The Hadong Green Tea Festival 2015

IMG_9039So, a few months ago I posted about the first time that I visited this festival way back in 2011. I had really wanted to go back to the festival last year but, it, like most other festivals last year, was cancelled due to the Sewol ferry sinking.

This year, we decided to go camping in our favorite camping spot and check out the festival.IMG_8951

I have to say, that it is still one of the best festivals that I’ve been to in Korea. The setting is absolutely beautiful, it is situated along a river with fields of green tea in the mountains surrounding it.IMG_9035

Initially we stopped off in a nearby town that had a big market. We thought that that was the festival and myself and Jason were so confused as to how much it had changed in four years. We soon realised that this wasn’t the festival. But we did get some delicious green tea ice creams while we were there!IMG_8997

IMG_8996In the centre of the festival is a stage.IMG_9005

When we arrived there were lots of tables set up with beautiful bowls of different types of tea and magnificent place settings.IMG_9069

IMG_9072Women entered the area wearing beautiful hanbok (Korean traditional dress) and took their places at their tables. Then a group of judges went around to each table to judge the different teas.IMG_9041

IMG_9064Afterwards, it was open to the public to try as much tea and snacks from all of the contestants.IMG_9058

While the judging was being held we decided to see what else the festival had going on. Usually, with Korean festivals, the stalls all look the exact same and sell all of the same things, regardless of what type of festival it is. This festival however was much more tea orientated which was a nice change.IMG_9014

Our first stop was at an area where we could roll our own tea leaves. It was fun to see the process and afterwards they gave us some bags of dried tea leaves for free.IMG_9017

IMG_9018IMG_9023We then continued on wandering around. There were so many local products to try, green tea mists and lotions, green tea snacks, smoothies, ice-cream and of course many different sellers of different types of tea. All of them offering free tastings.IMG_9025

IMG_9052IMG_9056We found a Turkish food stall (there is always at least one at these festivals) and had some delicious skewers (I got lamb). We then went to the food tents and had some gimbab and cold drinks to cool off from the beautiful hot sunny day.IMG_9049

IMG_9050We really enjoyed our time at the festival. All of our bellies were full of green tea and we found it unbelievable that we didn’t have to pay a cent anywhere (except for our food). The people were so friendly also.IMG_9076

I would highly recommend for anyone needing some time away from the big cities to visit this festival…you won’t be disappointed!IMG_9061IMG_9059

Food Post- What we ate at Gaya Fest

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I knew this was going to be a day of eating before we ever arrived at the festival and I definitely wasn’t mistaken.

Our food adventures started right at the begining of the day when I got a churro. I had never eated a churro before and I was always intrigued by them so I thought this was the perfect time to try one. It was so good! They made it fresh for me so it was lovely and hot.
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After the churro we waled along the festival looking for the food that always lures us to festivals…pig on a spit!
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We found some tents with the delicious pork sitting outside and even though it was expensive it was still really good. We decided to get one portion between the 4 of us (30,000w) and it was perfect. We were planning on eating more throughout the day so it didn’t get us too full.
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Afterwards we decided to go to one of the many food tents and drink some soju. In Korea, when people are drinking alcohol they always have food in front of them also. Very rarely will you see a orean drinking without any snacs, fruit or food in front of them. We decided to do the same for that day and ordered some delicious paejeon.
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Pajeon is a Korean pancake with squid and spring onions being the main ingredients.
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We then got some ice cream and found another tent.

Again since we were drinking alcohol we ordered a good meat and rice soup and a cold noodle soup. Both were really good.
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Before we knew it we were all nice and tipsy and stuffed from all of the food so it was time to say goodbye to Gaya Fest.
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Gaya Fest!

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Last weekend we were lucky to have a long 5 day weekend. Friday was labour day and then Tuesday was children’s day. Myself and Jason were planning on going camping during this time but we noticed that it was supposed to be raining so we decided to take a rain check (pun intended).

Another reason that we didn’t go is because our city, Gimhae, was celebrating its annual festival; Gaya Festival.
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This is very much an unknown festival to people outside of our city but we love it! The festival takes place right outside my school so it was pretty exciting while walking home, watching them prepare the tents.

