Sunday, April 26, 2015

53rd Jinhae Gunhangje (Jinhae, Korea)

The sole purpose of going to Korea this time was to view cherry blossoms. And if we were going Korea to see cherry blossoms, we might as well go to the most popular festival- the one at Jinhae.

We took the 1 a.m. bus from Express Bus Terminal to Masan (64,000 won for round trip, price depends on timing.) Barely recovering from the red eye flight the previous night, here we were taking the train at ungodly hours, hoping that we might fight the crowds expected at the festival. The seats on the bus were very spacious and comfortable (more comfortable than the economy class flight seats in any event).


We reached Masan bus terminal at 4+ a.m.

I was admittedly in a bad mood due to a multitude of factors. I hadn't slept well on the bus (despite the comfortable seats). I hadn't recovered from the bad sleep the previous night on the flight. It was raining and cold.

Soldiering on (after getting lost by public transport), we reached the stream at 6+ a.m. Except for a few avid photographers and joggers, we were the only ones around. The city was slowly rousing from its sleep, while the pink cherry blossoms fluttered gently to the ground after a heavy rain.


The first stop was Yeojwa Stream. This, alone, was enough to convince me that my decision to visit Korea in April was correct. The thing with cherry blossoms is that you require a fair amount of fate to view them. These delicate blossoms usually last no more than 2 weeks. The stars were aligned and my cherry blossom dreams have come true.


It was a peaceful walk along the streams, a drastic contrast to the scene when the crowds started flooding in after 9 a.m. 

After walking along the streams, we proceeded to Jinhae Inland Water Eco Park. There were no signs of colour in the park yet as spring has just begun to make its entrance. Instead, what we saw was this rather dream-like image.


We then walked to Jehwangsan Park. There was the option of a monorail or you could just walk the 365 steps up.


While deciding whether to take the monorail or walk up the steps, we saw this. 


My friend and I are now at a stage of life where we are no longer blessed by this wonderful thing called high metabolic rate. To slow down the process of transforming from the person on the right into the person on the left, we decided to take the steps up.

It was a leisurely and quick walk up the 365 steps.

There were interesting sights on the way up, including cartoon characters made of what seems like tracing paper material. We then took the lift from Jinhae Tower (which symbolises a Korean naval warship) to the top floor where we had a bird eye's view of the city- for free. 



Aside from seeing the cherry blossoms, we went to the Naval Academy. The Naval Academy is only open during the festival and we had to pay a fee to enter. There was a long queue to get onto the ship but alas, it was a rather patronising walk around the ship. If you asked me, I would say don't waste your time here.


By the time we got back to the main activity ground, the tents were all set up and the area was bustling with life.


Our last stop before heading back to the terminal was Gyeonghwa Station. Apparently, that's where photographers would take pictures of cherry blossoms being swept up when the train slowly chugs in. We didn't see the train in the end but we saw hordes of people where the train will supposedly come through. Instead, it was the journey to Gyeonghwa Station that was more interesting- it's like walking on the Rail Corridor, with cherry blossoms to accompany you along the way. 


One lesson I took away from visiting the festival is,  the early bird gets the worm. Wherever we went (minus the Gyeonghwa Station), we were one of the few people around because it was still early.  In exchange, you get moments of peace and more opportunities to soak in the charm of the cherry blossoms. 

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