I woke up on a bus headed south, fast. At 6am we all awoke and unloaded to walk around in the mist, searching for blooming cherry blossom trees. While wandering the grounds of one of the oldest temples in Korea, we actually did manage to find a fully-bloomed tree, but beyond this there was a weighty dearth of 벛꽃 (cherry blossoms).
Days Danced: 2
Days Sick: ~1
Touring Korea’s Southern Provinces
Boseong and the surrounding areas turned out to be a hot spot for photography. At the Suncheon bay wetlands, a gorgeous area near the southern coast, once again we found ourselves standing out amongst a hoard of Korean tourists out enjoying the sunny Saturday. But gawking never stops the determined, so well set off in different directions looking for the most beautiful view. Humble brag, but I think I won (see below). Our group’s final stop that day was the massive Suncheon flower garden, which I easily could have justified spending a whole day strolling the grounds of. It took me almost an hour just to walk along one corner of the gardens and across a bridge covered in Korean syllables & thousands of tiles made by local elementary schoolers.
Passing out in the Korean-style hostel around 9pm, we left for the city of Boseong at 7am to finally walk down a road of fully-bloomed cherry blossom trees, and then two different green tea fields. We decorated chocolate with a smiling plantation employee, and learned more about how chocolate is prepared for use in confections; it was overall quite accurate info. All together, we toured the smaller plantation and tasted two types of the tea produced organically on-site.
They taught us about the traditional block form in which Korean tea is cured and stored, and the owner himself gave us a lesson on how to drink tea in the customary and respectful Korean way, and why it’s done so, while rocking an old-fashioned Korean frock, a hanbok. At this first tea field, I ate flowers and petted a few puppies, and at the second & more well-known one I scaled a small mountain of tea with two new friends. After lunch, we sampled green tea ice cream and green tea churros. I would recommend Goh Tours to anyone looking to see the less-easily-accessible touristy sights in Korea. For example, last month they also went to Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival, which draws thousands of visitors each year, most all of whom are Korean. I’d particularly recommend the weekend tour of Boseong, that I did.
Later on in April, cherry blossoms bloomed heartily in my town as well as in Seoul, where I went to a hip hop concert, took my friend salsa dancing in Hongdae, and attended the coffee expo in Gangnam. There was an all-day teacher training the week before, so I badly needed to decompress from all of the learning and politeness and networking which ensued. Deciding to celebrate being alive and the coming of spring, a good friend of mine took me dancing in the foreigner district of Seoul, and much later that night we played darts with Felix from South Africa and his buddy from Kenya. Um, I might not remember much else.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to top being passed out drunk, which I was not. So in the hostel I was staying at, there was a young girl in the bunk next to mine who snored inhumanly in her sleep. This amused me so much that I recorded her and sent it to my boyfriend. Just a week later, the elderly woman next to me on the train snored herself awake, too. There’s definitely a pattern to explore there.
Our Regularly Scheduled Programming
My boyfriend was back from his jaunt in the US, so we went home together and made cookies. Literally, not figuratively. In Korea, I have found that my weekdays are often full of class and then errands at home, with the infrequent interruption of a school field trip or a national holiday. I think most people would find their lives to be similar, wherever they live. Just being there is a live daily cultural experience, albeit more familiar to some than to others.
However, these irregular interruptions of my routine are occasionally announced, as was the case with my town’s strange-but-enjoyable annual Danjong Cultural Festival, complete with basically a day off school for elementary school teachers, and a silent parade— or was it a march?— down the Main Street in town. I only wish I had been in posession of a working camera. The night before, the festivities kicked off with a big concert in the central square; artists ranged from 1960’s-style trot artists to indie to hip hop. It was honestly all a strange experience which I saw coming but was still surprised by. But hey, I’m all for enjoying authentic Korean life. I didn’t catch the rest of the festival, which ran through the weekend, as early Friday evening I had to head to the airport for a flight to Hong Kong at 6am Saturday.
Hong Kong Part I
Since my phone was in a permanent state of death, I had to borrow my boyfriend’s ancient tablet for contact with the outside world while in Hong Kong. I arrived in the Chinese territory around 9am local time, and had the entire day to look forward to, so I headed to the fancy part of town to do some chocolate shopping before my friend would land in the evening. At least half the money I spent during the trip was on food, much of it to take back to Korea with me. My friend and I ended up meeting for dinner and drinks that evening, later joined by his dad & stepmom, all of with whom I had a blanket discussion of cacao and chocolate in Asia and Latin America. We tasted a few of the Vietnamese Marou chocolate bars I had bought that day, alongside the glasses of wine we were sipping on.
The next morning we got dim sum from a famous place in HK, though I think that I’m just not a dim sum kind of person. I was more impressed with the free tea than with the pork buns. Basically, we wandered various markets for the rest of the afternoon, though Mitchell and I took a break from this to get fancy afternoon tea at a shop near my hostel. In all, this month was great. And this year is perfect for travel from Korea. I get two extra weeks of vacation thanks to well-timed public holidays, though buying those plane tickets might just break my bank.
What’s the most expensive trip that you’ve ever been on? Was it worth it?