Category Archives: Festivals

Pocheon Herb Village (Lighting Festival)

~B~

This is a late post from Korea (sorry for the delay!) There were two large displays of Christmas lights north of Seoul that I/we were pretty interested in seeing: the lights in Santa Claus Village (though really all over) Pocheon Herb Island and the Garden of Morning Calm Lighting Festival. We decided we would do one of them and while I originally wanted to do Morning Calm, I decided on Pocheon Herb Village. The journey was going to be pretty much equally long for either but the Herb Village had cheaper entrance fees and offered more things to do/sites to see in the day as well. Technically, we could still do the Calming Festival, but really we would spend more time getting to these places than we could at them and there were still other things we want to do.

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While looking up how to get there I enjoyed reading this person’s post on how to get to Pocheon Herb Village because it reminded me of us trying to get everywhere. I would just like to say something. It seems everyone else in Korea had a Korean sim card which let you get wifi everywhere and they have service, data, etc. With this you can get apps and know what time buses and metro come and leave, how to get anywhere from anywhere, GPS to get around, translating apps which both say and spell out words in Hangul and Korean-English to ask people for help, you can translate signs and menus, find a place to eat, and more. Aka your life is easy-peasy. Well that was not the case for us because we have none of that but I think we still did fine.

Anyway, back to Pocheon Herb Village. Another reason I chose it: We were able to just take Line 1 all the way from Songtan to Soyosan! (And then take a bus, of course). According to the website when I typed it in when planning the trip, it would be a little over 3 hrs from our station to Soyosan. Of course it did not end up being straight there. Like when went to Bukhansan National Park, we had to get on another train at Kwangoon University stop, plus I had to get off somewhere to use the restroom.

We arrived in the early afternoon. I had hoped we would be able to see some of Herb Island before nightfall which was earlier at this time of year, especially this far north. I had looked it up online and determined we would want to take either bus 57 or bus 57-1. When we came out of the metro station there was a bus stop immediately in front of us. To the right it listed a bunch of bus numbers including Bus 57 so I thought “hmmm.” Kyle felt satisfied in assuming that the bus would be coming right in front of us but every account I had read online involved crossing the street (where there was also a bus stop). I could not ignore this so we crossed the street and checked it out. It listed a bunch of buses, including 57-1 but on a screen we thought might display the next buses coming (it listed around 5 or so), 57-1 was not on it which then made me question this as well since it should have been arriving within 25 minutes (according to one of the time tables I had looked up online). I had actually looked at several that indicated otherwise but I felt this one seemed the best and was the most recent.

We really didn’t know what to do. We crossed the street back and went and looked at a map of the area and it looked pretty interesting. We also walked down the street a little just to check things out. When it was coming close we ultimately decided to cross the street and wait at that bus stop. When the time came, the bus did not arrive (but the bus did not arrive across the street either). Maybe the time table was wrong and a different one was right? In which case we would need to wait another 20 or 30 minutes. I thought we should make just walk down the street a little to see if there was another station we somehow missed but Kyle was bent on checking out a Memorial the Koreans had made for Belgium and Luxembourg up a long flight of stairs behind us. He said “The bus will probably come as soon as we get up there.” I said, “Yes, it will, let’s wait.” (Do you know what is going to happen next?) But he proceeded up and I followed to the top and listened to some dogs making strange barks in someone’s yard and looked at the memorial which was fairly interesting looking.

Monument near Soyosan station

After a couple of minutes we see the bus. Son of a nutcracker! Well there is no way we were going to make it because like the trains, those Korean bus drivers don’t mess around. It arrives, people leave, and then there is barely time for anyone to get on before it is off again. Korea is all about efficiency. For whatever reason, even after the bus left Kyle continued running down the stairs as if it would somehow that would fix this. Seriously, at that point why not look at the memorial a little more? According to whatever table I saw that accurately predicted this bus (it was about six minutes late), the next bus would not be coming for a couple hours, and with a forty minute to hour bus ride, we were not going to see it before dark. Of course I gave Kyle “the look.”

Well it was either head into Seoul and do something else I had planned through pictures on my phone for a different day or explore around here. Ultimately we decided we would explore the area a little since we were there and that we would take the train to Herb Village anyway when it came and we would not miss it. Spoiler: This is not the failure that the Banpo Bridge was, thank the elves.

We returned to the map and both thought it would be nice to do a hike. Kyle said he knew where to go and I followed. We went down the road a little bit (across the street) and then followed a road up the mountain. We walked down for a little while and while there was not quite as much as at Bukhansan, there were still some street vendors selling food and shops selling hiking gear in a similar way and set up. We made our way into the mountain

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It was a pretty walk up with a stream and some small bridges.

