Springtime in Korea is without a doubt my favorite season. It's often far too short for my taste, but while it's here, it's wonderful. Green bits of grass are finally popping up, new leaves are sprouting on the trees, and the cherry blossoms are blooming in full force. 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.
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.
Entrance 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.
The 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.
Canopy of white and pink.
The 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.
One of the rows of booths.
New favorite drummer.
This 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.
Pungmul in action.
Perched in a tree, watching the performance.
If you want to see the cherry blossoms this spring, make sure you go soon! Not only is the festival in Seoul ending this coming weekend, but the blossoms were already starting to fall apart. While it was kind of magical to walk through the tunnel of blossoms as petals swirled all around us, I fear that it means the flowers won't last too much longer! This is definitely something that can't be missed if you're in Korea during the spring.
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:
Have you spent time looking at cherry blossoms in Korea? What are your favorite spots? Leave a comment below!
Between studying Japanese and Asian culture in university and setting her sights on a teaching career, it came as no surprise when Zannah Smreker announced that she was moving to South Korea to teach for Chungdahm Learning. In November 2011, Zannah accepted a position through Aclipse with the Songdo branch in Incheon, just southwest of Seoul. When she's not teaching, she keeps herself busy with exploring Korea, eating all the street food, and hunting down strange Engrish shirts. Check out her blog here for more of her adventures!