It's spring time again in Korea, when everyone wants to go outdoors to smell the flowers. Literally.
And this year, the cherry blossoms are already starting to bloom and this weekend, a million people will gather again in Yeouido to enjoy the flowers, the festivities and the fun that go with this celebration of spring time in Seoul.
On my first spring time in Korea, my good friend Jeeho, who used to work in the Yeouido area, told me to meet up with him at Yeouido Station one Friday night during the festival, so he could show me what it was all about. When we got there, at the area lined up with cherry blossoms which were all lighted with different colors, I was surprised that the place was already crowded with couples, families, people with pets and of course, office workers like Jeeho and me.
And as we navigated the five kilometer route behind Korea's National Assembly, I was glad I switched shoes before coming over. Walking the whole route in rubber shoes would be more comfortable, especially if the purpose of your visit to Yeouido is to enjoy the blooms and bring home nice photographs, and not bring home an aching pair of feet.
But if you want to avoid the crazy traffic of both vehicles and people during the weekend, you can always stop by during the week. On weekends, going there by car will be a challenge and finding a parking slot near the festival site will be a problem.
The National Assembly Station (Line 9, Exit 1) and the Yeouinaru Station (Line 5, Exits 1 and 2) are the nearest subway stations to the site. Once you get out from these exits, you can always follow the crowds, or the scent of the flowers, whichever works for you.
When the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, they are like white wedding bouquets hanging up those trees, and they fall off a few days after, especially during a windy or rainy day.
If you're planning to bring your whole family, you can always bring a mat and picnic basket with you, and just park your car at the park near the 63 City Building, that tall golden brown building that used to be the tallest in South Korea when it was completed in 1985. From there, you can stroll and find a spot closer to the Yeouido Park.
At Yeouido Park, expect a lot of families, couples and bikers who would all be competing for space on the grass with a nice view of the Han River and the cherry blossom lane.
Although there are restaurants and cafes on the floating vessel parked at the Yeouido Park, expect long lines of people queuing to get some food, drinks or coffee. Also expect long lines at the toilet.
But once you're settled and have found a cool spot, you can just relax and enjoy the day under the sun and spring weather. And don't forget to dispose of your litter properly. There are huge designated waste disposal areas.
But for those who just want to stroll around, make sure your cameras and smartphones have enough battery charge as they might run out of energy as you won't stop clicking away having 'selfies' or taking photographs of the flowers and blossoms.
And if you get hungry along the way, there are always these food stalls where you can buy cheap snacks, or in my case, dako-yaki, which is one of my favorites. Luckily, I stumbled upon a dako-yaki food truck, which made my visit to Yeouido even more enjoyable. This was the first time in years that I have tried dako-yaki again, after my favorite dako-yaki stall at the Lotte Department Store food court closed shop.
(My favorite dako-yaki! For only KRW5,000)
So, you better hurry up to Yeouido this week when the cherry blossoms should be in full bloom! And please have some dako-yaki for me in case you see this food truck along the way.