Rain and Shine on Jeju Island by Adam Travis

We finished work at 6:00 PM last Friday. By 8:30 PM, we had landed in Jeju City and were on our way to dinner. We wouldn't be leaving until Tuesday morning, planning to get back just in time for work. A full weekend getaway.

Jeju is a volcanic island off the southern coast of South Korea and is incredibly popular with native Koreans and foreign tourists alike. About 15 million tourists visit the island each year, whose native population is 660,000. It's easy to see why the island is so popular: lush landscapes, the highest mountain in Korea, white, sandy beaches and delicious seafood are all here. 

With a hotel downtown, some tasty restaurants lined up and a tour of eastern Jeju on the agenda, we were excited a weekend away from Gwangju.

The only catch was the weather. For days we had been hoping the forecast of rain would miraculously lift for our weekend, but that wasn't the case. All of Sunday and much of Monday was spent in the rain (which ranged from a gentle mist to umbrella-inverting, gusty, downpours). Thankfully, the rain held off for Saturday, allowing us to soak up some sun at a beachside cafe.

Keep scrolling and check out some of my favorite shots from this weekend away.

Cherry Blossoms by Adam Travis

As fickle as the fall colours can be, they come nowhere near the short-lived glory of cherry blossoms. Between the first blooms and the last petals getting washed down the storm drain, they stuck around for just shy of two weeks. Thankfully, the weather was nice for the peak weekend of cherry blossom season, letting us get out and see them in all their glory. 

Hints of Spring by Adam Travis

The forecast for next week is promising days of mid-20's temperatures. Cherry blossoms are blooming and the grass is green. I've been able to feel the warmth coming for weeks now — a sunny day here, a 20-degree day there — but spring is here for good. Take a walk through the streets in black and white while I soaked up the most of this wonderful transitional period in Gwangju. 

Winter's End by Adam Travis

I got a letter from my aunt yesterday. She doesn't have a computer, so it's the easiest way of staying in touch. It's also a nice surprise to come home to something in the mailbox that isn't a bill or a menu I can't quite understand. Back home, she writes, March has been bleak. Back-to-back nor'easters and a fresh mountain of snow have her — and many others, I imagine —wondering if winter will actually end.

Last week, it hit 20°C. Today in Korea, it's going to be 18°C. This month, it's also snowed, rained, and we even had a thunderstorm. To close out the month, next week is forecasted to be the beginning of cherry blossom season! So while the weather here is just as unpredictable, I'll take rain showers and 20°C temperatures over a late-winter snowstorm any day. 

It wasn't so long ago, though, that these streets were windswept by frigid air, and clumps of wet snow drifted down from the sky. Korean winters come nowhere close to the emotional toll a long New Brunswick winter takes, but they can certainly be rough in their own way (I've never felt so cold at only -5°C).

Looking back through these photos of snow-covered streets dotted with footprints, I can't say I'm feeling much nostalgia. As lovely as the snow can be, I've had my fill of it for this year.

Texture + Form by Adam Travis

Black and white photos in their simplest form are light and shape. Over the last few months, I've found myself drawn to these compositions. The interaction between a concrete rooftop and an apartment block. Light highlighting the ridges of pipes stacked up at a construction site or the pattern of worn brick stairs. Each feels like a little visual poem, written in light and shadow. 

Seoul Streets by Adam Travis

Seoul is a mix of old and new. Centuries-old temples and high-speed trains. Winding streets, packed with old brick buildings give way to wide avenues filled with buses, scooters and the latest Korean and German cars. Ultra-dense blocks of buildings, their forms obscured by neon advertisements and cluttered boutique windows, are shadowed by modern glass towers. All this dichotomy makes for an endlessly interesting place to photograph. Adding to the interest is the light in the city. Skyscrapers cast streets into darkness and light up others with glittering, reflected light. Slivers of sun pierce their way into the packed backstreets, highlighting slivers of the street. 

Visiting during Seollal had the added benefit of emptying some people from the streets, making it easier to walk around. The Lunar New Year sets off a massive pilgrimage from Seoul to the countryside towns and cities so many of its residents hail from. As a result, buses were almost empty, (some) streets felt wider and corners of the city were as quiet as a metropolis of its size can be. 

Enjoy a few shots of Seoul, as I saw it, below. 

Seoul Food by Adam Travis

When our co-workers asked us what we would be doing in Seoul over the long weekend, our answer was 'food.' The gamut of Korean street food is large and wide and even varies by region. But for sheer variety, it's hard to beat Namdaemun Market in Seoul. 

After hopping off the KTX and busing to our hotel, we immediately headed over to the market for a street food crawl. Early in the afternoon, there was only a handful of stalls open. But after a sightseeing walk and coffee break, we dove back in and found a whole block of the market had filled up with food vendors and we spent the rest of the afternoon hopping from one stall to the next.

The next day, we paid a visit to an old friend, Isaac Toast. These shops specialize in egg and toast sandwiches, with marinated meat, crispy potato, cabbage and their signature sauce as toppings. We were nervous that not much would be open since it was Seollal weekend, Korea's lunar new year holiday. But reliable as always, the Isaac in Myeongdong shopping district was open, with dozens lined up outside. 

That afternoon, we headed to Itaewon, Seoul's foreign district. The food in Gwangju is good, but options for non-Korean food are limited. Being able to eat around the world in a day is something we had taken for granted in Canada.