South Korea seems to be the busiest during the summer months. Every weekend is spent enjoying the sun before Monsoon season hits (a month where it just rains stupid amounts). We have been spending the past two months (June and July) attending festivals, island hopping, and going on as many trips out of the city as possible.
One of the most authentic trips we have gone on lately was to the Boseong Green Tea Fields. We booked this trip through a foreigner friendly travel group called – WhenInKorea (WinK). We departed at 11:00pm on Friday evening from Seoul and traveled over night to our destination. The bus trip took about 5 hours and we arrived at Hyangilam Cliff Temple. The bus came to a stop and we were woken up at 4:30am to begin our hike to the top of the mountain.
We reached the temple at 5:30am for prime sunrise views and pictures. At the temple there were monks praying in the Buddhist temple. When looking around the temple we noticed a couple of Koreans at the very top of the mountain. At first we couldn’t find the path to climb to the top, but we persisted to ask and look for another entry to reach the higher peak. After about 10 minutes we found the different path that took us up to the top of the mountain. This hike took us about 30 more minutes and was very steep and the terrain was much more rugged. It did have large steel stairs in some areas, but for the most part we were traversing over gravel and rocks. At one point we even had to pull ourselves up a steep portion of the rocks by a thick white rope.
When we reached the top the views were even more spectacular than the last viewpoint and it was well worth the early start. We sat at the top of the mountain and just took in all the natural beauty. Around 6am a group of very eager Ajumma and Ajushi hikers aggressively came in and took over the limited space at the top of the mountain. Hiking in Korea is one of the most popular things to do and they take it very seriously. Every single person is dressed to the nines with colourful hiking clothes, walking sticks, visors, backpacks, and expensive hiking gear. However, this does not stop them from drinking excessive amounts of soju and makgeolli (mack-o-lee) at the top and stumbling down the mountain buzzed afterwards. This particular group of hikers were quite impressed that we had woken up and made it to the top before them – something that usually doesn’t happen. Sometimes while panting and sweating on my hikes, I will get passed by older women who are pretty much running up the mountain. Most days I am convinced that these Ajummas (older married women or grandmas) have serious super powers.
After the hike we headed to Odongdo Island and spent some time at the Dragon’s Cave. We ate breakfast (icecream and ramen) and then we were on our way to Naganeupseong (Na-gun-up-song) Folk Village. This village was by far my favourite Korean experience to date. A large fortress wall surrounds this village full of traditional style straw roof homes.
When we arrived all the tourists had already left and the only people left were the actual residents of this village. Children were playing in the fields and Koreans welcomed us with sincere smiles. We slept in a straw roof home and we each had our own harmony (grandmother) to watch over us. After we settled in we headed to eat as a group. On the menu that evening there was dak galbi with duck rather than the regular chicken. This meal was absolutely to die for. It was marinated duck meat combined with cabbage, carrots, green onion, rice cakes (tteokbokki), and was all cooked right in front of us, by us. After dinner we headed to the fortress wall and drank traditional rice wine – makgeolli until it was time to head in for the night.
The next morning we woke up and explored the village for about an hour and then we were off to the Boseong Green Tea Fields. The Boseong Dawon Tea Plantation is on the southwest coast of the Korean Peninsula. The green tea fields at Boseong are among the most famous in Korea. When we arrived we were once again in for a steep hike. After about 40 minutes we made it to the top of the 350m beautifully covered rolling green tea hills. After catching our breaths and wiping the sweat from our eyes and faces we were able to enjoy the view.
The view from the top was spectacular. The rolling hills seemed as though they were covered in a blanket of green with distinctive rows among rows of the beautiful green tea bushes. When we descended from the peak we were hungry and ready to indulge in some green tea flavoured food. We had green tea pork cutlet, green tea bibimbap, and black bean green tea noodles. For dessert we also had green tea flavoured ice cream.
After exploring the fields we went to a family owned plantation where the owner makes the best green tea in all of South Korea. He sells the green tea to the most expensive hotels in Seoul where it is sold for $50.00 a cup. At this plantation we were able to have the full green tea experience. First, we were taught how and what leaves to pick. Next, we were taken into the indoor area and instructed on how to properly dry and roll the leaves. This was all done in a friendly competition between about 4 groups of 6 people.
Later, we were able to have a traditional tea ceremony in the tea room. Here they announced that our group had won the competition and would be leaving with our own packages of gold green tea as the prize! This was a great end to an amazing experience and weekend in South Korea.