About Gwangyang Maehwa Village
Gwangyang Maehwa Village, also known as Seomjin Village, is a small, charming local village tucked in the city of Gwangyang, Jeolla Province, at the downstream of Seomjin River, the cleanest water among Korea’s 5 largest rivers.
Every spring, the picturesque view of more than 100,000 plum trees covering the hilly Seomjin Village bursting into bloom fascinates both local and international visitors.
I, a restless traveler and a member of Trazy Crew, can’t have missed it out. I’ve traveled down to Gangyang where the Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival is being held. Let’s peep into what my wanderlust presented me this time!
Take a look at the things you must try or enjoy at Gwangyang Maehwa Village!
1. Get inside Cheong Maesil Farm
The plum blossoms are the starters of spring flowers that mark the arrival of spring in Korea. So if you want to fully enjoy Korea’s spring, this village should be the first spring destination on your list.
And yes, when I got there, these plum blossoms were already greeting heaps of people with their families, lovers and also on their own at the village.
It’s this female farmer’s own devotion of 50 years that the whole mountain has turned into a vast orchard that only grows organic plums.
24-year-old young lady Hong Ssangri, married to a native Seomjin villager, felt lonely in the rural countryside with a very small population. She thought more people would visit her town if the place was covered by beautiful plum flowers. So she started planting plum trees adding to already existing 5000 plum trees inherited by her father in law.
Now, Hong’s Cheong Maesil (Green plum) Farm has become the biggest plum plantation in Korea and thousands of tourists visit the village to see this breathtaking scenery. She made her dream come true! A huge monument greets visitors and tells now you’ve reached the entrance of this plum orchard.
2. Take in the plum blossoms off the beaten path
Walking in the uphill path, not only have I seen the scenic view of plum blossoms but also the 50-year dedication of the plum master who planted and grew the plum trees from the bottom of your heart as she brought up her own children.
While it is fun to walk the main orchard paths with other visitors, I also ventured to take narrow paths of which the entrances were somewhat hidden behind the bushes.
3. Quench your thirst at the beautiful Hanok cafe
The day was sunny and warm, and I soon became quite thirsty. There. I found a cafe bustling with people. This touristy, but still keeping the local tradition, village has a Hanok cafe boasting the beauty of its curved roof.
4. Try Maesil Ice Cream!
I got out of the cafe and as I headed towards the tip of the hill, I found these countless jars used to preserve plums for various purposes. The plums will be made into plum tea, plum juice, plum ice cream etc.
Curious what it would taste like, I decided to try the ice cream out of plums.
A piquantly plummy-sour and sweet ice cream doubled the joy of the spring excursion! Don’t forget to try this ‘Maesil (plum) ice cream’ if you visit the Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival. It’s a MUST!!!! The ice cream costs 3,000 KRW and you can buy it with your credit card. 😉
5. Cool off at the bamboo forest
After quenching my thirst with ice coffee and plum ice cream, I realized that there was much to explore. Here, as you move your step, the scenery you encounter continuously changes.
On the way to the observatory deck, there is a path that you should not miss. With plum blossoms on the left side and a bamboo forest on the right side, you will feel like walking inside a movie!
6. Hike up to the observatory deck
After passing the bamboo forest, you will see people climbing up the wooden steps, which take you to the observatory deck. It can be strenuous to walk all the way to the top, but it’s definitely worth it.
7. Try Maesil Bibimbap & Maesil Makgeolli
Although lunch is not provided, you can find several restaurants and booths around the village and inside the Cheong Maesil Farm where you can taste a variety of local Korean food and dishes.
The dishes served at the booths inside the farm are relatively cheaper than the ones outside the farm and near the parking lot, so I strongly recommend you to have a lunch inside the farm if you want to save money. The dishes cost around 7000~10,000 KRW per person.
I had ‘Bibimbap’, Korea’s famous dish, but it was extra special because it was topped with plums. Other dishes served at the booths include ‘Pajeon (Korean-style pancake)’, noodles, ‘Nakiji Bokkeum (Stir-fried Octopus)’and many more. Some of the booths seem to serve the Cherry Blossom Oysters, or ‘Beotgul’ in Korean, which are also one of the popular local specialties in the area, as well.
Another thing you may want to try or take home with you is ‘Maesil Makgeolli’, which is Korean rice wine made of plums.
8. Get down by the riverside
If you are done navigating the Cheong Maesil Farm, get down to the riverside and you will find the Toad Square.
According to legend, a swarm of toads scared the Japanese army away from crossing the Seomjin into northern Jeolla. The name of Seomjin River, or Seomjin-gang, literally means “toad ferry”, from the Chinese characters ‘seom’ (toad), ‘jin’ (ferry), and ‘gang’ (river).
Do try and visit this charming local village in Gwangyang before the plum blossoms are gone!
Things to check before you visit
Around mid-March, it is warm during the day and cold in the early morning and night time in Korea. It will be wise of you to wear thin clothes inside and bring a thick outdoor jacket as well. Also, make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes as the village area is hilly and you will be doing some hiking.
Looking for other spring festivals in Korea?
- Gurye Sansuyu Festival & Hwaeonsa Temple 1 Day Tour
- Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival 1 Day Tour
- Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Festival 1 Day Tour
From Jeju Island
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