Buddha’s Birthday

Last May 21st was Buddha’s Birthday. Being Buddhism the majority religion in Korea, this day, as in many other countries in Asia, is celebrated in a very special way. During all the week before this day, several parades take place around the most touristic areas of Seoul. We decided to take a walk around Gwanghwamun and Insadong during the first day of the celebrations.

The parade in Insadong reminded me of the Cavalcade of Magi in Spain.

Pungmul performance during the parade.

As in Chinese culture, the dragon is a very important figure in Korean culture, and it is very present in all Korean celebrations.

Chariots were made of a kind of paper with light inside, which made them very colorful at night.

View of another chariot.

Lanterns are everywhere in the city during the Budda’s Birthday previous days. All Buddhist temples, as well as the busiest areas of the biggest Korean cities are adorned with lanterns like these during these days.

More lanterns 🙂

View of the Jogyesa Temple, with all the lanterns for Budda’s Birthday.

Also for this occasion, the Cheonggye Stream (a.k.a. Cheonggyecheon) had this great look with all the lanterns.

Trip to the East Sea

For the Children’s day, we took a trip to the East Sea of South Korea. As opposed to the west side, where most of the beaches are just mud (as we could see during our trip to Oido), this coast does have actual beaches with sand as we know them. We decided to take this trip with an organized tour, which I didn’t like very much at first, but turned to be a very good idea and we got to see many places in just one day.

The first stop was the Odaesan National Park (in the Gangwon-do province). Being spring, everything was quite green and pretty.

The entrance to the National Park, inside of which there is also the Woljeong-sa Temple.

These two kids came with us during the whole trip. On Children’s Day (which is a national holiday in Korea) many parents go on trips with their children, and many families from Seoul choose the west coast.

Jiwon on a bridge with Buddha’s birthday‘s typical decoration.

All Buddhist temples have this kind of fountain where people can wash their hands and refresh themselves.

Another view of the lanterns on the bridge.

In Gangneung Station (강릉역), there is a train that goes all along the east coast. As opposed to other trains, in this one the seats are oriented to the windows on the sea side. This puppet was greeting children as they went onto the train.

And what could be seen during the trip? Well, at least during a great part of it, this is what you could see. A fortified coast with netting and guard posts. The proximity to North Korea can be felt specially on the coasts and on the North part of South Korea.

According to a sign, this North Korean vessel was intercepted when it was coming “too close” to the coast. Now they expose it as if it was a trophy.

One of the beaches without netting.

Even on children’s day, this poor kid had to work.

Basically, he had to watch that nobody got too close to the boat while the pushed it towards the sea with that forklift truck.

Gyeongbok Palace (Gyeongbokgung) in Spring

This isn’t the first time I visit this palace, but being spring, and with this good weather, this visit deserved a post with some pictures. Besides, if I am not wrong, after the Namdaemun was burned away, the Gyeongbokgung Palace is probably the most important tourist attraction left in Seoul.

This is the place where the king used to rest in summer. It’s completely open and surrounded by this lake so that his majesty could be really cool.

I guess it’s on this small boat how you get to the palace on the lake.

His majesty’s throne.

Detail of the columns.

Another of the palace’s lakes whose aspect had improved a lot with the arrival of spring.

I thought this was a nice picture, don’t you think? (UPDATE: It’s funny who this picture differs from these other from Kirai. Korean and Japanese cultures, while being similar, have quite a lot of differences: while in Japan he is the one and only king, in Korea she is definitely the princess.)

Another couple enjoying the good weather at the palace. I couldn’t tell whether the guy is dressing as a tiger or as Pikachu… in any case, he could have more style 😉

Already outside of the palace, we found this temple with the typical buddha’s birthday decoration, the same that we saw during our trip to Yeoju.

Yeoju Ceramics Festival

Some weeks ago we went to a county called Yeoju. It’s located in Gyeonggi-do, the province that surrounds Seoul. Yeoju is mostly know for its ceramics. And the reason to go there was the Yeoju Ceramics Festival, that takes place every year and was being held at that moment. Here you have some pictures of the event.

A sample of what you can see at the festival. All kinds of ceramics from tea cups to object I couldn’t even tell what they are…

One of the activities that you can do is ceramic painting. You can choose the object you want to paint and after paining it, they will finish the work (it has to be in an oven for some hours) and send it to your home for 10,000 KRW.

Right next to where the festival was being held, there is the Buddhist temple (called Silleuksa Temple). As Buddha’s birthday was close, it was decorated with lots of lotus lanterns. You can see this decoration at many temples and typical streets of Korea when Buddha’s birthday is close.

Another nice view of the decoration.

Children were also having a good time and taking pictures with their cellphones. It’s interesting that in Korea cellphones seem to have replaced compact cameras. People who really like taking pictures use reflex cameras. Those who really don’t care, just use their cellphones, which at daylight can get a very similar quality than that of compact cameras.

This buddha is what that child was taking a picture of.

The festival poster was flying in the air like this.

And of course, the mandatory group picture.