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Into the Lotus Flowers

Posted August. 12, 2004 22:12,   


Even when rooted in muddy waters, the lotus flower blossoms clean and fresh. The scent becomes so fragrant as you walk away that the Confucian scholar Judon of the Song Dynasty hailed it as “the most virtuous of flowers.”

In Korea, most of the lotus flowers are red, and white ones are rare. That precious white lotus flower can be found in abundance in Muan-gun, Jeonnam. From August 14 to August 22, the Muan White Lotus Festival will be held there. The lotus-covered pond can be seen in one striking view from a hot air balloon, or the mysterious lotus path can be explored from a boat.

Hoesan village, in Bokyoung-ri, Ilo-eup, Muan-gun, is known as the biggest Asian habitat of the white lotus. Surrounded by low mountains, the Hoesan reservoir is 100,000-pyong in size. Every summer, the charming white lotus blossoms provide a magnificent sight. The white lotus appeared in this region for the first time approximately 70 years ago. An old man living in the area acquired 12 plants and planted them around the reservoir, leading to today’s spectacle.

Every July, the green lotus leaves begin to cover the pond, and the emerging lotus blossoms are the size of an adult fist. The white lotus does not blossom all at once, but continually until September. The red lotus is known for showing itself entirely in splendor. On the other hand, the white lotus petals peek out bashfully through the green leaves in elegant beauty.

There is no better place to admire the white lotuses than the white lotus bridge which traverses the pond. There are regular viewing posts along the bridge which allow for a detailed observation of the flowers. The white lotus gives full blossom in the morning and closes in the afternoon so it is best to enjoy the pond in the morning.

The Aquatic Botanical Gardens, located on one side of the reservoir, is also a popular spot with the visitors. In the garden, the bewitching yellow water-poppies, the nearly extinct purple gashi-lotus, the adorably tiny yellow gae-lotus, the bright baby water lily resembling the flame afloat on an oil lamp, soonchae, mulokjam, taeksa, and 70 or so rare water plants delight the eyes.

The perimeter of the reservoir is 3km. A trip around can easily take an hour. There are gazebos for resting along the way. If walking around the reservoir in the summer heat is not so attractive, there is the option of taking in the view of the white lotus pond from a hot air balloon.

Receiving the most attention at the festival is the boat ride, in which the visitors row a small boat themselves on the 1m deep reservoir and navigate through the lotuses. Four people can go aboard one boat. The waterway prepared for the boat exploration is about 500m. A trip takes about 30 minutes. Setting the oar perpendicularly and pulling hard is the trick. Four people become one, chanting “one ~ two”, and glide smoothly in a boat as white as the lotus.

The lotus flowers observed from above is a different flavor than viewing them close up. Navigating through the lotus stems rising out of the water and the green leaves as wide and round as a child’s umbrella evokes a feeling of a jungle expedition. Though seemingly short in distance, beads of sweat form by the end of the trip.

Even a place where the sweat can be washed away is provided. There is a fountain which offers more than what meets the eye. The water springs as if dancing, and the visitors jump in and enjoy the unique opportunity for water play, children and adults alike. Preparing a second set of clothes is recommended. Next to the fountain is a bare-foot massage stone road, ideal for relaxing tired feet.

Moreover, available at the festival are: crafts from the bean sized lotus seeds, tight rope walking above the lotus pond, various concerts, laser shows, fireworks, and a variety of festivities. The digital photo contest sponsored by the festival offers generous prizes. Muan-gun Chamber of Commerce 061-450-5319, 5224.

Private trips to the festival is good, but travel package deals to the festival (hot air balloon ride, boat ride included) which also include nearby attractions such as the historic site of Saint Choeui (Choeui Seonsa) and the air and space museum are also recommended. Departing August 15, 21, and 22. Admission is 40,000 won for adults and 35,000 won for children. Oori Travel Agency 02-733-0882.

Article by Choi Mi-Sun travel planner. tigerlion007@hanmail.net