Winter has sure been long and cold here in South Korea. We have been anxiously waiting for spring for a while and now the temperatures are slowly starting to rise. Spring started rather suddenly, just last week we had freezing weather, but this week has been rather pleasant. One thing I have been looking forward to with the end of winter, are the spring blossoms. Blossoming trees are a big deal here and in South Africa we don't get to see too many.
With the start of the warm weather, we felt like doing a day trip so we headed south to see the first blossoming trees. We have already been to a summer flower festival in Korea, so we wanted to check out a spring one. We went to the earliest spring festival in Korea, the Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival (광양매화축제). The festival takes place for 2 weeks every March. The trees in the south start flowering first and we haven't seen any in Jeonju yet.
The Maehwa Festival is unlike many of the other spring flower festivals in Korea as the blossoms are white apricot blossoms, compared to the pinkish cherry blossoms. The apricot trees at the site cover 83 acres, making it the largest number of apricot trees in Korea.
We packed a picnic and caught the train south (more on how to get there later). The weather was so lovely and warm. After a long walk, (with a Korean guy who followed us the whole way), we were a bit dissapointed when we got to the festival site. Unfortunately most of the trees hadn't started blooming yet and the mountain was mostly brown. Apparently it is normally covered in white. We wondered up the mountain and went in search of some flowering trees, there were a few! The crowds weren't too bad when we were there (I think most of them were stuck in traffic), and only started to pick up when we were leaving.
We wondered the festival site, had our picnic, ate some ice creams and took some pictures. Although the trees weren't as impressive as they were ment to be, we still enjoyed ourselves and it was a good way to start off the spring season. I'm really looking forward to the cherry blossoms and can't wait to see Korea in spring.
How to get there:
We had instructions from one of our colleagues how to get there but unfortunately it didn't go according to plan. She had made some calls and found it would be quicker to go via Hadong instead of Gwangyang. We caught the train to Suncehon from Jeonju (1hour) and then transferred to Hadong (45min). From there we planned to catch a bus to the festival but when we got to the bus station we found that the buses had been cancelled. We were a bit stuck with how to get to the festival and in the small "town" of Hadong, no one spoke Englsih. We tried to ask a taxi driver to take us but he wouldn't because there was too much traffic going to the festival and it would be quicker to walk. We ended up walking there (and back) which was about 5km and took about an hour. It's not a bad walk as you walk along a river and pass many flowering trees on the way. Oh well, good exercise, and we got there in the end! I don't think there was a quicker way to get to the festival as we were walking faster than the cars were moving, so if you go, be prepared to walk.