Trains lead way to spring festivals
By Do Je-hae
It has been a long winter, but there is no doubt about the onset of spring.
There is no time like the present to start preparing for a month full of spring festivals across the country, particularly if one is fond of train travel.
A small country with an intricate railway system, Korea is ideal for traveling in all seasons. One of the most relaxing, affordable and quickest ways to get to some major flower and cultural fests is by train.
Some travel agencies, like Korail Development Travel, are running seasonal programs linking spring festivities.
Here is an introduction to some of the most renowned attractions that are easily accessible by rail.
Jinhae Gunhang Festival
Jinhae in South Gyeongsang Province is the home to the nation’s largest cherry blossom festival. The Jinhae Gunhang Festival marks its 50th anniversary this year.
Over 2 million local and international tourists come to walk along the tree-lined streets and picturesque mountain paths. There are so many cherry blossom trees in Jinhae that when the wind blows it seems as if it is raining cherry blossoms.
This year, the festival will be held from April 1 to 12.
From Seoul, it takes about five hours to get to Jinhae on the train. So if one leaves early in the morning, it’s possible to get there by 12 p.m., enjoy the whole day and catch the return train to Seoul around 5 p.m. and still make it back to the city by around 10 p.m. By car it could take more than six hours and much longer during the festival period.
Korail Tourism Development, run by the nation’s main railroad operator Korail, offers a single-day travel plan to the festival from April 1 through April 7. Prices range from 59,000 to 64,000 won.
The Jinhae Gunhang Festival also commemorates Korea’s famous Admiral Yi Sun-shin (1545-1598) and includes a military band parade in addition to the many cherry blossom-themed events.
The legendary naval commander is famed for his victories against the Japanese navy during the Imjin war in the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910).
Cherry blossoms at Ssanggye Temple
Ssanggye Temple in Hadong, South Gyeongsang Province, is among the most scenic temples in the Mt. Jiri area, one of the three most important mountains in the nation alongside Mt. Halla and Mt. Seorak.
The best time to visit this temple in South Gyeongsang Province is spring, as the 6 kilometer path from Hwagye marketplace to Ssanggye Temple is filled with blooming 600-year-old cherry blossom trees.
With the myth that a walk along the cherry blossom tree path brings good luck for lovers, it is also called “hollaegil” (wedding path). A 40-50 minute walk along the tree-lined path leads to Ssanggye Temple.
Another reason to visit this area is the special tea produced in the region. Nestled between the Seomjin River and Mt. Jiri, Hadong is known for its stunning scenery and it has a reputation for the yearly green tea festival during May and June.
Visitors to the temple will see many tea plantations and tea houses in its vicinity.
A train special including lunch starts at 92,000 won at www.korailtravel.com.
Other famous flower festivals in connection with trains include the Gwangyang Maehwa Festival in South Jeolla Province and the Bomun Lake in Gyeongju, South Geyongsang Province, among others.