A few weekends ago, I embarked on my first, out-of-Seoul trip within Korea (and I’ve only been here 3 years!!!). It took some research and planning, but thanks to the efforts of a food-tour company called Ong’o here in Seoul, and my trusty TA I was able to identify a destination and arrange a weekend getaway.
The place I chose was Boseong (보정 as it’s spelt in Hanguel I think) a place I first read about on the Ong’o website as one of their remote destinations. Green-tea fields, green-tea snacks and most-intriguingly, green-tea infused hot baths sounded interesting so after a few false starts and missed opportunities, I finally was able to make it over an early April weekend.
I couldn’t have timed it better… it was serene and clean – a nice change from the concrete-and Chinese-blowover generated pollution that has besieged Seoul this year. Boseong being well south of here (it’s due south all the way at the end of the peninsula/island actually) spring came earlier here than in Seoul (which also seems to have had an earlier-than usual spring). So even though it was only early April all the blossoms were in full bloom with nary a leaf to be seen on the fruit trees, although as the pictures show the hills were alive with the growth of green tea. Here’s my favorite flowery moment, from a walk in the woods although this tree was outside said woods:
녹차 (Green tea) was very much in evidence wherever one went. Not only to drink and in fields atop hillsides etc. but also everywhere else. Most of us are familiar with Green tea ice-cream I think (and here I had it softy-style for a lunch-time snack), but also green tea-infused salt, noodles, toothpaste, a variety of beauty products, candy, jellies, and even cooking oil, By the end of the trip I’d purchased a fair number of things to take back with me… the foodie in me could not resist the salt and noodles naturally, and I also got some of the oil (edible variety) and a jar of massage cream, which my massage-therapist has already used on me once (It felt good on my post-Bali sunburnt skin but that’s another story). What was surprising was the lack of more green-tea based food items in the region. Given that pickling in Korea is such a big deal, I was sure I was going to sea some sort of Kimchi featuring 녹차 but nope! Not a whiff of the stuff except in drinks. Since I’ve actually eaten green tea before – in a fermented form in a special salad at Burmese restaurants (will post recipe in food blog by and by) – I was quite surprised to not find it in the fermentation capital of the world. The food in the region was quite yummy despite the absence of 녹차 except in it’s liquid form. Here’s a picture of just the Ban chan (반찬 – Korean side dishes) at my first meal in Boseong (All this just for me!)
My hand-down favorite were some clams in their shells, though lots of other things were good too. As I found out later this region is generally well-known for its 반찬.
I stayed at two different places while there (1 night each) and should mention them both. The first place was named predictably enough.. the Nokcha Resort, and is probably the more beautiful of the two places. See for yourself at their website. Lovely cabins and individual rooms, and beautiful wooden furniture. Walking from my room to their reception/convenience store area gave me the feeling of an Indian dak-bungalow. The downside was it’s remoteness from any eating places, and their own less-than meagre supplies for a real meal. They have barbeque facilities, which I heard other guests make use of, but I just got a package of spicy Korean soup and made do in my room. Days seem longer here and I basked in the setting sun and enjoyed green tea and used the internet.. they didn’t have their own connection (something unusual in Korea) but my iPhone’s hotspot worked beautifully and I was able to get my work done in beautiful surroundings. A place to revisit with friends and food supplies!
This resort seems to be attached to a national-park like facility where one can hike (or simply walk) amid green tea plantations (see pics above) and get in a bamboo-forest and yew forests as well. I wandered around for an hour or so having left my bags at a store down at the base (Koreans in my experience are very honest in matters of possessions) where, upon my return I purchased some goodies – salt etc – and had my ice-cream before heading down to the beach town for my green-tea hot bath experience…
Before I get to details of that however, I should get in a few words about my second hotel, Golmangtae. I’ve reviewed that rather more extensively in tripadvisor (will post link when it goes live) and so will only say that it was the more interesting of the two places to stay. More individual character for sure.
The experiential highlight of the trip was my visit to the green tea jimjilbang (찜질방 – Korean spa/bath house). Now I’d heard about the bath-houses when I’d first arrived in Korea 3 years ago, but had only recently had my first (and until Boseong, only) visit to one. But the Seoul place I’d visited was a low-key local place and certainly not the elaborate experience that was the Yulpo Haesu Nokchatang. A multi-storey (5, 6.. or thereabouts) building, where I paid 6,000 KRW at the ground floor to enter the facilities. I left my bags (all except my handbag and purse) at the reception and made my way to the 2nd floor. Even one visit had more or less prepared me. I stripped down to nothing and after putting my purse and clothes in the locker, entered the steamy rooms for my green tea sauna experience. There must have been about 5 pool of varying sizes, temperatures and colors of water. The different colors were due to the different amounts of tea in the water. By far the most popular (read populated) one was a large tub with 1.5 sides against huge windows overlooking the sea with a dark greeny-brown water with bubbles (jacuzzi style) emanating from the center. Women sat in clusters some sipping tea or just chatting. For the most part I was left to my own devices. A surreptitious lick of my lips after one dunking told me that basically I was braising my self in a tea-infused brine. Another equally large pool with lighter-colored water had fewer people in it at any give time. Much fewer people and I learned why after a brief dip. That tub was way way hotter. Other pools which may or or may not have had tea were cooler. Besides the showers there were also the troughs where women sat scrubbing each others backs. One friendly old lady who had attempted to strike up a conversation with me while in the pool offered by gesture to scrub me but I smiled and declined preferring to continue soaking.Besides, in one corner of this area were the tables for the professional scrubs and massages by the lacy bra-&-panty clad ajumahs. Well, I went for the whole nine yards and was scrubbed and pinched within an inch of my life by two women mind you (that might have been because they were curious as hell about this non-Korean non-white anomaly in their midst) and finally treated to some warm oil massage before being dispatched to the showers. No in-door photography obviously but here’s a couple of photos of the place itself and of the view that I had from my briny window, though of course this one was taken from the parking lot just before I boarded my taxi and headed back to Boseong’s green, leafy bosom.
~Bye now, until my next post~