Falling in Love With Autumn DaysHampyeong county in South Cholla province is one of the best places in Korea to spend fall days. There, you can enjoy beautiful autumnal scenery － blue skies, leaves exploding in red, yellow and orange, golden crops, scarecrows and red dragonflies.
This weekend in particular will be an especially good time to visit the county because it is hosting many interesting events to share the joy of the season. During the festival period, the county will offer free shuttle bus services through the areas where all the events are held.
Around this time of year, Yongcheonsa, a Buddhist temple located on the edge of Mount Bulgap, and the surrounding areas are covered with clusters of amaryllis flowers, called kkot-mureut. Those crimson flowers that grow throughout the local woods of maple, Japanese oak and bamboo are a most tantalyzing tourist attraction, inspiring travelers to stop for a moment to appreciate their beauty.
Kkot-mureut are bulb plants native to China. The plants blossom about 10 days before Chuseok, the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. Kkot-mureut bulbs, after being dried and powdered, have been used in Buddhist paintings as a preservative. The plants are thus common in the shade near Buddhist temples in Korea.
The forest near Yongcheonsa is the largest natural habitat of kkot-mureut in the nation. The town office of Haebo-myeon created a promenade in the forest for visitors to Kkot-mureut Festival. It takes about 40 minutes to walk along the path. You may enjoy crossing a wobbly suspended bridge or breathing in the fresh air at one of the rest stops along the path. Around the promenade, you will find 1,525 stone pagodas made by local families. There is also a 200-meter-long tunnel decorated with plants such as bottle gourds and pumpkins.
For those who love hiking, a trip to Yeonsil-bong, the peak of Mount Bulgap, can be a rewarding experience. Mount Bulgap is well known as one of the best places to view the sunset. It takes about one and a half hours to walk from the promenade to the peak.
During the festival, many interesting events will be held near the Kkot-mureut promenade. For instance, you can participate in catching freshwater fish or grasshoppers and picking acorns. You can also experience traditional ways of living such as spinning thread and producing a sedge carpet. In addition, there will be a chance to taste some green tea made from bamboo leaves that grow in the woods by Yongcheonsa.
Scarecrows and Totem Poles Festival
The Scarecrows and Totem Poles Festival offers many fun events such as carving your own jangseung (totem pole) at the Totem Pole Park in Nasan-myeon. The park has 199 jangseung carved in the shape of spirits and 99 sotdae or ceremonial poles to wish for a good harvest. It is a popular spot among tourists to take pictures.
Jangpageum-deul is a huge field decorated with over 500 scarecrows. The scarecrows are dressed in a variety of ways including as a farmer in a straw hat and a housewife carrying a basket of lunch to the field. Close by, there is an exhibition hall with more than 3,000 traditional farming tools, from hoes to plows.
If you are interested in ancient Korean culture, head to Worya-myeon where there are many tombs dating back to the third century. There are also prehistoric dolmens at Yongwol-ri. During the festival, shuttle buses will be available for a trip around the tombs at Dongsam-myeon.
On Sunday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., there will be a Pungnyeonje traditional ritual, wishing for a rich harvest. The ritual will be accompanied by cheerful traditional performances including music by local peasant bands.
For more information about the events, visit the Web site at www.hampyung.chonnam.kr (English available) or call 061-320-3617.
Aqua Nature is a freshwater acquarium that opened in Hampyeong county last June. The exhibition hall boasts over 120 kinds of freshwater fish including 50 that are native to Korea. Aqua Nature, with 130 aquariums including one huge one with over 5,000 fish, is the biggest of its kind in the nation. It is located near Hampyeong-Cheonji resting place on national road No. 1. Admission costs 2,000 won (about $1.50) for adults and 1,500 won for students.
For more information, call 061-323-1007.
Bung-eo-jjim is a Korean dish of steamed freshwater fish that is difficult to prepare. Jangsu Hoegwan, a restaurant in Hampeyong county, offers the best bung-eo-jjim in town. The place has been serving bung-eo-jjim, the only item on the menu, for seven years.
To make bung-eo-jjim, a gutted freshwater fish is stuffed with pork, ginseng, dates and squid. It is then marinated with seasonings such as onion, hot pepper powder and soy sauce. Steamed to perfection, it is ready to be served.
For more information, call 061-322-4180.
Take the Honam Expressway and exit at the Jangseong Interchange to get on national road No. 24. Drive about half an hour to Geumdeok Intersection. To the right is the way to Yongcheonsa, to the left is Worya-myeon, and Nasan-myeon is about a 10-minute drive straight ahead through the intersection.
by Kim Sae-joon
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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