Cheonggyecheon, February 2015. I was approaching the end of my second stint in Beijing when another Chinese New Year Holiday rolled around. Two glorious weeks off and I could go anywhere I wanted. I weighed up a trip to Japan, but the associated costs seemed exorbitant. Then my buddy Anthony pretty much insisted I went to Seoul, the beloved city he’d called home for six years. In fact, so enthusiastic was he; that he got in touch with a bunch of his old pals to make sure I got the most out of my experience. Their hospitality was astounding. I stayed with Irish Andy, who put me up in the spare room of his apartment. Then there was Jacob, Brandon and Connect, who spent a day showing me around. This shot was taken at Cheonggyecheon, an eight and a half kilometre stream that runs through the heart of the city. A quirky, tranquil escape from the chaotic buzz of central Seoul, it opened in 2005 and cost a staggering 386 billion won ($281 million).
Cheonggye Plaza, February 2015. This popular square sits at the head of the stream, landmarked by the towering Spring Sculpture and a two-tiered waterfall. On the day of my visit, we were able to stop a while and take part in some traditional Korean games. There were groups of men playing a version of Jianzi (shuttlecock) and a bizarre giant board game called Yutnori, which involved the tossing of large foam sticks. The old dear in this photo was having a right old hoot playing Tuho, the throwing of wooden arrows into a narrow-necked jar. Good clean fun for all the family.
Gonk Deok Food Market, February 2015. I was on my way back home one evening, after a blissful day’s lazing at Dragon Hill Spa. Suddenly realizing how ludicrously hungry I was, I jumped off the subway at a completely random stop and wandered off blindly in search of dinner. Luckily my haphazard decision paid off, as within minutes I’d stumbled across Gong Deok Food Market. With an overwhelming amount of stalls on offer, I quickly settled on this fantastic place. Filling a plastic tray with fish, crab, meat, veggies and pancakes, the whole lot was deep fried and served to me in the upstairs restaurant. Washed down with an ice-cold beer, the bill came to an insignificant 4000 won ($3.30/£2.30/ €3).
View from Ingwangsan Mountain, February 2015. Anyone planning a trip to Seoul should set aside a half day for this 338 meter mountain, located right in centre of town. On a clear day the views are said to be spectacular, though as this photo shows, I wasn’t particularly blessed on the morning of my climb. Nevertheless, the gloom lent proceedings a mystical quality and there was plenty to see during our ascent, such as the neighbouring mountain Bugaksan and the official residence of the president Cheong Wa Dae (Blue House). People watching provides plenty of giggles, especially the Koreans themselves who seem to take hiking very seriously. Indeed their branded outfits, expensive equipment and unnecessary accessories seemed more suited to a climb up Everest.
On The Subway, February 2015. Photographing people on the subway is a guilty pleasure of mine. I know I shouldn’t be doing it, but the results always turn out too damn good. The trick is to hold the camera at a discreet angle, while pasting a perplexed look across your face. As if you are fiddling with the settings in order to solve some mysterious problem. This was the first time I’ve witnessed someone actively working out on the subway. The dude on the left was leading the other two in a series of increasingly amusing arm and leg exercises. They were really into it and completely oblivious to the presence of other people.