Dalmaji Park (달맞이 공원)

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Dalmaji Park, located near Oksu Station on Line 3, offers a beautiful expansive view of Seoul’s Han River and a panoramic of Gangnam and Southern Seoul. It’s also a rewarding trek for those not so keen on hiking, being less of a mountain and more of a hill. The hike up took me just around 10 minutes, granted I was scurrying up, more in fashion of a run than a brisk walk. I visited the park this last weekend after parting with a friend, in search of somewhere new in the city to check out. I went during Chuseok weekend, Korea’s thanksgiving…a time of honoring the shift in seasons during the Fall Equinox. The Korean traditional holidays are all based around the Lunar Calendar, and Chuseok lines up with the full moon, symbolic of a completion of the growth cycle during summer and a time of harvest.

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I hadn’t considered the name of the park until I met an older Korean man at the top of the hill. The man saw me and began speaking to me in Korean, asking me where I’m from, what I do, the standard questions. But to my surprise I was really able to follow along with him as he started telling me the history of the park. The Korean name for the park is “Dal” (Moon) and “Maji” (Greeting/meeting)..So when translating, the park’s name is something like “Meeting the moon/connecting with the moon Park”. The man gestured to the sky, making a sign of connection between the sky and himself while explaining this to me. During a time where the moon’s symbolic of a completion cycle and new beginning, was a nice surprise to hear the story behind the park. After the older man complimented my Korean he launched into a description of the history of a lot of the holiday’s in Korea, talking for a good 5 minutes straight. At this point I realized I was struggling to grasp a lot of what he said as I nodded and smiled. We walked down a ways together and parted ways. I continued taking shots, breaking up my time reading a book and taking in the crisp evening breeze.

For a easy hike and slice of quiet in Seoul, Dalmaji Parks a great getaway. Fortunately the sky’s been clear for the past few weeks…providing great views of the city, uncovered from the coming and going hazy veil the city often wears.

Tapgol Park (탑골 공원)

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Street next to Tapgol Park, full of pojang machas (street food vendors)

   Across the street from the language school I’m attending is Tapgol Park, a famous area for it’s history as the starting point for the Independence Movement against the Japanese Rule. I first came here years ago but since then I’ve visited often. I’m usually one of the few younger people there as the park is a popular hang out spot for ajooshi’s and halabeoji’s (korean middle aged men and grandfathers). Why it’s so appealing to that group I don’t know. My guess is just that it’s a quiet, peaceful spot with a history honoring the break from Japanese rule, a time that hits closer to heart for the older generation. I, too, find it to be a really nice break from the busy streets outside. Having a predilection for quiet spaces, I often like to visit here to take a pause from study and relax my mind. Despite being in the midst of one of the busiest area’s of the city, due to it’s size, inside is a preserved quietness. What makes Seoul a great city to live in, for me, is these little outlets of calm spread across the city. Being someone easily fatigued by crowds, these spots are my frequent getaways to recharge and re-enter the hustle and bustle.