Editor’s Note: The Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival was held on April 4th, 2015, so keep this one in your pocket to check it out next year!
CONTRIBUTED BY JANVIKA SHAH
Spring is a delightful time in Korea as the trees starting growing little green leaves and then seemingly overnight, some trees suddenly erupt with many tiny pink and white flowers.
One of the best places to view and capture the beautiful cherry blossom trees is Jinhae, a small coastal town surrounded by pine tree-studded mountains on the southern tip of the South Korean peninsula.
Up to two million visitors flock to Jinhae in late March and early April to witness over 300,000 cherry trees in full bloom. The annual cherry blossom festival has become one of the largest spring festivals in Korea It’s a popular destination for couples, families, international visitors and anyone owning a selfie stick!
The festival is also a commemoration to the service of Admiral Lee Sun-shin who is also known as Yi Soon-shin, a famous naval commander who fended off a Japanese invasion. Amidst the various cherry blossom activities, there’s an afternoon military parade and the Naval Academy Museum to visit as well.
Aware that bus and train ticket lines would be extremely long, my friends and I signed up for a When in Korea (WINK) tour from Daegu to Jinhae on Saturday, April 4th. With an early bird and group discount, the fee was 22,000 won for transportation to and from Jinhae as well as a mini sandwich.
I usually prefer to venture out to various towns in Korea solo but for a very crowded and popular festival, opting for an organized tour bus was a great choice! I didn’t have to worry about bus or train tickets selling out, and I knew when exactly I’d be departing.
The tour bus dropped us off at Gyeonghwa Station. The oncoming train, mountainous backdrop and canopy of cherry blossom trees created quite the picturesque and romantic view I was imagining. With each oncoming train, several avid photographers would jump on the tracks, trying to snap that perfect picture before being shooed off by patrolling safety officers.
The next destination, Yeojwacheon Stream, was even more beautiful and crowded. The town had installed various sculptures, wire ornaments and other art pieces in the stream for the festival. The ornaments ranged from hearts to umbrellas to zoo animals. Apparently, the stream is even more romantic for couples to visit at night as the ornaments are embellished in little tea lights.
I really enjoyed the plethora of snack stalls along the stream and in various parts of the town. You could find a range of drinks from coffee to freshly squeezed lemonade. The food included Korean traditional street snacks, roasted pork, cotton candy, corn on the cob, kebabs and strawberries on a stick.
We did not make it back to the stream at night or to the tower for a sweeping overlook of the town, because at approximately 4pm the sky opened up and there was a huge downpour! Convenience stores began to sell out of ponchos, cafes filled up beyond capacity and restaurants were packed as everyone sought shelter from the heavy rain.
We finally found a chicken restaurant and the owner was kind enough to give us a private room where we spent the next few hours playing card games and eating chicken. Even with the rain, the streets of Jinhae looked lovely with little white and pink flower petals floating away in the runoff.
We arrived in Jinhae at 12pm and nine hours later, departed Jinhae to go back to Daegu. Even with the exit traffic and rain, we still arrived in Daegu on time. Overall, this trip to Jinhae was worth the crowded atmosphere to me for the beautiful photos captured and a good time with my friends!