Jinju Lantern Festival

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October 9th 2015
Published: November 19th 2015
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We travelled south overnight and arrived in Jinju in the early hours of the morning. We headed to Jinhangho Lake first. It was really quiet and we were the only people about. I head down to the lake and was pretty underwhelmed by it. I took a few photos of the misty lake, more to just say that I had been as it wasn't too pretty. I sat and ate some breakfast while reading my book for a bit. Then went for a bit of a wander around. There was a kid's amusement park, which seemed a bit eerie as there was no one around. I did get to see the sun rising over Jinju, which was pretty. We were by Jinhangho Lake for a couple of hours and for me, it wasn't really worthy of a visit.

We then drove for a little while to the city. We parked up in the car park opposite the fortress. It was still really earl in the morning and the ticket booth hadn't opened yet, but we were able to enter the fortress and have a bit of a walk around. The lanterns were all set up and they looked pretty in the daytime, I couldn't wait for it to get dark, so I could see them all lit up. Although with it being so early in the morning, sunset seemed like a lifetime away. By the time we had walked through to the main gate of the fortress the ticket booth there had opened and we were able to get our tickets for later. I can't remember for certain how much the tickets were, but I think they were around 8,000-10,000 won.

We found a coffee shop nearby and we got our desperately needed coffee fix. Then we headed off to do a small hike, that was nearby. We walked along the river, there was another festival set up behind the lantern festival, I think it was dedicated to Korean TV dramas. Not really my cup of tea at all. We walked along past the bus station and motel row, it was a street lined with about a million motels and hotels. We came to a main road and crossed it, to find the start of the trail. The trail was all stairs at first. Bloody stairs! I had t stop at the first view point to catch my breath. The views were pretty good from here, I could see the Nam River and the city of Jinju surrounding it. We kept going and soon the stairs disappeared. There was a patch of grass that was used as an exercise area, that reminded me of Yongmasan in Seoul. The hike took maybe about an hour to reach the top. There was a nice big deck and plenty of benches to take a rest on. We all headed to the benches, took our boots off and had a rest. We were all knackered after getting no sleep on the bus coming down. We made it over to the viewing deck eventually. The views were gorgeous. It had been cloudy earlier this morning when we were at the lake, but now the sun had got out and it was beautiful.

After the hike we were all starving, so we headed to the local market in Jinju. The market had lots of restaurants, one of the girls had been onto naver (Korean google) and had looked up what foods Jinju was famous for and where would be the best place to eat. Jinju's famous dishes are naengmyeon (cold noodles) and bibimbap. One restaurant in the market was really famous/popular, so we headed there. Jeil Sikdang (Best Restaurant) was a tiny little place. There was already a queue outside, but luckily it was fast moving. We didn't have to wait long before we were shown in. Even though the restaurant looks tiny from the outside, there is an upstairs seating area. We headed up a steep flight of stairs, took our shoes off and headed into one of the dining rooms. This restaurant is famous for bibmbap with raw beef on top, similar to the famous Jeonju bibimbap. We all ordered the bibimbap. The food came really quickly. The bibimbap was really good, and it was topped with raw meat. I wolfed it down, along with the sundae (black pudding) soup and kimchi, it was served with. I was shocked at how fast some of the other tables were eating, they came in after us and left before us.

After a quick coffee break at a mart, we headed back over to the fortress. We were all knackered so we found a nice spot of grass to plonk ourselves down on. We all passed out and had a nap for a couple of hours. It was just what I needed after not getting any sleep the night before. After waking up, we took a walk around the fortress, it was a lot busier now, but not jam packed. Jinju Fortress was constructed during the Goryeo period and had originally been a mud castle, but was later rebuilt with stone. During the Japanese invasion of 1592 General Kim won one of the greatest victories of the war there. We also headed along a walkway across the water, where we could see more lanterns and took a walk on the opposite side of the river, where there were even more lanterns to look at. I was definitely going snap happy with my camera. Then we headed back to the fortress.

As it started to get dark, we went back across to the other side. The lanterns were starting to light up. There was an area, which had loads cartoon character lanterns. They were great. We walked along the river looking at all the lanterns that were on display. There wasa tent set up where you could make your own lantern, so we decided to do that. It was only a few thousand won, I think. We were given a little kit and we sat down to make our lanterns. First I wrote a message on the paper, then made the lantern. I then taped it to the paper plate and attached the candle. We headed to the little section, where the you put the lanterns in the river. There were staff there to light the candles. Another member of staff put the lanterns into the water. We then watched them float away. There was also a firework display, so we found a spot to watch them. They were really good, it has been ages since I'd seen any fireworks so I really enjoyed them. I did try to take some photos of them, but even using the special firework setting on my camera, they turned out crap, so I gave up pretty quickly. Somethings are just meant to be enjoyed in real time.

After the fireworks a lot of people were leaving the festival area. The queues for the two bridges back across the river were immense! I think you would have been waiting over an hour to cross the river. Instead we headed to one of the exits and walked across the road bridge, much quicker. Massive fences had been erected all around the edges, so that people couldn't peek in to see the lantern displays. We headed for a coffee and then back into the fortress. We had a little walk around. I loved the big coloured baubles that were hanging from the trees. Also at the entrance there were some lovely lantern displays, I really liked the one of the monk.

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