I began teaching in Korea in the winter time, which has its charm for sure. It’s nice to cozy up in layers and hike through primarily brushy trails and leaf litter or just have hot drinks with friends. But I’m definitely partial to hot weather. One of the most glorious signs of warm days ahead is the mass bloom of cherry blossom trees around South Korea. In this blog I will talk about the ways I have been able to enjoy this first sign of Spring over the last couple of weekends.
I didn’t understand the hype around cherry blossoms for a while, but I was rapidly humbled once they came to fruition. All over Gaegeum, my town, billowy pink blossoms lined the streets like low-hanging clouds. I decided to travel two consecutive weekends to see the best of the cherry blossoms in Gyeongju and Jinhae.
Gyeongju is just an hour long bus trip from Gaegeum, located near South Korea’s southeast. Even if you don’t go to see the cherry blossoms, I recommend Gyeongju for anyone curious about traditional Korean culture. There are several UNESCO World Heritage sites, as many impressive tombs, temples, and landmarks from the 7th-9th century still stand throughout the city.
I was immediately struck by the calm of the city. Coming from Busan, I’m now fairly used to tall buildings and buzzing cars and people. Gyeongju’s beautiful landscapes and agricultural environment made me nostalgic of the countrysides I’ve known for most of my life.
I visited Bulguska temple, Seokguram temple, Cheomseongdae, Gyeongju National Museum, and Daereungwon Tomb Park. This blog post would be pages long if I detailed each visit, so I’ll leave you with pictures ! My friends and I were a bit early to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom but they were still spectacular.
Jinhae was the following weekend’s trip and a totally different experience. Located in Changwon city, Jinhae is primarily an impressive naval base surrounded by mountains and known for the its cherry blossom festival. Each spring there is a 10-day festival that attracts millions of natives and tourists alike to enjoy the blossoms, music, food, and all around bustle. There was a military parade complete with well-choreographed dance contests and airshows.
The main attraction of the Jinhae Gunhangje Festival is the Yeojwacheon Starlight Festival, an evening affair where Yeojwacheon Stream and Romance Bridge are decorated with lights and blossoms. It’s especially popular with couples. I wrote a previous blog post on Twinning in South Korea– there was no shortage of twins in Jinhae for the cherry blossoms! It seemed so utterly like a fairy tale, but this one was filled with thousands of selfie-sticks to document each special moment.
Also, it’s important to note that I was almost deterred from going because everyone, Koreans and coworkers alike, told me how packed Jinhae would be. It genuinely wasn’t so bad, and I tend to avoid heavily populated events. If anything the sheer number of twinning couples was mesmerizing and worth the trip.
If you do come to teach in Korea, definitely take advantage of seeing the country come into bloom during cherry blossom season as it is a great way to say goodbye to winter and hello to the warmer days of Spring and Summer.
Linda Gaida was raised in Spartanburg, South Carolina and graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2016 with a degree in Romance Languages. While passionate about environmental studies and conservation, her interests now lean towards education! Her curiosities and studies have taken her to Romania, Portugal, Peru, India, and now South Korea, where she works as an English teacher for ChungDahm Learning in Busan. Deciding to teach abroad was an easy decision to make for Linda: while she gets to experience a culture foreign to her own, she is able to benefit the global society by teaching children English and helping them pursue their own ambitions. Linda is also interested in yoga, climbing, hiking, backpacking (anything involving movement), cooking and writing poetry.