Golden Korea!

Travel

We are well and truly in to the latter half of December; the first frost has been experienced, the wind is bitingly cold and I find myself swaddled in more and more layers each and every day and night. No complaints here though – winter has always been and will always be my favourite season. There is just something so special about this season; maybe it’s the Christmas spirit or the desire to do and see more for the upcoming new year. Or perhaps it is the fact that, given the cold temperature, I can wrap myself up in to a burrito with a blanket and snacks, Netflix blaring on a screen in front of me. No matter the reason, I always feel a sense of overwhelming joy in winter, an admission that would no doubt shake most other people to the core.

Despite my love for winter, however, I find myself daydreaming about golden hour or should I say golden season. Autumn always comes in at an extremely close second place in my eyes; it is the time I start to feel that little chill in the air whilst all around me the leaves start to change. One thing I love to do is strap on my Doc Martens and go for a walk amongst autumn’s prettiest feature. Leaves upon leaves upon leaves; piles and piles lashed with copper, auburn and golden tones. The crunching sound they make when my rubber sole flattens them to the ground; it is music to my ears, a noise so organic, so unique that takes me on a journey of appreciation for the wonderous world I live in.

The autumn season in Korea fulfils my desire to crunch and crisp more so than any other place before. Leaves are in abundance, fallen softly from the copious number of trees (after all 70% of the country is made up of mountains and most of their surfaces are covered in trees with leaf-filled branches). On a trip to Seoul in November, I visited 창경궁 (Changgyeonggung), the second largest palace in the capital and indeed the home to the king’s wife. The palace itself lies within a complex, similar to the one that houses 경복궁 (Gyeongbokgung) but off to one side is a large garden, consumed by walking paths, ponds, and obviously, trees. I was in heaven; all the leaves hadn’t yet fallen and their colours shone brightly with pride, dangling from the gnarly and smooth branches of various types of trees. The rest of them lay on the floor, forming mounds of crunchable fun. I sat within a copse, rolling around, looking like the leaf-obsessed lady I am, pausing only to grab a handful and chuck them up in to the air with a massive smile plastered across my face. It really is the little things that make life enjoyable! You need only look at the picture below to believe my joy at being amongst one of nature’s most simple yet most beautiful characteristics!

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To all my fellow expats, leaf lovers, autumn dreamers, I highly recommend a visit to 창경궁 when the season hits again in 2019. You will not regret seeing such a stunning sight! Furthermore, given the palace’s historical purpose, you will enjoy the trip even more if you are an East Asian history buff, or indeed go if you are interested in traditional Korean architecture, of which the structures within the complex fit the bill completely! Just do not forget to check out the adjoining garden – will only set you back 1,000 KRW and I’m certain it is just as wonderful during the other three seasons. For now, I will leave you with a few snaps I took during my visit… Enjoy!!

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IndiEmma Jones and her Jordanian adventure!

Travel

In October 2017, I visited my family in Amman, Jordan and while there, we planned a road trip together. We decided to leave the capital late in the evening on a Thursday, drive down to the Dead Sea and camp for the night with an assortment of food including hotdogs and s’mores. We arrived at our destination at about 10pm; we set up our tent, lay down blankets, got a roaring fire going and spent the next few hours in perpetual awe. For anyone who isn’t aware, the Dead Sea is situated at the lowest point on planet earth, and where we camped was a ridge stretching out from the main road, which overlooked the salty sea in all its glory. Although we didn’t have a view of the sea at that current moment, we could hear the serene waves rippling beneath us. It was the perfect background music to the view we did have: a smooth, velvety, deep blue night sky laced with silver, sequin-like stars. It was the perfect picture: and just to lie there, underneath such a bed of stars was an experience in itself. Unfortunately neither my phone nor my DSLR could capture such simplistic beauty so I have no photographs to share however I cannot recommend doing this or something similar more. You will not be disappointed and the reminder of just how stunning our world is will stay with you forever.

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Our view of the Dead Sea in the morning

The next morning, we woke at about 5am; we had a long journey ahead of us, an almost four hour car journey to Petra, the Rose City. I couldn’t wait to see the famous red-stone city with my own eyes, walk the paths of historic bedouins and see the filming locations for numerous movies, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. We parked up and started our Petra journey at the ticket booth. A one-day ticket will cost you 50 Jordanian Dinars which is the equivalent to about 50 Great British Pounds; sounds steep but is well worth it! Once our tickets were checked, we were on our way, on a great stretch of sandy path where we first stumbled across the carved architecture of an ancient civilisation. We were enamoured by the detailed building face in front of us; little did we realise that the best was yet to come. We continued on the path, weaving our way through multi-coloured walls, lined with man-made water pipes and dams.

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Colours of the sandstone

Now, have you ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? If you have, then you will remember the part filmed in Petra perfectly; the stand-out being when Indy is riding horseback with his companions through a sandy landscape when they come across the secret temple. Furthermore have you ever watched a film, pictured visiting one of the locations used and hoping your experience will be as dramatic as it is depicted? I have and my experience of Indy’s secret temple, the heart of Petra was everything I dreamed and more. After leaving the ticket checkpoint and walking the windy path for what seemed like forever but could not have been more than twenty minutes, we finally came to the end of our walk and there it was. The intricacy, the artistry, the monumental sight of one of the seven wonders of the world; the Treasury of Petra.

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The Treasury at Petra

I cannot put in to words nor emphasise the astounding beauty of this detailed piece of architecture; again, in the same way as the Dead Sea sky, it is something you have to experience first hand to believe. Throngs of people flock to Petra each and every year and I just know the vast majority will have been as taken aback as I was once they first laid eyes upon such craftsmanship. I just stood and stared; at every pillar, at every tiny pattern, at every piece of the sand stone structure in front of me. I didn’t think I’d seen anything so mesmerising but then I hadn’t seen the rest of the city. After a short camel ride in front of the Treasury, we set off once more, following the path to the right-hand side. We came across masses of carved-out caves, which if you have seen An Idiot Abroad, you will know serve as the homes of those who still live in Petra. We ventured in to one, and the colours emblazoned across the walls are like a watercolour painting. Their smoothness, their vividness, like a stroke of a paintbrush across a sandy canvas. After exploring the caves, we decided to go to the Monastery which is up high, a trek of 900+ steps. Donkeys are not in short supply in Petra, so we hired four for 20 Jordanian Dinars and climbed up to see the structure which Bumblebee knocked through in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. My ride was a great companion, aptly named Jackass which, to those who know me well, made us quite the duo.

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One of the many donkeys of Petra

The Monastery is just as beautiful as the Treasury, delicately carved out of a stone wall and I had my own Karl Pilkington moment, sat in a cave directly opposite it, revelling in its splendour. Karl’s show may have been named An Idiot Abroad but he could not have been more correct in stating it is better to sit in the cave and look out on something so spectacular than it is to live in the luxury looking out on how the other half live. I could have stayed there forever but by this point, the time was nearly 4:30pm and we had a five hour drive back to Amman to conquer, so we headed off back in the direction we came. I napped most of the journey home, intermittently waking up to browse through the many photos I took during our adventure. I’ll leave you with this one of me with my cousins, taken on a polaroid camera in front of the Treasury of Petra.

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The four of us!

Interestingly enough, upon my return home to the UK, my friend tagged me in a Facebook post by Will Smith. A similar picture to the one of me and my cousins but it was him with his cast-mates: the live-action Aladdin due to be released some time in 2019 was being filmed near Petra so Will planned a trip there for the cast and crew!

*If you have any questions regarding Petra, how tos, etc. then please feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you!