Now that I’ve been in Korea for over 4 months, I’ve decided to make a “Korea Bucket List” of places that I want to see. Some of these are just beautiful places like Jeju Island and some are unique to Korea like the DMZ. I’ll get to visit the DMZ when I run a half marathon there in September- if being close to North Korea doesn’t make you run faster, then nothing will. With the weather finally being what I consider summer (85-90 degrees with at least 80% humidity) and rainy season about to officially start, a few friends and I decided to venture south to the city of Boseong to cross the Green Tea Plantation off of our bucket lists. Disclaimer: I wasn’t actually planning on going on this trip but thankfully was convinced to join. My only request was that I got to sleep in on Saturday morning before catching a bus which for anyone that knows me, means waking up at 7:30am- I’m sure a lot of people have a much different definition of sleeping in.
We all hopped on a bus at 8:30 Saturday morning and headed towards Gwangju. For some reason the bus time schedule always allows more time for these trips; the ticket said this part of the trip would take 2.5 hours but we got there in 2 hours. From there, we had to take another bus to Boseong, which was supposed to take 1.5, and only took 1 hour. Such a nice surprise when your 4 hour trip gets shortened by 1 hour! Once we arrived to the tiny town of Boseong, we had to catch a city bus to the green tea fields. This part of the trip got slightly confusing and luckily a very nice ajushi (older Korean man) told us to stay with these 3 Korean girls because they were going to the same place. You better believe at this point, we stuck to these girls like white on rice.
Finally, with the help of our new Korean friends, we arrived at the green tea fields. Since we didn’t know exactly where we were going, we followed the crowd and walked to what looked like some type of entrance. The road was painted with green tea leaves for you to take pictures on. Whoever designed this actually painted cameras so you knew where to take pictures ha. I would like to believe that we are smart enough to figure this out ourselves, but at least we knew that sitting in the middle of the road to take pictures was allowed. Turns out, this was not the entrance to the fields but it was still a very cool place to see and I’m glad we found it.
After a 5 minute walk, we successfully made it to the entrance of the green tea fields. We walked through what looked like a magical forest with a stream running through it. All around the entrance were little shops selling all sorts of green tea treats like ice cream, milkshakes, lattes, and churros.
As we started walking, we couldn’t believe how beautiful and serene the fields were. Everywhere you looked, there were manicured fields filled of luscious green tea leaves. And in the background, there were mountains. It felt like we were secluded in this far away magical green place.
I didn’t realize this but when you explore the fields, you are basically hiking so we walked up tons and tons of stairs but the views were well worth it. Through out the hike, we stopped to take pictures and catch our breath, because some of those stairs were steep and the steps were high for my short legs. Once we got to the top, we sat and relaxed while taking in the scenery.
The walk down was a path through the trees offering some much needed shade. As a treat for this unexpected workout, we all went straight to the café and had some ice cream and churros. Turns out, I’m not the biggest green tea fan but as soon as you put that inside a deep fried churro, it became one of the tastiest treats I could imagine.
Later in the afternoon, we decided to head back to Boseong but it started to rain so everyone was at the bus stop waiting, including a group of drunk ajushis that wanted to adopt us. We were told that buses run every 30 minutes from Boseong back to Gwangju so we assumed getting back wouldn’t be an issue. Weeeelllll we learned a very valuable lesson that you can’t trust everything you read on the internet because the next bus left 2 hours later. There was also a train station so we walked there and caught a train back to Gwangju, which ended up being cheaper, left earlier, and also gives you more room than the bus; basically a win-win-win. However, our new drunk ajushi friends were also there and wouldn’t leave us alone.
Sunday morning we went to the May 18th Memorial Park in Gwangju.
During school, I wasn’t a big history person, but now I think it’s incredibly fascinating. This particular event, also referred to as the Democratic Gwangju Uprising, started on May 18, 1980. Basically, university students in Gwangju were protesting against the government, essentially a dictatorship, resulting in troops coming in and opening fire on these demonstrators and killing many people. Naturally, other citizens weren’t happy about this and raided police stations and stores to get whatever weapons they could find to fight the government. The situation escalated quickly and lasted until May 27th resulting in over 200 deaths. The ending to this awful massacre was due to the US allowing South Korea to move their troops at the DMZ to Gwangju to help South Korea take back Gwangju instead of helping the citizens that just wanted a democracy. Once I learned about this, I couldn’t say I felt too good about being American- we were definitely on the wrong side of history that day. There is much more to the story, so you should Google it to learn more. The park is set up as a memorial for that event and I’m glad I was able to learn a little bit about the history of this country.
After that, it was time to get on the bus and come back to Daejeon. Overall it was a great weekend spent with friends, exploring the green tea plantation, and learning some of the history of this country.