Now that I’ve talked about the popularity of coffee… it’s time to talk tea. In the southern part of south Korea lies the Boseong Green tea fields. A friend and I had heard of it, and decided to take a weekend trip down. Turns out it was a fun little area and ended up not only being a great weekend, but definitely one of my favorite places in Korea.
Public transportation in Korea can be a little frustrating sometimes, but compared to some of the other places I’ve been to recently, it’s amazing. (I’m looking at you Albania.) So, we left Seoul and headed down to Gwangju, the nearest city to the tea fields. We spent the afternoon walking around shopping. Side note: I found a ridiculously cute pair of shoes that I wanted to buy, but didn’t want to carry around the whole weekend. I took a picture of the store so I could hopefully find the shoes when I went back to Seoul, but not of the actual shoe. And I decided knowing the brand of the shoe would make it too easy, I suppose… so for me, Gwangju is the city of the mythical perfect pair of shoes… that I never found, and I will never find again.
After a long hard day of shopping we decided to go out to eat… We obviously went to the restaurant with the dancing pig outside, and had delicious Korean barbeque. And by delicious Korean barbeque, I mean we had steak fondue. Steak that you grilled at your table, and then dipped in melted cheese. I love my life. We also had lots of makju and soju, and made friends with the people next to us, after the owner of the restaurant played our favorite Korean song on repeat several times so we could all sing together.
In the morning it was off to the tea fields. We took a bus out to the fields in a very rural part of Korea. I didn’t really have much of an idea of what to expect. But no matter what I had expected, I would have been blown away. It was just so vast, and so peaceful.
In addition to the spectacular tea fields, there was a tea museum that was new and rather surprisingly both interesting and informative. We learned a lot about the history of tea, and the tea making process.
We also drank tea at a traditional tea ceremony.
Before we left the tea fields, we stopped by the visitor’s center shop where they sold green tea, green tea ice cream, green tea cookies, green tea cakes… it was like the Bubba Gump of green tea. After the delicious green tea snack- we headed to Yulpo, a small coastal town nearby. Rather than use any public transportation we decided to hitchhike there. This was my first time ever hitching, and I have to say, in terms of ease, Korea is pretty great. It’s not really popular here, but most people have seen it in movies or on tv… so it’s a novel thing that people seemed to want to be a part of. We had no problem getting a ride into Yulpo in this lovely minivan.
After eating a delicious meal (who knew you could put fresh tea leaves in a clear broth clam chowder?? How knew that would be a phenomenal idea??) we headed out to a jjimjilbang (찜질방) outside of town. Jjimjilbangs are Korean style saunas. There are always a variety of pools in different temperatures as well as actual sauna rooms in different temperatures as well. There is usually even a cold room that you can switch in and out of to give your pores a really good workout. This spa was relatively famous because (can you guess?) it had pools of green tea that you could bathe in. And though I’ve never looked at a cuppa green tea and thought, ‘I bet that would make a great bath!’ we figured we might as well try it. It’s supposedly good for your skin.
The great thing about jjimjilbangs are they are open 24 hours a day, and they are usually a set rate for up to 12 hours. They also have a sleeping room where you can take a nap. Or in our case, where you can sleep for the night, because you don’t want to pay for a hotel room. Because our jjimjilbang was on the beach, it also had a water park. Pretty snazzy, eh?