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Friday, 27 March 2015

WOW KOREA! (PART-III)

Sight-seeing is the first that a visitor explores when traveling to foreign shores.Added to it,if one also happens to know about the local festivals that coincide with one's visit,then it's an enriching experience altogether when you partake in the revelry,celebrations and colors of their cultural and historical festivities.

As I continue with my virtual tour of Korea,I observed that this fascinating country has something to celebrate about all through the year...check out their calendar of events summarizing the festivals in a nutshell which I'm sure you as a wandering tourist wouldn't want to miss. And did I say...there are at least 16 such festivals if not more!

(For those of you who missed the previous two posts in this series of Wow Korea!,click to read Part-I, Part-II)

1. Mountain Trout Ice Festival 
When: Throughout January
The Hwacheon Sancheoneo (Mount Trout) Ice Festival that takes place in Hwacheon in Gangwon-do, a virtually untouched region and also the first area in Korea that freezes in winter where the river is covered in a thick blanket of ice.In this festival,visitors who can brave the cold participate in different activities such as catching mountain trout with their bare hands and indulge in ice fishing too! Here they can also sample raw and grilled mountain trouts,both of which are delectable! There are many fun-filled programs and performances lined up during this period. The highlight among them is an ice sculpture exhibition that takes twenty weeks to prepare! 

2. Jindo Sea parting Festival
When: Held sometime in March
You may have read it in the Bible when Moses miraculously parts the Red Sea, however in Korea you can witness one such moment for real in the Jindo Sea parting festival where the sea parts mysteriously and visitors can walk through the sea from the main island to a smaller island nearby.During this stretch,visitors enjoy a walk along the sea road gathering abalone and various other fun activities lined up along the way that make up this festival. It is believed that million visitors from all over the world flock here to witness this spectacular sight of this amazing event.


3. Cheongdo Bullfighting Festival 
When: Mid-March
The Cheongdo Bullfighting Festival that attracts over half a million visitors each year since it's inception in 1999 celebrates the long tradition of bullfighting in the Gyeongsangbuk-do Province of Korea. Besides the bull fighting championship,there are a number of exciting hands-on experience programs and exhibits on bullfighting, cows, local agriculture etc.


4. Lotus Lantern Festival 
When: April 8th (according to the Lunar Calendar)
This festival is preceded by hanging of lotus-shaped lanterns across Seoul for several weeks to celebrate the birthday of Lord Buddha.It officially kicks off with the lighting of the Jangeumdang,a large lantern at the Seoul Plaza that symbolizes Buddhism and Buddha's Birthday.Wide array of Buddhist programs and activities mark the occasion to honor Lord Buddha as it concludes with an impressive lantern parade in the heart of Seoul.


5. Hampyeong Butterfly Festival 
When: End of April
The Hampyeong Butterfly Festival is an opportunity for visitors to be closer to nature particularly the region's butterflies.The whole town of Hampyeong is transformed into a “veritable butterfly town” that is covered with butterfly-themed lights and decorations during this period.A medley of butterfly-themed events and programs are organized on one of nature's most beautiful and delicate creature while providing wholesome fun and frolic activities for the whole family. Numerous exhibitions are held featuring butterflies, insects and water-plants while in the "hands-on" area visitors can even see and touch a variety of animals and plants.This fun and interactive environment is a great opportunity for children to learn about mother nature.



6. Damyang Bamboo Festival
When: Held for five consecutive day in early May
Held within a forest of 2.4 kilometers of bamboo,this festival celebrates the beauty, function and importance of the bamboo plant. Visitors here can also put to test their skills here as they participate in some scheduled river sports like log-rafting and water-bicycling.After participating in these water sports,the visitors can also work up their appetite with sumptuous meal of Damyang’s famous cuisines and other such world foods featured at the Cultural Experience Center.


7. Boseong Green Tea Festival
When: May
Boseong, the birthplace of commerical tea industry is the largest producer of tea in the country.In this festival,tea connoiseurs can sample green tea snacks,make tea and pick up tea leaves in the green tea fields as a part of the hands-on experience programs. Tea exhibitions,sale and a number of celebratory performances mark this festival.

8. Muju Firefly Festival
When:  Mid-June
Did you know that the fire-flies of Muju are considered special?Why?It's because they have been designated among the few of Korea's natural monuments!During this festival the beauty of Korea is a glow naturally as it celebrates these luminous insects and bugs while also highlighting some pressing environmental issues as well. 


