The Astounding ‘Park in the Sky’

[30 Oct 2016]

The discovery of such a beautiful place in Seoul almost didn’t happen. While it was planned for, I had other prior commitment that might run late so this was a dispensable schedule on our itinerary. As luck would have it, the prior commitment was cancelled and we were able to make it on Sunday late morning.

The place I’m talking about is Haneul Sky Park 하늘공원 located within World Cup Park 월드겁공원, and to get there, get off at Exit 1 of World Cup Stadium Station along Seoul Subway Line 6. There are a total of 5 parks within World Cup Park, with Haneul Sky Park being the one at the highest elevation. This translates into… some climbing required to get to the park.

We were quite lazy this whole trip, hence hailed a cab to the station from Myeongdong, since it wasn’t too far off. Somewhat like Namsan Seoul Tower, vehicles are not allowed up the hill where Haneul Park is located. We walked a bit and saw a long queue waiting to board the shuttles that ply the route right to the top of the hill, and noted there were many families with young children amongst the queue. It was a Sunday after all.

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The mister asked if I wanted to wait in queue for an easy way up the hill. I thought a little, looked up at the stairs (291 in total, there was a signage) and decided I could manage the climb. After all, we have climbed much higher church towers in Europe, what is 291 steps right?

Right…

291 steps still posed as a challenge to me (read: unfit) yet the experience was somewhat different, I wasn’t climbing up within a narrow, cloistered tower. The fresh air helped a lot. And oh… the view!

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I liked it that the higher we climbed, reward came in the form of better the view. The steps were also numbered. Yup, you’ll know when you have cleared 100 steps, for example. Along the way, we even spotted a very well-formed spider web complete with the host and its prey. By the way, that picture was taken with my iPhone 7 Plus. Loving the awesome camera lenses!
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There is a good reason why Haneul Sky Park is such a favourite with the locals in October – the fields of lush eulalia. Every article you come across on the internet about the Eulalia Festival at Haneul Sky Park in October will advise you to visit during sunset when the setting sun casts a golden hue over the fields of eulalia. I wished to visit near sunset, too. Unfortunately we had little time in Seoul, and the rest of our evenings were occupied with other plans we couldn’t change. So we could only make do with our midday traipse.

Looking at how the pictures turned out, I don’t think it was that bad an idea at all. Sure, they gave off very different vibes compared to the soft, autumny pictures one would usually find on the internet – different, but not in a bad way. While I don’t profess to be adept at photography, I personally see growth in my skills over the years. In the past, I’d wanted to take postcard-perfect pictures and had always lamented when I couldn’t attain perfect conditions. My mentality has gradually changed over the years: any one can take a post-perfect picture in perfect weather conditions; what sets a (shutter-happy) casual tourist-photographer and a travel photographer (looking to continually hone the skill) apart is how he/she adapts to the actual conditions presented to him/her. Occasionally I still succumb to herd instinct i.e. take from that particular everybody takes from but I try not to. And I no longer linger at a spot forever to take the perfect picture – a big part of the reason is that I’ve noticed my first attempt is also usually my best. I have started learning to trust my first instinct.

But oh, what a glorious day it was.

I’d received complaints from the mister that the posts from this trip tended to be too image intensive it got a little tedious to read. I too, realised that when writing the posts but well… a lot of the pictures turned out very well so please bear with me, since I have no alternative outlet to share my pictures.

Haneul Sky Park is a rare gem that is still rather untouched by tourists. Visitors to the park are mostly Koreans and independent travellers. I have not seen busloads of tourists. I think that’s a good sign, and I hope it remains so for as long as possible. Hate to imagine how tourists will destroy the beautiful eulalia fields. I mean, if the likes of them had the audacity to steal 150kg of freshly planted flowers near Shanghai Disneyland, what’s to stop them from plucking the eulalia or trampling on them to get to their perceived best spot?

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In the centre of the fields is an interesting circular open viewing tower. It was way too busy for anyone who wanted to pause and enjoy the view quietly. Everyone was jostling for the right angle to get the picture below. Myself included. 😛

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To save our knees, we opted to take the shuttle down the hill instead of manoeuvring the stairs again (unless you haave a lot of time at hand, do not consider walking down the winding hill). And the cute little shuttle looks like this: I don’t know whether to call this a tram or a shuttle bus but it serves its purpose. Several of them ply the route up and down the hill so waiting time wasn’t too long.

We spent a wonderful afternoon at Haneul Sky Park. I couldn’t help but lament that I didn’t have the opportunity to see it at sunset, or at night, for that matter, during the Eulalia Festival. But I’m contented at discovering this park. It’s a nice change from crowded tourist attractions.

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