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Off to the side at one point (I didn’t get a picture), there were some girls practicing some traditional Korean music involving drum-like instruments on a stage.

We also saw a statue which reminded Kyle of the Avatar series (not the movie).

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We continued up. We wished we had time to do another hike before we left but unfortunately would not. We got to an area to pay (KRW 1000, less than a dollar) to go further and we would have except that we were going to need to turn around soon anyway so we headed down the other side which was supposed to have some shopping. Most of the places there were actually closed, though. We saw a family of kitties outside of a restaurant, though! They couldn’t decide if they were afraid of us or not. Finally we headed back down to the bus station. We didn’t want to miss it this time.

We still got down a little early though and we were both hungry. I had just had crackers and candy and Kyle had something similar and it was getting later. There was a restaurant right behind the station which appeared to serve Bibimbap which was something Kyle really wanted to try before we left and that had the potential to be vegetarian.

We went inside and had a good view of the bus station so we could keep an eye on it. There was just one woman in there who was finishing up a meal (and appeared to be sick) and the woman running the place. Kyle pointed to what we wanted and said “No meat.” She repeated it back and did an X with her fingers (I think Kyle did it too). I think they went back and forth a few more times and then she asked if we wanted egg and he said no because they kind of scramble it in there we think and I don’t like it that way. She cooked up our meal and came out with 3 small servings of (different) kimchi and the decent-sized bowl of Bibimbap. She then also brought two soups. Kyle thought one was Miso soup but it tasted really fishy to me so I gave it to him. The other one was Oxbone soup. Obviously neither of these were vegetarian but whatever, so far they were doing better than most places. I guess they didn’t technically have meat in them but I did not eat them of course.

Kimchi and soupBibimbap

We were obviously not doing the right thing with the Bibimbap because then she came to instruct us on how to eat it. Overall it ended up being pretty good and the bus came again not long after we finished the meal which was quite cheap. She gave us an orange each for dessert which was nice as well.

We got on the bus, let the driver know where we were heading and got a confirmation from another Korean passenger that we were on the correct bus. Once we arrived at the stop which we almost missed, we walked down a road a little bit, turned left and then bought our tickets and headed up a hill to Pocheon Herb Village.

Arriving at the Santa Claus VillagePocheon Tickets

The place was really cute! We began by using the bathrooms and headed out to explore.

Bathrooms at the Herb Village
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I loved the little Venice area and it was still light at this time. You can even ride a gondola but we decided it wasn’t in the budget considering we had to pay for extra transportation here plus the tickets (though they were not too much). Luckily we had already eaten the bibimbap because the food here was a little more expensive as well, though we had heard it was good.

Little Venice in Pocheon Herb Village
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There was an area with various disney characters which we came to next. We were able to actually watch the lights turn on in this area which was pretty exciting.

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Other areas includes a bakery with a delicious aroma wafting outside of it (I read that their garlic bread was very good but we did not try it), people selling various herbs, a shop/play room, a dinosaur area, a flower shop, a “street of memories” (set up like the childhoods of the older Koreans), an herb museum, and more. We enjoyed the Santa Claus village, though the whole place was lit up.

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The next bathroom that we came across, and I used, was also themed. It had to be the best smelling bathroom I have been in as the room was full of herbal plants.

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We came across several gift shops which had some really cute things we would have liked for us or for gifts for others but many of them would just not have been able to be sent via mail or were a little more expensive for us. At one of the shops they were giving out sample of peppermint herbal tea which was good but very strong.

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We also enjoyed just wandering around and looking at all of the lights.

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Lights at Pocheon Herb Village
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The lights actually last several months but are not around all year. In the spring (I have read) you are able to see more flowers blooming and herbs growing so I am sure that is also a nice time to visit.

All in all, though it was a little tiring getting there, it was a really nice holiday outing and I am glad we went.

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Seoul Lantern Festival & the Chrysanthemum Exhibit

~B~

We really enjoyed going to the Chinese Lantern Festival when we were living in Dallas and were sure we would enjoy the Seoul Lantern Festival too. When I found out about it, I made sure we would go early in the festival and not make another mistake like we did with the Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain show. This year (2015) the festival ran November 6-22nd. It is actually fairly new; the festival only started in 2009.

We began our day in Myeongdong, and, after spending some time over there, walked up to Cheonggyecheon Stream, where the festival was located. Because the festival involves lanterns (obviously), it took place after dark, between 5pm and 11pm every night. We arrived not too long after it started for the night and it was already pretty crowded.

