Boeun Jujube Festival

So, this past weekend saw me, Marta and my amazing friend Jess hit up Boeun Jujube Festival for Jess’ birthday celebrations. For those who don’t know, this festival is famous all over Korea. It is advertised in Seoul and widely across the country. Tour buses amble in and out all day, bringing hoards of excited and eager visitors with them.

Marta and I arrived in Boeun on the Friday night, unsure of what to expect from this festival. Our friend Jess had always described Boeun as a small town, with not much going on. A town of nearly-deads, mostly. But our worries were soon laid to rest. As soon as we departed the bus (and made a beeline to get some water/warmth from a local store), we heard the faint sounds of music in the background. Soon after, Jess came flying down the street on her bike and we were away to see the festival.

My first impression was one of complete awe. There were amazing lanterns on the river, in various shapes and designs, and a sea of tents as far as the eye could see. An amazing medley of smells, sights and sounds met us as we crossed a small bridge to enter the festival proper. Quite naturally, our first stop was for food. The excitement that I experienced when I found a legitimate Turkish kebab can not even be described here. Each bite was ecstasy. The meat was succulent and delicious. The whole thing just worked on all levels.

Our stomachs filled with enough food (for now), we decided to venture onward to see what the festival had to offer. On each side, there were stalls selling everything from ajjuma pants (think 1980s ski pants and you are pretty close) to selfie sticks (something I would buy for myself the next day) and from phone cases to games. The games were what caught my attention but I resigned myself to only playing two games that evening (having wasted much of my money playing push machines over the previous week). I first played a game where you have to throw darts to pop balloons. And I popped every balloon I aimed for, winning a small angry bird toy and some kind of rabbit-bear-pig. I had finally found a use for my gibbon-like arms and would return to this game the following day. The other game I played was a shooting game, where you had to knock over small toys with rubber bullets. I could have done much better if the old man running the stool didn’t keep standing the toys back up as I was reloading. Here, I managed to win a small toy and was given a wooden hammer by a disgruntled ajjossi next to me. My haul was pretty impressive for spending around $10.

Once again, we found ourselves wandering the festival and we took some stairs to what initially looked like a small playground. This was a great decision as we ended up finding the “ethnic” section of the festival. The first thing we saw was an assault on our senses. We stumbled across an Ecuadorian pan-flute band. And we were in awe. I am not sure any words I type can truly do this amazing experience justice, so I will simply post a video below for you all to enjoy (Edit – The video is coming in the next few days).

Finally, we decided to go and have some of the city’s famous rice wine (makkoli) and some amazing Korean seafood pancake. We spent the rest of our evening merrily drinking the delicious makkoli (so good, Marta and I made sure to pick some up to bring back to Cheongju) and eating the mouth-watering pancake before we decided to turn in for the night at Jess’ place.

The next day, I’d like to say we arose bright and early. But that is not true. Instead, we dragged ourselves out of bed sometime between 10 and 11am. After the normal morning routines everyone has (shower, put on clothes to avoid public nudity and that sort of thing) we once more headed for the festival. The first thing we wanted to do was grab some more food, so we did. Kebab, sausage and Korean pancake were all on the menu (and all amazing). Our stomachs full, we moved onto the festival proper. Aside from many stalls selling fresh produce, there was not much that was different to the night before. So I made the wise choice to return to the darts game. $15 and around 24 darts (and popped balloons) later, I had won a large pig-in-a-blanket (pun prizes are the best). I gave him to Marta and we immediately named him Sir Francis Bacon (pun names are even better). Rather tired from the night before, we simply strolled the festival, taking in the sights and sounds we had missed the night before. Finally, it was time for us to leave. After a short wait, Marta and I boarded our (packed) bus for Cheongju and tried to settle in the for the ride. We managed to get seats eventually, and slept most of the journey away.

Going to this festival was something I am so glad I did. It was an amazing experience and I suggest that anyone reading this and living in Korea check it out next year.

That is all for now.

Ricky

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