Spring in Seoul
Living in a country where the weather is sunny, except when there are rains and typhoons, it’s not easy to differentiate spring from summer. In the Philippines, the flowers bloom all year round and the sun is always out. All I know is that when spring comes, cherry blossoms…well…blossom.
But we don’t find it in our country. I see them in pictures. Our East Asian neighbors up north have them. There are Cherry Blossoms in the USA. If there are any in the Philippines, I still have to see them.
So, when we got cheap plane tickets to Seoul in time for spring, I was excited. Finally, I’d be able to experience this season and tell how it differs from summer. As we touched down in Incheon, I could immediately tell the difference. It was cold, way too cold for my tropical-reared body. They said winter was over. But the temperature was still winter for me, even when I didn’t see any snow (that one, I still have to experience.) Layered clothes were not enough to ward off the chill that seems to seep through my skin to my bones.
I told myself I wouldn’t want to come home without catching a glimpse of the cherry blossoms. You could imagine how excited I was when I arrived at the doorstep of Big Choi’s Guesthouse to find a small cherry tree in their front yard. The bud was coming out and, anytime soon, the flower would be able to spread its petals. I asked Big Choi’s brother about it. “Maybe next Monday or a week, it will bloom.” My face almost fell. We were going home Monday.
As if to emphasize that we were no longer in our tropical islands, it rained the day after. It was better to stay indoors than to brave the drizzle and get wet and colder. But that didn’t stop us from exploring Seoul and experiencing spring.
True enough, we found blooming trees at Gyeongbokgung Palace. The next day was even better when the sun was out (but the breeze still cold). We saw more flowers but most of the trees still appeared like winter. I couldn’t believe that the cherry blossom experience would be this elusive.
We allotted Monday to see the famed street at Yeouido that has 1,400-1,600 cherry trees. The area is also near MBC and KBS, known TV networks in South Korea. We walked along the curved avenue behind the National Assembly but the trees were all branches and the only ones greeting us were the birds. We even had an interesting encounter. While we were at a traffic light ready to cross the street, an old lady was asking us for directions in Korean. Since we couldn’t understand her but we were willing to help, we approached an old man, wearing a suit with a pin of an emblem. He helped out the old lady so we also took our cue and asked him for directions. He signalled for us to follow him. He said he worked at the National Assembly. He went through the gate, passed the guard and waved his hand behind his back as if to beckon us to follow him. And we did. We roamed the compound of the National Assembly until we got to their information center. We were told that the whole area is what we were looking for. But the trees around weren’t in bloom. Our only consolation that our trip was not a failure was that, near the exit of the Yeouinaru station, two cherry trees were in full bloom!
Cherry blossoms! And we went home to Manila cheerful with our spring experience.
Check out my other Seoul-related posts at First-time in Seoul.