Lantern Festival Displays

We enjoyed a view of part of it from above before we found some stairs to head down. We followed the river all the way to the end of the display both ways (we think). It was a little chilly but everything was really beautiful. They had all kinds of displays from all over. Some related to local history, some were Korean cartoons, while others were from China and other parts of Asia and Europe. There was even a Mount Rushmore.

Korean Lantern Festival
Seoul Lantern

There was also an area under a bridge where you could make a lantern to float on the river.

Seoul Lantern FestivalLanterns Floating

Overall, we had a great time walking around, looking at the lanterns, and reading about them.

At the Seoul Lantern Festival

Though it was obviously dark by this time, we also had wanted to check out the Chrysanthemum Exhibit at Seoul Plaza which was not too far of a walk. We had intended to go there first but got lost and stumbled upon the Lantern Festival first (which we had intended to do after the flower exhibit.) We figured out how to get there, and while we would have enjoyed seeing the flowers during the day, the exhibit was still nice to see at night. This year (2015), the flower displays were out from October 29th until November 15th.

Seoul Chrysanthemum Exhibit

There were chrysanthemums planted as flowers regularly are planted (but more condensed) and also some shapes made with chrysanthemums.

chrysanthemum character

Definitely a trip with some pretty sights.

Heart at Seoul Chrysanthemum Exhibit//

Bucheon International Animation Festival

~B~

For those of you who don’t know, Kyle is an animator! Because of this I decided to search for animation festivals in Korea and found this one. The Bucheon International Animation Festival (BIAF) has been going on several years (since 1999) but has also been morphing some over time. It used to be called the Puchon International Student Animation Festival (PISAF) but they recently changed the name both to incorporate more than just students into the festival, and in an attempt to make it more foreign-friendly (Bucheon is the romanic version of Puchon.) There are competitions with awards, exhibits, and screenings.

BIAF

This year (2015) the festival was October 23-27 but we just went one day (the 26th.) It was a little bit confusing for us how the festival worked. We initially got off at the Samsan Gymnasium stop on the metro and walked over to the Korea Manhwa Museum area. We saw a booth outside and asked if we needed tickets for this portion but we didn’t which was nice. We walked in and saw some neat pieces of art/sculptures on our left, and to the right there was a line of booths representing different colleges in Korea.

Flower ArtCollege booths at BIAF
Some of the colleges had their student short films playing and we stopped to sit and watch a few. Some were interesting, others were annoyingly sexist, just like the animation and film industries and ok, world are as a whole. We also looked through some of the sketch books containing character designs and storyboards at one booth. Not too surprisingly, there are quite a few colleges that have animation programs in Korea. Korea even has high schools which specialize in animation.

We wandered around the downstairs and entered a room which has some 3d sculptures of superheroes and 2d art work of various subjects. We found the art appealing but were not sure if we could take pictures in this area. Outside of the room, there was another area which contained pillars with information on some of the animation producing companies/studios in Korea. Finally, we went upstairs and found another room which was a traditional animation exhibit.

Animation Festival

We watched 3 short films (traditional animation style) on a screen, each of which were quite interesting. The auteurs of the films were women from Korea, China, and Japan (yay!)

Museum in Bucheon

I looked it up and these films can be found online so I have provided links for anyone interested. I am going to provide the synopses at the end so you can watch them and interpret them as you would like before checking out what we thought about them or what the artist was trying to communicate:

Airy Me” by Yoko Kuno

My Milk Cup Cow” by Yantong Zhu

Little Sweetheart” from Yewon Kim

I felt inspired by the 2d work and feel a desire to create my own 2d animation. Of course I must preface this by saying that I am a person who is easily inspired (perhaps the reason I changed my major 9 times) and part of the reason I sometime encounter problems accomplishing things is that I am inspired by everything and try to do everything without really focusing on anything completely for very long (“If you try to be good at everything you will never be great at anything,” “Jack of all trades, master of none,” blah blah etc. I will work on it.) Because of this I am careful to monitor the media I consume (which I think everyone should do anyway and I may write about later.) Back to animating: it’s not really realistic in our current set-up and lifestyle but I hope to make my own traditional 2d animation someday. I think I would prefer it to computer animation because it simply feels more involved, creative, and natural. You have more control over it and really bring everything to life.

Back to the exhibit: Some of the original art, storyboarding and sketches from these films was on display in this room as well.

Airy Me

After we were done looking at all of it we headed back downstairs and out. We thought there might be another building/area associated with the festival in that area but if there was we did not find it. Next, we headed over to the other area for the film screenings. There were different ones/types each day. We were more interested in the short films (over quicker if we dislike them and more variety.) It was a pretty long walk (we passed two more metro stations) but it was an opportunity to see some of Bucheon.

