On the 2nd and 3rd of September this year, Chris and I joined our friend Stuart on an epic roadtrip to the Muju Firefly festival, for some good old fashioned relaxing in nature.
Muju is only about an hour and a half drive from Seongju, and the route takes you through some of the most gorgeous scenery I’ve experienced in South Korea so far. Think green mountains, hidden lakes, and tiny towns, all helped by the fact that the early Autumn weather was really showing off with lovely clear blue skies.
The festival itself is similar to many Korean festivals, lots of people and yummy streetfood, random knick-knack stalls and live music. This festival in particular though, has an ecological focus, as everyone goes out to the countryside hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the 3 species of fireflies that live in the area.
Although we weren’t lucky enough to get tickets to take part in the night drive out to the firefly area, there was plenty to see at the festival. The firefly experience that was available was really cool, and we had an English speaking guide with us to explain the life cycle of the fireflies and answer our questions.
We also got to see some actual fireflies in a dark corridor that looked onto what I assume was an aquarium type structure, housing loads of gorgeous green fireflies. I’ve seen fireflies before, but it was seriously cool to see so many all at once, and to be able to get a sense of the differences between species.
After the darkness of the firefly enclosure, we were ushered into a super trippy neon world of fun, with UV lights and 3D glasses! It was particularly amusing as the festival photographer was loving us, following her favourite foreigners around and taking pictures every time we pointed at something. So maybe next year we will be immortalized on the festival website 😉
The festival had a lot more going for it: an interactive bug display saw kiddies digging up some seriously fat worms, and there were plenty of craft stalls too.
Chris had a go at a VR taekwondo game, although he was a little tall for the sensors! There was a daily street water fight, and taekwondo displays as well. Being the old people that we are, however, we decided to head out to find a campsite after lunch.
The campsite we found was just 20 minutes away, and just insanely beautiful. Even on a festival weekend there were plenty of sites open, and at 10 000 won (less than 10 USD) per campsite, it was super cheap too! This was our view:
All set up at the campsite we headed back to find dinner and take in the fireworks at the festival. Dinner was at a strange New York themed restaurant that had pretty decent steak for Muju, and the best view in town.
From the balcony we could see some fireworks and the gorgeous lighting of the main festival street. Unfortunately the bug life (not the firefly variety) drove us inside for our meal.
The wait for the firework/lantern display was super long, and we were nicely grumpy by that point in the day! But I am so glad that we stayed!
The festival program said that “water fireworks” would be on display, which we just assumed would be a firework display over the river, but nope! What it actually was, was strings of burning rope strung across the river, shaking and making sparks.
What it looked like was a never-ending river of fire. It was gorgeous!! That, coupled with people lighting large lanterns and floating them into the air made for a really magical sight.
We ended up having a terrible night’s sleep thanks to very drunk university students camping next to us, but overall the experience at Muju Firefly Festival was really awesome, and a wonderful way to get back into nature.
See you next year Muju!
For more information on this and other off the beaten track festivals in korea, check out our post here.
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