Korea in four seasons

Korea in four seasons
By admin


SPRING

Korea does spring in excess; the season is so indulgent it could be the ultimate spring holiday destination. From cherry blossoms to butterflies and green fields, Korea emerges from winter like a chrysalis sprouting wings.

Speaking of, the Hampyeong Butterfly Festival boasts tens of thousands of butterflies in the month of May. Over 3360 hectares of land rich in canola blossoms prove irresistible to Korea’s butterflies.

The trees begin to bloom in March with yellow, white and pink flowers heralding the seasonal turn. The first blossom festivals begin in mid-March.

For apricot flowers head to Gwangyang where the trees cause the mountainside to blush. For cherry blossoms, an icon of spring in Korea, you’ll need to wait until the start of April.

Jinhae Gunhangje festival is the first and most popular cherry blossom festival. Running over ten days, more than two million people flock to the pink petal parade of a tree-lined avenue. If you don’t wish to leave Seoul, the Yeouido Spring Flower Festival takes place from April and with 1400 trees in blossom, you won’t feel cheated by choosing the city over the country.

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SUMMER

Summer is a time to lose your inhibitions and there’s no better way than stripping off and coating your body in mud. But in Korea it’s not just any mud. At the Boryeong Mud Festival in July mud is delivered from mud flats to the sandy Daecheon beach. It draws more than two million participants who are smothered in gloop courtesy of pool-sized mud baths, mud slides and mud massages.

 The festival began in 1998 and has reeled in increasing numbers each year since. It has also ramped up the activities annually to now incorporate wrestling, extreme training and other competitions. Visitors ought to resist the urge to wash the mud off too.

Far from being dirty, this mud is therapeutic and people pay good money for its use in cosmetic products. For a dermatological difference let it set on your skin for as long as possible before diving into the beach waves.  

Be dazzled by fireflies for nine days in June at the Muju firefly festival, where they are found in an indoor enclosure as well as in a valley a short drive from the city. Fireflies are unremarkable by day but are transformed by night and the first time you spot one, you’ll need to blink a few times to make sure you’re not seeing things.

The flashing gold insects appear like an illusion initially but once your eyes adjust, more appear in your periphery. Fireflies have a sensitive constitution and live only in unpolluted areas. The pristine environment of Muju is another reason to travel there. 

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AUTUMN

Nothing is surer to whet your appetite than a cool change in the weather. In October the Kim Chi festival celebrates all things pickled. The Korean dish exploits all your tastebuds, running the gamut from salty to spicy to bitter and to cap it off, sweet. Thought to have originated up to three thousand years ago, Kim Chi is the end result of the basic and simple process of fermenting vegetables with salt.

The most common vegetable used for Kim Chi is cabbage with garlic, ginger and chilli added for extra seasoning. But at this festival you can taste all the strange varieties of Kim Chi. You can also learn how to make it at home. All events are open but two are especially geared toward travellers this year, with a Kim Chi dish contest for foreigners on October 6 and Kim Chi artisan for foreigners on October 8. 

Another festival perfect for autumnal nights is the Jinju Namgang Yudeung lantern festival. The lanterns were used for military communication during the Japanese invasion and following the war in remembrance for lives lost.

Festival-goers are encouraged to write their hopes on wishing lanterns. There are also large-scale lanterns that depict the history of Korea. For the romantics, there is a lane of love themed lanterns as well as poem-inscribed lanterns. 

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WINTER

Here’s one to tick off your bucket list – mountain trout ice fishing in the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival. Hwacheon is the first place to experience a winter freeze each year and the river bears a thick crust of ice. Small portholes are cut into the ice for fishing with a pole, hook and line that is lowered and drawn.

If that’s too slow to tolerate, short-wearing participants can climb into an icy pool and use their uncovered hands and brawn to seize the esteemed mountain trout. Visitors have five minutes to shove three trout down their top, although one guest was seen catching a trout with his teeth. He must have been hungry, for there is no catch and release at this festival.

Whatever you catch you eat, with grills and sashimi stalls set up to cook everyone’s catch. 

Beyond the fishing, there are a range of winter activities, from sleighs to ice go-karting, ice soccer, sledding, snowmobiles and skating. There are also ice sculptures that are illuminated neon at night. There are three sections – one for Korea, one for the world and one for China. The China exhibit features sculptures from the world-famous Harbin ice and snow festival.

The food smells are overwhelmingly delicious in the icy air, so be sure to taste local delicacies such as dumplings, fish cakes and fritters.

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