I spent nine months in 2010-2011 teaching English at a hagwon (a private, for-profit educational institution) in Seoul, South Korea (more on the teaching in a later post). Faced with several days off between courses, one of my coworkers and I decided to escape the city. We settled on Bosang, famous for its green tea fields, and Yulpo, a small village on the ocean.
Upon arriving in Bosang, we made our way to the Korea Tea Museum. The museum presented a historical overview of green tea production in Korea, a series of dioramas depicting the tea production process, and numerous examples of tea accouterments. We were also able to partake in a tea ceremony during which we were able to taste various teas. It was a pleasant museum experience. Around the museum we were able to wander a bit and attempt to explore some of the tea fields. Unfortunately, we were there too early to see the tea in all its glory. The tourist season really gets underway in May, and we were there in early April. However, we could see the tips of little green leaves just beginning to unfurl. It must be quite a sight to see the lush green terraced beds in full leaf.
After our visit to Bosang, we traveled to nearby Yulpo by taxi, which we shared with three boisterous Korean university students who seemed excited by their serendipitous opportunity to practice English. As it was early April, the tiny town was nearly deserted—it was still much too early for summer tourists. After being dropped off on the main road, we wandered around for a bit to find a hotel. We decided to check out one just off the main road and around at the back side of a building that housed a bar. Standing guard outside was what appeared to be a copy of a Greek statue of Aphrodite. We wound up a flight of stairs and found a small window above a narrow counter on the right and an open door slightly further ahead on the left. Not seeing anyone, we approached the doorway and my traveling companion called out softly a few times in Korean. Someone stirred within and a small old woman appeared. She was stooped; her back hunched over so much her torso was nearly parallel to the floor. She had a salt-and-pepper bob, with a lock at the front swept to one side and pinned there.
She slowly walked over behind the counter, informed us of the price, took our money, and showed us to our room. After relaxing for a bit, we took a walk along the beach as the sun was setting. The beach was nearly empty. Ah! It was so peaceful there where the mountains meet the ocean. We took in the sunset, and then we needed dinner.
We wandered along the main road until it wound around to the right and found a tiny restaurant that looked promising. As we entered, there was a giant rock protruding from the wall on the left. We were warmly greeted by a woman who showed us to a table in the back where we took our seats on floor cushions. We ordered doenjang jjigae, a fermented soybean paste stew made with vegetables and mussels, and makgeolli, a milky fermented beverage made from rice. The stew was hearty, without being heavy, it was earthiness and seaside all rolled into one, and it was delicious.
After dinner we set out with paper cups of steaming hot green tea, walking back along the main road to the center of town. We picked up another bottle of makgeolli at a convenience store and made our way back to the beach, where we sat on a wooden platform overlooking the ocean, listening to the soothing sounds of the water, talking about life, and admiring the stars.
I love living in cities. I love their energy, their endless stream of potential activities, and their conveniences. However, I also believe that it is necessary to get out of the city occasionally—to breathe deeply, to be calmed by the sounds of the ocean, and to see the stars.
Where do you like to go to get away?