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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Ulsan Multicultural Festival

The Taehwa River parkland was bustling with activity this past weekend (May 19-20) with preparations for Buddha’s Birthday as well as the Multicultural Festival. For Buddha’s birthday (which falls on May 28) a brass and woodwind orchestra in red regalia performed music for the audience, most of which were dressed in Hanbok and some were Buddhist monks and nuns.

Long queues of people formed to collect a free plate of food and giant paper lanterns depicting dragons, tigers and Korean legends, presumably Buddhist representations, littered the park. The banks of the Taehwa River are currently adorned with red poppy flowers, which have suddenly bloomed and look fantastic.

At the entrance to the multicultural festival we encountered a trio of tribal musicians playing woodwind instruments. We then discovered that each tent represented a different country of the world. Most of the countries represented were Asian nations, such as Japan, Korea, China, Phillippines, Cambodia and many others.

I spoke to some members of the Mannam Volunteer Association, who were there looking for new members. We exchanged business cards and drank a bright red sour herbal tea called 오 미 자  together. According to their sign, the tea was free for foreigners but 1000 won for Koreans.

Many of the stalls were geared for children too. A trampoline with bungee cords propelled harnessed children into the sky and back. Face painting and books/coloring-in materials were also available for the kids.

As evening drew in, a troupe of Korean dancers wearing traditional Hanbok took to the stage and performed. In addition there was a  taekwondo performance. There were some really impressive musicians on the stage, including a Japanese duo – a female vocalist/piano player and a male guitarist, who sang contemporary hits such as Maroon 5’s Sunday Morning with a mesmerizing sense of passion and style.

Also memorable was the waygookin band that I would describe as a jazz/rock fusion group, consisting of a New Zealander on vocals, and Canadians/Americans/Koreans making up the brass percussion and bass elements. They were very talented and had a setlist of really catchy ballads. I could have stood and listened to them all night long.

There were many food stalls offering cuisine from Japan, Germany, the USA and Turkey amongst others – the Turkish Donner kebab I tried was delicious, as were the Thai dishes we sampled.

Once the light was lost I trekked back to the other side of the park where the paper lanterns from Buddha’s Birthday celebrations had been lit from inside and brought to life. The fire-breathing dragon was probably the most impressive, although some of the Buddhist representations and the other animals were similarly spectacular.

What followed was a parade through the streets beside the river in Taehwadong as the lanterns were transported on Hyundai trucks and masses of people wearing Hanbok and holding paper lanterns followed the procession.

I arrived at the festival at 5pm, missing the daytime events, so I’m unable to comment on those. What I did see in the evening slot was a successful and well-orchestrated schedule of events that seemed to delight everybody.