When it came to getting to this festival I probably picked the most difficult way to get there. I invited a friend in Daegu to go with me, someone who is also quite fond of butterflies and I figured since Daegu is further south it’d be a bit easier to get to then from where I live. However I didn’t realize until a bit later that I had made the whole thing harder on myself. After work on Friday I took a train down to Daegu and then with my friend on Saturday we took a bus to Gwangju to stay the night, having been unable to find any place to stay within the city limits of Hampyeong during the weekend. My friend then booked tickets from Gwangju to Hampyeong and back for that Sunday. Until we arrived at the Hampyeong bus terminal we didn’t realize that there were local buses that went back in forth between the cities several times throughout the day. These of course took about an hour, while the rare bus (that took my friend several tries and required her to get help from a Korean friend to book) only made a trip a few times a day and took about a half an hour.
She booked the earliest in the morning so we arrived at 8am in Hampyeong to find it pouring rain.
Thankfully the festival was happening a short walk from the bus terminal at the Hampyeong Expo Park.
We also quickly learned that we were a half hour too early and that the park wouldn’t open until 8:30. (It generally opens at 9, so it may have opened early for the festival) So we sought cover under a tent with ATM’s to wait until the the ticket gates opened. Tickets to get in were 7,000 won (during non-festival times they seem to be a bit cheaper) which we showed at the gates. After getting through the gates we hurried for shelter inside the first green house we found, which was home to cacti and succulents. We had hoped that it would be hot and desert-like so that we’d dry off quickly. However our hopes were quickly dashed as we noticed the windows open. There was no heat, the only difference from being inside versus outside was that we were protected from the rain. The plants we did see however were nice and interesting, if not in some cases alien looking. There was even a fun set up towards the end with miniature cars.
After the cacti and succulent house we went next door to the Nature Ecological Museum which seemed to be a very beautiful garden. Flowers were growing everywhere, it smelled amazing and there were a variety of animals about, from turtles to chickens. There was even a man-made waterfall in the back of the room.
The third building near the entrance was a the History of Hampyeong which was full of artifacts and mannequins to show what life use to be like in Hampyeong. However it didn’t really say what era it was showcasing, until towards the end which seemed to be 1959.
After this last museum we wandered around the park curious as to where the butterflies were and a bit concerned that the rain had scared them off only to luckily find near the back of the park a butterfly building. The building had some information on butterflies and several tables full of caterpillars munching away on leaves. There were also snack insects out in sample dishes.
This lead into a garden full of flowers with caterpillars and butterflies hiding everywhere. Some in obvious spots and others a bit more sneakily. There was also two areas surrounded by glass, one people could enter which was cramped and full of children grabbing at the butterflies and the other people could not enter and was protected. Many children and families had plastic cases with fake flowers in them and a couple butterflies, probably purchased at the gift shop next door. They released the butterflies in the garden or held them for pictures. When not surrounded by grabbing children the garden was fun to wander around and see what you could spot.
The rest of the butterfly and bug building included art made from butterflies and other insects as well as many mounted displays. While it was interesting to see many of the different types of butterflies and where they were some of the art made me a bit uncomfortable.
Also surprisingly at the very very end of the exhibit were some fossils which was interesting. Not many but a nice little section.
After seeing the butterflies we were quite tired. We wanted to find a cafe or a restaurant and sit down but all we had seen up until that point were snack stands, no places to sit down or get out of the rain. We passed a tiny amusement park and a water park and the found ourselves at an art museum, next to which was a cafe. The cafe was called Cafe Monet and here we quickly grabbed a seat and got something to drink. I ordered a blueberry muffin and some milk tea. I ended up with a chocolate muffin and 3/4ths a cup of milk tea. Where the rest of it went I don’t know. The chocolate muffin wasn’t bad, just not what I ordered and with how busy it was I didn’t feel it necessary to correct the mistake. They were the same price. Though I would say despite the nice decor it isn’t going on my list of favorite cafes.
After getting some energy back and the cafe becoming busier and busier we left and went to the art museum which was free and included on our ticket. It housed two galleries, a theater and some minor galleries that showcased old student art. The two main galleries hosted art from three different artists, one in a modern art style by Kim Jong Il 김종일 in celebration of his 58th anniversary of painting which will be up until June 30th, the second in a varying styles many of which looked like perfect beautiful photographs from the other end of the gallery by Ahn Jong-il 안종일 which will also be on display until June 30th, and the third in a traditional Korean brush style. This final gallery had art on display called “Primavera” and the artists name was Ahn Dong-Sook which seems to be a permanent exhibition in the memorial hall.
The Hampyeong Museum of Art (함평군립미술관) is open from 10am until 5pm and closed every Monday as well as certain holidays.
After the art museum we got a snack. Throughout the park were several booths selling a variety of foods and goods. Some were local shops selling local specialties where I bought cookies for coworkers as a souvenir and tried bitter but healthy fruit juice and local honeys (including Chestnut which was very strong), I also purchased some flower tea that turns green from a rather cheerful lady who wanted a photo with my friend and I. And lastly we got butterfly pie, which wasn’t really pie but more of a sticky flaky bread in the shape of a butterfly which we ate near the stage under the tent that was barely keeping the rain at bay.
Then we found the food stand which had three different restaurants at work. We ordered the 파래전 (paraejeon) at the furthest one. 파래 or parae is green laver, a type of seaweed that’s full of vitamins and minerals. It’s also common in Japan as aonori (アオノリ) and apparently in Wales for laverbread. It was 10,000 won and probably our favorite thing that we got while at the festival or even, in Hampyeong. (We later tried a bibimbap but we got it shortly after our paraejeon and it turned out to be spicy, but Hampyeong is well known for beef, especially raw beef.)
The only exhibit we missed was the Golden Bat exhibit which talks about the preservation of the rare golden bat that makes it’s home in Hampyeong.
Despite the rain and how difficult it was to get to Hampyeong it was really fun to attend the 20th annual butterfly festival. Since there wasn’t a lot of information in English we weren’t sure what we’d find and I’m not sure how much of it was only for the festival and how much is just the Expo park in general but it had this fun vibe of an amusement park. It looked like a great place for kids as well. I could see it as a popular spot for school groups. There is train the goes to Hampyeong KTX station as well, it’s about a half hour bus or taxi ride though from the station into town. The 100 bus seems to be the most common bus among the route.