I know I am just one of the many people out there who is looking forward to see cherry blossoms in South Korea. 벚꽃or beot kkott is sakura in Korea. This is one of the reasons why I love spring. Aside from the mellowed down cold weather, the flowers are blooming. The Korean Tourism Organization (KTO) has finally released a portion of the cherry blossoms forecast and flower festivals for 2015.
- Jeju – Cherry Blossoms in Jeju is a bit earlier, March 27 to 29. If you happen to book late March to South Korea consider going to Jeju. The Seogwipo downtown area and Jeju sports complex is the place to be. Jeju is home to King Cherry Tree, the full blossoms last for only 2 to 3 days and when it rains the petals are gone. The last time we went to see cherry blossoms in Jeju, we were late. There were traces of petals on trees but most are washed out by the rain. Coming from Seoul, hourly flights are available at the Gimpo Airport.
- Jinhae – is home to the biggest cherry blossoms in Korea. The whole town as I enjoyed last year is covered with cherry blossoms. This year the진해군항제 (Jinhae Gunhangje) is set btween April 1-10. Almost the same as last year. Within this period the cherry trees are in full bloom. In fact a day before the festival last year we get to enjoy the scenery minus the overwhelming crowd.
- Yeouido – is a place in Seoul where cherry blossoms can be observed as well. As of today, there is no date yet on when the trees along the National Assembly building will be in full blossoms. Based on historical records, cherry blossoms in Yeouido is mid April. If you think you have limited time in South Korea and would be spending most of the time in Seoul, Yeouido is a good place to enjoy the cherry blossoms in the Metro. Taking subway Line 5 and getting off Yeouinaru Station Exit 1. The scene in Yeouido is breath taking. Whether its day or night, the scene is just lovely, one can enjoy the cool breeze of Han River while sitting down the park looking at Mapo Bridge.
This year I am going back to Jinhae. Knowing that the festival is April 1 to 10 our day 2 in South Korea is definitely in Jinhae. It’s the last day of the festival but if given a choice, I would plan on a March 30 or 31 visit (just like in 2014) because during the festival, people are all over the place. I read that people who spent cherry blossoms during the festival period had some difficulties going around as the traffic can be very heavy. However, during this period there is a special route of KTX from Seoul Station going directly to Jinhae. Outside the festival period, there is no direct route to Jinhae. Masan is the nearest town to go to and one needs to take a bus from Masan to Jinhae.
If you plan on going to Jinhae within April 1 to 10, check out the KTX schedule. There is a special route directly to Jinhae during this period as a way of providing more options to reach this special destination and to help ease the traffic going to Jinhae. Going around Jinhae takes a lot of walking especially during festival where streets are closed to give way to events. I personally don’t mind walking around because everywhere you set your eyes the beautiful cherry blossoms can be seen. Outside the festival period Jinhae can be reached via the following means coming from Seoul, coming from Busan, Jinhae would be more accessible via Bus:
- KTX Train Masan (Seoul-Masan-Seoul) – a transfer to Mungunhwa is needed. As mentioned there is no direct route to Jinhae on a regular day. There are just about 2 to 3 schedules a day so planning for a round trip could be a problem via KTX. I think there is just one train schedule going back to Seoul in the afternoon. Do check out the KTX website for a full schedule. Foreigners get a special pass rate if reserved on line.
- Bus – take the Orange Line and alight at Nambu Bus Terminal in Seocho (Station No. 341) and take exit number 5. The exit is the entry to the terminal which operates 6 am to 12 am There is bus leaving almost every hour going to and from Jinhae. The ride would be a total of about 4.5 hours. I find this more convenient than taking the KTX as you only save around 1 hour of travel time but there are more options in terms of the time when taking the bus. This will allow you to do round trip to Jinhae from Seoul. Worry not because there is a short stop over along the highway for some bladder break and snack time. It is recommended to buy return tickets upon reaching the Jinhae Terminal. This way you secure your seat going back if you are just there round trip. Tickets are available online but the website is in Korean only.
I think the best way to enjoy spring and cherry blossoms would be to go to Seoul last week of March to early April. Which ever time you get for your flight booking, never miss going to Yeouido whether the cherry trees are in full bloom or not. The sight of Han River and Mapo-go bridge at night is beautiful and the park conducive for enjoying some chit chat and snacks. You would be surprised on the amount of people receiving deliveries from the park . There are also street side vendors offering Korean snacks. Just make sure to bring jacket to be ready for the chill that the wind brings.,