Tag Archives: Lantern Festival

Falling in love with fall in Korea

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Falling in love with fall in Korea

Ask me what my favourite season is and I will tell you it’s summer every single time.  I live for flip flops and sundresses and slurpees,  and long, lazy evenings.  I have even taken to perpetually chasing summer as much as I can, in the form of vacations during winter and life abroad in warmer countries (fortunately (!?) nearly everywhere qualifies as ‘warmer’ when you hail from Canada!).

But this year I am really, super digging fall.  Fall in Korea is unparalleled.  It’s picture-book-perfect fall.  Busan sees temperatures as high as the mid twenties through until early November, with the evenings pleasantly dropping to the mid teens.  You can wear a tee during the day and go for a splendid hike, then switch into jeans and a light sweater to get through the evenings (I know some of you crazy kids long for “sweater weather”!).  Furthermore, this slow descent into winter allows the leaves to lazily change colour.  They’ve been turning for weeks, now!  BIt by bit, golden hues into orange and red flames, against a still-green backdrop.

I’m surprised to admit that I am enjoying fall here in Korea so much more than I enjoyed the summer.  Summers with 80% and higher humidity most days really are just too hot.  Believe me, I am as shocked as you to hear myself utter (write) those words.  But it’s true.  It feels like you are slogging through a mud puddle everywhere you go.  Decidedly UNsexy and also a bit exhausting.  Fall, by contrast, is exhilarating!  For starters, it’s red wine season again!  (I’m kidding.  NO I’M NOT.)  The nature is beautifeous (I’d like to make that a word), the weather is resplendent, the days are not too short yet, baseball games abound (and they are FUN), I daresay the Koreans themselves are at their best – they love fall, too – and there are festivals nonstop.

Did I mention that?  Fall is festival season in Korea!  There’s a festival, big or small, every week (or at the very least, weekEND) from September through early November.  There’s the famous Jinju Lantern Festival that I wrote about last week, there was the Sea Art Festival before that, and there are countless other festivals big and small, dotted throughout the country.  Busan has one every weekend, somewhere!  Two weeks ago there was the Jagalchi Market festival and this weekend Book Alley is having one.  I’m not lying when I tell you there’s a festival for everyone.

To sum: I love fall in Korea, fall in Korea is fabulous, and if you plan to visit Korea, fall is the time to do it.  Trust me on this.  Spring is good, it’s true…but fall is the Korean season to fall in love with.

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It doesn't even look real!

It doesn’t even look real!

Jinju Lantern Festival

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This time last year, shortly after we had arrived in Korea, I found out about the infamous Jinju Lantern Festival.  It sounded awesome.  Lots of pretty lanterns, all lit up, and people can make their own and set them adrift on the river!?  Sign me up!  But as we had just missed it, I was resigned to waiting out the year to catch it the next time around.  And of course, I very nearly missed it again!  Thank goodness my students and I were brainstorming all the things I should fit in before I leave 🙂

The festival did not disappoint.  We headed up there just for an afternoon (it’s about a 1.5 hour bus ride from Busan – scroll to bottom for more details on getting there) and had checked our expectations ahead of time.  Since our history here has been to feel let down after making the trek to some town, sight, or festival, we did not plan to be blown away.  And I think it is for this reason, in large part, that we had such a nice time.  Which isn’t to say the festival itself wasn’t also great.  It was!  It was such a pleasant surprise.  It was organized, fun, charming, and enjoyable.

Potentially adding to all of this pleasure was the fact that it was a lot like a festival as we (Jon and I, westerners, Canadians) might expect when we hear the word ‘festival’.  There were booths selling goods and crafts and food, some fair games like balloon darts and the ring toss, there were people making lanterns (alas, the lines were a bit long), and there were A LOT of lanterns everywhere.  Everyone seemed in good spirits – even the vendors!  Just charming.  If you want a good festival experience in Korea, this is the one I recommend.  Go in the afternoon to check out the stalls and maybe make your own lantern (we didn’t, sadly), make a wish upon it,  and stay into the evening to see everything all lit up.  You won’t regret it.

Jon and I mostly wandered around sampling the food, drinking the beer, enjoying slurpees(!!) and hanging out.  It was a good time.  But we like that kinda thing.  Also, the river and surrounding area is really nice.  Even though it got quite busy towards the evening, it felt small-town and peaceful.

Here are some of my pictures.  There are not a lot because the real beauty happens at night when the entire place is lit up, but my camera is horrible and does not do night pics (something I hope to remedy sooner rather than later).  As you can hopefully see, an entire section of the river was filled with giant lanterns of all shapes, sizes, and (yes!) cultural representations.  There was a whole Disney section with an Ariel, a Pinocchio, Beauty and the Beast, and more.  There were tons of Korean warriors and dragons and tigers.  There was a Statue of Liberty and an entire Canadian section with six Mounties on one, a huge maple leaf as another, two giant bear lanterns that were playing a little one-on-one, and even a Niagara Falls!  That was an exciting discovery, just as we were leaving, no less 🙂  There were also several loooooong lantern walkways – one with the ‘official’ lanterns that I think people made wishes on, and one with all the crazy, unique, personal lanterns that people made.

Check them out, but definitely go if you’re in Korea in October.  The festival usually runs through the beginning of October for about 10 days and the whole atmosphere was an upbeat one – festive, if you will 😉

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Seriously, sorry for the lousy photos.  Hopefully you get the idea and understand that my camera is NOT doing it justice.  I know what my next purchase needs to be!

*To get to Jinju from Busan you need to grab a bus from the Seobu Terminal (Sasang where the green and brown line meet).  The buses leave every few minutes for the festival, cost is ₩7,700 and the ride is under 1.5 hours.  There were lines and a bit of a wait both ways because of the festival, so give yourself some buffer time.  But things moved pretty quickly.