Top 10 Travel Photos – 2014 #2

2014 was my most traveled year yet.  I had the good fortune to bring in the New Year in the Philippines before returning to my job in South Korea.  Summer vacation was spent backpacking Vietnam and Chuseok (Korean thanksgiving) brought me to Japan.  I ventured to Shanghai before heading back to America for the end of the year holidays and all along these crazy adventures my camera followed me.  Tens of thousands of pictures were narrowed down to roughly 30 finalists before I selected my top 10 travel photos of 2014!

#2 shows the picturesque sunsets of Boracay in the Philippines.  Boracay is a magical island full of tuktuks & tourists.  Its where Filipinos go on vacation and I was fortunate enough to meet some locals through my good friends Josh & Christine.  We had a blast relaxing on White Beach with some of the most elaborate natural colors on Earth and I was lucky enough to capture this moment in the first days of 2014.  I love this photo so much that I commissioned my artist friend & future roommate, Brian, to paint it for me and can’t wait to hang it in the new apartment!  As an aside I enjoyed watching my watermark evolve throughout the year and am looking at this old one has inspired me to come up with another new one for 2015.

I think its time I add to my travel bucket list. Where is your favorite sunset?

Stay tuned for #1!


Check out #1 here!
Check out #3 here!


Boracay, Philippines – A sneak peek

I’ve been busy beating this virus I brought back from the Philippines and dealing with ‘complications’ at work aka no pay & the CEO stealing our pensions.  The good news is I’m almost finished sorting through my pictures and editing the first narrative from Boracay; not to mention I’ve still got everything from my Christmas hike to get through too!  I can’t wait to share the full story with you but thought I’d start with a sneak peak of this fantastic sunset at White Beach, Boracay!


An Autumn day in Seoraksan National Park

We woke up at Seoraksan Morning inn in Sokcho looking forward to a 2 kilometer walk to Seoraksan National Park.  The cute Korean couple who run the inn helped us find a local restaurant where Blaine, Katya, Masha, Varya, Nina and I ate some bibimbap before starting our stroll.


The road along our 30 minute hike was packed with cars and buses; we made a few friends with the waving children as their parents asked where we were from.  Canada, America & Russia always got a laugh regardless of the order we mentioned our home countries.  I guess Koreans don’t expect us all to mingle.

Leaves shrouded the roadway and as we hiked onward the mountain view we first noticed at our hotel crept closer.  We passed a rocky riverbed and got our first real glimpse of the landscape. There were reds, oranges and yellows laced between the evergreens but an unfortunate number of bare trees too.

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Another kilometer up the road we came to the entrance of Seoraksan Natoinal Park and an overwhelming number of Koreans. We stopped briefly for some gimbap to take as a picnic lunch before buying our park tickets for ₩2500. Just inside the gate Nina and I stopped at a ranger station to get trail maps and determine the best way to spend our short day here.

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I was disappointed we couldn’t find a shorter route to the main peak, Daecheongbong (it was 6 hours each way) so I guess I’ll just have to come back again! The ranger mentioned a 2 hour hike to Ulsanbawi, a massive rock with a spectacular view, a 1 hour hike to the Biryeong & Towanseong Falls and the 30 minute cable car before a brief hike to Gwongeumseong, a “mountain fortress.”

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Back to Bukhansan National Park

Ben and I decided that our last big excursion would be to Bukhansan National Park.  He had visited earlier in the week doing the same hike I did on my first time in Bukhansan.  We were excited to see if any of the fall foliage was popping its head and planned on heading to Songchu Falls.  I hadn’t heard anything about them other than seeing them on the trail map so we picked a route that led us to Obong peak after Songchu Falls.

We got up bright and early having packed our bags and picked out lunch already.  I was bringing Gimbap that I made in cooking class and Ben grabbed a meal at 7-11; we had plenty of trail mix and grabbed our camelbacks out of the fridge before jumping on the subway.  Just over an hour later we arrived at Hoeryong Station.  You could immediately see the mountain range and we started out for Hoeryong Crossing.



The hike started along a paved path; we were quiet surprised to share the road with a few vehicles, stepping aside as it grew more vertical.  Before long we came across a Buddhist temple at the end of the road.  There was a small celebration for what appeared to be a new monk with paintings and plenty of Koreans.  Ben and I focused on the gorgeous view in the background and were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a hummingbird in the garden.







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An evening at Doeksugung Palace

Ben and I decided to visit Doeksugung Palace after I got out of work one evening.  This would be our 3rd of the 5 Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty.  The palace stays open until about 9pm so Ben met me at the subway near my school and we were off to the City  Hall subway stop.  The palace is easy to find and has a nominal fee of ₩1000 to enter.  The gates are an impressive set of 3 massive double doors; if you get there late enough you might be able to see them closed, although they are usually open to allow visitors in and out.

D71_1468The path past the gates has tree cover and a peaceful aura about it while the brilliance of the city peers over the walls.  There are a handful of signs describing the histories of the palace buildings being built as recently as the 1900’s before you quickly arrive at the pavilion in front of the throne room.  Another massive gate stands guard over a concrete courtyard that leads up to an intricately designed throne room.  The decor of Doeksugung was very similar to what I found at Gyeongbukgung and Changdeokgung but with a night sky the experience feels entirely different.  I imagined patrolling these grounds as a night watchmen listening as much as watching for creeping Japanese ninjas.  We snapped a few pictures and played with the shadows before continuing to explore.





D71_1427Most of the buildings here are designed and decorated with traditional Korean decor but there are a few with a modern flair.  Seokjojeon is a Western style building used by King Gojong as a sleeping quarters and audience hall.  It was added to the palace by British architect G.R. Harding in 1910 with 19th century neoclassical style and Corinthian columns.  The colorful fountain out front provides a stark contrast to the glowing skyscrapers surrounding the area.

D71_1434Continuing our tour of Doeksugung we encountered another elaborate bell and a small forested area winding through gates and smaller buildings.  A secluded open air pavilion provided a golden glimmer to the pathway shining off its delicate displays carved into the outer colonnade.




The glow of the city continued to astound us and provide a backdrop that teleported us through time.  Ben stopped and set up his tripod for a long exposure of the gargoyles atop the nearest structure.  The black night sky turned blue as he let more light in; capturing the splendid coloration that was all too common at these royal palaces.


D71_1464 We made our way back out of the castle leaving just before 9.  It only took about an hour and a half to tour the entire grounds which was a perfect excursion for a work night.  Back on the street we noticed a police line, perhaps here to protect Doeksugung or the glamorous glass city hall situated behind the old stone center of town.  With one more long exposure he captured the buzz that surrounds Seoul in all hours of the night.