The Kimchi-ite: Seoul’s Spectacular Lotus Lantern Festival


Every year, Buddha’s Birthday is marked in Korea by a sea of draped lanterns. The holiday itself is not until May 17 this year, but that has not stopped the festivities from starting early. Most streets surrounding Buddhist temples have a colorful array of lanterns strung from their lampposts. The temples themselves often feature an entire canopy created by a rainbow of lanterns. And as part of the festivities, a parade featured tens of thousands of lanterns in the shape of a lotus flower, an important symbol in Buddhism.

Seoul’s weather is now finally reaching that perfect equilibrium of sunshine and cool breezes, and the best place to see some of the city’s lanterns is at an outdoor exhibition on Cheonggye Stream.
The lanterns turn the already beautiful Cheonggye Stream into an absolutely dreamlike landscape. Skyscrapers dressed in flashing lights tower above as you walk along a tree-lined bubbling stream underneath a rainbow of paper lanterns. Couples and families walk around with nothing but smiles on their faces. There are no gimmicks here, no entrance fees and no celebrity appearances, just wonderful paper lanterns.

The wealth of colors of the paper lanterns play beautifully well off of the stream.

In the middle of the stream lie elaborate lanterns made of traditional Korean hanji paper that depict various aspects of Korean life, history and culture – including dragons, pagodas, wildlife, Buddhist ceremonies and traditional dances.

Located right in the heart of the city, Cheonggye Stream is one of the best places to visit in Seoul, with or without lanterns.

The lanterns depict various aspects of Korean and Buddhist culture.

Buddhism is an important aspect of Korea culture and is widely practiced throughout the peninsula.

Cheonggye Stream is an incredible place to just relax and hang out, with or without a festival.

Cheonggye Stream is one of the best places to visit in Seoul. Formerly a highway overpass, it was reconstructed into a stream in 2005 and has been wildly popular with locals and visitors ever since. It’s a truly unique place, similar in concept to the highline in New York, that cities across the world should take note of – a peaceful oasis in one of the world’s busiest cities that is also just around the corner from a 600-year-old palace, a neighborhood of traditional hanoks, the best book stores in Korea, an impressive arts center as well as the president’s residence.

Smaller lanterns depicting wildlife are scattered around the stream and represent more traditional lanterns.

While the Lotus Lantern Festival is definitely not to be missed, there is also another lantern festival on Cheonggye Stream of equal beauty, the Seoul Lantern Festival, which will be held in November this year.

To delve further into Korean culture, dig into the Kimchi-ite archives by clicking here.

Photo Of The Day: Contemplating Lake Como In Italy


In northern Italy, the Alps meet Lake Como at the comune of Bellagio to form some of the most beautiful vistas in Europe. Not only has the region provided inspiration for the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, but it is unequivocally gorgeous. Instagram user Jason Rodman absolutely captured the best thing to do at locations such as this, just sitting alone with your thoughts.

If you have a great travel photo, share it with us and it could be featured as our Photo of the Day! You can do so either by tagging your Instagram photos with #Gadling and mentioning us @GadlingTravel, like Jason did, or by submitting it to our Gadling Flickr Pool.

[Photo Credit: Instagram user jrodmanjr]

The Kimchi-ite: Iconic Landmark In Seoul Re-Opens 5 Years After Arson Attack


In early 2008, Sungnye-mun (commonly referred to as Namdae-mun), one of Korea’s most important cultural landmarks, was destroyed in a devastating arson attack. The shocking event was a national tragedy and has been engraved into the collective Korean consciousness. Today, people are able to immediately remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that the gate, which is very much linked to Korea’s identity, had been destroyed. The attack ultimately destroyed much of the gate’s wooden roof, which at the time was the oldest wooden structure in Korea.Now, after more than 5 years of extensive restoration, the iconic Sungnye-mun, meaning “Gate of Exalted Ceremonies,” has reopened to great fanfare with a visit from South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye. During much of its restoration, the gate remained behind scaffolding, which intentionally obscured it from view, making its return to the Seoul landscape all the more welcome.

Originally built in 1398, its intended purpose was to control access to the capital, welcome foreign diplomats and protect the city from Siberian Tigers. During Japanese occupation, from which the gate received its controversial “Dongdae-mun” name, the surrounding walls were destroyed as the Crown Prince of Japan saw himself as too honorable to pass under the gate. Today, it sits in the middle of a grand intersection in the heart of the metropolis, dwarfed by surrounding skyscrapers, symbolic of South Korea’s constant struggle between its modern aspirations and ties to tradition.

Getting to Singnye-mun is incredibly easy, just get to either City Hall subway station and go straight out exit 8 or to Seoul Station and go straight out of exit 3 or 4. The gate is roughly a 10 – 15 minute walk from any of those locations.

For more on Korean culture, food and all around eccentricities, check out The Kimchi-ite by clicking here.

[Image Credits: Jonathan Kramer, Najonpyohyeon and WatchWants via WikiMedia]

Photo Of The Day: An Absolutely Astounding Scottish Loch


In the Scottish Highlands, on Loch Shiel, sits Glenfinnan, a small village with an amazing view. Darby Sawchuck took this incredibly lit photo of the loch, really evoking the lush green of the landscape and the beautifully wide valley. Despite it being clear that this region sees plenty of rain, it would be worth weathering through just to see this sight when you wake up in the morning.

If you have a great travel photo submit it to us and it could be featured as our Photo of the Day! You can do so either via our Flickr Photo Pool or by tagging your Instagram photos with #Gadling and mentioning us, @GadlingTravel.

[Photo Credit: Flickr User Darby Sawchuck]

The Kimchi-ite: The End Of Cherry Blossom Season On Yeouido

Cherry blossoms mark the true beginning of spring, along with the arrival of glorious sunshine, refreshing breezes and all around spectacular picnic weather. Within Seoul, the most talked about place to see the blossoms is on Yeouido, a large island on the Han River where many of the tallest skyscrapers in Korea are located.

Yeouido’s Spring Flower Festival, which centers around the cherry blossoms, provides great views of the river, with streets closed off to car traffic, an impressive amount of food vendors and over 1,400 cherry blossom trees in less than a 4-mile stretch.

Sunset is the absolute perfect time to view cherry blossoms.

An entire evening can be set aside during cherry blossom season just to walk amongst the trees. It makes for a calmingly beautiful after-dinner treat and hardly gets boring, not even for those that never pay flowers any attention during the rest of the year, like myself.

While up close they aren’t remarkable; all together they make for an amazing sight.

Cherry blossoms are definitely worth planning a trip around, and crops like these aren’t only limited to Asia and Washington D.C. In Korea, the season typically runs from the end of March through almost all of April and there are numerous festivals built around them all over the country.

Streets all around Seoul are lined with beautiful rows of cherry blossoms.

After night falls on Yeouido, the trees are bathed in colored lights, heightening their light pink hues. It’s no wonder why so many photos are taken.

Yeouido lights up the trees at night, giving the flowers surreal colors.

As with most things even mildly popular in Seoul, there is always an enormous crowd on Yeouido during the peak blooming times.

Cherry blossoms are endlessly photogenic.

Unfortunately, cherry blossoms are incredibly fleeting and are now disappearing throughout Korea. No longer are the streets lined with gorgeous white flowers nor the light falling of its petals, marking the one time of year when gutters are actually beautiful.

A picnic under a cherry blossom tree is the perfect way to spend a spring afternoon.

As always, for more on Korean culture, food and oddities, read more from the Kimchi-ite here.

[All photos by Jonathan Kramer]