Despite our hectic schedules as we settle into the new school year, Lorna and I found time this weekend to venture across Jeollanamdo to the island of Jindo.  Every year, a festival is held to honor the legend of Grandmother Ppong and her escape from the island.

A statue of Grandmother Ppong and a tiger to commemorate her escape.

Long ago, on the island of Jindo, a group of villagers were constantly under the threat of vicious tiger attacks.  One day, they finally made their escape from the main island to the nearby island of Modo.  Unfortunately, in their haste, Grandmother Ppong was left behind.  All alone on the island and desperate to be reunited with her family, Grandmother Ppong prayed fervently to the Dragon King.  One night, he visited her in a dream, telling her he would create a rainbow reaching all the way to Modo Island and her family.  The next morning, Grandmother Ppong rushed to the sea to find it had indeed parted, creating a path for her to safely escape the tigers.  Halfway across, Grandmother Ppong collapsed, too old and exhausted to make the rest of her journey.  But her family had also been visited by the Dragon King, and and hurried to meet her on the sea path.  In the arms of her loved once, Grandmother Ppong said, “The Dragon Kind has granted my wish and reunited me with my family once again!  I could not ask for anything more in life!” before passing away.

Each year, locals, Koreans across the country, and many foreigners venture down to the island of Jindo to participate in commemorating Grandmother Ppong’s escape from the tigers of Jindo and her faith in the Dragon King.  While I was initially wary of crossing a sea using the precious little footwear I have here in Korea, Lorna assured me waders could be purchased at the festival.  So, we hopped in the car and made the 120km (75mi) drive across the bottom corner of the country.

The event itself is a good 20min drive into the island itself, and we easily found it by following the trail of cars and buses.  The sea parting itself wasn’t to peak until 6:10PM, so we had plenty of time to kill arriving at 12:30PM.  Right at the entrance, there was a man selling the infamous waders used to cross the sea. We nabbed a pair early on and tossed them in the car before heading in to check out the stalls.

Local Tip: They all cost 8,000, so it doesn’t really matter where you buy them.  The stalls were all throughout the grounds and they didn’t look to be running out, even right up until the parting!

Somehow, we managed to stumble into the international tents almost immediately.  Stalls representing Korea, Peru, India, America, Russia, Turkey, Germany, Japan, and others advertised food, drink, and occasionally crafts.  Ironically enough, the American booth was the least accurate out of all of them, selling Korean-style ice cream (served in a large, V-shaped corn tube instead of a cone) and Korean-style potato tornadoes.  Longing for my days in Japan, I immediately grabbed some takoyaki while Lorna went for the Korean chicken.

Clockwise from top: spicy Korean chicken, Japanese takoyaki, and Japanese okonomiyaki

Grapefruit juice, straight from the source!

We brought our snacks to the seaside, but were soon interrupted by a parade coming our way!  Drummers, dancers, and students in animal costumes lined up, preparing for the 3PM procession across the shoreline to the sea-parting point.  Some of the middle school students next to us shyly struck up conversation with us, and we ended up chatting with them for nearly an hour.  They were very punchy (typical of Korean kids) and kept tugging at each other’s costumes and cracking up.  One poor boy who was an orca kept inadvertently whacking everyone with the tail of the whale worn on his head.  When we went to take a picture, one of the girls asked a boy dressed as a crab to snap it…only to have him sadly look at his hands–incapacitated by the costume’s claws.

Many of the costumes consisted of animal headpieces–the kids were so cute! 

They were very rowdy with one another–very typical of Korean kids!
(They’re wearing turtle and squid costumes)

We made sure to snap a quick photo before dodging balloon stick duty.

They almost roped us into their parade, which we would have gladly joined normally, but Lorna and I wanted to check out more of the booths and get some more snacks.  We wandered back to the international area, where we watched some Korean-style wrestling (we were not among the foreigners to ‘give it a go’) and sipped on some grapefruit juice cut from grapefruits.  Shortly after, dance performances by Russia and Brazil followed, and we wrapped up our “lunch” with some Turkish ice cream, German sausages (Lorna) and German beer (me).  Side note: I am always in desperate need of good beer in this country…send help…

Korean-style wrestling in the sandy mud.  Foreigners were welcome to try, but we weren’t really dressed for it!

This beer is the size of my head.  And German.  And so much better than Korean beer (sorry, Korea).
…Please send me beer.

Turkish ice cream, obtained by tolerating a good teasing from the quick-fingered ice cream man.

From there, we wandered down the road the parade had gone, looking for the entrance into the sea.  Instead, we found PUPPIES!  Jindo Island is famous for the Jindo dog, an often-white, medium sized dog breed that looks similar to a shiba inu.  They’re often used as guard dogs down here in Korea, but are absolutely adorable.  At almost every event in Jindo, there is a performance by the Jindo Dog Show group.  This time, they had some adorable puppies you could cuddle–though by this time in the day, you could tell they were pretty pooped!  We stuck around and watched the majority of the dog show as well, but got fed up with the (typical) Korean 아줌마 (ajummas) shoving their way past us to get to the front.

Jumping rope….

…And sailing through hoops!

But really.  The puppies were the best part.  So many cuddles!

By that time, the sea was beginning to part.  We wandered back to the car to grab out boots, hoisted them up, tied them to our pants, and were off.  The group had already started wading through the shallows, headed by a man dressed as (of course) Moses.  Lorna and I began picking our way across, stepping around crabs, starfish, and various kinds of seaweed.

Moses spearheaded the trek; you can see a faint dark outline of the path rising as the tide went out!

Watch out for starfish!  We saw several!

We got within 150m or so of the shore of Modo Island before we heard a boat shouting for us to turn back.  It was about 6:00PM–10min to what I later learned was the ‘peak’ of the low tide.  In hindsight, we could have made it to the end of the island and touched the shore, but we figured we’d rather be safe than sorry and didn’t want to get caught in the incoming tide.  Next year!

Lorna and I in our sexy waders.
You can see there aren’t many people this far out! Time to head back.

Many of the locals were still digging away in search of sea creatures as we walked back.

Tired and with sore feet, we finally got back to the car and headed home.  Next year, I’ll have my own sexy pair of thigh-high orange boots and will be at the front of the line with Moses!