The Charm of Spring

It has been my fourth spring in Korea and I am still loving it.  I am mesmerized by the beauty of cherry blossoms and the cool weather that goes along with the surroundings. Just like how the first snow can be romantic, looking at cherry blossoms while the wind gently let the petals fall brings the same lovely feeling.

Cherry blossoms has started in Nami when we visited April 9.  It was a Saturday but it was not so crowded compared to April 2015 visit when it was so jam packed that the queue to take the ferry reached the line of pine trees.  That day was a perfect day to enjoy Nami.  No matter how many times you have been to Nami you will always be enchanted by its beauty.

Nami

A closer look at those beautiful cherry blossoms.  I guess all the trees will be in full bloom by April 12 or 13.

Cherry Blossoms

There are so many places to check for cherry blossoms when in Seoul and the National Assembly road parallel to the Han River is a good place to enjoy it within the city. From experience, the full blossoms in this area happens somewhere between April 12-15.  We visited April 11 and some trees are yet to bloom, nevertheless about 60% of trees are in bloom.  Strolling around while having some street food made me forget the time.

National Assembly

By this time, I guess cherry blossoms are in full bloom in Yeouido.  Enjoying the cool breeze of Han river at the Hangang Park while having some picnic would be something worth doing.

The queen of all the cherry blossoms in Korea is right at Jinhae in the province of Gyeongsangnam-do. The Cherry Blossoms in this town happens between April 1-10.  This year we visited on the last day.  The cherry blossoms is almost over.  There were still a lot but it was not as full as when I visited March 31 of 2014.  You can spot the difference below.

Yeojwacheon

Yeojwacheon April 2016

Yeojwacheon March 2014

Yeojwacheon March 2014

I realized that taking the earliest KTX from Seoul to Masan is the fastest and most convenient way to visit Jinhae for a day tour.  Last time we took the bus from Seoul Nambu terminal.  The bus was comfortable but taking the train cuts the travel time but at least an hour.  From Masan, taking a cab was no problem at all going to Jinhae.  It just cost 15,000KRW.  The KTX is more expensive than bus but time is more important for us who were just spending day in Jinhae.

Gyeonghwa

Visit to Jinhae is not complete without checking out the Gyeonghwa station.  The railroad is lined with trees that almost turned the place pink.  This is an old station its no longer operating, the government left one of the old KORAIL train in display.

Petals

A lot of people were taking video on this place, the wind is blowing and it was creating something like ‘petal rain’.  I can almost see my self visiting this place in the next Spring time.  I am yet to see another autumn to replace spring as the best season to enjoy South Korea.

벚꽃 (beokkott) means cherry blossoms in Korea.

진해의 벚꽃 아름다운이에요

Best Places for Cherry Blossoms in South Korea

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.,

 

Cherry Blossoms 2015

Are you planning on a trip to South Korea this Spring? It was almost a year after my last visit and it still feels like yesterday.  Last 2014 I was in South Korea in the month of April which is spring.  I am officially in love with Korean Spring time.

2015 Cherry Blossoms Jinhae

2015 Cherry Blossoms Jinhae

This year I am definitely going back to Jinhae with my kids so they can see how beautiful the place is.  There is no update yet on the expected cherry blossom in Jinhae but I hope it would come first week of April because we are already booked!

In any case, I would have the option to check Yeouido as well and enjoy the view of Han River.  Last year cherry blossoms in Seoul was a bit late it came mid April.  So if this is the same case for 2015 I think we will see cherry blossoms in full from Seoul.

2014 Yeouido Spring

2014 Yeouido Spring

If you are planning on a Spring trip to South Korea this year feel free to comment so we can exchange plans.  I am so excited with this travel plan.  I will strive to share more information for those who are also planning to go on tour this spring.

 

A Day in Jinhae

It been almost a month since I came back from a short visit to South Korea.  I am writing about our day trip to the country side which led us to this wonderful place called Jinhae.

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March 31, 2014 was a perfect day to be in Jinhae in South Korea.  As the Koreans would say 대박! We were so lucky to be in this place the right time. I made our booking as early as October 2013 with little hope that we will get to see cherry blossoms.  Heavens conspired with our earnest desire to see this wonderful event.  Our flight back is April 1, a day before we go back to homeland we spent the whole day in Jinhae walking.  Yes…after getting off the bus terminal we never took a bus or taxi and roamed around walking.

