Many festivals in various parts of Korea have been canceled this year due to concern over the spreading of foot-and-mouth disease. The sea parting festival was no exception. Although the festival was canceled, the sea parting still took place, just without the hypnotizing mayhem that is a Korean festival.
We decided to stay in nearby Mokpo and make a day trip to Jindo for the event. Buses run regularly between Mokpo and Jindo and the ride takes about one hour. On the way to Jindo is a magical place called Uhang-ri, a dinosaur museum and fossil site. We arrived to find this place nearly abandoned, with a few visitors strolling the massive grounds. The vast open field is strewn with “life-sized” dinosaur statues, a funhouse mirror maze, and plenty of places for photo opportunities. This place had gimmicky written all over it; in fact it took us a decent amount of time to find the actual fossil site. Still, Uhang-ri offered us a place to goof off, take silly photos, and pretend we walked among the dinosaurs. Oh yeah, seeing the fossils was great, too.
And so we make our way to Jindo, a small island in Jeollanam-do to
witness, for the first time, the fascinating sea parting event. Legend has it that long ago, vicious tigers showed up on Jindo. Villagers fled to nearby Modo, but an elderly lady was left behind. Every day she prayed for a way to get to her family, until one day a road appeared in the sea, leading her to her family in Modo. The road is an astonishing 2.8km long and 40 meters wide, making for a beautiful stroll to the middle of the sea.
We arrived to find that although the festival had been canceled, many festival-like activities were still taking place. Walkways were littered with street food stands, performers, and peddlers. We slowly made our way to the start of the sea road and found thousands of people in colorful galoshes preparing to walk the road and collect abalone. I had seen pictures of the sea parting and did not expect it to be as impressive as it was. During low tide, the road was perfectly visible, as if it had always been there, winding from Jindo to Modo. With the backdrop of a cloudy sky, herds of visitors, and a gorgeous bay, the road looked surreal.
After hours of strolling along the bay, we made our way back to Mokpo to see some of the attractions there.
Mokpo was a disappointment, primarily because its main attraction became nonexistent. Mokpo boasts to be the “City of Lights.” Luminarie is a street in downtown Mokpo that has 76 arch-like luminaries that light up the landscape. However, when we arrived in this supposedly busting hub of the city, we found it to be somewhat abandoned, quiet, and not lit up. I refused to accept that the street was simply not lit up and continued searching for Luminarie, only to find out that we were standing on it. No lights, no hustle and bustle, just a few families and an occasional eatery.
The following morning we headed out to the Mokpo fish market. One of my favorite things to do when visiting a new city is meandering through stall after stall of sea creatures and odd delicacies. Although small, the Mokpo fish market was quite entertaining, and the neighboring harbor was a great place to watch fishing boats return with their catch.
Our next stop was Mt. Yudalsan. From the Mokpo tourism website, “Being the last peak
in the Noryeong mountain range and located at the southwestern tip of the Korean peninsula connecting the Dadohae archipelago, Mt. Yudalsan had previously also been known as Yeongdalsan as ghosts have been known to reside there for short periods before making their way to heaven.”Although the mountain is not impressively tall, it is situated in such a way that you are able to have panoramic views of the entire city. It was quite lovely. At the foot of Yuldasan is a large, outdoor sculpture park, the first of its kind in Korea, which adds to the calmness of the mountain. After Yuldasan we headed off for some quick Korean eats and made our way back to Seongnam. Overall, a wonderful weekend.
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