Colours of fall in Korea: Naejangsan National Park

On the first week of November we took a trip to Naejangsan National Park to see the bright colourful leaves on the trees. Coming from South Africa, where we don’t see too much of a dramatic change in autumn, I was really excited. My Korean rough guide book had also rated an autumn trip to Naejangsan as one of the top 25 things to do in Korea, and luckily it is relatively close to Jeonju. Unfortunately the weekend we planned to go was miserable, rainy and foggy, but we still decided to go as we thought the crowds would less (not true by the way). The temperatures have dropped a lot here already in Korea and it has been rather chilly.

To get there we had to catch a bus to Jeongeup which takes about an hour and then a 40 minute city bus to the National Park.  Luckily we managed to squeeze ourselves onto the bus as it was absolutely packed and definitely not the most pleasant trip standing on top of people the whole way. We had an eventful trip there as when we got to Jeongeup and were waiting for the next bus, we spotted a small little puppy running in the road and avoiding cars. Of course we rushed to pick him up while everyone watched and did nothing. The puppy, a Jindo, must have been about 10 weeks and was cold and lost. We spent the next hour trying to find his home with no one being interested in helping us except for some people who wanted to try claim him. One thing that always breaks my heart in Korea, is the treatment of animals and Dean and I would have taken him home in a flash if it were not for the exorbitant cost to send him to South Africa. Luckily we eventually found his home, where we spotted some more puppies and he must have wondered off through the open gate.  No one even noticed. 

Once we got to the park we had to wind our way up to the actual entrance past the colourful stalls selling some strange things, blaring music and dancing ajummas. I don’t think we were quite prepared for the chaos and thousands of people. Literally there were thousands and thousands of people. I guess like all outdoor or “natural” activities, we should have expected it. The entrance cost to the park is 3000won. From there we walked up through the park to a lake and a temple, taking in the amazing colours. They really were beautiful and impressive. There is an option to catch a cable car to the top of one of the peaks, but there was a really long line and because of the mist we didn’t think it would be worth it. 

Despite the hordes of people, a trip to Naejangsan was definitely worth it. The colours and sites were breath taking and unlike anything I have ever seen. Although the sky wasn’t blue, the mistiness gave a somewhat magical feel and I am glad we decided to go.

Gujeolcho Flower Festival

We were lucky enough to visit the Gujeolcho Flower Festival (구절초 제전). Or in other words, the Siberian chrysanthemum festival. The festival takes place for 10 days every October. I found out about the festival by coincidence on a Friday night when I was phone teaching and a student happened to tell me she would be visiting a flower festival on the weekend. This sparked my interest and so I asked her where and she asked her mom for me. I then mentioned it to a teacher and she said she had been the week before. She gave me a few pointers how to get there and we decided it would be a pleasant trip on what may be one of the last hot days of the year.The festival was held at Okjeongho Lake Gujeolcho Theme Parknear Jeongeup. The park is basically a large natural area with paths winding all over. The festival is famed for its Siberian chrysanthemums that cover the floor of a forested hill, the largest chrysanthemum hill in Korea. To me the flowers look like common white daisies and I didn't know they had such a fancy name. In their large amounts they looked particularly impressive though. 

At the festival there were also fields of cosmos and sunflowers. The flowers were really beautiful and of course I loved photographing them. There were many fields so there was plenty of space for everyone to enjoy taking pictures in the flowers. We wondered around the grounds and then found a spot to enjoy our picnic. Luckily we packed a picnic as we are not very adventurous when it comes to Korean food, and there was only some rather interesting looking food at the many food stalls.

We tried to do a bit of research before we went and find out exactly where we were going, but there was not much English information available as the festival is not one of the bigger well known ones. It is featured on Korea’s Miss Flower promotional video which tells you the best places to see flowers throughout the year. It was not the easiest place to get to and took quite a while. We first had to catch a bus from Jeonju to the town of Jeongeup and then another bus to a small village called Sannae-myeon. From there, there were shuttles to the festival area. The 2 bus rides were each an hour long but we had a bit of a wait when we got to Jeongeup because the buses were very infrequent to Sannae-myeon. The scenery on the drives was very beautiful and we could tell when we were getting close to the festival area as flowers started to line the roads.  Many people tried to help us along the way even though we couldn’t understand them much and we scored some chestnuts on the bus ride home from a kind lady who showed us how to go back. 

The entrance cost was 3000won but free if you wore something with flowers on, which I planned ahead for.

It's a pity the festival is not better known, especially amongst the English community. We were by far the only western people there and one man even asked us how we knew about it. I didn't even manage to find it on the list of Korean festivals.

A trip to this festival is well worth it and a perfect place to visit during autumn as the temperature starts to cool down.