Friday, September 28, 2012

Boseong and Yulpo

Standing in the ocean at Yulpo Beach
In the middle of August some of the foreign teachers at my school planned to go to Boseong on the southern coast during the August 15 holiday (Korean Independence Day. Unfortunately, like so much of August, there ended up being rain on that day, making it less than ideal for climbing around the green tea fields.

A couple of weeks later (four weeks ago now), Lily was kind enough to guide me down to Boseong to see the green tea fields and see the nearby beach at Yulpo. We met up on Sunday morning and caught a mostly empty bus for the 90 minute ride to Boseong. It was the first time I'd left Gwangju since going to Yeosu, and it gave me a bit of a thrill to get out of the city. I'm really enjoying Gwangju and I love exploring the city. There's still so much I need to discover and experience here. Still, I'm a sucker for that feeling of escape, so riding out through the mountains and into the countryside brought a smile to my face.

Boseong is a small town on the southern coast that is famous for its green tea plantations and is a popular daytrip from Gwangju. I found and read through several posts by foreign teachers about their visits there, but I was still a bit unsure of how to get around after getting to the Boseong bus station, so it was good having Lily along. She'd been there last year and made navigating the area much less stressful.

The Boseong bus station seemed about the polar opposite of Gwangju's terminal, known as U-Square, or Gwangcheong. U-Square is a destination in and of itself. In addition to several dozen platforms, it is filled with shops and restaurants. It is also connected to a movie theater, department store, and some sort of cultural/arts display gallery that I need to find out more about.

Boseong's station, on the other hand, consisted of about 6 bus platforms outside a well-worn building containing the ticket window and a convenience store. It wasn't a bad little place, but it definitely set the tone that we were not in the relatively big city anymore, which I appreciated. There was some time to kill before the bus to the tea fields would leave, so we walked through the town while we waited.

The street was lined with vendors, as are many Korean streets on the weekends. For a while I felt a bit self-conscious. There are enough foreigners in Gwangju that I sometimes don't think too much about my foreignness, but we hadn't seen any foreigners since leaving Gwangju. It's an odd awareness because I haven't really had any bad experiences, and most people I've interacted with have been very accommodating and welcoming. Most likely I was overthinking it in Boseong as well, because I realize now that a great deal of foreign teachers go down there, so we probably were not that uncommon a sight. And really, it was a nice, quiet little town. We walked over some railroad tracks at one point, which made it feel almost familiar by reminding me of so many rural American towns I've been in without giving them a second thought. Sometimes I didn't even think about them while I was there.

The green tea fields were beautiful, despite it being overcast and dimming these pictures a bit. Admission to the plantation was 3,000 won, and there were many families out trekking around the fields, taking in the views. The fields are terraced on some pretty steep hillsides, so exploring them can be a decent workout.

There were workers out harvesting leaves that day, working their way down the rows with a machine that trimmed the outer parts of the leaves and collected them in bags. After going most of the way up this slope to get a better view of the forested mountains surrounding the plantation we cut through some of the rows to descend to the shops and tables below. One of the shops sold green tea ice cream and shakes. I opted to try it in ice cream form, and it was absolutely delicious. I imagine they had to add a lot of sweetness to get it to the point where I would like it, but it still had that green tea flavor. I was pleasantly surprised, and I will definitely be indulging again should I find my way down to Boseong again. The whole experience reminded me a bit of going to a pick-your-own orchard back home, like Eckert's. Granted, you don't pick your own green tea and eat it out in the field like you can do with apples, but it has that laid-back, look around at your leisure and then have some delicious snacks aura. There are probably enough paths to explore for the better part of an afternoon, but we still wanted to find the beach so we went back to find the bus after the ice cream. Maybe if I'm feeling extra homesick some weekend this fall I can pretend I'm going out to pick apples or find a pumpkin and go back down to Boseong for an Eckerts-esque afternoon of autumn weather.

The bus route we'd taken earlier (which may be the only local bus in the area, I'm not sure) goes on from the plantation to Yulpo beach, so once we were back on board it wasn't difficult to find our way there. Lily mentioned Yulpo as we got on, and the driver told us once we'd reached the right stop.
Row of shops and restaurants near Yulpo beach

Admittedly, Yulpo has a rather modest beach. My notions of being submerged in water were quickly dispelled. There was no real surf and the water was shallow for at least several dozen meters out into the water. Still, it was comforting to walk on the sand and into the water, even though much of it was covered by the shells of the clams the ajummas had been harvesting. I have a penchant for staring into nothingness when I'm in the water, and I zoned out on several occasions while looking into and out over the water here as well. Feeling that water makes me feel warmly small at the thought of how vast and inhospitable the oceans can be and at imagining how they can connect everything. Across the Pacific, through the Panama Canal, up to the Gulf and into the river past New Orleans right on up to the barge docks. From there I can cross a few levees and follow some corn-lined gravel roads to the bluffs. Simple.
I could stare at this all day.
I eventually awoke from my mesmerized state and retreated to dry land. We got some kimchi jiggae and seafood side dishes for dinner and hopped back on the bus to the Boseong bus station. We had about half an hour to kill before the next bus to Gwangju, so we walked back through the town and I was able to get a few photos from a hilltop park to include at the end of this post.

Thanks for reading and thanks again to Lily for taking time to show me around. I was feeling great already, but seeing the ocean always makes me feel even better.

1 comment:

  1. if you come up to Boston you can cut out the whole ordeal of cutting through Mississippi corn-fields and swim right into the downtown docks.