The Kimchi-ite: Thousands Of Lanterns At Busan’s Greatest Temple

Jonathan Kramer, Gadling

Down in Busan, South Korea’s seaside second city, one of the greatest temples on the peninsula quietly sits. Samgwang Temple is large, imposing and beautiful on any typical day, but becomes a new spectacle altogether for Buddha’s Birthday; for the holiday, it suddenly blossoms with the soft glow of 10,000 lanterns.

Jonathan Kramer, Gadling

It’s absolutely a sight worth seeing, and taking your time to get lost amongst the lanterns in such bright and colorful lights, can be pleasantly disorienting. Each individual lantern is sponsored and paid for by a follower of the temple, an obvious, visible sign of its influence.

There are quite a few lantern festivals throughout Korea and Asia, but this is certainly the largest density of lanterns that I have ever seen.

Jonathan Kramer, Gadling

To get to Samgwang Temple, go to Seomyeon Station on Busan Subway Line 1, where buses 63, 54 and 133 will take you to “Samgwansa Entrance;” unfortunately this is a misnomer and not the actual entrance to the temple. From the bus stop, cross the street and walk up the narrow road before you. From there, make your first left and then your first right. Finally, follow the road and the enormous temple will be at the top of the hill.

For more on Korean culture, food and festivals, you can always check out “The Kimchi-ite” archives by clicking here.

The Kimchi-ite: Seoul’s Spectacular Lotus Lantern Festival


Every year, Buddha’s Birthday is marked in Korea by a sea of draped lanterns. The holiday itself is not until May 17 this year, but that has not stopped the festivities from starting early. Most streets surrounding Buddhist temples have a colorful array of lanterns strung from their lampposts. The temples themselves often feature an entire canopy created by a rainbow of lanterns. And as part of the festivities, a parade featured tens of thousands of lanterns in the shape of a lotus flower, an important symbol in Buddhism.

Seoul’s weather is now finally reaching that perfect equilibrium of sunshine and cool breezes, and the best place to see some of the city’s lanterns is at an outdoor exhibition on Cheonggye Stream.
The lanterns turn the already beautiful Cheonggye Stream into an absolutely dreamlike landscape. Skyscrapers dressed in flashing lights tower above as you walk along a tree-lined bubbling stream underneath a rainbow of paper lanterns. Couples and families walk around with nothing but smiles on their faces. There are no gimmicks here, no entrance fees and no celebrity appearances, just wonderful paper lanterns.

The wealth of colors of the paper lanterns play beautifully well off of the stream.

In the middle of the stream lie elaborate lanterns made of traditional Korean hanji paper that depict various aspects of Korean life, history and culture – including dragons, pagodas, wildlife, Buddhist ceremonies and traditional dances.

Located right in the heart of the city, Cheonggye Stream is one of the best places to visit in Seoul, with or without lanterns.

The lanterns depict various aspects of Korean and Buddhist culture.

Buddhism is an important aspect of Korea culture and is widely practiced throughout the peninsula.

Cheonggye Stream is an incredible place to just relax and hang out, with or without a festival.

Cheonggye Stream is one of the best places to visit in Seoul. Formerly a highway overpass, it was reconstructed into a stream in 2005 and has been wildly popular with locals and visitors ever since. It’s a truly unique place, similar in concept to the highline in New York, that cities across the world should take note of – a peaceful oasis in one of the world’s busiest cities that is also just around the corner from a 600-year-old palace, a neighborhood of traditional hanoks, the best book stores in Korea, an impressive arts center as well as the president’s residence.

Smaller lanterns depicting wildlife are scattered around the stream and represent more traditional lanterns.

While the Lotus Lantern Festival is definitely not to be missed, there is also another lantern festival on Cheonggye Stream of equal beauty, the Seoul Lantern Festival, which will be held in November this year.

To delve further into Korean culture, dig into the Kimchi-ite archives by clicking here.

Next year’s planning for May: Think ahead

May Day, May 1, Mother’s Day, the 2nd Sunday in May, and Memorial Day, the last Monday in May are the obvious “M” days for May celebrations. Then there’s Cinco de Mayo on May 5, a holiday I missed out on this year. I’ll buy a Dos Equis anyway. That’s not the only celebration opportunity that passed me by.

I have a calendar filled with hallmark days from around the world. Here are some of them that are significant in various parts of the world. It’s interesting to see which events or organizations have staked out a day as being special.

Don’t count on them being on the same date next year, however. Some are lunar which means, they move to match the moon’s cycle. Or some, like Memorial Day and Mother’s Day, are day specific.

  • May 2 and May 9–Both are Buddha related. May 2 was Buddha’s birthday. May 9, Vesak Day which was the biggie. It marks Buddha’s birth, death and enlightenment. Next year, meditate or head to a Buddhist temple. When we lived in Singapore, Vesak Day was a vacation day. It’s celebrated in across Asia with each country having it’s own mark. The photo is from the Lotus Lantern Festival in South Korea.
  • May 2–International Astronomy Day. Next spring, remember to look up at the stars. Better yet, head to a planetarium. One of my favorites is the one at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
  • May 8World Red Cross Day– Next year, donate blood.
  • May 12International Nurse’s Day–Next year, give a nurse a hug and some flowers. They make hospital stays bearable. You can also visit the
  • May 13–Tulip Time-Holland. Buy tulips. Give them to a nurse if you forgot Nurse’s Day. Better late than never. Or if your mother is a nurse and you forgot Mother’s Day, here’s a double opportunity to make amends. Or, to keep it simple go to the Tulip Time Festival in Holland Michigan.
  • May 14–Jamestown Day–Visit the living history museum, the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia. Or if you can’t visit, read a book about Jamestown.
  • May 17- Brown vs Board of Education–This isn’t exactly a holiday, but remember to be thankful that school segregation ended. Visit Topeka, Kansas, the centerpiece for this particular desegregation struggle.
  • May 29John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s Birthday-Visit Kennedy’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery, unless you did that on Memorial Day.

This year, on Mother’s Day I saw the Broadway national touring company’s production of The Color Purple with my daughter. On Memorial Day, my mom, son and I went to a the Selma Walker Memorial Powwow. Sometime this year, I will donate blood to make amends for missing out on Red Cross Day. I donated last year and found out what my travel history means when it comes to giving.

Photo of the Day (12.15.08)


One of my favourite subjects when traveling is shooting portraits — to me, nothing really captures the essence of a country or culture like the faces of its people. That’s why when I saw this image of a man celebrating Buddha’s birthday in the Gadling Flickr pool, I stopped cold: I love his exuberance, his unbridled excitement. What a wonderful memory captured. Nice job, TPB, Esq.

If you’ve got some great travel shots you’d love to share, be sure to upload them to the Gadling pool on Flickr. We might just pick one as our Photo of the Day.