9. Icheon Ceramic Festival 
When: First week of June
Icheon, designated as the "City Of Folk Art" on the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in 2010 is a valuable city for ceramic arts as it originates right from the Bronze Age.The largest ceramic culture festival of Korea has a variety of the country's finest ceramics on display like Baekja (white porcelain), Buncheongsagi (grayish-blue powdered celadon) and Cheongja (celadon porcelain).


10. Gangneung Danoje Festival
When: June
Declared as a 'Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity' by UNESCO in 2005,the Gangneung Danoje Festival is an endeavor to preserve the folk culture of the Joseon Dynasty which is a popular festival since 1975.Some of the rituals of this festival include-Yeongsinje (a deity greeting ritual) and  Daegwallyeong Guksa Seonghwangje (a tribute to Monk Beomil,believed to protect Gangneung). There are folk performances,tug-of-war competitions,ssireum wrestling that follow these rituals.Visitors can participate in different programs such as observe a traditional wedding ceremony, wash their hair in iris-infused water,drink alcohol offered to the Gods,make surichui rice cakes besides the regional dialect contests and miscellaneous cultural programs as well.

11.  Boryeong Mud Festival 
When: Mid-July
The Boryeong Mud Festival attracts the largest number of  tourists from different parts of the world where they flock to experience the beneficial properties of the Boryeong mud which is considered to be rich in minerals and also an ingredient to manufacture cosmetics.Amidst music, fireworks and partying on the beach,they can immerse themselves in the festival's great atmosphere as they enjoy a host of activities like mud wrestling,mud-training, mud sliding,swimming in the mega tub of mud or rejuvenate themselves in a relaxed mud massage zone. 

12. Andong International Mask dance Festival
When: End-September
The Andong International Mask dance Festival,a major cultural attraction of the Andong region presents a host of Korean traditional mask performances that are an integral part of Korea's heritage, particularly the "Yeolsingut Talnori" dance which has been designated an Important Intangible Cultural Asset of Korea.Visitors here witness a cultural fusion of folk cultures from around the world as international mask dance troupes are invited to perform at the festival. The international visitors can also enjoy mask dance lessons as well as participate in the mask dance competitions held during the festival.


13.Hyoseok/ Bongpyeong Cultural Festival 
When: September
The Hyoseok Cultural Festival also known as Bongpyeong Cultural Festival is celebrated in remembrance of the modern Korean writer,Lee Hyo-seok and his popular novel,'When Buckwheat Flowers Bloom'.It demonstrates a fascinating connection between human life and beauty of nature in the picturesque scenery of Bongpyeong, the author's hometown which frequently appears in his novels as well. Poem exhibition,yo-seok essay contest,literature night,nature experiences like fingernail coloring using balsam,buckwheat food cooking are among the many participatory activities this festival has to offer.

14. Jinju Lantern Festival 
When: After the first day of October
The origins of the Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival stem from the traditional lantern lighting custom that was used during the Jinjuseong Fortress Battle of the Imjinwaeran War (the Japanese invasion of 1592) as a military strategy to prevent Japanese troops from wading in the Namgang River.The highlights of this festival are floating lanterns that carry personalized wishes of the citizens along the Namgang River,lighting of lanterns to commemorate the Jinjuseong Fortress Battle veterans,an exhibition of the world's traditional lanterns,a parade of lanterns created by students and many such cultural programs.


15. Baekje Cultural Festival 
When: End September to first week of October
The Baekje Cultural Festival is a tribute to the rich cultural heritage of the Baekje kingdom that existed 1400 years ago which occupied the vast region including now what is called the Chungcheongnam-do Province for almost 700 years!This year's festival opens with four nonverbal performances that will reenact the ancient ruling dynasty's excellence in military strategy and falconry as well as royal and pedestrian lifestyles.Visitors here will have a chance to participate in hands-on activities to experience the ancient culture that greatly influenced this region of the world.

16. Busan International Film Festival
When: October
The Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) founded in the year 1996 is the largest and the first international film festival of Korea which has become a major global annual event over the years.With over 300 films from 70 countries from around the world screened at the BIFF,this festival attracts a large number applicants from the youth as the festival endeavors to develop and promote young talent.Designed by Austria-based architecture collective Coop Himmelblau and costs about 150 million USD,the structure of the Busan Cinema Center is about 30,000 m² which includes a Cinema Center that has a 4,000-seater outdoor theatre, four indoor screens under an LED-covered roof, media center, archive space and conference rooms.


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Truly, the heart and soul about Korea is that all their festivals are closely connected to their roots as they celebrate their rich cultural heritage,history, traditions and mother nature as well with pomp,regalia and splendor! And I for once would definitely love to be a witness to some of these spectacular festivals and participate in them to make some lasting memories!
Regards,
Sonaal

[Image Source - visitkorea.or.kr]

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