Everywhere we set our eyes, there was cherry blossoms. Jinhae is hometown to the biggest cherry blossoms in South Korea. It was a good decision to be there a day before the festival. Almost all the trees are in full bloom.

Streets of Jinhae

Since this is a day before the actual festival, there were no direct Korail routes yet.  During the actual festival a special train schedule is made available by Korail that takes passenger from Seoul direct to Jinhae.  However, on ordinary days, the express bus is the fastest and most convenient way to go to Jinhae.  From Seoul, the Nambu Bus Terminal has regular bus trips to Jinhae.

Nambu Bus Terminal

The terminal is right outside Nambu Bus Terminal subway station of the green line. It was convenient to take this line as our hostel is in Hongdae.  This bus terminal is pretty organized.  We were able to buy our ticket in advance and the bus left on time as scheduled.

The cherry blossoms appears to be the main attraction but in the festival is to commemorate Korean Admiral Yi who led a successful battle with Japanese.  This festival is called 군항제 (Gunhangje).

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The streets were getting ready for the first day of festival when we arrived.  There were food stalls line just before the main rotunda. We had a taste of Korean street food  from this lane.

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There were lots of  choices for the food and seems like roasted pork is one of the speciality being offered.  In the Philippines we call this lechon.  Having these stalls around gave me a taste of what the festival could be minus the crowd.  That day, there were many people but it was manageable.

Tents set-up for the festival featuring Korean food

Finally, a day in Jinhae will not be complete without seeing this wonderful place–the Yeojwacheon.  It’s like the Cheonggye stream in Seoul, it was a long path walk but this one is lined up with cherry blossoms.

The most famous spot in Jinhae

The place was breath taking. This made me realize that what I saw last 2013 was too little compared to this.  It felt like an endless walk.  I told my self, this is what 벚꽃 (beotkkot) is. The sakura of Korea.

Families and Couples enjoy this path walk with the trees in full bloom.

The weather was perfect for walking. It was not too cold nor hot.  This is what one perfect spring day should be.  This was one of the most memorable day I had in South Korea.

Cherry Blossoms

The trip to Jinhae was the culminating part in of our visit to South Korea this year.  The cherry blossoms brought happiness and energy to us.  This is something that I would definitely want to do again.

Spring! Spring! Spring!

I am officially a fan of 봄 (bom)! Not just the lead vocal of the very famous Korean girl group 2NE1 박봄 (Park Bom)  but the season itself.  A lot of K-Pop fans would probably know that 봄 means spring in Korea.  This year I am fortunate enough to travel again to South Korea.  It is my 6th time to visit South Korea and March 2014 marks my 3rd time to experience spring.

What makes me more excited now is that I will be traveling down to 진해 (Jinhae), a small town in the province of 경상남도 (Gyeongsangnamdo).  Just a bit of information on naming places in Korea,  도 (do) is province in Korean. In the name 경상남도, 남 (nam) means south and so Gyeongsangnamdo is Province of South Gyeongsang.  If there is south, the likelihood of having a north version is almost always there and north is 북 (buk).  With that, North Province of Gyeongsang would be– 경상북도 (Gyeongsangbukdo) where the booming city of 대구 (Daegu) is located.

The town of Jinhae is where the biggest cherry blossom festival is held every year.  For this year, the festival is happening from April 1-10, 2014.  Based from the research I made, this is one of the most sought after festival in Korea.  Now I realize what my long lost language exchange partner had been talking about.  He was so proud of their province Gyeongsangnamdo, he mentioned that the biggest cherry blossom happens in their place. The traffic can be very heavy during this period but the good thing is the KTX makes a special direct route to Jinhae during festival period.  We will be a day earlier from the festival  and hopefully we see the cherry trees in almost its full bloom.

The weather forecast kept on changing for the past weeks but as of today, the forecast during our stay shows a no rain during our period of stay.  According to the people I talked to last year when we visited Jeju, cherry blossoms disappears as soon as it rains.  This is why experiencing cherry blossom would be a bit tricky if you are a foreigner like me who will need to book in advance to travel to Korea.  The cherry blossom festival is usually announced within the month of March which is relatively near the actual date of the festival. The spring festivals is announced by the Korean Tourism through their website.  During spring there are several other places in Korea that is worth a visit.

Spring here I come!