had to head back to her apartment and the meal she had prepared.
And once it’s over…
“I like it when a flower or a little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It’s so heroic.”
― George Carlin
After the flowers have bloomed, it’s only a matter of time before their petals fade away as cherry blossom rain. Once they’ve faded, you start to notice the other pretty flowers around.