Hand Statue in Bucheon

It was sprinkling which was great too (I love rain and it was our first rain since in Korea while out.)

City of Bucheon

We passed by a HomePlus and an Emart so we stopped in to check them out and just see what they had since we hadn’t been to those stores yet. We continued on and went into Bucheon City Hall, where we thought we would find more festivities.

Bucheon City Hall

Nothing was going on there so we looked at a map and walked a little bit back in the direction we came from to another area.

Leaving City Hall

We went inside the building where the screenings were supposed to be and went to use an elevator where a rude woman tried to close it on me. Koreans are usually very nice and polite and so I don’t think this woman was Korean. We traveled up and realized that the films looked like they screened in an actual theater and that the rude woman worked for the festival. We found the ticket buying process confusing and did not understand what a ticket really covered. We decided we didn’t want to spend money, especially when we didn’t know what we were buying, and ended up leaving and taking the Metro to Insadong which is where we planned to go next anyway. We did not regret the walk over because we enjoyed it and got to see more of Bucheon.

Info on the short films:
Airy Me:
Actual Synopsis:After injection of medication, the test subject girl turned into Chimera when her switch of nose got pressed. What kind of sight can be seen when no longer a human being keeps humane needs or wants? Is the creature moved by memories, admiration, love, or hates? Who saw the world of this fragmentary story that swinging camera works tell?”
Our opinion: Trippyy, but impressive animation. It’s what you might expect to see if you took acid or another similar hallucinogenic drug while sick in the hospital, and so not surprisingly it was premiered by Dazed and Confused Magazine when it was first produced in 2013. It is kind of anime-esque and I usually hate anime (unless Hello Kitty counts?) but it’s growing on me. The style used to bother me to so much it would make me throw up. In recent years Kyle has made me watch some anime, though, and has also made me watch many other low-budget styles of animation on television which I used to find aesthetically atrocious (for example, South Park) so I have slowly acclimated to it, gotten over it, and learned to appreciate it more. I actually really like this animation and I feel I could have come up with something with a very similar vibe.
My Milk Cup Cow.
Actual Synopsis:The father tells his daughter Nunu a lie that there is a cow in her milk cup. She believes it and drinks up milk, but there isn’t any cow. Her father tells her a variety of lies, which Nunu finds increasingly difficult to believe.” Here is an excerpt from an interview with the creator as well: “Yes, it is based on my childhood with my father. We are in a single family at that time, but I remember my father gave me a very happy childhood with full of imagination. That story about the cow is real, I hated to drink milk when I was a child, so he pushed me and told that lie. I tried to make this more like a story, not just a documentary of my childhood, which maybe not enough for a film. So I created some lies in the script actually, I think they’re more suitable for this animation.” Also: “It is still the 1980s in the SouthEastern part of China. I went there and took some pictures, it really changed in city parts, but countryside it is the same as my childhood.” Our opinion: This short film has won many awards. It was pretty straightforward/did not take much to figure out. The only exception was that I could not determine whether or not her father used drugs. We both thought it was good.
Little Sweetheart.
Actual synopsis: We could not find it. Sorry!                              
Our Opinion: I don’t know what this film was about. Kyle thinks it was about the parents making the child feel small and not approving of her relationship with the boy and then later approving of it. I could see it.

Korean American Friendship Festival

~B~

We had seen signs for this festival during our first few days in Songtan but had forgotten about it until we went to do some yoga in the nearby park and realized there was something going on there. There were people performing on a stage and lots of vendors around. We soon realized it was the Korean American Friendship Festival.

Jinjang Park

Not surprisingly, the festival takes place just outside of Osan Air Force Base. During the two day festival (we stopped in both days) the road leading away from the base is filled with various vendors, mostly food.

Korean American Friendship FestivalWalkway and Booths

There were a couple more roads leading away from this road which were filled with vendors and there were performances and ceremonies involving both Americans and Koreans. We saw some Korean children doing martial arts and some American military personnel on stage in Shinjang Park.

It was kind of nice to see some fellow Americans and hear them speaking English, but we have recently found that to do that, all we need to do is walk down that street (the one leading away from Osan, referred to some as “the Ville.”) We walked around and bought some street food.

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We shared a potato dish on a stick, while Kyle got octopus on a stick and I had ice cream. They were about 3000won each (~$2.65).

Korean Street Ice CreamMy Ice CreamKyle with Octopus on a StickOctopus on a stick grilling

We also saw some sort of drag-like performance on the street.

Korean Person DancingKorean Street Performance

It was a little crowded but we had a nice time walking around and enjoyed the festival.