The Philippine’s tropical climate is both a gift and a curse to us all. We rejoice once the summer sun calls us out to our beloved islands’ coasts, then suddenly thirst for a downpour once it gets a little too hot and humid for comfort. When the monsoons hit, people are peeved by wet socks and even worse traffic that we start longing for more than a pocketful of sunshine.
But that is the reality of our motherland’s mood swings. For anything beyond the choice of getting wet or staying dry, we take it outside. The biting cold of winter, the blooming colors of spring, and the fiery foliage of autumn. And for a dose of the latter, there’s no better region to explore in our continent than the far east.
The underrated Taiwan may not be the most ideal place for fall, but the sweater weather and chill as f-ck atmosphere makes up for the lack of maturing leaves. The capital boasts plenty of green spaces, and creative parks to fill your free time. But for those who want to discover why it was called Ilha Formosa by Portuguese sailors, a journey around the island might be better.
An hour by high speed rail can take you to the province of Taichung, where various themed museums, flower farms, and the controversial Rainbow Village can challenge your grid goals. Head further down and you’ll see the famed Sun Moon Lake, or take a bus north of Taipei to the town of teahouses in Jiufen.
To make up for the lack of autumn foliage, Taipei’s numerous night markets heat up the cold evening. Head to one and feast on anything that catches your senses. Yes, even if it’s the notorious stinky tofu.
Sokcho, South Korea
In South Korea, there is a place two hours away from Seoul that is a much better alternative to Nami Island. Known as the gateway to Seoraksan National Park and for its close proximity to the North Korean border (and Pokèmons, too!), Sokcho is a simple fishing town that offers affordable king crab and hot street food to complement the cool sea breeze that fills the air.
Hike down the numerous trails found in Seoraksan and race with ahjummas as they climb to the top of Ulsanbawi. Getting to the top of the rock formation can take a couple of hours, but the path is well-established and generally safe. For those who persists, the reward is a land blanketed by orange and green trees. A view that is worth all the effort.
But true fans of fall foliage may agree—nothing beats exploring Kansai in November.
In Osaka, ginkgo trees light up the dull streets of the city with a shower of tiny yellow leaves that eventually drown out the gray pavement. And a train to Kyoto will bring you to well-manicured temple gardens that have been maintained for hundreds of years, each bearing distinct qualities from one another. There is no shortage of autumn’s warm tints anywhere you go, but a long walk from Gion District’s Yasaka Shrine and Maruyama Park to the elevated temple ground of Kiyomizudera would be a great start.
The gardens in Japan have been perfectly polished and perfected over time, as if the twist of each branch have been curated by God even before it was planted.
It’s not for everyone, dying leaves and overcast skies. But if you take a moment and let the warmth of fall get through all those layers of clothing, you’ll get why some people believe it is “the year’s last, loveliest smile”.