Saturday, November 10, 2012

Seoul Lantern Festival

I love Cheonggye-cheon. To make a long story unduly short, it's the name of the stream that runs through central Seoul. Not that long ago, (less than half a century anyway), the banks were lined with houses on stilts and people washing their clothes. Now, Cheonggye-cheon is a model urban development project - the legacy of the country's current (and one of the most unpopular) presidents (once, Seoul's mayor) and a favourite place for Seoulites and tourists alike. Check out our good friend, Wikipedia, if you are interested in the stream's fascinating history. And if you're in Seoul , a trip to the Cheonggye-cheon museum is well worth your time. I happened upon it during a bike ride a couple of years ago, and was glad I did.

Anyway, the Seoul Lantern Festival is currently running through Cheonggye-cheon, and I'm just going to warn anyone thinking of going next Saturday for the closing night - don't. The festival makes for a lovely mid-week stroll, but tonight was complete and utter lunacy.

There was a queue to even go down the starting ramp at Gwanghwamun that started somewhere near City Hall and snaked its way through the plaza by the big purple and red cone thingy and then eventually led down into the lower pathways by the stream where there was a completely insane bottleneck forming. There were signs posted along the ever-growing line that marked the estimated waiting time to even get into the stream pathway - 1 hour, 1.5 hours... crazy time.

Anyway, if it rains, and if it's mid-week, go check it out. It would make for a romantic or peaceful stroll if the crowds are at bay. As it was, I was about ready to go all stream-rage on people who kept doing their best - in a sea of body-to-body people on a narrow pathway 12 people thick and football fields long - to push ahead of those immediately in front of them. I'm not sure where they thought they were going, but I'm pretty sure they didn't get there.

The lanterns are lovely though. I remember them being much more accessible a couple of years ago. Popularity kills.

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