June 11, 2013 by travelinggrits
Then I start clapping to the beat. The musicians grin and shout at me.
I give them high fives.
They hand me a bamboo rake and pull me into the parade.
By the end, I had danced all the way around the river and over the bridge, was force-fed rice wine three times from a gourd and had several event photographers following me like paparazzi. I feel sure one of those photographs will end up on the cover of some advertisement for next year’s event.
Parade photographs courtesy of Ammy Yuan.
Welcome to Damyang’s annual bamboo festival.
Small-town Korea does festivals with a bang, much better than the big cities. Perhaps they figure it’s their one shot at a tourist draw, so they go all out.
In addition to its year-round attraction of the largest bamboo forest in Korea, the bamboo festival also included bamboo boat rides, fishing with bamboo baskets and an artisan show featuring everything from bamboo jewelry to bamboo bikes. The festival grounds were packed.
And of course, the culinary delights. We hunted out a restaurant that served the local specialties, rice cooked in a bamboo stalk and bamboo kimchi — the flavor was terrific. And although the shade of the forest provided a cool, peaceful path out of the direct sunlight, after our stroll we sought out a unique refreshment: bamboo ice cream. Don’t knock it ’til you try it — the flavor topped green tea varieties I’ve sampled before.
At first sight, bamboo might strike you as a flimsy, delicate plant, but give it a firm shake and you’ll find it hardy. Perhaps such is the case for small towns in Korea as well — although they may seem forgettable at first, they have surprising strength of character.
And when you’re living abroad, you can never just stand on the sidelines. Before you know it, you’re swept up in the current, part of the spectacle, living in the moment.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.