Recalling a friend’s experience last year, I was apprehensive about heading over to Jinhae for the cherry blossom festival. People from all around the world and from within South Korea would be heading to this popular attraction over the next week and accommodations are usually fully booked from weeks before. But being the garang (Singlish for courageous) and spontaneous people that we are, X, G and I went ahead and dealt with whatever that came in our way.
We took the bus heading to Jinhae from Seoul Nambu Terminal (서울남부터미널) at half past eight and while it was expected that we’d arrive four and a half hours later, we didn’t. The traffic was as bad as I’d expected it to be, because it was the weekend and the start of the festival, and it almost seemed like we would never make it to Gyeonghwa Station (경화역 벚꽃길). Seven hours later, at half past three, we finally got off the bus. Everything got frustrating from then on, as we were being pushed around by aggressive Koreans (and to be fair, by other foreign tourists). We joked about how it looked like India all of a sudden, where the buses were jam-packed but people were still trying to get themselves on the buses. Concluding that there was no way we were getting up any of the buses, we walked farther down and tried our luck in getting a taxi. Most taxi drivers rejected passengers heading to Gyeonghwa Station because of the bad traffic, but fortunately, a taxi driver stopped by and asked if we were heading there. The taxi driver later told us—in his heavy accent—that what usually took five minutes, took fifteen today.
Countless welfies and photographs later, we left Gyeonghwa Station and walked over to the Yeojwa Stream (여좌천), which is another famous attraction in Jinhae, but in my opinion, wasn’t really worth the time and effort.
We were left stranded in Jinhae with no accommodation and no way to get back to Seoul because of the number of people queuing up for the buses, so we spent the night at what was the most logical place we thought would be: a 24-hour McDonalds. (Thank you, McDonalds!) The rest’s just history and funny memories that we’ll remember for life.
Was the trip worth all the time and hassle? I’d have said no because of the crowd, but in retrospect, the cherry blossoms were one of the most impressive I’ve seen. I’d however advise against going on during the weekends. If you were to travel on a weekday, the traffic and hence your experience should be a lot better. Also, walking from an attraction to another can turn out to be a lot faster and less frustrating than waiting for the buses or for a taxi. I think it was impressive that there were over 380,000 cherry blossom trees in Jinhae. Even if you don’t make it to any of the attractions, the cherry blossom trees along almost every street is a sight to behold.
Updated May 2016.