Annyeong!

“Hello, Myeongju”

The nice thing about manual focus lenses is that once you set them you don’t have to worry about the autofocus hunting around while you’re trying to get the final framing. This photo came out reasonably well despite the awkward grip on the camera and the awkward wave.

Myeongju is an old neighbourhood in the downtown area of Gangneung. Until a year or so ago just about every wall and many houses were bare concrete or breeze block. A recently formed Myeongju Neighbourhood Association started putting paint on a few things in the alleyways, including this lettering which says, “Hello Myeongju-dong”. (The O in ‘dong’ is pronounced like the O in ‘Dover’ and means ‘neighbourhood’).

I don’t know why this mirror and the cracked one next to it are on the alley wall.

Beautiful Morning

Tree and Utility Pole, Hoesan

I woke up uncharacteristically early one morning and noticed that there were some lovely clouds in the sky. I grabbed a camera and went out to make some photos of the neighbourhood. You may have seen this tree and pole on the site before. And you’ll see them again.

I think I need more practise with wide-angle lenses. The tree and pole look fine (the pole is actually tilted), but the background buildings on the right look like they are starting to roll up like in Inception.

Hahoe Village

Hahoe Village Bus Stop, 2014.

When I was working on my hipsta-traditional project, I made a trip down south to visit Hahoe Village. The village was founded in the 16th century by the Ryu clan and the village is still only inhabited by members of that family. We used to joke about small towns in Newfoundland by saying, “They’re all cousins there.” In this case, it’s true.

The village is quite famous in Korea. Queen Elizabeth II visited in 1999 and planted a tree. (She probably didn’t come by the bus in the photo). Then the village became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010 after they got rid of all the souvenir shops and tidied it up.

The hamlet is very nice if you can avoid tourists by visiting on a weekday or in the chillier seasons. I used my iPhone for the project, but I also brought along a film camera and made a few snapshots like this one. I would like to go back again with tripod and multiple lenses. Maybe in the winter when the sun gets up at about the same time I do. 🙂

It’s pretty easy to see that this photo was made when the sun was high. The whites are very bright and the tree shadows very dark. Of particular note is the big blob in the bottom left. But it doesn’t matter. I just wanted to remember the paint job on the bus and the old people waiting for it to depart.

Obong Seowon

On the left is a traditional building that might be a part of the Obong Confucian school (seowon is a kind of Confucian academy from long ago) even though it is outside the walls. On the right is a farmer’s house. Or was a farmer’s house. When I first started visiting the seowon there were greenhouses, a garden, and a shed with a cow inside. Last year (two years ago?) the cow disappeared and a while later the shed disappeared. And on my last trip there last month everything was gone. Including the farmer and his missus. I hope they’ve just retired and nothing bad has happened.
Most street lamps these days are the ‘hanging head’ type, but this one is just a globe on top of a pole.
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In 2005 a very old Buddhist temple burned to the ground up around Yangyang and there was then a mad rush to get firefighting equipment installed at any and all historical sites.
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The courtyard inside the walls of the seowon.

Gangmun

Gangmun is within Gangneung city limits and not far from two major tourist areas, but it’s not so easy to get there if you don’t have a car. There are few local buses, it’s a bit far to walk from frequent bus routes, and getting a taxi there is expensive. But it’s a good place to go now and then for some photography. It’s less crowded than many other tourist spots (at least in the morning) and there are a few interesting things to photograph.
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This couple passed me as I was making photos of a bridge and then later nicely completed this composition.
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Gyeongpo Lake and Gangmun Beach are only separated by a narrow stretch of land. You would have a nice view of both places if you were in one of these buildings. The building on the right looks like it’s under construction. There seems to be a caravan park next to the river, but I haven’t been over to see.
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This is the Seamark Hotel, also known as the Hyundai Hotel. One of Hyundai’s divisions owns it. Hyundai Construction, maybe? It was built not too long ago and replaced the earlier Hyundai Hotel which was built in the sixties.
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I posted a similar colour version of this photo last(?) year. It’s a hotel. The room rates are probably reasonable in the off season but skyrocket in the summer and on New Year’s, when everyone and their dog shows up to watch the sun rise out of the sea.
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I can’t remember what building this is. I think it’s a coffee shop or something. I like the bundle of wires rising up into the sky like lightning. They don’t go into the sky, obviously. I was standing close to the wall and looking up. I’d like to get this one printed.
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And there you are – more photos of Gangmun. And I’ll probably post more in the future when I save up enough money to get a taxi. Every time I go to Gangmun I make the usual photos of things like the rails and the thin hotel. Sometimes it’s the same photos I’ve made a dozen times and sometimes I get to see the usual subjects in a new way. So it’s rarely a wasted trip.

On the way to work

The field in the foreground belongs to another house, but it isn’t as photogenic as this place. Or as well placed for a photograph. You can’t see it in this photo, but behind the break in the hedges is a doghouse where a small dog lives. When I first started using this road the dog would come out of its house and look at me while wagging its tail. If no one was around. If the home owner was about, it would bark at me a few times. Very human in that regard. When the boss is around you have to look like you’re working, right? Lately the dog has started barking at me even when alone. I wonder if it has anything to do with the disppearance of Baduki, a neighbourhood dog that used to roam freely, visiting his chained friends and greeting me enthusiastically every time I passed his home. Last year his owner started chaining him up and keeping him inside. That seems to be about the time the dog at the house above became less friendly. Maybe the dog is just getting old and crusty.

