Saturday, 30 July 2011

Buddha's Birthday: Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival

Did you know that Buddha's birthday is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month in the Chinese Lunar calendar every year in East Asian countries? No, I didn't either until I got a bonus day off work for a Korean National Holiday in honour of it - nice-uh! Buddha's birthday was on May 10 this year which was a Monday giving us a sweet 3 day weekend. 

This day is celebrated across East Asia in various different ways. In Korea, temples are decorated with lots of lanterns and according to Wikipedia "on the day of Buddha's birth, many temples provide free meals and tea to all visitors". The Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul is the key Korean celebration held in the lead up to Buddha's Birthday. This year it ran over the weekend of May 6 - May 8 and included a huge lantern parade, the chance to make your own lantern and various traditional performances and ceremonies that you can watch or have a go at yourself.  

Paper lanterns decorating Jogyesa Temple in central Seoul.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Our first visitor from home

Back in spring we got our first visitor from England, to be honest I hadn't really expected anyone to make the long journey out here. Korea is neither cheap nor easy to get to from England, and doesn't exactly have a huge amount of beaches or good weather, so it's not a common tourist destination. Still our friend Tom who we know from university made it all the way out here just to see us, which was quite an honour.

His journey out here went completely smoothly for thousands of miles until he was a few miles from Gwangju when his bus broke down! So he was sat by the side of the road waiting for an hour for a new bus to come along and take him those final few miles. Luckily he'd hired a phone at the airport so we could keep in touch and I knew what had happened. When he finally arrived we returned to our apartment and had a bit of lunch and then didn't do much for the rest of the day. Tom was obviously pretty tired from an 11 hour flight plus bus delays etc. so we just chilled out, had a chat and caught up on news and gossip from home.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival

Back in April we travelled with our posse from Gwangju-si to the Spring Flower Festival at Yeouido in central Seoul. It was one of the first properly warm weekends of the year after a long, bitterly cold winter. The arrival of Spring in Korea is celebrated by lots of local festivals all over the country where people flock to admire the wild flowers and enjoy a bit of stroll in the sunshine. 

Pretty cherry blossom at the Spring Flower Festival.