Earlier this month, I made my first-ever trip to Ulsan. It was notable because Ulsan is right next to Pohang and, for some reason, I’ve never been. The decision was spur of the moment, but I had a day free and decided to check out a festival I’d heard about. A blogger friend of mine, the awesome Meagan of Life Outside of Texas, had been the one to write about it and pique my interest. To read her post, click this link!
In addition to a large number of food stalls, arts and craft booths, and other fun activities; the Ulsan Whale Festival has two events which showcase Ulsan’s cultural heritage and whaling traditions. One of these events is the prehistoric re-enactment called Madangnori. Actors dressed as prehistoric folk perform choreographed routines demonstrating courtship and hunting rituals.
Surrounded by straw huts, the men and women spin, jump, and roll while clad in furs and painted for the ceremony. All the while, a shaman directs the proceedings–shaking the skull on his staff as he shouts commands for the tribe to obey.
Suddenly, the dance stops and warriors and women alike stream to the river; a path through the crowd opens and then closes as people crowd behind them. On the river, a whale rounds the bend and spouts a stream of water from its blowhole. The hunt is on.
From their hiding spots among the reeds, two canoes of hunters move to intercept the whale. They close the distance and pull alongside it, one hunter jabbing his spear at its side. The beast wounded, he climbs on top and buries the spear in its back. His companions raise their weapons and cheer; a successful hunt!
After the excitement of the hunt, the dance routine carries on for a bit more. Once finished, I enjoyed exploring the park across the river a bit more. A small grove of bamboo, several gardens of flowers, and a sea of wind-swept grass rewarded me. Behind it all, there was a wonderful view of the Ulsan skyline.
This being my first time visiting Ulsan, I was very satisfied with my visit. Not bad for a short day trip! Thanks, Meagan for the great recommendation 🙂
Pro tip: For those unfamiliar with Ulsan (as I was), the festival provides a free shuttle from the train station. It’s just outside the station entrance; look for the sign!