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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

It’s Blossom Time!

By Deirdre Madden

After a long, dreary, dull winter, the magnolia trees are bursting into bloom, cherry trees are blossoming, grass is sprouting, leaves are budding, heck, there’s even a few dead worms on the sidewalk for my dog to roll in. Spring has arrived. And with it comes many festivals to celebrate that colour has returned to our world.

Breaking through the drab, dead grass

Corker, looking for horrid things to roll in

In case you hadn’t heard, Korea is famous for its cherry blossoms, and just about every hamlet in the country has a festival in honour of that pretty, pink bloom, so don’t worry if you miss one. If you don’t have the chance to make any of the festivals down here in the south, just wait a week or so and head north, or higher up into the mountains where spring arrives a little later. Or check out the other, unheralded blossoms, like those of the persimmon trees, or the local delicacy; the Ulsan pear.

the ubiquitous cherry blossom

There’s a whole list of Spring Festivals all around Korea listed here, but I’ll mention some of the highlights for the coming month.

This Saturday, April 7th, Gyeongju hosts its annual Cherry Blossom Marathon. While it’s too late to register now, there are a bunch of Ulsanites signed up, so you can go up to cheer the racers while you enjoy the picturesque surroundings. Gyeongju is a great city to visit, as it was the capital of the Shilla Dynasty, and is home to a large number of national treasures, historic sites, royal tombs, and temples. Buses and trains run frequently from Ulsan, and it’s only about 45 mins up the road.

Cherry blossoms at the Munsu Stadium lake

Jinhae holds Korea’s largest Cherry Blossom Festival, and is taking place right now, from April 1 – 10th. In addition to the flowery theme, the festival also pays tribute to a famous Korean Admiral, Yi Sun Sin, who led the Korean navy to  underdog victories against the Japanese during the Imjin War of 1592-1598. If you’re interested in history, look this guy up; his story is rather impressive. From the Jinhae bus terminal or train station, it’s about a 10 minute walk to the festival venue. Just follow the ka-jillion Koreans.

Cherry blossoms in the shade

There are also cherry blossom festivals happening this weekend (April 6-8)  in Jeju, Hwagae, or for something a little different, there’s a Sansuyu blossom festival in Icheon. The sansuyu is also know as the “Japanese dogwood” or the “Cornus fruit tree”.

More cherry blossoms will be celebrated in Jecheon (April 13-15) and around Seoul (April 13-17).

Lots of cherry blossoms!

Of course, you can also take a stroll through one of Ulsan’s parks or temples, or along the newly-developed stream in Mugeodong if you want to enjoy the beauty of the cherry blossom without the hassle of travel or crowds of tourists. Hike around Munsu mountain to discover the blooming orchards, or wait a few weeks and head up Gajisan to be surprised by the blossoming beauty all over again.

Cherry blossoms along the Mugeo stream

Other festivals of note:

The Jindo Miracle Sea Parting, April 7-9. Every year, an extremely low tide exposes a ridge of land linking an offshore island to the mainland.

Cheongdo Bullfighting Festival, April 18 – 22. Unlike the Spanish tradition, Korean bullfights pit two bulls against each other in an epic battle to the … point where one bull walks away because he doesn’t care anymore. If you’re looking for gore, this ain’t your festival. There is, however, a US rodeo team performing.

Cherry blossoms just blooming

Goryeong Daegaya Experience Festival, April 19 – 22. Experience life for the sophisticated Daegaya people, in 4th Century Korea.

Jeju Canola Flower Festival, April 20 – 29.

Yeoju Ceramic Festival, April 21 – May 13.

Asan Great Admiral Yi Sun Sin Festival, April 27-29. This dude is so important in Korean history, he even gets his own festival, not just a shout out during the blossom season.

Namwon Chunhyang Festival, April 27 – May 1. This festival celebrates a famous Korean love story, and involves plays, pageants and musical performances.

Not cherry blossoms. But still pretty!

Gwangalli Eobang Festival, April 27 – 29. This festival celebrates fishing traditions.

Hampyeong Butterfly Festival, April 27 – May8

Mungyeong Traditional Chasabal Festival, April 28 – May 6. A chasabal is a traditional tea bowl, and they’ve been made in this area for over 900 years.

Icheon Ceramic Festival, April 28 – May 20.

Spring!

So, there’s a rundown of what’s going on around the peninsula in April. Lots of places to visit and fun to be had, now that you can unfurl yourself from your blankets and scarves, and venture beyond the home-work-bar rut you’ve worn over the winter.

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