Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Springtime in Korea = Cherry Blossoms

My favorite season in Korea is a toss up between spring and fall. Both feel rewarding because they're such stark contrasts to the preceding season's extremes. Springtime, however, might have a slight edge over fall simply because with spring comes the cherry blossoms.

To me, the cherry blossoms officially herald the beginning of sunny, warm days, and making time to see them is always on the top of my spring to-do list. I completely missed them last spring while I was home in the U.S., so this year, being as it's my last Korean spring, I was determined to get my fill.

cherry blossoms spring korea 
This year, I'd hoped to head down south to Jinhae for their huge festival, but I learned the hard way that tickets for the train need to be booked far in advance. However, it was for the best because the warm winter caused the trees in Seoul to bloom earlier than estimated this year. The annual Yeouido Spring Flower Festival was set to kick off the weekend of April 12th, but it got bumped up one week, beginning instead on the 4th. Since I wasn't going down to Jinhae, the timing was perfect to make the (much, much shorter) journey into Seoul.

cherry blossoms spring koreaEntrance to the festival at one end of the street.

I've been to this festival before so I was really looking forward to going again this year. Last time, though, I stuck to the area around the Han River. The park that lies between Mapo, Yeouido, and Yeouinaru stations and the river is just lousy with cherry blossoms. Last weekend I spent some time soaking up the sun at the park along the Han River and we saw some beautiful cherry blossoms while we wandered around.

cherry blossoms spring koreaThe Han River and the park.

While that area itself is beautiful, I didn't realize until this year that I was completely missing a more picturesque part of the festival. If you wander away from the river a bit, you'll find a street, Yeouiseo-ro (or Yunjung-no), behind the National Assembly Building that is completely lined with hundreds of trees. The trees form a tunnel in some areas along the sidewalk, which is just gorgeous.

cherry blossoms spring koreaCanopy of white and pink.

cherry blossoms spring koreaThe bright blue sky really makes the branches of blossoms pop.

The festival was packed when we arrived, with everyone moving at a leisurely pace down the street. Families, couples, bicycles, photographers -- everyone seemed to be out to enjoy the cherry blossoms and spring weather. Luckily, they have the street blocked off to cars, making it easy to wander and pause to take pictures.

Lots of booths were also set up, ranging from boutiques selling jewelry to demos of 3-D printers. There were some arts and crafts areas, all charging a low price to make bracelets, paint a fan, or just draw a picture. You could even have your portrait (slash caricature) drawn. One of the more entertaining areas was a stretch of tents full of musical instruments. It was too crowded for us to find out why all the instruments were out on display, so we just watched from afar as kids ran around playing on the drum kits and xylophones.

cherry blossoms spring koreaOne of the rows of booths.

cherry blossoms springtime koreaPortraits.

cherry blossoms springtime koreaNew favorite drummer.

cherry blossoms springtime koreaThis magician was a big hit with the kids.

Some musical performances were happening as well, from impromptu busking to a band playing on a full stage. The only performance we stopped to watch is one that always catches my attention whenever I see it -- pungmul (which historically has been known as nongak, meaning "farmers' music"), which is a traditional Korean folk music drumline. The dancing and swirling ribbons attached to the hats is mesmerizing.

cherry blossoms springtime koreaPungmul in action.

cherry blossoms springtime koreaPerched in a tree, watching the performance.

cherry blossoms springtime korea

Sadly, the cherry blossoms are all gone now. They never last long, which I hate, simply because I want the trees to look like that all the time. 

For future reference, since it's an annual thing, here's the information for how to get to the festival: 

  • National Assembly Station, Seoul Metro Line 9, Exit 1. After leaving the station, cross the street, walking towards to National Assembly Building. The cherry blossoms are along the u-shaped road that wraps around the grounds of the government buildings. This map can help as a reference of the layout of the street around the buildings:

cherry blossoms springtime korea


  1. I like your blog very much :) and I wanna go to Korea .... (next time) :)