Doggy Update!: I went for a walk today up over the hill and on the way back I met a chainless Baduki wagging his tail at a very nervous woman and her little black dog with their backs up against a tree. Poor Baduki. He just wants to be friends but he’s misunderstood. I stopped to say hello to him but he was only interested in a potential new doggy friend. So I walked down the hill. By the time I got to his house he was running down the road after me. So we had a nice little time with much head scratching, rubbing, and wagging of tail. Nice to see him again.

Cat, Church, and Cat Again

It’s a cat

For every relatively in-focus photograph of my cat, there are five or six pictures with blurred turning heads, flicking tails, massive yawns, or his rear end exiting the frame at warp 5.

In my last post I joked about joining a cult to paint alleyways. It later reminded me of another experience I had with a church member. I was exploring the city of Anyang one day in 1996/97 when a smiling woman approached me. Our conversation went something like this….

W: Hello.
M: Hi.
W: Where are you from?
M: Canada.
W: Oh, that’s very nice! What are you doing here?
M: I work at an English academy here in Anyang.
W: That’s nice. Do you have many friends here?
M: No, not really. One of my co-workers.
W: Oh, you should come to our church. You can meet lots of people.
M: Well, I’m not a Christian, so I don’t think I would fit in.
W: No, no! It doesn’t matter if you’re not Christian. You can come to our church!
M: I’m not really interested.
W: You know, two of my brothers-in-law are American. They weren’t Christian, but they started coming to our
church and now they are Christian!
M: Well, that’s very nice for them and their wives, but I’m not interested in attending church services.
W: We have lots of foreigners at our church so there are English church services and you can meet other
people.
M: Yes, that’s very nice for foreign Christians, but I’m really not interested in going to church. I’m not
a Christian.
W: (pause) There are lots of girls at our church . . . .

She almost had me, haha. The encounter was weird, annoying, funny (in hindsight), and uncomfortable all at the same time.

She definitely would have had me if she had mentioned the church was full of cats.

Alley Art

Some neighbourhoods have recently been trying to brighten up their alleyways. Usually in areas where tourists are wandering away from the coffee shops and beaches to explore the narrow lanes. I often wander into the narrow streets and spaces between buildings to get away from the madding crowd.

Myeongju Neighbourhood

A downtown neighbourhood called Myeongju started its rejuvenation some years ago with the conversion of a church to a theatre and performance centre. Then came the remodelling of nearby old houses into coffee shops. Some private houses even tore down their high, crumbling garden walls and planted grass and flowers to brighten up the neighbourhood. Most recently, an area on the fringes of the neighbourhood painted parts of the alley walls in rainbow colours. The writing above says, “Myeongju Rainbow Covered Streets”. Out of frame are the names of the local residents who contributed to the project.

Myeongju Neighbourhood

This drain pipe is cleverly disguised as the centre of a flower. Loose stones around the alley are painted in bright colours.

I once joined a cult to paint walls in knackered neighbourhoods. Well, not exactly. I wrote it like that for fun and shock value. What happened was, I was in a supermarket trying to choose some tea when a lady approached me and asked if I spoke Korean. Then she asked if I would be interested in helping to brighten up some poorer neighbourhoods by painting alley walls. As a hater of the “grey is okay” city aesthetic, I certainly was interested and we exchanged contact information. Some time later the lady rang me and I met up with her and about a dozen other people in a neighbourhood not far from my house. It turned out that they were from the Shincheonji Church, a group previously mistrusted by the public and now reviled as the cult (a professor of religious studies at university once told our class that a cult is any group mainstream Christians don’t like) responsible for the first wave of covid infections in Korea. But I met them long before the covid business. Anyway, nobody mentioned God or Jesus to me and they were all very pleasant people. I enjoyed my time adding colour to the neighbourhood and I got a couple of free lunches out of it.

But I digress. Another neighbourhood dolling itself up for visitors to Gangneung is Anmok, probably the most famous tourist area in Gangneung because of its beaches and coffee shops that overlook the sea. Many of the alley walls were whitewashed and painted with scenes of fish several years ago, but in the last few months someone has painted the alley pavement.

Anmok

When I first came across these lines I thought that some businesses had put them there to lead customers to lodging houses or restaurants, but there were no signs explaining the colours and they didn’t seem to have any particular starting place or destination. I guess they are just there to look nice.

Downtown?

It’s great that some neighbourhoods are trying to spruce themselves up a bit. Even a simple coat of paint over breeze blocks and concrete can make alleys much nicer places to walk through. I can’t go around with a bucket of paint trying to beautify the city (unless I join another cult), but I try to make the lanes and ugly architecture at least pleasing to look at in photographs by careful framing. You might not think the curled wire photo above is interesting or good, but it’s probably not making you feel miserable like a walk through that alley might.

Stay Here

Or else . . . ?

The name would suggest this is a hotel, but it’s a coffee shop that’s just opened next to Wolhwa Park in downtown Gangneung. I made this photo before the interior was completely finished, which is why the curtains are drawn. The sign, the curtains, and the colour of the wall reminds me of something you might see in a Fred Herzog photo of 1960s’ Vancouver.