Arriving on the August intake with EPIK meant that our first big festival, and there is a mind-boggling selection here in Korea, was the Andong mask festival.

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My Insta-challenge shot of the famous masked characters

Our wonderful friends from Daegu, and some from further afield, were coming in for the celebrations, so we didn’t make it into town until late afternoon. Our plan was to head to the traditional Hahoe village outside of Andong, where there would be a traditional firework display and of course some beautiful Hanok architecture. However, we got a little sidetracked by the fantastical craziness that was occurring in the festival square…

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Just a ten minute walk from Andong train station, you’ll find the festival venue where, in the Mask Dance theatre, the traditional and international mask dance shows are held. You’ll also find the Creative Mask exhibition and the Hanji (Korean paper) Crafts exhibition here, as well as numerous stools selling food, drink, Psy masks and anything else you could need for a night of carousing.

Wandering the market stalls, eating strange festival snacks and photographing the famous masked statues was a wonderful way to begin this important cultural event.

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But, it was this colourful, chaotic parade, that seemed spring up from nowhere, that really caught our attention.

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The whole thing probably lasted only 30 minutes, from the first few steps of the parade right through to fireworks and confetti raining down from the sky. We watched a hundred masked and costumed Koreans stomp and clap their way around the square, we danced with old Korean Ajummas, we sang along to Psy and we were accosted by these creepily tall revelers who turned out to be our friends, who had inadvertently become part of the show!

Very blurry, but very cute IPhone picture of our friends in costume, with confetti lit up in the dark sky.

Very blurry, but very cute IPhone picture of our friends in costume, with confetti lit up in the dark sky.

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My quick Instagram shot of the fireworks, which Oli was too busy dancing to capture.

My quick Instagram shot of the fireworks, which Oli was too busy dancing to capture.

It ended all too quickly, leaving us with nothing more to do but drink some Makgeolli and nibble on some Andong salted mackerel until our train back to garlic town.

I have just written this entire post, smiling away to myself at my desk at the memories, and have completely forgotten to mention the fact that it was pouring with rain that evening! It is a credit to how much fun it was that we didn’t care then, and that I had forgotten until now. It does account for the small amount of photos from Oli though. A camera that nice deserves to be sheltered from the rain! *

It was an incredible introduction to what I can only imagine is going to be a year full of hilarious festivals that we don’t quite get the meaning of! Think Kimchi festivals, Mud festivals (?!), typical music festivals and even a coffee festival!

Watch out later this week for the second part of the Andong Mask Dance Festivities, where we finally made it to see the traditional fireworks!

*All images without captions are Oli’s.

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