So what is Gaya Fest?

It is a festival to celebrate the history of Gaya (what this region was known as a long time ago).

Gaya festival officially opened on Wednesday with a parade through the city. It passed our apartment so I was lucky to get to watch it.
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We started off the celebrations on Thursday night by watching our friend Yeong-hwa perform at the Gimhae theater. She was playing the gayageum. It is a beautiful Korean string instrument and the music that was performed was absolutely outstanding!

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The next day we met some friends and spent all day and night at the festival. It is a much more laid back festival compared to others in Korea (I think that’s because it’s lesser known)
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We basically spent the day eating and drinking. (I’ll write a separate post about the food that we ate).
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Our friend Nick told us that he had never flown a kite before so we found some for sale and he managed to make a childhood dream come true. It was so sweet.
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We had so much fun at the festival, I saw so many of my students there (past and present) enjoying themselves which made the experience all the better.
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I’ve loved going to festivals here in Korea and I’m hoping to get to a few more before we leave this beautiful country.
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Busan Canola Flower Festival

IMG_8764What a great festival this was!
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The Nakdong River Yuchae Flower Festival is only in its fourth year but it’s a really great festival that I’d recommend to everyone living nearby.

IMG_8789For a few weeks the big riverside area of the Nakdong river transforms in to a mesmerizing sea of yellow canola flowers for as far as the eye can see.

IMG_8765We are lucky because it is only a 30 minute subway ride from Gimhae to the festival. Myself, Jason and our friend Ian decided to go last Friday after school. Once we arrived I immediately fell in love with this small festival.
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There were a few tents selling food and drinks but it’s nowhere near as big as the many other festivals that I’ve experienced here in Korea. For me, this just made the festival even more wonderful. There is a very laid back feel to it and there weren’t many people there.
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Which meant that we had plenty of opportunities to take photos of the flowers without people.
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As you can see from the photos, it was absolutely beautiful there and I’m sure sunrise would be magical as the sun rises from behind the city.

IMG_8794How to get there:

Take the brown line (line 3) of the Busan subway system to Gangseo-gu office. From there you can take exit number 2 and it’s about a 15 minute walk to the park.

Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival Take 2!

IMG_8706So last year I wrote about our trip to Jinhae for the Cherry Blossom festival here but we didn’t really plan it well so we spent our entire time wandering the streets of Jinhae and not finding the areas where the blossoms are at their most beautiful. Unfortunately we didn’t find any of them.

This year we definitely didn’t want a repeat of that so we set off after work with our two friends Ian and Ane hoping to see the cherry blossoms at the two most famous places, The Gyeonghwa train station and Yeojwacheon stream. We had planned on visiting it next week during the week (less crowds) but after checking the weather forecast and finding out that rain was forecasted until this Sunday we decided to go sooner just in case the rain blew away the blossoms.IMG_8677

So we set off in the rain on the lookout for our first stop; The Gyeonghwa train station. We initially got mixed up and instead found the Jinhae train station and realised that we were in the wrong place but after setting the sat nav we finally arrived at the station.

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It was just as beautiful as I had imagined. The rain made everything seem even more romantic and kept the crowds away. Luckily the blossoms were in full bloom and we spent about 30 minutes here taking it all in.

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Afterwards we went to the area where the festival was being held on the looout for some dinner. We found a chicken restaurant and quickly ate. Afterwards we got back in to the car on our way to the Yeojwacheon stream. It was now dark and we were worried that it mightn’t be as picturesque but they had cute lights up all around the stream and it still looked absolutely beautiful!IMG_8758

IMG_8752IMG_8763We had a great time at the festival and being able to see it this year without the crowds and in full bloom definitely made up for not finding it last year. I 100% recommend this festival to everyone in Korea although I have to admit that having a car made getting from place to place a lot easier. I also recommend trying to go to the festival during the week as there are far fewer crowds than at weekends.IMG_8757

Finally, check the bus schedule before going. I’ve heard that buses in to Jinhae bus terminal get cancelled around the festival time so you may have to get a bus to Changwon and then take a city bus to Jinhae.IMG_8678

Korean Bull-fighting Festival

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Both my mind and my body are so ready for Spring to come. I can’t wait to stop having to wear thermals, be able to cycle along the rice fields and spend our evenings sipping wine on our balcony. For now though all I can do is reminisce about Springs gone by.

