Gunhangje – A Cherry Blossom Festival in South Korea

I love cherry blossoms. On a Sunday morning in April, I ticked off another point on my South Korean bucket list when I went to the 51st Jinhae Cherry Blossom (gunhangje) Festival – South Korea’s biggest cherry blossom festival. 

The Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival in South Korea

The Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival in South Korea

The Travel Liz - sitting in a food stall at the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival

The Travel Liz - having fun at a food stall at the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival

 

More about Jinhae

Jinhae (formerly known as Chinhae) is a charming district located in Changwon City, about an hour from Busan.  During April the long streets and famous “romantic bridge” turn into a cherry blossom paradise. Fairy lights in heart and square shapes are also added.

Fairy lights and cherry blossoms... oh, how romantic!

Fairy lights and cherry blossoms… oh, how romantic!

More about the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival

Since Jinhae was developed as a naval base during the Japanese occupation in the beginning of the 20th century, the theme for the festival is “a cherry blossom girl meets the military man”. Military parades (and men in military outfits!) are also some of the main attractions of this festival. More than 1 million people attend this cherry blossom festival every year.

The theme: a cherry blossom girl meets a military man.

The theme: a cherry blossom girl meets a military man.

Cherry blossoms in the evening

Cherry blossoms in the evening

What to do and see?

I thought this festival would be a picnic-like festival – people sitting around, staring at the blossoms. Boy, was I wrong! It was very much a typical festival: lots of street food, people, music and street artists – everything Korean though. The smell of cooked silk worms, raw seafood and Korean corn was in the air. Other strange Korean foods were also a common sight. Delicious, some would say.

Cooked silk worms and snails...

Cooked silk worms and snails…

Not really sure what this is, but if my interpretation of the Korean explanation is correct, then it’s octopus and rice stuffed into something.

Would you like a baby bird to nibble on?

Would you like a baby bird to nibble on?

Cherry blossom bread

This special flower-shaped waffle-like bread, filled with red bean paste and (apparently) cherry blossom extract, can be bought at many of the street stalls during the festival. It’s about 3000 Won per packet – less than the price of one coffee. It tasted exactly like all the other South Korean red bean paste pastries I’ve tried before – I didn’t taste flowers.

Cherry blossom bread

Cherry blossom bread

This is how cherry blossom bread is made. I think they should call it "cherry blossom waffle" waffle or donut instead...

This is how cherry blossom bread is made. I think they should call it “cherry blossom waffle/donut” instead…

South Korean performances

I particularly enjoyed watching the performances on the main stage. I saw little boys dancing with swords, older guys chopping things with swords, traditional dances and even some Korean cheerleaders and line dancers

South Korean sword dancing

South Korean sword dancing

South Korean traditional dance - performed by old Korean ladies

South Korean traditional dance – performed by old Korean ladies

I've met some super friendly Korean ladies who wore traditional outfits. I could feel how proud they were about their traditions and culture.

Interesting sight: traditional Asian outfits

Interesting sight: traditional Asian outfits

The “romantic bridge” of Jinhae

The must-see spot in Jinhae, is the famous “romantic bridge”.  My South Korean friends explained that it’s famous because a few romantic episodes of a Korean TV series were recorded on this bridge.  Korean couples taking photos of themselves on the bridge, is a common sight. Sometimes it’s cute; sometimes it’s awkward…

The view from the "romantic bridge" in Jinhae

The view from the “romantic bridge” in Jinhae

 

My cherry blossom epiphany

One of my most precious memories of the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival, was sitting next to the cherry blossom trees while being sketched by a South Korean sketch artist. The Korean people, young and old, stopped to stare at me.  

The work space of the South Korean sketch artist who sketched me

The work space of the South Korean sketch artist who sketched me

The Travel Liz - sketched in Jinhae

And here he is: a South Korean sketch artist in Jinhae

And here he is: a South Korean sketch artist in Jinhae

And that’s when it hit me: if this scene happened back in my home country, South Africa, I would feel completely out-of-place. Why are people staring at me? Bright red blushing and girly giggles would be on my “menu”, but here I was different. I was calm and just took in all the friendly, foreign looks. I’m getting so used to being stared at in South Korea, that it felt completely normal sitting on my own in the “spotlight”. The Travel Liz - attending the 51st Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival

Traveling alone has changed me in strange ways, but I think I like who I am becoming.

  

 

 

2 thoughts on “Gunhangje – A Cherry Blossom Festival in South Korea

  1. Reynel Kruger
    April 21, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    Ek kan met eerlikheid se^ ek is groen. Pragtige fotos. Wat a reis!

    1. liz
      April 24, 2013 at 11:02 am

      Dankie vir die boodskap. Ek geniet elke oomblik in Suid-Korea ( :

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