Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Jindo Island Sea Parting Festival (not the Red Sea, but it will do)

Back in late April I was able to join the Jindo Island Sea Parting Festival with the WINK travel group (WINK is short for When in Korea; I highly recommend their trips)! If you are living in Korea, visiting Korea, or are passing through and get the chance to go to this festival don't miss it! It was one of the best/ most interesting things I've done in Korea so far. It happened to coincide with Passover which I was unable to properly celebrate (sorry Mom!), but witnessing a real live sea parting has to count for something right?

One word of warning about WINK trips: unless you have a serious knack for sleeping on buses, don't plan to catch up on sleep. Our all night bus from Seoul took a 4:45 AM pit stop at the Wolchusan Cloud Bridge. Sleep deprived and disoriented, the group trekked two kilometers up the rocky mountainside to catch the sunrise. The first 30 minutes of bumbling up the path in the dark felt like a bad Blair Witch Project reenactment but the payoff was worth it. Thankfully my couple weeks of regularly hitting the gym proved useful, I was proud to be one of the first to make it to the bridge! This is definitely the most I've ever accomplished before 6 AM (given that I hadn't already been up all night).

Warning: Not for those afraid of heights!
By 9 AM we were off again to the next destination. Jindo Island is also famous for Jindo dogs, which I see everywhere in Korea, including Yeoju. Between hiking and the festival we stopped a bizarre but adorable Jindo Dog Show. In addition to being cute, loyal, and intelligent, Jindo dogs apparently can also jump through hoops, raise Korean flags, and retrieve beer cans from refrigerators.

By the time we made it to the festival around 1 pm it already felt like we'd had a full day. We boarded a boat and danced our way to the smaller island where the sea would begin to part. The festival celebrates the one weekend a year when the sea levels drop low enough so you can walk between Jindo Island and a smaller island called Modo.

Unfortunately the sea does not dramatically burst apart as much as it trickles to opposite sides of a sand bar (though it's still cool to watch). So we did what any people waiting a few hours for the sea to part would do... we sat and drank some beer. There were performers playing drums and dancing, but I admit it got a little old after the first hour. We also chatted with the soldiers (all Korean men have mandatory military service) who were stationed near the island and participating in the day's events. They were undoubtedly excited to talk to pretty foreign girls.

For a while I was puzzled by how few people there were on the island. I had heard a lot about the festival and assumed it would be a much bigger affair. Finally I squinted and looked across at the main island, where I realized there were indeed hundreds, if not a few thousand, people waiting for the parade to start so they could walk to the smaller island. It turns out WINK had gotten us some exclusive tickets to be on this side of the event!

Being on the smaller island meant we got to be a part of the official parade with the soldiers. Though perhaps this is what the soldiers rope some foreigners into helping them carry twenty-foot bamboo flag poles for three slippery kilometers across the sea. The poles were hollow and not very heavy, but I found it a little hard to balance and I spent most of the parade hoping I wouldn't slip on some seaweed and impale an innocent bystander.

We marched toward the main island with thousands of people walking towards us. The path is about 40 to 60 meters across so there was room for all. Many people waded into the water to dig for clams and/or other sea life. The soldier walking behind me handed me a live starfish which I held for a few minutes before tossing it back into the ocean. He seemed a little sad that I discarded his token of affection. Unfortunately I don't know the Korean for "I prefer flowers."

View from the main island.
Since I was in the parade I didn't get many great photos, these certainly don't do the event justice. Luckily Google has my back, if you're planning to go to the event or are interested in seeing more just image search the event! There are tons of great photos online.

The next day we went to another "Cloud Bridge" in Daedunsan. Luckily this time there was a cable car to take us most of the way up. After going across the bridge you could also hike up this staircase:

What I enjoyed more than the stairs was the warning sign before it: "Please do not pass the weak, elderly, and drunken." I'm just going to hope it's a mistranslation. If you are weak, elderly, or drunken, please maybe don't climb these stairs....

...unless you want to fall a couple hundred feet down onto these rocks...

Here's me at the top! (And the long blonde hair I had for about 5 minutes, RIP). Stay tuned for more adventures. It's been quite hot and rainy in Korea the last few weeks but I've been taking the time to explore Yeoju more and have some very very interesting things to share. TTFN!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome there is another sea parting plc near seoul daebudo



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