I sat on a makeshift chair, my leg sticking out, Cinderella style, toward the Korean man preparing to put a beautiful pair of new shoes upon my feet. He slowly placed the red rubber boot on my outstretched foot, rolled it up my leg, and secured it with a snap around mid thigh. Yes, this stranger just placed bright red, thigh-high, condom-esque rubber boots on my legs.
I was getting fully prepared to walk across the ocean, Moses style, at the Jindo Miracle Sea Parting Festival in Jindo, South Korea.
Every March, the Yellow Sea parts, revealing a stretch of land connecting the island of Jindo, in Southeast Korea, to the island of Modo just 2.8 kilometers away. This ‘magical’ event allows festival goers to literally walk across the middle of the ocean.
The Reason Behind the Sea Parting — Magic
Sit back kids, the story of the sea parting is a magical tale involving tigers and and old woman (why is it that all magical old tales include old ladies?) that has been passed down from generations. Tigers once roamed freely on the island of Jindo. They began to invade the local village, so the villagers fled to the Island of Modo, close by, but away from the tigers. Grandmother Ppong got left behind, and prayed to the Dragon King to save her.
One day, the Dragon King appeared and told her he would connect the two islands. When Grandmother Ppong arrived at the coast, the sea parted and she was able to make her way across. When the sea road opened, the villagers from Modo walked across the bridge, reuniting with Grandmother Ppong. Shortly after being reunited, Grandmother Ppong died, and each year the people of Jindo celebrate the parting of the sea and her last wish to be reunited with her family.
The REAL Reason Behind the Sea Parting — Science
More realistically, the sea parting happens because of extremely low tides. Many elements that affect the tides, like the force of the moon’s pull, the sun’s pull, and Earth’s rotation all factor into creating this phenomena of an extremely low tide. An article in National Geographic better explains the science behind the parting of the sea.
Walking of the Sea Road
The sea road is a 2.8 kilometer stretch of land. Some parts of the road are smooth and easily walkable, while other parts are extremely muddy, filled with puddles and downright messy (hence the necessary rubber boots). The sea only parts for about an hour and a half, and with the crowds of people making their way across, it is hard to make it all the way to Modo Island and back before the road vanishes.
What we did, was take a boat to Modo Island a few hours before the sea parted. There were not very many people on Modo, just a few tents, a band and…Moses. Yes, someone had the brilliant idea to dress up as Moses.
For the next three hours, we sat on Modo, chatting with the locals, asking Moses when he would be parting the sea, and drinking makgeolli as we watched the sea road slowly appear.
When the people in charge deemed the road ready to walk, we gathered and followed Moses across the Yellow Sea.
We walked and drank Makgeolli with the other revelers, eventually meeting the massive crowd somewhere in the middle. Locals used the opportunity to dig for clams and seaweed as we traipsed by.
The Lively Festival Events
The festival is more than just the walking of the sea road, but a whole weekend of events. This festival was like most Korean festivals; crowded, filled with food and booze, and lots of interesting people.
There were tons of food vendors and pop up restaurants offering everything from delectable live octopus, to special miracle sea seaweed.
A parade celebrated the story of Grandmother Ppong and the parting of the sea, with dancers, floats, music and general merriment.
Performances happened on the main stage all day long: traditional singing, dancing, martial arts, and my favorite, dog shows. The Jindo Dog is a famous breed for how smart they are. The dog shows happened twice a day, where 7 Jindo dogs and their handlers performed some pretty amazing tricks (dogs double dutching, anyone!?)
Whether you choose to believe the scientific explanation or the legend of Grandmother Ppong, the Jindo Miracle Sea Parting Festival is an event worthy of traveling for.
One of my favorites so far in Korea. I mean, how often do you get to make like Moses and walk across the sea?
[divider]Pin for Later![/divider]