Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Jindo Miracle Sea Festival

Once a year in Jindo, one of many islands off Mokpo in the province of Jeollanam-do in South Korea, a festival would take place that would seem of biblical proportions. Known as Jindo Miracle Sea Festival, or Jindo Sea Parting Festival, the seas would part to reveal a road leading from Jindo to a neightbouring island.

While also known as the 'Moses Miracle', local legend instead tell of an old lady who was somehow left behind when the other villagers in Jindo fled to the neighbouring island because of some wild tigers. She prayed to the Sea God who then parted the sea for her to join her family. The phenomenon though, divine or not, actually happens 2-3 times a year, when the tide is at its extreme lowest, revealing a land bridge of sorts that actually connects Jindo to that particular island. The Festival though, was to be held only once a year (well to make it special I guess), and during then, you could join in the festivities and walk the 2.8km land bridge to the island.

Like many festivals in Korea, a carnival of sorts are almost mandatory, complete with food tents, music and performances. Once evening descends (approx 5pm), when the sea "parts" for an hour or so, the locals spring into action - no, not to cross the parted sea, but to scour the land!! This is something definitely more down-to-earth - free seafood for the masses! From seaweed to mussels, from crabs to abalone, families comb the land bridge for the riches of the seabed. No doubt what sort of dinner these families are having for the week... What a sight!

There are express buses from Seoul to Jindo which takes about 5hrs, and there are direct ferries from Jeju to Jindo too. However, for those who would want to enjoy the festival or event longer, it may be a good idea to stay in Mokpo, which is easily accessible via train from Seoul as well. Mokpo to Jindo is just 30minutes by bus. There are a couple of accomodation options in Jindo too, but as the Formula One race had arrived in Mokpo some years back, the upgraded motels in Mokpo seemed very well valued with excellent in-room facilities at affordable prices (we had a luxurious twin room for 55,000 won).

For those who have yet to experience a "miracle", check out Jindo's Miracle Sea Festival! ;)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Nemrut Daği

There are some places that just exudes a sense of mystery, or a fascinating past, and one of the main attractions of eastern Turkey - Mt Nemrut or Nemrut Daği, is such a place. Discovered in 1881, and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site only in 1987, it is certainly one of the highlights of Turkey, and some would say, the star attraction even.

A tomb site of a king atop a mountaintop may not seem out of the ordinary, but the statues surrounding the site are the talking point. King Antiochus I, King of Commagene, believed himself equal to the gods, and thus have his own statue made seated together with the likes of Zeus, Apollo and Hercules etc. Somehow, somewhere in time, these statues got beheaded, and now what's left is a scene of headless statues seated in a row, with their heads staring out from somewhere below their feet. And these statues are huge - the heads alone are man-sized! The statues are also placed on both the eastern and western face of the mountaintop, and so, many tourists come up not just to see this eerie sight, but for sunrise and/or sunset viewing as well. And yes, the views are stunning indeed!

There are supposedly 2 routes to the site - Malatya from the north, and Kahta from the south (and not to be confused with another Nemrut Daği near Lake Van at the very eastern end of Turkey). Travel arrangements can be made at both cities. Package tours (typically from 3D2N to 4D3N) are also available from as far as Cappadocia, with a evening/sunset stop atop Mt Nemrut. There are also supposedly some accommodation options in the nearby village but is practical only for those with their own car. Arrangement can be made to stay overnight at the cafe/restaurant at the entrance of the site too (which I did), and then you can catch both the sunset and the sunrise. Bring a good sleeping bag, and you can watch the stars on the restaurant verandah too! Note that you need a half hour hike up a barren rocky path to reach the statues!

There are many many places in the world for watching a glorious sunset/sunrise. But not together with a bunch of beheaded statues... and their heads!