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Known for the Cherry Blossom Festival, Jinhae, or sometimes Chinhae (진해), is the smallest and southernmost city in the tri-city Changwon area (as of 2010 when Jinhae, Masan and Changwon merged). The city lies on the coast and is home to the American and Korean naval bases. With a population of 127,000, this is a great place to be away from chaotic city crowds while also living within reach of city life. There are many places of interest as well as a diverse selection of restaurants and bars to be found here. Jinhae will come into full bloom in March/April bringing many visitors to the city. Locals are very proud of the festival and are happy to tell you how famous the city is for its annual floral array.
The best place to check out the cherry blossoms is on the side of ‘Old Jinhae’. Both the main train station and Gyeonghwa station are very famous for the abundance of blossoms and is a popular place for photographers. The train runs from Changwon to Jinhae during the festival and this route has been used for K-dramas. Many people hike from Changwon to Jinhae during the festival to see the full beauty of the blossoms on the mountains. Traffic from Changwon to Jinhae is usually very busy during the festival so hiking is a good way to go. In addition, the Anmin Pass, a road, runs directly above the Anmin tunnel and leads to a path with many cherry blossoms. At night, the cherry blossoms at the top are lit up and offer an incredible view of the city.
When you reach Jinhae from Changwon through the Anmin Tunnel you enter, Seok Dong. Here you can find the Lotte Mart, Lotte cinema and a range of western and Korean restaurants.
In the ground floor of the Lotte Mart, there is a food court that carries your typical selection of Korean dishes such as bibimbap and Donkatsu. As with all such food courts, the food is cheap and tasty and perfect if you’re in a rush. This floor also plays host to small clothing and shoe stores, cosmetic stores (Etude House, Tony Moly, Misha), jewelery stores, opticians, Lotteria (Korea’s answer to McDonald’s) and Dunkin Donuts. Shinhan Bank and various sportswear stores are also on this floor.
The next floor is the main grocery store of Lotte. This is where you find food groceries and other items such as household, bedding etc. On this floor, there is also an Ashley’s Buffet restaurant (American/Korean fusion) and a Pizza Hut. Ashley’s is a great place to eat with a wide range of food such as soup, nachos, salads, fries, chicken wraps, chicken and ice cream for dessert. Pizza Hut is a standard pizza place with Korea’s interesting twists for pizza toppings. You can get your potato pizza fix if you so desire along with the salad bar which is not very big but the choices available are quite good.
There are other restaurants within the Seok Dong area that are worth checking out. Lemon table (in the Lotte Cinema building) is an Italian fusion restaurant. It’s a little pricey with prices beginning at 12-14k per dish but the food here is great. If anyone if looking for their pasta or risotto fix, this place is highly recommended. The waiting staff are very eager to help and they have some limited English which is always good to know. A little tip; they will give you the menu and a notepad to write your order. There are codes for each dish such as ‘R7’ which you can write and they will confirm everything with you before the order. I highly recommend the strawberry mint tea here! It’s great.
The Lotte Cinema offers films in Korean and English. The English selection is sometimes limited but there is usually at least one movie showing. You can find the English schedule here.
On the large road that runs parallel to LotteMart (Chungjang-ro) is a large HomePlus with a fairly decent international food section.
Gyeonghwa Market in Seok-Dong
Across the street from Homeplus lies a traditional food market. This street has a wide variety of in-season fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, kimchi, etc. The prices are excellent and much more affordable than the supermarket prices. The market is open on days that end with 3 or 8 (i.e; 3rd, 8th, 13th, 18th, etc).
Now for a Korean restaurant recommendations! First on the list has to be Stone Pots & Soondooboos. This is restaurant is quite close to the Temple in Seok Dong and it is very highly recommended. The menu is in English and Korean with little tips on eating the food. The restaurant offers meat/seafood dishes as well as vegetarian so this restaurant will suit many people. Communication is no problem here as the owner speaks a little English and her son, Chris, speaks perfect English. His phone number is on the menu if you are having trouble communicating. There’s a warm friendly vibe in this restaurant. Along with eating excellent food, you feel very welcome here. Information on soondooboo dishes can be found here.
