Monday, April 23, 2012

Suwon Cultural Festival

     When I heard about this festival in Suwon, I couldn't wait to come back to this place.  I once lived in Paran for 2 years.  It's about 40 minutes of bus ride or less than that with my bike and there's no traffic-- let's say 20 minutes.  But I always end up at the same place every time I go there.  It's not that I'm afraid, it's that I don't see much of this place farther than the subway station.  I actually thought this was the center of this so-called big city.  Since I'm on my bike, I was brave enough to go around and venture out, following where the road leads me.  But since it's night time (the only time I'm comfortable riding my bike on random places), whenever I got about a kilometer farther than the station, I see a blank space.  I immediately assumed it'll be a long road ahead of me.  So I make a U-turn.  Sufficed to say, I frequently visit that place, but I know nothing about it.

     So when I heard about this occasion and hearing it's all about traditional arts, I got really excited.  I get to know more about Korea's culture, I get to know more about Suwon, and I get to be away from this flat wasteland called Anseong.  As I called tourism for details, I realized it's a very unfamiliar place.  One part of the city that I really haven't ventured out yet.  Apparently, there's the huge wall the locals were talking about.  I remember looking for that whenever I went there.  I was looking at the wrong place.

     So I took the bus going to the venue.  Immediately, my eyes teared up out of regret.  This place is beautiful.  Filled with lots of tradition and culture.  I feel like I'm looking at the great wall of China... it may not be appropriately compared to it, but I haven't seen China.
The Dragon
Just a partial stretch of the entire wall that encloses another village.

     It was late in the afternoon and everyone's up for themselves.  The good thing is that the locals are used to visitors.  That alone is a good sign.  I wouldn't be stared at whatever I'm doing, no matter my color.  But not knowing what to do next, is my problem.  I see a huge gate in front of me, but I don't know if I'm allowed to get in.  So I observed.  People go in and out of this gate.  I might as well try.
The Post
One of the many interesting parts of this wall.  Inside the top of this structure is a nice strategic place for a lookout, and a good spot for archery defense.

The Sentry's Window
The wall is filled with these spaces where I can only speculate, a good place for archers.  It has a good view of one's post, and also good enough to shoot and reload, as the covered parts are wide enough for protection.  In this spot, I could just imagine how battles are fought in its time.
     Inside the gate is somewhat another town enclosed by this wall.  It's a long wall that stretches across mountains.  Too bad, I couldn't take decent pictures with this lighting.  Besides, I'm running out of time and I still couldn't find the venue of this festival.  Out of frustration, I did manage to take some pictures.
Higher Command
There are some of these scattered around.  A bit larger and more elegant than the rest of the towers.  It takes some effort to get to these structures and even more to get inside it.
There's an old canon behind me that I couldn't take a decent picture of.  After many failed attempts, I turned my back to take a picture of something else... then walk away.
And as I walk by, I heard drums-- traditional drums!  I walked briskly to this sound and there it was.  The festival.  It was a stage built in a tiny island.  It's a beautiful thing and I really want to revisit to take more pictures of the scene.  For now, I'm more interested on the events.

     Knowing I came late, and now seeing so many photographers up front, with their expensive gears, I got shy.  Yes, I got intimidated again and just stayed back, further back, like at the back of the audiences.  At least I know no one would bother me here.  I took out my tripod but didn't spread it out.  I decided to use it as a monopod since there still are some people walking around, not really caring much about me and my gear.  Most of them are drunks.

     I started taking pictures and boy it was frustrating.  I can't get close enough and going wide is just counter-productive; I'll be shooting people's heads.  I'm using a Canon 55-250mm kit lens.  Yes, it's a zoom but still needed some more reach.  And what frustrates me the most is how dark it is, that my lens can't keep up.  The focus is having so much problem, I'd have to time it with other photographers'es flashes to help me out.

The Hostess
I don't know who she is, but she seems to be a celebrity of some kind.  Maybe a singer.  But she's a good hostess.  People laugh and interact with whatever she's saying.  I didn't pay attention.

This is one of Korea's traditional musical instruments that I'm really keen to taking pictures of.  Unfortunately, so far, this is what I could come up with.

Korean Piccolo?
Getting near closing, the hostess introduced the musicians one by one.  This guy caught my attention as his solo pieces really stood out.  To be honest, I don't know what he's using.  But they sound like a piccolo.

I'm A Fan
Just a few of the dances performed on this stage.  It's too bad that I was too late to witness the more traditional ones.  These, in my opinion, are more commercialized.

Despite the shortcomings I have, I'm still glad I got some pictures to show.  No, they don't look good enough to flaunt, but I'll keep these to remind me of my failures from my own doing.

     I gave up.  But I really don't want to waste what I've been through to come here. I decided, I'll try recording video instead.  Yeah, I got poor results but it's still much much better than getting crappy still shots.

     When the program was over, I hang around for a while, wondering what I should do next.  It's too late for a bus back home, yet the night is still young.  I'm surprised at what I saw next.

     In the light came out these crowd of Korean photographers with their gears and all.  Smiles and chats all around.  It was so endearing that I felt envy.  I wish I belong to this crowd.  They seem friendly to each other and non-competitive.  They don't look like the snobs I've seen before.  Some of them pass by me and with a nod and a smile.  One of them even greeted me, "소고하세요."... I should use the word "yearn".  These people made me want to know them.  Be with them.  I feel like these people aren't such elitist pros, but more friendly enthusiasts.  But alas, I don't have the guts to talk to them.  They're all rushing to get out anyway.  I could only wish that I'd meet them again.

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