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Note #81: Harvest moon on Mt. Yongma (2013.9.20)

Yesterday was one of the two major holidays in Korea, known as Chuseok, a harvest festival. It is always held on the 15th day of the lunar month, which means it is held on the day of the full moon, specifically the harvest moon. It is customary in Korea to watch the harvest moon rise on Chuseok, and this year we decided to climb up nearby Mt. Yongma to get a better look at it.

I say that Mt. Yongma is “nearby,” and it is—we can see our apartment from the summit—but it does require a bus ride and then a short trip of four stops on the subway to get to. We arrived at the start of the trail at about a quarter to six, and the moon was supposed to rise at half past six. Fortunately it is a relatively quick hike up the mountain, and we arrived at an open platform just below the summit with time to spare. I did make a quick run to the summit to see if the view was any better, but there are some trees there that make the lower platform a better choice.

(Note: this is another one of those posts with a companion gallery, which means that you can click on each of the pictures below to get a larger version.)

When we got to the platform, the sun was beginning to set. As you can see in this picture, there is a good deal of haze over Seoul—the weather had been much clearer when we started our hike, but it was a hot and somewhat humid day, and as the temperature dropped the moisture began to condense into a haze. As a result, the moon was not visible when it rose over the mountains to the east, and it wasn’t until it had climbed some way into the sky that it could be seen clearly.

This is one of the best shots I got, with the moon quite red from the haze. As it rose higher it took on a brighter, more yellow hue, but I like the way this looks in the sky.

We had read that the views of Seoul at night from Mt. Yongma were quite beautiful, and it is indeed a lovely sight. The way that Seoul sprawls out, filling in all the gaps in the mountains that surround it, makes it look as if rivers of sparkling gems are flowing down through the mountain valleys at night. This particular view is south, toward the Han River.

This is more southwest. There are perhaps not as many lights as there might normally be, seeing as this is a holiday and most of the office buildings are dark. The snaking stream of lights coming in from the right Chungnang Stream, which we more or less follow down to the Han River before crossing over on our way to church.

This photo was actually taken the Saturday before last—it was taken from the same place as the previous photo, but the angle is different, and I think I might have zoomed in a little for the previous photo. I just wanted to show you what it looked like during the day.

And this photo is facing roughly northwest. You know when I said that we could see our apartment from the summit? Well, you can actually see the building in this photo. I would try to explain where it is, but unless you know what you’re looking for it will probably be impossible to spot, especially in the smaller version of the photo. It’s somewhere below and to the right of that gothic-style building sitting on its own on the low hill in the center.

This last photo is more northerly, although technically our apartment is still in the frame. The previous shot was zoomed in—this one should give you a better idea of how far away home is for us. I’m also including this photo because I ended my last photographic entry with a cool shot of me, and I think this one looks pretty cool as well.

We stayed at the platform for quite a while after the sun set, watching the moon rise and enjoying the peaceful views of the city at night. Before long, though, the mosquitoes began to send out their scouts, so we took that as our cue to head down. We had brought along flashlights, but I decided not to turn mine on—it may light up the way, but it also creates shadows that can be disorienting. With the ambient city light I could see just fine, so I walked down in the dark, with HJ following some distance behind me with her flashlight. She claimed that, as a city girl, she needed the light to find her way, even if a country boy like me could navigate in the dark. I’m not exactly a country boy, but I did spend a good deal of time in the woods at night with no light when I was growing up, so I guess she has a point.

That was more or less how we spent our Chuseok. If you celebrated the holiday as well, I hope you had a good time with your loved ones—and even if you didn’t celebrate it, I hope you were able to enjoy the harvest moon.

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