Daegu’s Dalgubeol Lantern Festival

Every spring lanterns pop up across Korea to celebrate Buddha’s birthday.  You can see them strung through the trees and decorating temples.  There are lantern parades in the bigger cities.  Daegu is one of those large cities that hosts a parade but in addition to the parade and the stationary lanterns that decorate the river, they also hold a floating lantern festival.  I believe it’s the only mass floating lantern release in Korea and it is spectacular!  I saw pics of the event shortly after I arrived in Korea and thought how beautiful it was and that I should go, but then I’d get busy, and not think of it again until I saw pics the following year meaning I’d missed it. lol  This happened twice!  Daegu is a good three hour drive from where I live, I don’t go there often, and so I never really kept track of the cool activities happening there.  Finally I got smart and liked the Colorful Daegu Page so that I wouldn’t miss out whenever they have a truly awesome event.  So this year I knew in plenty of time when the festival was happening and I made plans with a photographer friend of mine to go see it.  I got in touch with Ask Ajumma who has been very helpful getting me tickets for different events and told them I’d like tickets.  The event organizers sold 2,000 tickets on one day and then 2,000 tickets at a later date to supposedly “make it more fair”.  The first group of tickets sold out almost instantly but I wasn’t worried because the following week I had Ask Ajumma prepared to jump on some tickets.  Well I guess they didn’t jump fast enough because they weren’t able to secure them, all the tickets to release lanterns were gone.  I was a little bummed, but truth be told I didn’t want to release a lantern.  I’ve been to the massive lantern release in Chiang Mai where I took part in releasing a lantern.  It was an amazing experience but it was also difficult holding on to a burning lantern while simultaneously trying to take pics of the event.  I left Chiang Mai feeling happy that I’d taken part, and happy with the pics I did get, but truth be told also a little sad that I’d missed the epic pic I’d had in mind that I’d hoped to take.  This time I just wanted to photograph the event and hopefully fingers crossed come away with an epic photo!  In addition to 4,000 tickets sold to release lanterns there were also going to be 6,000 free tickets offered on site for people to enter the venue and watch. 6,000 seems like a lot of tickets so my friend I felt confident we’d get down there in time to grab some of those tickets.  Well we were wrong!  Apparently people had started lining up early in the morning and by the time we found the ticket tent all of the tickets were gone.:(  It was at this point I knew the perfect picture I was hoping to take was not going to happen.  The festival  was held inside a baseball stadium and the outer edge of the stadium is lined with trees making a clear shot impossible.  We were so disappointed.  We’d driven all this way to take a specific picture and we weren’t going to be able to take it.  So we decided to make the best of the situation and stake out the next best location that we could.  There were gates funneling people into the stadium and if we stood by those gates we could still get a nice clear shot of the tower and we knew we’d still get decent photos.  Sure we’d have to stand there for three hours to hold our spot but we were willing to do that.  Photography is so much fun. 😉  About 30 minutes into our wait a security guard came by and told all of us hanging out at the barrier that we couldn’t stand there and we needed to move back.  My friend I were not happy, if we had to shoot from the further location it would mean a telephone wire would cut directly across our view of the tower.  We decided we’d stay back until the lanterns started being released and then we’d rush the barricade.  We continued to wait, during this time new people started lining up directly behind the barricade, the security guard came through once again and told everybody to move back.  We kept on waiting.  A third time people started standing directly behind the barricade.  The line grew two people deep, three people deep, four people deep, and my friend and I thought well Mr. Over Zealous security guard will be here any minute to push them all away.  Nope, wrong again!  Suddenly it was fine for people to stand up against the barrier and we’d lost our spot.  My friend and I knew that we’d have to join the frey and just hope that we’d get a least one shot we could be happy with.  We packed into the crowd and for the next hour and half endured the constant pushing of people trying to walk on the path behind us.  We were packed in like sardines and not having much fun.  Finally at 8:00 pm the lanterns started being released.  Floating lanterns truly are a beautiful site and those fifteen minutes made all the annoyances we’d been through worth it.DSC_8953DSC_8958DSC_8982.jpgDSC_9010DSC_9015

While this night didn’t go as we’d hoped, I still don’t have my epic shot, I highly recommend this festival.  If you are going there for photography purposes you are going to want to try really hard to get the paid tickets.  I wish I could tell you how to do that, it might be an instance where you need to have a Korean friend whose waiting to help you the minute they go on sale.  If you’re hoping to score the free tickets, go early and expect to wait in line for a couple of hours.  Just to let you know if you are sitting in the free ticket sections the Daegu Tower will be to your back and it won’t be in your pics.  However you can still take some beautiful pictures of the lanterns being released.  If you are going just to enjoy the festival and watch those thousands of lanterns fill the sky, you can still do that from outside the stadium.  If you are going to celebrate Buddha’s birthday, it’s an absolutely beautiful place to do that.  For whatever reason you are considering going, just go, it’s truly an ooh ahh moment.  Literally the whole crowd will ooh and ahh, you yourself will do it without even realizing it’s happening. lol  I wish you the best of luck for next year and happy lantern viewing!

Location:  Duryu baseball park(in Duryu park)


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