Jeonju City is connected to Seoul by intercity buses and KTX. We took a bus from Seoul Nambu Bus Terminal to Jeonju Bus Terminal. The journey took around 2 and half hours (with a 10 minute halt) and the ride was quite comfortable. From Jeonju Bus terminal, it’s faster and easier to take a cab directly to Deokjin Park (덕진공원). It makes more sense to spend time at the park rather than wait for a local bus. The base fare should be between 5000 and 8000 Won.
Jeonju was the first stop in our 10-day summer trip around the southern part of Korea. It’s also possible to make a day or weekend trip to Jeonju from Seoul. Most travellers head directly to the Hanok Village and very few make it to Deokjin Park. Between July and August, the park comes alive with pretty pink lotus blooms. We visited Deokjin Park in the third week of June and the lotus flowers had just started blooming.
The entrance gate has a tourist information centre. It might be a good idea to rent a bike and explore the park. I wish we had thought of it back then and tried to search for the bike rental station. There are multiple paths to follow inside the park and direction boards can be found at most intersections. Maps of the park can be found at the main sights and they give a general orientation of your location.
Deokjin Park was designed around a natural pond and was declared a city park in 1978. It is steeped in Korean history as well as local legend. The origins of the pond are believed to date as far back as the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).
Memorials & Shrines
The main path from the entrance leads to some interesting memorials and shrines. In summer, the trees were cloaked with fresh green leaves and nearly covered some of the stone memorials.
The park is quite a hit amongst love-lorn couples as well as septuagenarians — looking to enjoy a cool spot under the trees. Few wide-eyed foreigners wandered around the park and were equally enamoured by this slice of natural paradise.
Chwihyangjyeong Pavilion offers splendid views of the pond and lotus blooms. Its somewhat chequered past can be forgotten once you soak in the environment around it. There’s an opportunity for peace and hope.
This sculpture park was almost hidden in plain sight. We couldn’t find a lot of information on these exhibits. Statues of prominent people are scattered all around the park.
Love at First Sight
I had crossed my fingers and hoped to find a pond dotted with lotus blooms. We were too early and the pond was covered in a sheath of green leaves. I was a little disappointed at first. On closer inspection, I spotted few buds and some blooms.
The lotus is a symbol of purity, enlightenment, and virtue in many eastern religions and philosophies. And it’s not very hard to see why a flower can have so many hidden meanings. One look at that bloom and I was taken by its transcendence. The water below the sea of elephantine leaves was turbid and murky in spots. And yet, the lotus seemed to bear no resemblance to the environment it was born into. The source of its life had no consequence on its appearance or quality. It was part of a group and yet managed to hold on to its individuality and identity.
There’s so much that we can learn from nature. And I believe: those ancient scriptures written by wise men (perhaps, some women) might have been influenced — by the dichotomous nature of an ordinary flower — shining in the midst of turbidity. Our lives aren’t very different. There’s always hope even if you can’t seem to get out of the rut.
Panoramic Views of the Pond
After enjoying the sights from the lotus viewing platform, we walked around the outer periphery of the pond. It was a cloudy day and it wasn’t as hot as we’d expected. The pond resembled a lake from this side.
A four season climate makes you appreciate every colour that nature has to offer. Green, for me, symbolises new beginnings and is an opportunity for a new start. We’ve rarely travelled in summer in Korea and I was happy to see every bit of green that my eyes spotted.
Walking around the outer perimeter of the pond can be quite a task when it’s hot and humid. We had to take quite a few breaks in the shade. Fortunately, there are many benches around the pond with stunning views of the park. Few local tourists had rented paddle boats to explore the pond on water. A group of Korean women sang songs and clapped as they paddled across the pond.
Yeonji Bridge is a boardwalk that cuts through the sea of green lotus leaves on the pond. It’s quite a surreal experience to walk on a bed of green leaves on either side. Had the lotus flowers bloomed; it would be a stunning sight to witness. It’s one of those rare moments when the heat didn’t seem to bother us as much.
The park maps showed another bigger suspension bridge (Yeonhwa Bridge) connecting the two sides of the pond in a straight line. This bridge was either under repair or had been removed during our visit to Deokjin Park. We could only spot a big pavilion that was probably named as Yeonhwa-jeong on the map.
At the Pavilion (Yeonji-jeong)
We removed our shoes (an unwritten rule at most pavilions) and entered the wooden pavilion. The views from this vantage point were stellar. We watched: green leaves float on the turbid waters of the pond, birds fly across the grey sky, and droplets of water dance to music.
Our timing at the pavilion couldn’t have been better. We were in time for the evening water fountain show. It would have been nice to stay till sunset and enjoy the changing views. The fountain lights up after dark and must look pretty spectacular.
We spotted grey herons (my best guess) resting on trees. Occasionally, the sound of the water fountain would disturb them and they’d fly away — breaking the tranquility of the pond with their noisy squawks. We also spotted an interesting duck (staring back at us) on the boardwalk.
We wanted to stay for some more time and spend the rest of the evening here. However, sunset would take longer and we thought of exploring the Hanok Village at night.
We walked towards the lotus viewing platform again. We tried to find hidden flowers that we may have missed earlier and captured one last glimpse of this green paradise.