Moving on to Seok Dong park (towards Pungho- Dong), there is a park to play basketball, a walkway and a place to sit and chill out. This area is made up of 2 main streets and it’s where ‘new’ Jinhae comes to life at night. This area has ample range of bars and restaurants to suit all tastes. There is a barefoot path inside the park as well!
There are many chicken restaurants. These are your standard Korean chicken and beer restaurants. The Veranda Bar is a great place to have drinks and chat with friends. They offer an extensive drinks menu covering beer to cocktails. They also have a food menu. On the same street, there is a bar called Opener. This bar is on the 5th floor of a building (also host to the smallest elevator I have ever seen!). This is a bottle bar that carries an excellent range of beers, the usual range of spirits and they even have apple cider (good news for those non-beer drinkers). This bar has a very good vibe. The staff members in both bars speak a little English and they’re very friendly and welcoming. Along this street is also a range of your usual Korean BBQ and galbi restaurants on the same street as the Veranda.
The makgeolli bar/restaurant is highly recommended. This is a great place to meet friends for a quiet night out or begin a mad night out! Makgeolli is an alcoholic drink made from rice (and sometimes wheat). In this bar, there is a selection of flavored makgeolli (pineapple, mango, kiwi) for the very cheap price of 7000won per jug. Beware, this drink goes down very smoothly so you might be surprised at the affects to your stability when you stand up after your friends and you have finished off 3 or 4 jugs! The bar also has a variety of Korean food available. Pajeon is the most popular but you can also order chicken. You will get a whole cooked chicken and some gloves to break it up.
Seok Dong is also home to the public gym. This is next to the children’s library. This gym offers the usual gym equipment, weights room and swimming pool. It’s 2000won for a gym session and a locker is provided if you hand in your ARC for the key. It costs 3000 won for a pool session (bring a cap and goggles!). You can also sign up for yoga classes. 1 month of classes is 30,000won and classes are on 3 times per week. The instructions are in Korean but it’s easy to follow and the instructor is fantastic.
Along the same street as the gym are, Pizza School (5000 won pizza!), Uncle Tomato and 5 Ton Station. These are all standard pizza/pasta restaurants.
Jinhae –ro is a beautiful area where you can walk along the shoreline and see the islands Japanese occupation it was noticed that the islands offered some protection for the area as it made access to the coastline difficult. This is a great area to go for a walk, cycle or sit and take in the scenery (there is a nubija stand next to it). Many Koreans spend scattered in the bay. These islands are the reason Jinhae is home to the Navy Base. During their weekends here with their families and you will often see men fishing down here too. You can always rent various types of pedal boats here during the warmer months.
Along the path to Jinhae-ro from Chungjung-ro, there is an outdoor sports complex that has a tennis court, a croquet court, basketball court, etc. In addition, there is a “barefoot”/reflexology path that is also equipped with numerous outdoor workout machines.
Deoksan-Dong is mainly a residential area filled with apartments, schools and some restaurants and shops. The main attraction here is McDonald’s. Opening in December 2013, this is Jinhae’s second McDonald’s and only ‘drive-thru’. The staff here are friendly and welcoming and they speak a little English. Just remember to say ‘set’ instead of ‘meal’ when you’re ordering!
In this area you will find Yein’s women’s hospital (as well a pharmacy with an English
speaking pharmacist on the bottom floor). The hospital has friendly semi-English speaking doctors and it’s quite easy to make an appointment.
There are three large supermarkets in this area; Top Mart, King’s Mart and GS. They are not as big as HomePlus or Lotte but they carry all of the essentials including small Daiso sections. You don’t have as much variety as you do in the bigger stores.
There are two yarn shops in the area. If you’re a knitter or crocheter, you don’t have to go all the way to Sangnam to get your yarn fixin’.
Segreto is a lovely Italian restaurant that is also new to Jinhae. It has a standard menu of pizzas, pastas, risottos and salads. The menu is all in Korean but one member of staff has a little English to assist you. The food here is very good. It’s a more expensive than your average Korean restaurant but it’s not very expensive.
