Posted by: Matt Kelley | 24 March 2009

Jinhae’s Cherry Blossoms

20090324_seaofpinkOn the road from Masan to Jinhae. After emerging from a tunnel, the hills are covered in pink blossoms.

The city of Jinhae (진해시), is a special city located on a mountainous stretch of Korea’s namhae, or southern coastline. The town is best known as home to the world’s largest number of flowering cherry trees, or beotkkot namu (벚꽃 나무). For only a few short weeks each spring, an estimated 340,000 trees burst into a virtual sea of pale-pink blossoms. Fortunately, for the past 46 years, the hospitable people of Jinhae have shared their local treasure with the world as hosts of the Jinhae Gunhangjae (군항제), or Naval Port Festival.

20090324_boothsScores of booths offer delicious snacks, drinks and other fare for festival attendees.

The festival began in 1952, when a statue of Korea’s greatest naval hero, Admiral Yi Sun-shin (이순신), was erected in the city’s center. Since 1963, the festival has been held annually to honor him.

20090324_coastThe city of Jinhae is located in a protected bay on Korea’s south coast.

But, these days, it’s the spectacular cherry trees that attract over 1 million visitors (like me) each year. This species of flowering cherry is thought to be native to Korea, and over 1,000 of them line the road from Changwon (창원) city to Jinhae, alone. But nothing can prepare you for the dramatic scene once the port city comes fully into view. Suddenly, you’ve come upon a valley blanketed in pink.

20090324_romancewalkThe “Romance Walk” along hte Yoejwa Stream (click here for larger).

My favorite spot in Jinhae is the picturesque Yeojwa Stream (여좌천) and Promenade, which are located near the main train station. A popular place for couples, made famous by the Korean drama “Romance”, the small stream is bordered by yellow canola flowers and a 1.5-kilometer boardwalk that’s covered by a canopy of cherry blossoms. It’s simply a picture-perfect backdrop.

20090324_toysoldiersYoung cadets dressed up. Hey, since when does the South Korean Navy allow blue jeans?

After enjoying the promenade, I walked to a large stage featuring live music and stage performances. The area around the stage was packed with tourists, but to help us safely navigate the crowded streets, cute and enthusiastic local students directed traffic while bowing and thanking visitors for coming.

20090324_turtleshipA replica of the famous “Turtle Ships” that Admiral Yi Sun-shin used to defeat the Japanese invasions of the late 16th century.

Koreans know Jinhae as the home to the country’s Naval Academy, but visitors can access the campus and Naval Museum only during the festival. Although I wanted to board the full-size replica of Korea’s famous, 16th-Century Turtle Ships or its contemporary, a four thousand five hundred-ton destroyer, the long lines told me that I wasn’t alone!

20090324_donkeyA surprising find near the Promenade.

But then again, after all of this sightseeing, I was hungry! And what’s a festival without food? Fortunately, everything from chicken skewers and delicious donuts to whole coconuts were available … I almost tried some  beondaegi (번데기), or boiled silkworm larvae, but then I backed out. But thanks to a tip from a fellow visitor, I enjoyed a personal favorite, bibimbap (비빔밥), but this time, the rice and vegetable dish was made with Jinhae’s famous saesongi (새송이) mushrooms.

20090324_cherryplazaAs last year’s festival wound down, the area near one stage finally cleared out.

Now, had I eaten a bit less, I could have also visited Jinhae’s Yongchu (용추) Falls and nearby Buddhist Temple. But, I’ll leave that for another time, since I’m definitely coming back again soon! The 2009 Naval Festival runs from March 27th thru April 5th.

map_jinhae

Getting There:
→ From Seoul, high speed KTX trains leave Seoul Station for Miryang several times daily. From Miryang, the Saemaeul train goes to Jinhae. The 3-hour total journey runs 46,000 won for adults. I highly suggest you travel by train since you won’t get stuck in traffic and the location is very convenient and beautiful.

→ Or, take a bus from Seoul Express Bus Terminal to Masan Express Bus Terminal. The 4.5 hour ride costs between 18,200 to 27,300 won. From Masan, buses leave frequently for nearby Jinhae. 

For more information about the festival, go here [in Korean].

General information about the city in English can be found here.

(A version of this text aired on KBS World Radio on April 26, 2008.)

Advertisements

Responses

  1. i really want to see Jinhae!!WOW
    look at those cherry popcorns!!love it!
    I should go someday…

  2. excellent post .thanks. Hope I’ll visit there soon :)

  3. Hi Narsha and M Rahman,

    I hope you can both visit Jinhae, too… The good news is that even if you don’t make it this year, it will be even more spectacular next year!

    Best,
    Matt

  4. Yesterday, I went to Jinhae. It’s really beautiful city. Thanks for your guiding. Hope you telling me more and more beautiful place in Korea.

  5. Hi there,

    I’m so glad you had the chance to visit Jinhae! I’m wondering if you went specifically for the cherry blossom festival? This weekend the Seoul-area cherry blossom festivals are underway. I’m going to check out Yeouido’s blossoms tomorrow. Anyway, thanks for visiting the site, and I hope to hear from you again!

    Best, Matt

  6. Your photos of Jinhae are beautiful – reminds me of last year when we were visiting there.

    Your site is very informative and fun to read your articles. Thank you very much. KS

  7. Hi K. Sohn,

    Thanks for your nice comments. The blog has received a lot of traffic over the past two weeks, thanks to interest in Jinhae and the festival. I’m sad to have missed it this year!

    Best, Matt

  8. Hi there,
    Been following your travel updates from time to time and your posting on Jinhae brought back many good memories of my visit to Jinhae in 2007. It was my first experience of spring and the profusion of cherry blossoms in Jinhae was quite a sight. The crowds were also there, so if there are future visitors from abroad who want to check out the town during its Spring Festival, I’d recommend staying in the local 24 hour jjimjilbang if the minbaks and yeogwans are full.
    Could kick myself for missing out on the view of the cherry blossoms along the railway line there. Obviously I didn’t do enough homework!
    Look forward to more postings! Thanks for all the good work.
    Regards,
    SL.

  9. Hi Selene,

    Thanks for your note and great advice. It’s true, the number of Koreans who attend the popular festivals can be pretty overwhelming. Avoiding the weekends, staying in jjimjilbangs and commuting by train are just three good ways to minimize the frustration of the crowds. As you know, jjimjilbangs aren’t for everyone, but a pretty economical deal for people who don’t mind sleeping on a hard floor!

    Best, Matt


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: