Sunday, August 12, 2012

Travel in Korea and Green Tea

So vacation 2012 has finally arrived and week one was fantastic.  We spent some time meeting with friends and exploring Seoul and yesterday evening, DH and I arrived back from a weekend in Jeolla province.  The weather was gorgeous and we even had plenty of cool breezes to boot.   시원하다!!!  

First stop on the list, 보성/Boseong. Famous for one thing and one thing only: green tea.  Trekking down from Seoul was a bit of a journey, but was worth the trip.

I like having a good idea of where I'm going and where I'm staying before heading out the door, but when trying to figure out this trip to Jeolla, it was quite the challenge finding recent detailed information from previous travelers in English.  I found myself getting frustrated because I couldn't find bus information, I couldn't find information about rooms and even after asking two different tourist information centers in Seoul, they didn't know anything about the Express bus to Boseong that I'd read about online. (1330 confirmed this fact for me, and the two express buses to Boseong leave Seoul Express Bus Terminal at 8:10 and 3:10 every day.) So in the end, we decided to just go and take it as part of the adventure. Korea isn't the kind of country that 'does planning' and reservations are not common for buses, nor for motels.  That bit of unknown is part of travel in Korea.

We arrived at the bus terminal in Seoul at around 7:00am on Saturday morning, hoping to get tickets for the express bus to Boseong, but the bus was already filled up.  Instead we had to take a bus to Gwangju and make a transfer. The buses in Seoul to other larger metropolitan areas literally run in five minute intervals.  We had bought our tickets and like most people would do, headed to the platform five minutes earlier.  When we got there, there was a bus standing there so we got on thinking it was ours, but the driver shooed us off again after checking our tickets.  We were supposed to be on the 7:40, not the 7:35.

For those who might be intimidated travelling by bus through Korea, it is super convenient.  The seats are enormous with a reclining seat and foot rest that comes out, and you are guaranteed a seat when you book a ticket (unlike local buses).  No reservations are necessary because the buses leave often, so you can just show up and you're bound to get on one within 30 minutes.  Also economical too: a single ticket from Seoul to Gwangju was 25,000 won (about $25) and then the ticket to Boseong was another 6,000-7,500 depending on if you take the direct bus or the bus with stops in between.  So just a little over 30,000 won to get from Seoul to the southern most part of Korea.   

We arrived here, at a rundown old bus terminal around 1:00pm and decided to grab a taxi to the fields instead of waiting for the public local bus.  Bus tickets run around 1,100 won, our taxi cost around 8,000 --but was direct and comfortable.   10-15 minutes later, we arrived at the fields.  We spent a good five hours there enjoying the colors, the nature, the green tea (! green tea ice cream, lattes, noodles galore!) and the beautiful weather.  

We also had our first glimpse of a bamboo forest.  It left quite an impression on us both.  Bamboo stalks are SO HUGE!!

As dusk began to set, we decided to slowly make our way back to the motel.  We ended up getting a room in Boseong at the Boseong Tourist Motel.  It was clean, easy to find and kept our afternoon stress-free since we didn't have to worry about going to Yulpo or back to Gwangju and finding a place.  I definitely recommend it to foreign travelers.  It cost us 50,000 won for a room, although it was a Saturday/high season, so if you go during the week, you'll probably get a room for less.  It's a five minute walk from the station and you can see it easily as it's the tallest building in lil' ol' Boseong.  Again, they don't take reservations, but when you arrive at the terminal, just go over and get a room before the crowds come later in the evening.

Korea is really a very beautiful place once you start getting outside of Seoul and into the countryside.  And I would definitely recommend Boseong to the nature-lover/green tea fanatic and for anyone who wants to see something a little bit different.

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