The best thing about Spring in Korea is all of the festivals and if there’s one thing that Korea knows how to do it’s festivals! They have a festival for everything! A few include; Kimchi making, green tea, strawberry, mask, sunflower and the list goes on!

These festivals are usually a lot of fun although they can get pretty crowded. One of my favourite festivals that I’ve been to here in Korea was actually a bull fighting festival in Cheongdo. I was a bit skeptical about it before we went but I’m so glad that we did go.
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Korean bull fighting is different from Spanish bull fighting. Luckily none of the bulls get killed and the bulls actually fight other bulls and not people. Two bulls are put in to the stadium and lock their horns together. The first bull to turn away loses. I’m going to be perfectly honest and admit that I didn’t actually like watching it. Some of the bulls got a bit bloodied and as an animal lover I’m not a fan of seeing animals being hurt or in pain for sport (a cliche I know, since I’m a massive meat lover!). We only watched the bull fighting for about 15 minutes.
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But the real reason that I loved this festival was what was happening outside of the stadium. There were stalls placed in a big area that were selling different products, there were also entertainers on different stages. We spent most of our time just relaxing and enjoying the food and drink. The best reason to come here is to be able to view the stalls without the large crowds that go to other festivals. We weren’t being pushed or shoved and were able to relax.

 

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A magician performing at the festival

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Afterwards we decided to get a taxi and take a side trip to a wine tunnel.
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The wine tunnel is a beautiful abandoned train tunnel that has been turned in to a wine cellar. When you walk in there are bottles stored all along the tunnel. It is so beautiful and it’s cool in there so you can get away from the midday heat. They also make their own persimmon wine so we sat down and relaxed with some wine for a while.
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Cheong-do is a beautiful town and I’d definitely recommend visiting, especially to see the wine tunnel!

Busan Fireworks Festival

All of these amazing photos were taken by my good friend Ian. You can find more of his beautiful work here.
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This was my third time going to see the fireworks in Gwangali and just like the other two years they were unbelievably impressive. This festival is the one that I tell every new person in Korea not to miss. There are hundreds of festivals in Korea throughout the year but this is easily the most unique one that I have visited.Growing up in Ireland we saw some fireworks but they would usually last about 10 minutes and were pretty standard so the first year that I visited the fireworks festival I had no idea what was about to happen.

The fireworks show is an impressive 45 minutes long with different themes throughout, they are also synchronized perfectly with music. Every time that you think that they can’t get better…they do

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At one stage the entire sky was just filled with fireworks and I just had to stand there in awe realising that I will probably never see fireworks like this again in my life. It was quite a sobering moment.

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Now, to the one thing that I dislike about the festival…the crowds. Because it is such a great display there are usually nearly a million people on and around the beach. That’s not a figure that I’m making up and considering that Ireland’s entire population is about 4 million this figure blows my mind.

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The first year that we went was tough because we spent the entire time getting pushed and shoved. The second year we decided to go extra early and got there before the crowds. We secured a place on the beach and waited around for 7 hours until the show started. Yes this was a long time to wait but we were lucky as entry to the beach was controlled so it didn’t get too crazy and we had a front row view to the fireworks.

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This year it was our friend Michelle’s birthday and she had organised for us to have dinner in a restaurant on the beach. The cost of the dinner also included viewing the fireworks from their rooftop. We managed to skip all of the crowds by doing this and it was a fun way to watch the fireworks (there was still about 100 people on the rooftop!)

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I also heard that this year for the first time there was a section of the beach closed off especially for foreigners. They even had seating set up there too.

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So whatever you do, if you are ever in Korea in October go and see the fireworks!!

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