Pungho-dong is next to Deoksan-dong and is similar in that it is mainly a residential area with some restaurants and small shops. There is a Shabu Shabu restaurant here. This is excellent Vietnamese fusion food that makes you do a little work for your meal! The shabu-shabu (meat and vegetable hot pot) is cooked in a large pot in the middle of the table. You make rice paper rolls with the hotpot mix with salads and sauces. There are instructions in the restaurant for newbies! For those who are new to the restaurant, don’t add the noodles, rice or egg to the pot until the very end of your meal!
There’s a private gym in this area. It’s on the fifth floor of the High Zone building (Jung Chul Academy and Boston University Academy are also in this building). This is smaller
than the public gym but it has all of the standard equipment. Membership costs 140,000won for 3 months. Next to this building is Pascucci coffee and some Korean BBQ restaurants. On the far side of Pungho-dong is Steak Factory. This is very popular with Koreans and if you teach in Jinhae many students will tell you it’s their favorite restaurant.
The city hall is also located here. This is where you can go to register a car. Outside of the city hall is a really cool statue as well that made me question my eyesight.
Dream Park (진해드림파크) is an eco park with walkways, hiking trails, and other seasonal specialties. This is a great place to see nature in Changwon. The website is in Korean, but the pictures are sure to get you interested.
Jinhae also has a very impressive Marine Solar Park. You can find the information about this on the Changwonderful article here. If you find yourself wondering what to do on a Saturday or Sunday, this place is highly recommended. The old Korean Navy ship is very interesting. You can explore most areas of this ship. There are some interesting mannequins on this ship for some light entertainment, even if they were not placed there for entertainment! In addition, there a bridge that leads to a small island in front of the solar tower. The small island hosts a guesthouse, many traditional styled houses, a church, and many ajumas hanging up seaweed. to dry. There are also small, pretty beaches (not sandy) to wander around; great for photography!
Myeong-dong is also the host to the shipyard that hosts many foreign workers so buses are more frequent on the weekdays. The village consists of many alleys and traditional styled houses while overlooking the coast
This area hosts a wide variety of restaurants, bars and shops. There is even two streets strictly for pedestrians to go shopping (from clothes to food). As this district is much closer to the naval bases, many soldiers can be found frequenting the restaurants and bars in this area. In saying that, Chicago Bar is probably the most popular bar among the military foreigners in this area.
There is also an underground fish market (중앙) that is definitely an adventure in itself.
As for chains, the other Mcdonald’s in Jinhae is near this area as well as a Baskin Robbins.
Jinhae Tower (제황산공원 진해탑) is a large attraction in this area. According to legend…An observation tower erected by the Japanese during their occupation of the ROK. Locals, at the time, thought the mountain contained a powerful spirit that would rise up and free the Korean people. The occupiers thought they would put a stop to this by constructing a de facto spirit lid. It has a cable car that takes you up and saves you the effort of climbing. More info here.
This district is the host of the famous Yeojwacheon Stream (여좌천) that is the most picturesque part of the cherry blossom festival. It is popular among Koreans because it was used for a famous kdrama. Two lovers met on a bridge and today it is called the “Romance Bridge.” The stream itself is lined with cherry blossoms on both sides and it is absolutely worth seeing.
Adjacent to the steam is Jinhae NFRDI Environment Eco-Park (진해내수면 환경생태공원) with a decent sized lake. It hosts 65 different types of trees, a little bamboo grove, and an abundance of flowers in the summer months. In the autumn the Japanese maples are can easily be spotted by their crimson colors.
This is a beautiful temple next to Jangboksan Sculpture park. It is known for its hundreds of statues. Many locals claim that this is the best temple they’ve seen in Korea due to its beauty and uniqueness. It is very close to the former Jangbok Tunnel.
Seok-dong Temple (해장사):
Very close to the Soon Doo Boo restaurant (see the Jinhae map) lies a beautiful one building temple. It is a large, well financed, Buddhist temple which is a popular destination for locals on related holidays. It is so intricately designed and completely hidden at the foot of a mountain. It is definitely recommendable.
Jinhae seems to have a reputation for being a small town and while it’s true to say that it is small there are many things to do and see here. Expats who live here enjoy the urban living without being in the center of the noise and bustle of the busy city areas. Changwon, Gimhae, Masan and Busan are all very close to Jinhae so people will never be bored or at a loss for something to do here.
Article by Mary Crowley (with contribution from Victoria Majeika).
Photos by Victoria Majeika.