It’s finally beginning to feel a bit like spring around Gyeongju, which means we’re just days away from that magical season when the cherry trees begin to bud and then blossom. Entire streets in Gyeongju turn into marshmallow wonderlands and romantic couples stroll through flurries of pink petals. I already posted last spring on some of the best places in town to check out the cherry blossoms, like at Kim Yu-shin’s tomb and the ruins of Banwolseong fortress, so I won’t repeat myself here. Korea’s wizards of meteorology have gazed into their crystal balls and have predicted Gyeongju’s cherry flowers (벚꽃) will begin blossoming between now and April 8th and that the peak season this year should be April 6th – 15th.
This is great news for those running in the 20th annual Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon (경주벚꽃마라톤), scheduled this year for April 9th. This hopefully means the runners will actually get to enjoy the cherry flowers this year, unlike in the past when the marathon was held before they’d even begun to bud. Incidentally, if you’re interested in running the marathon this year, the entrance fee is 30,000 won and the race will begin at 8:00 am in form of the Gyeongju World Culture Expo Plaza out at Bomun resort. You can choose between the 42 km full marathon, the 21 km half, or the 10 km or 5 km courses, and the routes for each are available here (Korean and Japanese only, I’m afraid). I’m posting the maps for all the courses below.
There doesn’t seem to be a deadline for registration this year, but rather it’s open on a first come first serve basis to the first 12,000 registrants. From what I can make out from the official website and last year’s English registration instructions, you just fill out this form (again, in Korean) and submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org . Payment then can be sent via bank transfer to Daegu Bank (대구은행) account # 274-10-002913 (경주시체육회) or Nonghyeop Bank (농협) account # 301-0070-5938-11 (경주시체육회). From what I can tell from the message boards, they aren’t threatening to cancel the race due to concerns about Foot and Mouth Disease.
Unfortunately other spring festivals in Gyeongju have not been so lucky. It seems the ever popular Gyeongju Liquor and Rice Cake Festival (경주술과떡잔치) has actually been postponed to October this year due to concerns about F.M.D. Who makes these decisions, I’m not really sure as you’d think the marathon would be more of a risk. However, I do wonder though if this isn’t because it would’ve run too close to the WTF Taekwondo Championships. There were going to be some major changes with this year’s festival anyhow, as it’s being moved to the tombs park around Cheomseondae Observatory and the Gyo-dong Hanuk Village next door (currently finishing construction). This is bound to mellow out the atmosphere a bit, as it wouldn’t be pretty to watch folks getting smashing and puking on King Naemul’s 1,500 year old tomb (then again, I could be surprised). I won’t really mind either way so long as they bring back the troupe of singing transvestite clowns and midgets. And if you think I’m joking, check out photos from last year:
And speaking of WTF, if you didn’t catch my post from the other week, the World Championships of the World Taekwondo Federation are being held in Gyeongju this coming May 1st through 6th. For more information check out my previous post or the official event website.
Although it’s not quite the Liquor and Rice Cake Festival, local writer and musician Angus MacCaull is organizing the second “Gratzie Reads” event for Thursday, April 14th. If you’re a local, or will be visiting Gyeongju around then, please come down to the Gratzie Italian Restaurant (not the bar) in Seonggeong-dong and support our local expat writers, artists and musicians. The first “Gratzie Reads”, at the start of March, was a resounding success with about a dozen foreigners performing music(including local band Taco Handshake) and reading original poetry and short stories. There was even a photo exhibition and an experimental video screening. If it’s anything like before, it should be a good night out and the fun will probably kick off around 8 or 9 pm. If the interest and support keeps up, Angus and Jun Bae (owner of Gratzie Italian Restaurant and Gratzie Hoff) are hoping to turn this into a monthly event.
View Seonggeon-dong (선건동) Nightlife, Gyeongju in a larger map
Finally, I can’t help but plug my favorite Korean holiday: Seokga Tansinil (석가탄신일) or Buddha’s Birthday, which is just over a month away. This year Buddha’s Birthday falls on Tuesday, May 10th and it’s a great time to visit Gyeongju as there are usually some very special events going on. Again, I already posted on them last year, so I’ll just give a brief recap here: For starters, it’s one of the few days out of the year you’re actually allowed inside Seokguram Buddha Grotto, which is well worth the trip up Mt. Tohamsan, even with the traffic. Also, Gulbulsa Temple typically holds a music and martial demonstration to celebrate the occasion. But the main attraction in my book is the lantern parade at Bulguksa Temple, which is just magic. It starts just after sundown and continues for about an hour criss-crossing the temple grounds. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed it doesn’t rain.