First of all, I was thinking that cherry blossoms would be a bit over-rated. I mean, they're in everything...paintings, books, movies...talk about setting you up for disappointment. But cherry blossoms really are that awesome. Especially when they're on trees that line to road for miles, creating a canopy over the road. And when they line riverbanks. And when the wind blows, and it snows flower petals. Here there are a few varieties of beautiful blooming trees, with blossoms varying from pure white to bright pink. The white-flowered trees are my favorite, because the trees look like popcorn or cotton stuffing or I don't even know. They look comfy.
Cherry trees had been blooming in Jeonju slowly for a few weeks, but they hadn't gotten to peak yet, where they take over the whole tree. It was still beautiful. When the weekend of the cherry blossom festival rolled around (the first weekend in April), they still hadn't quite peaked in Jeonju. Nonetheless, Jon, our friends Dan, Amanda, Ben, Talor, Helen, Ken and I boarded a train headed south for Hwagae, a little village at the foot of a huge mountain that boasted a festival that made the top 3 tourist activities of the Korean spring.
After we got to the train station, we had to wander for awhile, trying to find the bus station. We eventually took a taxi to a small, old, dilapidated bus station that looked like an old school building, with old, dilapidated buses that could have been school buses in front. We bought our tickets for the bus that would take us to the festival, and waited around for it to get there.
Once it did, and we were boarded along with everyone else going to the festival, the bus started along the road. It was supposed to be a 30 minute ride. After about 10, we ran into stop-and-go traffic that was more stop than go. It was backup from the festival. After an hour and a half crawling down a beautiful road along a river lined with cherry trees, we got out and walked, following the example of a Korean power-walked we'd been going at the same pace as for at least 30 minutes. We figured some fresh air was in order, and that walking would probably be more enjoyable anyway.
It definitely was, and we walked the rest of the way. The festival grounds were a market in this tiny village. The market was apparently usually an attraction in itself, and it was sprawling, filled with fresh roots and mushrooms from the mountain, bags of tea leaves and pottery. The pottery was beautiful. Rustic jars, mugs and tea sets, delicate soju shot glasses and vases, all made of brown clay and decorated with white glaze, sometimes with a dash of pink or blue. I bought a nice, big, thick, heavy mug. I like my coffee or tea in something substantial. :)
We spent the rest of the time wandering the market, then walking on a road justly labeled "scenic road of Korea." It was lined on both sides with cherry trees, which came together overhead. It would have been greater, had it not also been backed up with traffic. But we still enjoyed it, and walked until the sun started setting.
We took a bus back to Jeonju. Getting on the first bus was an experience. We waited in an orderly line, which doesn't happen much in Korea. But then, when the bus came, everybody completely sprinted to the doors, pushing and shoving everyone else out of the way. I got pushed by a few scary old ladies, and elbowed by some guy with a little kid. Talor and I shoved along with them, and got seats, along with a couple other friends.
When we got back to Jeonju, we had a nice big dinner of Dak Galbi. Cheesy, wonderful goodness.....that's something I'm gonna have to learn to make when I get home. Mmmmm.