Monday, February 16, 2015

Golden Weekend (5.3.14 - 5.6.14): Boseong

When I couldn't find anyone to go down south with me for Golden Week and help me knock some places off CNN's list, I was like, screw it, I'm going by myself and calling it a mental health retreat.

The morning I took off I had the 6:45 - 8:15 class, then went home and packed clothes and food into the same backpack I've been using since my first year of high school. I've been on a tight budget and decided to spend as little on eating as possible, which is tricky for me anyway. Without any semblance of a plan beyond knowing that there were three places I wanted to see, I didn't even call and check to make sure there'd still be bus tickets available until I was headed out the door. Taking the regular (as in, not-slightly-comfier) bus to Gwangju costs 17,600, and from there, it's another 8400 to Boseong.

FYI, Boseong is a tiny, po-dunk town with no jimjilbang, so don't bank on staying in one like I originally was. 

Animal welfare in Korea has a ways to go on all fronts.

I walked along the town's single road from the bus station, stopping at a little picnic-type area with benches and a few wooden tables under a veranda to make and eat a sandwich with the rice bread and other things I'd brought. It took quite a bit more wandering around the town and finally asking at a convenience store before finding out that there was no jimjilbang, sauna, or hostel I could stay at, and I ended up getting a very large, decent motel room for a pretty low price.

Actually, I don't remember if it was before or after I went to the famous green tea plantation, but I ended up staying at that super comfy place - which was also very peaceful and quiet except for the large police station directly next store, which made a couple of loudspeaker announcements - for two nights, and one of those nights I watched The Little Mermaid and Rurouni Kenshin in Korean. I never had a TV in Korea and have never understood how terrible Korean TV generally is, so that was surprisingly entertaining.

Either way, I set out for the plantation in the morning, and for some reason I walked all the way back to the main bus station to do it, forgetting about the small one in the middle of town. Take the bus from there, it's much easier.

Crossing the street from the bus stop, you walk uphill through a really nice but inevitably crowded wooded area that surrounds the tea hedge-sculpted hills. At at least two different points along this area, you can get green tea ice cream and other treats.

You can catch glimpses of the famous rows on smaller hills tucked between the trees before reaching the main photo-oppy areas.

And those photo-oppy areas really are one of those things that look exactly like all the pictures you saw online or elsewhere before seeing it yourself, like the Grand Canyon. 
Something I definitely didn't expect and that you probably won't read anywhere else, though, is that these fields are absolutely teeming with black wasps. At first I was like, "Fuck.", because one landed on my upper back, another on my arm, and another on my lip at different points when I was walking up the stairs along the main terraced spot everyone goes to see. But then I realised they were oddly lethargic, and even seemed slow while flying. They just kind of derp around and meander off if you lightly swat at them. Totally bizarre for insects that've chosen to spend their lives around a highly-caffeinated shrub, right?


The higher I climbed up the hill, the more I realised that the view was actually way better from the bottom, so I never made it to the topmost part of the largest hill. It was super crowded anyway, and I don't enjoy being so enrobed in a throng of strangers that I'm forced to walk at their pace, wait for their annoying children, etc., so I mostly just walked around the lower, quieter, shadier areas of the plantation taking pictures.

On the way back down I had a green tea ice cream and steamed green tea buns filled with red bean for lunch. I shouldn't have eaten bread (or an ice cream cone), but I mean, they were all hot and steamy and made right there. And I was really hungry. And I didn't die or anything, so it was fine.

There was some time to kill before the next bus back came, so I wandered around that side of the road a little, too; aside from the large dirt parking lot for the popular plantation, there's nothing around there except hilly countryside, irrigation canals, little farmhouses, and other fields.

Unless you decide you want to do some legitimate hiking around the green tea hills, seeing what the plantation's all about is a really short trip. I'd read that there are activities you can do, like learning from workers there how to pick the tea leaves, how to brew different kinds of tea, etc., but I saw nothing like that at all once I was there, no posted schedule, nothing. So, if I could do it again, I guess I'd ask a Korean person to call ahead for me and inquire about those kinds of things. They seem like they'd be fun to do as a couple or group and like they'd really enrich the experience.

In my case, though, it was still pretty early in the day when I got back, and after chilling in my room a few minutes, I went out to walk around the little town more. I went up a hill past an enclosed temple and to a church, and then up another hill to a nice park with a panoramic view of the whole area.

Since it was pretty hot, sunny, and insecty and I was pretty sweaty by this point, I decided to stay that second night in my big empty room (and I think that was when I watched those movies), have a hot shower, and start early the next day.

And that next day, I headed off to a fairly isolated hanok or traditional Korean house village called Naganeupseong.

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