One of the most popular things to do in spring in South Korea is to look at cherry blossoms.
There is an island called Yeouido in the middle of the Han River (which runs through Seoul) and it is the best spot to see the cherry blossoms because the trees ring the outside the island.
The walking trials under the blossoms allow you to go all around and see the trees from lots of different angles.
Vendors set up stands to sell snacks and drinks in case you need refreshment, too.
Of course it is crowded. That’s what most Americans notice in my pictures of South Korea. But I guess in Asia you sort of get used to sharing all the pubic spaces with other people.
Crowds are just as much a part of life as the air or the trees themselves. It’s not as daunting as it seems, either. Koreans keep to themselves.
I think one of the things that can make crowds in the US seem so overwhelming is that people talk to each other, and so you are forced into social interaction just by virtue of others being around.
In Korea, people don’t talk to you unless they know you, so as odd as it sounds, you can have a peaceful day free of any unwanted social interaction even when there are millions of people around you.
Yeouido is a wonderful place to see the blossoms and it’s right on one of the main subway lines so it’s easy to get to. I went to a few other cherry blossom festivals in Jinhae and some of the more remote cities, but this was the best!
Every year there is a sand festival held in Busan, South Korea. The theme for the year I went was “Once Upon A Time,” and so most of the sand castles were based on fairy tales.
I had no idea that sand art could be this detailed or beautiful. I mean, I built sandcastles at the beach when I was little just like everyone else.
However, the sad little things I built were nothing compared to what I saw at the Sand Festival.
I should warn you that Busan is short on accommodations, and the sand festival is a huge draw. Because of this, I would recommend making a hotel reservation well in advance if you want to go.
Once there, you can rent a spot under a huge beach umbrella and even rent a cooler if you want. That way, you have somewhere to stretch out and enjoy the waves when you aren’t admiring the art.
Like most things in Korea, be prepared for crowds. Of course, with crowds comes ice cream vendors and stands selling everything you could ever want, so in some ways that is a good thing.
The biggest holiday in South Korea is Buddha’a Birthday.
It was very hard for me to adjust to different holidays. Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Easter passed without note. The 4th of July was just another day.
Living in a new culture means adjusting to new holidays.
As it turned out, Buddha’s birthday was my favorite.
All the temples put up these beautiful lanterns, which are multi-colored. Of course the temples are beautiful on their own, but the addition of the lanterns adds a festive and colorful touch to already impressive surroundings.
I went to Bonamsa Temple because they had a lantern-making class. Anyone could show up and make a set of lanterns to celebrate the occasion.
I put my lanterns together with some friends. This is me (below) with my friend Coleen Monroe, another teacher at Avalon.
We only meant to put together some lanterns and celebrate, but the Koreans pushed us into a line of people.
We soon learned that the cluster of people we were moved towards were park of the parade through Seoul.
Although it wasn’t the plan, we ended up marching in the parade. And because Koreans love to see foreigners doing Korean things, the TV cameras followed us as we marched.
So, without intending to, I was in a surprise parade.
I am not saying that Suwon is the best city in the world, but it is definitely forever nestled somewhere in my heart.
I love my neighborhood (Yeoungtong.) I love the old fortress in the center of the city. I love Everland, our amusement park. And I love out folk village.
Spring in Suwon is full of wonderful flowers, and the weather is amazing.
It’s fantastic to have a hike around the old city walls and look out at all the cherry blossoms below.
In Arizona we didn’t really have flowers in the spring. A few, I guess. But not like in a place with seasons.
Suwon was a really good home. All three years I lived there, I loved it.
Sometimes it was hard to be “the foreigner” and to have to try to learn all the customs that Koreans grow up with overnight.
But in the end, I am glad that I took some time to live overseas and to have all those different experiences.
And by the way, each Korea city has an English catchphrase like “Dynamic Busan” and “Hi Seoul.” (translations not done by a native English speaker.) Suwon’s English catchphrase is “Happy Suwon.”
Every time I say it around it did make me happy to be there.