Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Road Less Traveled: Boseong Green Tea Plantation

To wrap up our Jeolla adventure, we went to Boseong, the major hub of the green tea culture in Korea, on our last day. Tickets to Boseong (₩8,900 or $9) are available at the green or Inter-City bus counter of the Gwangju U-square bus terminal. It was an hour and 40 minute curvy ride. Upon arrival in Boseong bus terminal, wait for the bus going to Nok Cha Pat or look for the sign that says 녹차밭 at the end opposite that of the Gwangju bus you've alighted from. The Nok Cha Pat bus schedule is posted on that side of the wall and the schedule of the bus back to Gwangju is posted in the small room in front of the Gwangju bus. If you want to make sure, just ask the ajusshi in the small room.

When riding the bus, tell the driver that your destination is Nok Cha Pat. The bus ride was ₩1200 or $1 per person. After about 10 to 15 minutes, the driver will stop at the Nok Cha Pat bus stop where you'll see a big parking lot. Walk to the slope on the left of the parking lot and you'll see stalls of green tea ice cream go straight for about 5 minutes until you see the pine tree lined road on the way to the first green tea plantation, the "Daehan Dawon Tourist Tea Plantation".

view on the right side of the parking lot
view on the right side of the parking lot
pine trees lining the road leading to the green tea plantation
green tea goodness
traces of autumn in sight
view from the top
My friend and I left the green tea plantation at 1:40 pm to ride the 2 pm bus. To reach the bus stop going back to the Boseong bus terminal, you should cross the road from the first bus stop where you alighted from the bus going to the plantation, go into the tunnel shown below then cross the road again to reach the bus stop going back.
bus stop for buses bound to Boseong bus terminal
cool Boseong ahjummas :)
without the tteokgalbi
full meal
After that wonderful last meal, we went to the Gwangju Songjeong KTX station with full stomachs and heavy hearts. We couldn't believe that our days in Jeolla came to an end like a blink of an eye. Looking back, we were more than satisfied of our Jeolla trip. The warm and hospitable people who broke the wall and reached out to us even though we were foreigners, the astonishing and breathtaking sights, the convenient and timely modes of transportation, the luscious meals we had, and the thought of simply being away from the city brought comforts to our hearts even for that short period of time.

The entrance ticket to the green tea plantation costs ₩4000 or $4. You will be given a map and you're free to explore the plantation. There is a part of the plantation filled with Cherry Blossom trees; however, they bloom only during the end of March to early April. The green the bushes seem to emit a gush of fresh air. Going around the place will give you the feeling that you're part of a Korean drama or that you're shooting your very own tea or skin care product commercial. There are green tea goodies and food items you can avail and enjoy inside. Just be mindful of the bus schedules and make it fit your own time table. If not for the KTX train that we wouldn't want to miss, we could have stayed there longer, had a cup of green tea paired with green tea noodles.

After 10 minutes, we were at the Boseong bus terminal. We then booked the 2:40 bus bound to Gwangju and reached Gwangju a little over 4 pm. We went to our hostel to get some of our things and went straight to the Nongseong train station to ride a train to the Gwangju-Songjeong station for our 6:15pm KTX train to Seoul.

Good thing time was on our side. We still had more than an hour to spare that we asked the tourist information center where the Tteokgalbi (Korean Short Rib Patties) street was. We battled through the cold drizzling rain and chose one restaurant in the street. It was definitely worth the hype! For just ₩12000 or $12 per person, you will be served with this sumptuous and delectable meal which includes a variety of side dishes, a warm pork bone soup and of course, the main dish, the Tteokgalbi (sweet, tasty and chewy beef patty which you wrap in lettuce and/or perilla leaves with banchan, somewhat like samgyeopsal). The soup and the side dishes were refillable. Bias aside, I would say that this has been my favorite meal of our 9 day Korean trip. It was very filling, affordable and the banchan of Jeolla province stood out.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Road Less Traveled: Suncheon Bay National Garden, Suncheon Bay Ecological Park, Yudong Oritang (Duck Stew) Alley

Suncheon Bay National Garden

We hopped on the City Tour Bus and arrived at the Suncheon Bay National Garden next. The admission fee was ₩8,000 or $8 per person. Having opened last April 2014, the garden was built to become a conservation area for various species of plants and flowers. There were also gorgeous flamingoes featured in the middle of the garden. It took us 2 hours to cover most of the 1.12 square kilometer stretch of the garden. As we were starving at that time, we ate in a haste at the Organic Dosirak Cafe in the garden to catch the 2:20 pm bus to the next attraction. 

The Dream Bridge
The Dream Bridge

Tonkatsu and Ssam Bulgogi

Suncheon Bay Ecological Park

The last stop of our Suncheon trip was the Suncheon Bay Ecological Park, a coastal wetland that serves as habitat to wildlife such as crabs, fishes and migratory birds that you can explore for an entrance fee of ₩8,000 or $8 per person. The simplicity of the park will make you appreciate nature's beauty more. While waiting for the city tour bus, we relaxed at the cafe inside the park while people and view watching.

Yudong Oritang (Duck Stew) Alley

We alighted at the Suncheon Bus Terminal, took the bus to Gwangju and reached the hostel a little over 7 in the evening. At the hostel, we asked the owner directions to Yudong Oritang (Duck Stew) alley. He said that it was a 15 minute walk from the Yangdong Market which was 2 subway stops from Nongseong station, the one nearest our hostel. At the local Gwangju map provided to us our hostel owner, the landmark nearest the alley was NC department store.

At the Yangdong Market, we tried to ask the locals for direction to the alley and one ahjumma said that it was far and we were advised to take bus number 30 and alight at the bus stop across NC department store. The Yudong Oritang alley is located on the left of the department store. There were lots of restaurants to choose from but we chose the one with more people. 

Oritang or Duck Stew is one of Gwangju's specialty, hence, we were so curious about it. The stew, served with a variety of side dishes or banchan, has a thick soup which with a rich and creamy taste. It was served with a basket of greens (taro stems and water dropwort) you supposedly boil on top of the stew and a dipping sauce that you mix with perilla powder. The duck meat was chewier than chicken. A big pot that serves 2 to 3 people costs ₩28,000 or $28 and $1 for a bowl of plain rice. The owner was also kind and gave us a bottle of coke for free or "service". The meal left us full to the brim as we chow down the last chunk of meat. 

With a smile of satisfaction, we took the bus number 30 back to the U square bus terminal and dragged our well nourished bellies back to the hostel. And that ends the second day of our Jeolla adventure!

The Road Less Traveled: Suncheon Open Film Set

Located 20 minutes from the Suncheon train station, the Suncheon Drama/Open Film Set is the first stop of the Downtown Circular Course. It is the biggest open film set in South Korea and it illustrates the country during 1950s to 1970s. It has been used as filming location for hundreds of dramas, variety shows and movies like Baker King: Kim Tak Gu, East of Eden, Running Man, Werewolf Boy and Gangnam Blues. The entrance fee was ₩3,000 or $3 per person.

Beondegi (번데기) or boiled silkworm pupae at $1 a cup

Bus stop

Dumpling store

Aside from simply strolling around the old streets of Suncheon, people can 
eat snacks that people enjoy during the past and rent high school uniforms at ₩2,000 or $2 (only if you have a Korean number available) to blend in. It was great to revisit the past and compare it to the huge leap of progress the Korea has accomplished and it left me with high hopes that one day, the Philippines could do the same.