We saw posters for the Cheonggyecheon Lantern Festival in the subways, and made it a point to go check it out.
What we knew about it.
From what we could tell from the posters in the subways, it looked like the city was going to be lighting up one of the palaces in celebration of the holidays.
We really had no clue where it “was” though, as we were unaware of any Cheonggyecheon Palace. The posters in the subway did not give a location. We didn’t really make the connection that anything ending in -gyecheon is just a river, and that the Cheonggyecheon Lantern Festival took place along the entire Cheonggyecheon Stream.
So, to get there, take the subway to Jonggak station, pop out of any of the exits, then head south a few blocks until you either see the crowds or fall in the river.
What we know about it.
The Cheonggyecheon (Seoul) Lantern Festival is a recent tradition, having started back in 2009. Hundreds of giant lanterns, created by local and international artists, are set up in the stream. Subjects cover everything from Korean history to anime characters and foreign landmarks.
The experience was interesting, but very chaotic. The crowds are herded into the channel, where we were constantly prodded along by event personnel. The fear must have been that people stopping to take pictures might get bumped into the river as more and more people packed in.
We still stopped to take a few pictures here and there though.
In one of the underpasses, there were a lot of vendors selling art, food, and other items.
The “school of fish” exhibit was a popular one and seems to be on display every year.
One thing that amused us was the prevalence of “selfie sticks,” retractable poles that could be used to hold a cell phone about three feet away from the owner, for the purpose of getting better angles for selfies.
We would have picked one up but the fact that the shutter button functionality only seemed to work with iPhones and Korean-brand phones. Come to think of it, none of the cell phone accessories sold in Korea supported anything other than Apple, LG or Samsung. National pride…?
We did all of our selfies old-school. Waving sticks around in crowded places never ends well.