Last Updated: 2/27/17
If you think that Korea’s Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival is just another celebration, think again. It’s an awesome experience and worth your time. Lots of people go from Seoul to Jinhae but we left from Gwangju. Here’s the day as it unfolded.
Visiting the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival
For once, we put our fates in someone else’s hands. I guess stepping onto a plane or train does the same but for Jinhae’s Cherry Blossom Festival, we’re hooking up with a local tour group to witness one of Korea’s 50 Beautiful Places to see. We tagged along with Pedro Kim of Lonely Korea, thanks to his reputation fro delivering solid travel experiences.
Normally we never take tours and to be frank, I don’t like them. Ok, not all but those groups whose sole motive is to storm upon tourist destinations throughout the world and fill them to the brim with people are generally unaware of anything; other than the location of the flag-bearing leader. THAT, to me, is the enemy of all things sane and right in this life.
Pedro’s the Man
This was different. Aside from the ride to Jinhae, we were free to go anywhere. One person who came with our group even arranged for separate transportation back home with friends. I love having that freedom to just choose my tour without worrying about the market-researched stops that would fit best with 100+ strangers.
Other than a few stops off the highway to and from Jinhae, this journey was our own and absolutely MY style. I’d wanted to do a trip with Pedro for quite a long time and can see why his trips fill up so quickly. We chatted for a bit on the bus and I came away feeling there’s no corner of the country nor uncovered gem that Pedro hasn’t seen. And though he’s quite the traveler, Mr. Lonely Korea is still modest about it all. I’d absolutely go on another trip with him in a heartbeat.
Words can’t describe just how much food surrounds this festival. It’s overwhelming to see such variety when we come from a suburb that doesn’t offer as much western stuff! This is the real deal. In Jinhae, a scene bordering on food porn dominates the stage. I’m too frazzled to take a picture of the stuff that gets devoured by us.
Seemingly everywhere one can find whole pigs roasting over the open flame, Turkish kebab stands, and one particular spot where my friend and I completely double-take upon hearing shouts of “we’ve got hamburgers, real American beer here!” from an actual American guy and his friends. Each little alley leads to a new discovery and I start to feel like it’s paradise.
Sure, the blossoms are on their way out as early as the previous Friday. It’s practically impossible to time these flower festivals without luck and a more flexible schedule but still, this was a worthwhile trip. Yeojwacheon stream is hectic but full of beautiful sights. Seeing things from above the 1-year stairs (365 steps to the top) offers a necessary and gorgeous 360 view of the entire festival.
The People are Happy
It can be easy to forget just how jolly Koreans become during festival time. Despite the enormous crowds and occasional elbows from old ladies, people are generally happy and friendly to interact with during a festival. Most of these events are usually meant to preserve past ideas and memories and in Jinhae’s case, the Cherry Blossom Festival coincides with parades that recognize the famous Admiral Yi Sun Shin and his victory over Japanese invaders nearly 500 years ago. Music is booming and people laughing all over the place.
I Want More
People just seem to be in good spirits at these events and happiness is contagious. I want more festivals and for them to happen more than once or twice a year. That’s one of the many reasons traveling around this country is required for those of us living here. Seeing smiles on people’s faces are what make life in Korea worth trying, and visiting the various cities and events help one find them. If you’re traveling to Korea and want to see a good time away from Seoul, the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival should be your first choice.
As for me on this day, I’d been needing a recharge of my love for this country after the dreary winter months and a vacation away to greener pastures. Seeing flowers start to bloom was the beginning and this festival brought it out in full force. Spring in Korea is about many things but for me, it’s about a renewal of my love for living here. Thank you, Jinhae, for giving me a reboot.
Getting to the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival
Courtesy of Korea Tourism
From Seoul’s Nambu Bus Terminal, you can take an intercity bus to Jinhae (진해) and after arriving, walk about 30 meters ahead towards Jungwondong-ro (중원동로) and turn right there. Walk for another 400 meters and stay left at the fork in the road. Walk another 200 meters and you’ll arrive at the festival venue.
Bonus Tip: Traffic is a nightmare getting into the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival so I’d recommend you take the train in and avoid all the gridlock that happens in this small town that usually doesn’t handle so many cars. The scenery is beautiful from the train and it’s much easier than driving/riding on four wheels. Trust me!
Update: Lonely Korea is inactive as of 2017. If you have a tour group to recommend, I’d love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments section below:)