Festival Season: Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival

March 31, 2016

First, spring fever, then festival fever! Yaaaaaaaay for 'festival season' in South Korea :) South Korea does flower festival like no other country. Just the other day was the Canola Flower Festival here on Jeju Island. And, the first two weeks of April is all about the Cherry Blossoms Festival. Sometimes the prediction is off, but usually, at the end of March into mid-April is the best time to spot these beauties. One of my favorite spring festivals in South Korea has to be Jinhae Gunhangje Festival or Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival.

About Jinhae Gunhanje Festival: Jinhae has over 100,000 cherry blossom trees. I can vouch for that because I lived for over two and a half years. I counted every single one! Just kidding, but this tiny military town is the mecca for cherry blossoms. This makes Jinhae my favorite city in South Korea. Planted during the Japanese occupation of South Korea, but were uprooted because of the bad memories it brought to the Korean people. I have been to this festival several times I can say that Koreans born before 1940 have a different feeling about these beautiful flowers. They have since been replanted, but 'rumor' has it that cherry blossoms originated from Jeju Island, South Korea and not from Japan. And, since the  'rumor' is out, people find more happiness and beauty in them that sadness these days. With over a million tourist visiting Jinhae during the festival, I think it is safe to say most Koreans have moved on, but the festival is a way to remember those tough times. This is the biggest Cherry Blossom Festival in South Korea. It is no doubt very hectic, but it is worth it. 

How to get there: Jinhae is about 40 minutes by bus from Busan and 15-20 minutes from Changwon though during the festival it is usually longer. Getting a bus from any major city to Changwon and then grabbing a local bus if you are traveling by bus. There is a bus from Sasang (Busan) directly to Jinhae. Click here for more info about transportation. If you want to bypass all the traffic, then book a train ticket, but you must purchase these months in advance. 

What to see/do? This is by far the most romantic bridge in the world. If you enjoy taking pictures or you have a slight obsession with taking many photos like myself, then this is for you. This is the most picturesque location, EVER! Two popular Korean drama were filmed here. The Wind Blows and Romance were filmed here; hence, why so many couples flock here every year. Not only for its beauty but because it is famous. That how Korea works. They should rename it Couples Cherry Blossom Festival because many couples attend each year. Yeojwacheon Stream is nicknamed Romance Bridge for obvious reason. There are tons of snacks along the way, so make sure to wear your walking shoes.

Cost: The festival is free each year.

When: The festival is held during the first weekend of April. Sometimes if the winter ends early the flowers bloom early and many locals get a chance to experience its beauty before the crowds arrive. The festival lasts for 10 days, you will only need a day or two to wander around the city. The festival goes from day to night, so there is plenty of time to roam about slowly.

Points of interest:
1. This is the only time of year that the Korean Naval Base is open to the public.  You can tour the famous turtle ship and see some of the oldest cherry blossom trees in South Korea. There are no shortages of cherry blossom trees. If you like men in uniform, then be sure to see all the sailors and officers. Also, you can try on a navy uniform just for the fun of it. I went inside the turtle ship and it was a neat experience. This bad boy is a replica of a Korean warship. Oooooohhh, how Korea has come a long way. From this turtle ship to being one of the world primer ship builders.

2. If you still have some energy after doing all of the above or in between doing some of the above. Then head up to Jehwangsan Mountain. Be prepared to tackle the 365 step staircase. You are guaranteed to feel the burn! If you would like an aerial view of Jinhae, then dig from deep and get your butt moving. If you are just too tired, lazy or just fed up with walking, then you can take a cable car(not quite a cable car, but I don't know what to call it). If you don't mind waiting awhile, then this is another way to get to the top without hyperventilating. 

3. Gyeoghwa Station is very beautiful train station when the cherry blooms are in bloom. I legit missed out on the train station walkabout many times. The railway is lined with cherry blossoms for what seemed to be an eternity. If you are single and a bit insecure around other couples, then this is not for you. If you are happy with your single self, then do some people watching. Most couples wear matching clothes and shoes. And, the men carry their lover's purses. Who said chivalry is dead? Wander around the station and take lots of photos.

Getting around: The best way to move around the city is on foot because the city is usually filled with tourists. Also, City bikes are available if that tickles your fancy. 

What to eat: BBQ, Korean pancakes, and rice wine! Like I said before, under no circumstances eat before agreeing on a price because you will be overcharged. The food prices are usually more expensive, so lead with caution if you do not speak Korean. If you are with a Korean friend, then there will be no confusions. You can indulge in BBQ, Korean pancakes, rice wine, among a ton other food selections. 

Photo overload in this post, but I could not help myself. This is by far one of the best experience I have ever had because I shared it with some amazing friends. Thanks for reading this post, see you in my next post! Stay irie! 

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