Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lanterns, Eel, Art, and More!

To continue on our festival roll Sara, Amanda and I made the trip to Jinju last weekend.  If you recall the three of us made this trip one before, but for a a very different reason.  Reminiscing about our [attempted] hike of Jirisan made for some good jokes this weekend.  I was lucky enough to have a half day on Friday due to midterm exams so I decided to catch a mid-afternoon bus despite the fact that the other two would not be arriving until much later in the evening.  I'm not sure what I did wrong but I've had some stinky luck with buses recently, literally.  This time it was a man who though bathing in cologne would be a good idea before a 2.5 hour bus ride with 20 other strangers, thank you kind sir.  My bus pulled into town just after 5pm so after checking into our motel, conveniently located right across and down the river from the festival, I decided to go explore - as luck would have it I was just in time for the sunset. 

The festival grounds were enormous, much bigger than I had originally expected. I began on the same side of the river as our motel and figured i'd make a giant loop of the attractions.  There were different areas showcasing Korean, world traditional,  symbolic lanterns from the different provinces and cities, and of course lovers lanterns.  The information booths set up around the festival had the most friendly people, one woman wanted to sit and learn my life story while telling me about her daughter that studied in Madison, however their brochures were all in Korean so the map was not of much help to me.  I started with the Jinju castle area which was covered in lanterns, I thought the majority were all in and along the river but boy was I wrong.

Lantern forest at the entrance to the fortress 

Jinju Castle
Lanterns galore
Realistic, buuuut distrubing
Chicken catching? 

After wandering the castle area and surrounding park I discovered that I was starving, but it appeared that the majority of the food vendors were on the opposite side of the river.  I was originally planning to walk to the next real bridge but the route was not as easy as expected, winding up and around the castle, so instead I opted to pay the 1000 won to cross the floating bridge.  As much luck would have it a crew of middle school boys decided to cross at the same time, they were as annoying as you might imagine, but the view was pretty cool. 
Safely on the other side I emerged near the lantern tunnels which were created from participants hanging wishing lanterns along the path, creating quite an impressive display.  This side of the river held a much better view of the floating lanterns which I enjoyed while eating a Kebab from one of the international food vendors, overpriced? maybe, delicious? definitely.  The lanterns were all pretty impressive, some beautiful, some funny and some just strange.  I eventually made my way up near the street where there was an interesting display of lanterns among the bamboo grove, aptly dubbed "Lovers' street lanterns".  Although the area was swarming with matching couples it was one of my favorite areas of the festival, I think I have a thing for bamboo.  On the other end of the grove was an area with the Chinese zodiac lanterns, thankfully I went back with Amanda and Sara so I could get my picture with the Dragon (apparently Dragon babies are good luck/awesome in Korea - as expected).  This area also had awesome lights in the trees and a nearby lit up fountain  both of which were beautiful.  

Hanging lantern tunnel
I want this

1 second fencing debacle of 2012 Olympics
Once Sara and Amanda got into town we retraced some of my previous steps, taking more pictures of, and with, the lanterns  but then decided that it was time for food (11 pm is the normal dinner hour, right?).  Sara had yet to eat dinner and my [bit size] kebab wasn't cutting it.  Lucky for us Amanda has a co-teacher that grew up in Jinju and upon hearing we were in his hometown recommended a restaurant for us to try, even specifying what food and drink to order.  We of course had no idea where this restaurant was, but the over-the-top helpful girl at the information booth decided she'd personally walk us there - seriously Korean people rock.  So, what's on the menu for dinner you may be wondering?  None other than BBQ Eel and black raspberry wine, all I can say is that our food was gone in about 10 minutes, it was that good.  

The next day we started our day at Paris Baguette for coffee and breakfast before exploring the festival grounds by day.  The lanterns weren't quite as impressive in the daylight but we still managed to have some fun.  While wandering we came close to E-mart so decided to go in and explore, hoping to find some of the delicious wine we had enjoyed the night before.  It's amazing how entertaining a grocery store can be while living in a different country, I think we spent close to an hour wandering the isles.  Back to the festival grounds where we saw some more lanterns, lots of food vendors trying to pull us into their stalls (literally, I had to shake a few off me - annoying) and various other tents selling traditional and not so traditional items.  There's a huge building on the south side of the river which we were all curious about so steered ourselves in that direction.  Turns out the building is an art center/concert hall and there was an exhibition going on that weekend.  Happy to get out of the sun and away from the crowds for a while we decided to check it out.  

The rest of the day was spent wandering the vendors, people watching, eating delicious 비뱜밮, and catching a traditional Korean Hanbok fashion show; eventually ending with Sara and Amanda seeing me off at the bus terminal.  I decided to make the trip back Saturday night as I had some things to get done Sunday and didn't want to spend the day in-transit.  Thankfully this bus ride was much more enjoyable than the last, although I did get shooed at by the bus driver for putting my feet up on the wall in front of me, my bad. After a few weekends of long bus travel, followed with some day trips on the city bus (#15 makes me want to vomit with all of it's twisting and turning) I can say I genuinely miss having a car. 
Front row, somewhat frightening, bus ride home


  1. thanks for sharing.

  2. the lanterns look awesome. Some reminded me of something I'd see in Avatar on Pandora. Pretty sweet. Truly envious of your time in Korea and hope my time will come as well. Either way, we'll need to get Korean food in Korea or OCB in Sconnie and talk about your adventures in person depending on how things pan out.