Sunday, 23 October 2011

Jinju Lantern Festival

We recently went to the Jinju Lantern Festival and I was really impressed! Usually festivals in Korea can be a little bit of a let down. The internet can play up the size of the events, I always just miss the activities or all the tents are packed up and empty. But this festival was really cool! The river running through the center of Jinju was filled with lanterns. They were huge in size and characterised a variety of Korean fables and Disney scenes. There were also miniature world monuments and huge mythical animals.

Tunnel of sponsored lanterns

There was an impressive and really long lantern tunnel. The canopy was made from thousands of identical, individually sponsored lanterns. Each one was labeled with a name of a business or family.  Another tunnel was filled with the efforts of local school children. There were so many sponge bob square pants and angry bird lanterns, the latest crazes in Korea. There was even a toilet shaped lantern which depicts Korea's general obsession with toilet humour! It was a feast for the eyes. Everywhere you looked there was an interesting and creative lantern. Some were made with kitchen strainers or other household items.Also fish, insects and traditional styles.

School children's lanterns

When it was time to eat, we avoided the arm grabs from the ajummas (old ladies) selling the outdoor hog roast. They were really pushy which is something I have not seen before in Korea. The language barrier helped a bit when we tried to ignore their temptations. The lantern festival must be a tourist hot spot and don't these women know it! My co-worker actually visited a few nights before us and she got bullied into eating at these open-air restaurants. She said the Korean table next to her got a huge plate of pork, but the foreigner table seemed to get half portions and it was very over priced. Watch out for that little scam!
Luckily we bypassed them as my Korean friend Hazel, wanted to take us to the Jinju Hikers' food tent. This was a tent, funnily enough, run by the Jinju Hikers and their food was anything but amateur. We enjoyed a couple of the vegetable pancakes (전), and some delicious mussels in a garlic broth. We also went for a couple of cups of makkoli rice wine and had a gorgeous view of the river, although the lanterns were a little further along out of sight.

Delicious food from the Jinju Hikers

Squid stuffed with their own legs.

 We wandered around the long market stalls. It was a strange hotchpotch of all kinds of traditional souvenirs, rugs, shampoo, phone covers and socks! There were various other food vendors selling corn dogs, cinnamon crisp breads and squid stuffed with their own legs until they looked uncomfortably full! We took a stroll back down the river. On approach to the rhino lantern, I was convinced it was an elephant. But Steven knew better. I guess his skills in identification of animals from the rear are better than mine.

There were some really intricate lanterns and the traditional Korean lanterns were great! There were also the usual photo opportunities. Hazel and I couldn't resist! Thanks Hazel for taking the time to drive us over to Jinju. The evening was very laid back and relaxing. So much so, that I slept in the car all the way home! :)

Hazel and I

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