Surviving Jarasum’s International Jazz Festival

About an hour out from Seoul via Korail, or about 40 minutes via the ITX is a beautiful mountainous county called Gapyeong. It’s a great place for hiking, biking, and pretty much anything to do with enjoying nature. Due to all the pensions and beautiful nature, Gapyeong gets insanely crowded in the summer, but during the beginning of Autumn (usually beginning of October) one of the big draws is the Jarasum International Jazz festival.

The festival information can scare people off with its 50,000 won ticket price (per day). Or that their online ticket booking website is completely in Korean and difficult to navigate without help (and only saves you about 5,000 won).

You don’t need a ticket though and here’s why.

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You can still enjoy about 90% of the festival without buying a ticket. Only two stages on Jarasum require a ticket. There are 5 other, albeit smaller, stages around that are free on the island.

I booked my tickets online through the yes24 website with the help of my coteacher. It required me to make an account and took about 20 minutes. I purchased two tickets, for Sunday. She came up and stayed with me on Saturday and we went to the festival the next day, the only day that weekend where it rained. (_ _|||)

Getting  our tickets at the ticket booth was confusing, and not just for us. I had decided picking them up at Jarasum would be easier than having them sent to my apartment/school and the signs on the booth were misleading. It’d be best to just scan the desks and look for the sign that says English as other desk will point you there first anyway. We had to first pick up our tickets from the English table and then go to a different one to exchange the tickets for wrist bands.

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What time is it? Jazz time.

What to bring:

Jarasum is a grassy island without much shade or places to sit. Which means if it rains everything is mud.

  • Something to sit on. A mat if you want to sit close to the stage on the ground or a collapsible chair if you want to sit further away from the stage but off the ground. A Daiso should have these, there is one downtown in Gapyeong.
  • hand sanitizer
  • water
  • hat
  • sunglasses
  • cash
  • the map and schedule of the event found at any information tent
  • hand warmer/ heat pack
  • bug spray
  • waterproof warm jacket
  • waterproof shoes

Check the weather for the day you plan to go. The day we went it rained, not a nice gentle rain, a cats dogs and cows are falling from the sky type of torrential downpour which made the entire experience less fun. If it says it’s going to rain you should bring the following:

  • umbrella
  • poncho
  • rainboots

My friend and I did not come prepared beyond umbrellas and spent the entire time standing miserably in the muddy grass with our tennis shoes soaking through our socks.

There are a lot of bathrooms or interesting versions of port-a-potties around on the island. They have toilet paper (though it’d be wise to bring your own just in case) and running water, but no soap, which is where your hand sanitizer is going to come in handy.

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Nothing on the island starts before noon, which means I suggest you either eat lunch in Gapyeong or bring your own lunch. Especially if you choose not to book tickets.

Pros and Cons of buying tickets

Cons:

  • ~50,000 won per day (~$42)
  • Nothing in the paid section opens until after 1pm, none of the shows start until 4/4:30pm
  • Long line to get to the paid section.20161002_150726
  • There’s only two stages.

Pros:

  • The food options are ridiculously better.
  • Bigger stages

Let me explain what I mean by the food options are better. For the rest of the island the food options are: Lotteria (kinda like McDonald’s), Papa Johns (Whose line is going to be long and they’re only offering one type of pizza), a ton of traditional Korean food, and street food, oh and Krispy Kreme. It’s pretty much all fast food whose menu’s been chopped and everything is dodgy quality. We wandered around starving expecting more of a Chicago style festival with a plethora of food trucks instead of booths of fast food chains, heating up pre-made food. We ended up splitting some chicken fingers/tenders at Lotteria mostly because they had seating and being unable to finish them because they weren’t good. Which is why I suggest you bring your own lunch or eat lunch beforehand in town.

But when we went over to the paid side we saw a lot more options from all over and kicked ourselves for eating at the Lotteria booth. Especially when we spotted 매니멀 스모크하우스 Manimal Smokehouse. Which does American bbq, we ended up ordering their pulled pork and fries set which was wonderful and later, went back and ordered some to go and take home. Going to be honest, wasn’t as good heated up again in my conventional oven, and super messy. I should have just seen if they’d give me fries to take home.

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We also ordered drinks. At Manimal I got a Jack and coke, mostly because I thought the tiny bottle of whisky was adorable. But it got strong fast. It was fun to drink and wander around, though I should have stuck with their vin chaud which I had had earlier on the free side and loved. (Mulled wine that you could get either alcoholic or non-alcoholic)

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We stopped by a booth with people dressed in lab coats and  my friend ordered peach alcohol that came in a blood bag and was had “energy potion” written on the label. Paying in cash made everything easier and faster.

The food was good, but is that worth the ticket price? That’s up to you. Here’s what I plan to do next year.

Look at the schedule and decide if any performers at either of the two stages are performances I want to see. If so then I’ll book the tickets. If not I’ll go to Daiso and buy myself a mat, grab lunch in Gapyeong (probably Pizza School) and then hike to the island, wander around the festival and listen to music. I’ll buy myself some mulled wine and pouches to take home as souvenirs. Then maybe head back into town and visit a cafe for the Midnight Jazz Cafe shows. (That is if I want to splurge on a taxi ride home) The Midnight Jazz Cafe performances start at the earliest 9pm and end at the latest 11:45pm at different cafe’s and areas in the city of Gapyeong. This year there was also a All-Night Cinema that ran movies for about 10,00 won from midnight until 6am.

Here’s something to keep in mind. A lot of things in Gapyeong don’t run late. The city is small and the buses tend to stop running around 10pm. The last train out of Gapyeong station towards Seoul leaves around 11pm, and that’s the slow Korail train. The ITX stops running even earlier. And they don’t start back up again until 6am. You could spend your entire afternoon through the next morning keeping busy at the festival (killing time at the all-night cinema), or you could book a stay at a pension or go camping nearby. It all just depends on what you think is best for you. It’s not a festival that starts in the morning, so prepare to be there from the afternoon through the evening.

2017 Edit: I attended this year as well and they do sell out of tickets, so if you for sure want to go to the paid section buying ahead of time or arriving early is for the best. And if you get cold but still want to enjoy some jazz the Midnight Cafe’s can be a great way to get out of the weather and enjoy some live music inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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