Lotus Lantern Festival, Korea

To celebrate Buddha’s birthday, most temples in Korea have some sort of celebration.  At Jogyesa Temple in Seoul, this takes the form of a weekend festival full of entertainment.  Due to some extenuating circumstances, my friend and I were not able to get to the temple on Saturday, when the majority of the events were planned, but we did make it on Sunday, to check out the arts and craft booths, and watch a lantern parade.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen, and I’m so glad we decided to go.

The trip to the temple was surprisingly easy.  It was located just outside a subway stop on my subway line, which made for a stress free journey.  (I tend to stress a bit, because I get lost all. the. time.)

We arrived and were greeted with a street festival.  The entire street was lined with booths.  There were arts and craft booths, social awareness booths, food tents, everything you could want from a street fair.

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We skipped the food tents in search of more substance from a nearby restaurant.  Luckily the Insadong area has so many great places to eat, it was pretty easy to find something.  We took the first small side street/alley off the main shopping street and came to a super cute restaurant that not only had seafood pajeon, but seafood chapjae as well.  De.lic.ious. Plus the restaurant was beautiful, and they sat us near an open window/wall deal.

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You know it’s a good meal in Korea when you don’t even eat the side dishes…

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(excuse the partially eaten pajeon… we couldn’t wait for pictures)

After eating we headed back to the shopping street.  I had only been to Insadong once, back when I lived in Korea a few years ago.  I was excited to see that my favorite place is still thriving.

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It is an entire shopping mall of independent, artsy crafty, shops.  It’s like a real life etsy.  And it’s wonderful.  We didn’t have too much time to look around, because it was almost time for the main attraction- the lantern parade.

Now, as I said before, I didn’t really have much context for what a lantern parade would entail.  (I feel like I say that a lot on this blog…)  I knew what lotus lanterns are, and figured it would be a parade of them.  No so.

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These lanterns were giant, lit, intricately painted, paper sculptures.  It was phenomenal.  But the artwork was seriously amazing.

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It was like watching the Rose parade, but paper instead of flowers.  Or the Macy’s parade, but on the ground instead of floating.

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In addition to the large lanterns, there were many groups of dancers, musicians, and children in the parade.

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There were also many different types of smaller, hand held lanterns.  My favorite were the moons.

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I also loved that their hanboks (traditional Korean clothing) resembled lotus flowers.  So pretty, and in my favorite colors as well.  If given a choice, I would have joined with the moons.

After the parade, we went up to the temple to see the lotus lanterns displayed there.

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One thing I loved here were the smaller lanterns that were popular characters in Korea. My favorite, was Neo, one of my favorite Kakao Talk characters.

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In addition to all that was the actual lanterns at the temple.  Which were stunning.

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Seriously though, this tree was everything to me.

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And then we saw the jolliest Buddha I’ve ever seen.  So cute.

 

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They had a lot of performers performing in front of the temple, but my camera battery died as we were leaving the temple.  So you’ll just have to imagine that part.  🙂  All in all, a great afternoon, and definitely something you should make the time to go see if you happen to find yourself near Seoul on Buddha’s birthday! 😉

 

 

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Jindo Sea Parting Festival, Korea

The Jindo Sea Parting Festival wasn’t even on my radar.  I had never heard of it before.  But some friends of mine were talking about going, and everyone had heard great things about it… and since they were all going, I decided “why not?!” We all signed up for a trip down to Jindo, another of the islands on the south coast.  As the trip grew closer, I actually researched the festival a little, and saw what the trip was going to be like, and it actually seemed really fun.  So I got pretty excited about it.  In anticipation, I watched the movie Exodus, and imagined that was what it was going to be like.

Not so much.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We left from Seoul at about 10pm on a friday night, driving all night to arrive at the seashore at about 5am.  We quickly grabbed torches, and set off on the 5:30am torch walk.  It was a good introduction to the festival, but I was a wee bit tired.  My torch was majestic, though.

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The sea doesn’t completely part during the early tide, so we could only walk out about half a kilometer or so.  But it was definitely interesting.  Not least because, while the torches look very cool, they didn’t reallllly light the ground so well, and it was pretty slippery.  Also, there were a lot of pools that seeeeemed really shallow.  But then you were suddenly knee deep in ocean.

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After our morning torch walk, we went to our pension to sleep and rest up for the actual festival.  The main area of the festival was pretty crowded, there were lots of places selling food, and an international area selling food from other countries.  It was a good time, but soon it was time for us to head to our boat.

One thing I was very happy about on our trip was that we were taking a boat out to the island and walking back to the mainland.  Rather than walking from the mainland to the island with everyone else.  And the island of Mordor (seriously) was a wonderfully quiet little fishing village.

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We were on the island for a few hours, waiting for the sea to part.  I think now is the time to address my biggest issue with the sea parting festival.  The sea didn’t part… it was extremely low tide.  And basically a sandbar that stretched between the two islands.  When the tide is low enough you can walk across.  In high school, my best friend had a summer house on the beach, and there was an island off the coast that you could walk to during low tide everyday.  So, maybe I was a little jaded.  But #tides.

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The walkway started to show pretty early, but it took a long time for it to actually go down far enough that we could walk all the way across.  I spent the time walking around the beach collecting shells (because apparently I am still a 12 year old at heart)

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They get so few visitors to the island that no one really picks up shells, so there were some beautiful shells there.  Including this one:

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I had never seen a shell like that before, and was pretty sure i had found either A) a new species of sea animal or B) a fossil.  Upon returning home I signed up for a shell collector’s message board and was promptly informed it was a worm shell.  New to me, but not so exciting for anyone else.

Finally, it was time for us to walk across back to the main island.

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What I was not really expecting was to see so many marine animals on the walk, but it became my mission to find them.  Unfortunately, other than the tons and tons of clams that could be seen squirting water up, there wasn’t too much to see.  Except: This octopus did not get the memo that the sea would be parting.

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Neither did this starfish.

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And this snail might have gotten the memo… but it did not move fast enough.

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Upon returning to the other side, we headed back to the hotel for dinner and sleep before setting off for Busan in the morning to take part in the Holi Hai festival.  It was also a lot of fun, but unfortunately, I didn’t take my camera because there was so much paint flying.

I’m so glad I had friends that had their eye out for cool festivals.  It was a lot of fun, glad I went.  And definitely something I had not really planned on doing.