Weekend in Boseong

May 21, 2015


A few weekends ago, I went to Boseong with my friends, Mary and Hillary. Boseong is a county in South Jeolla Province that's famous for its green tea plantations, one of which we visited on our trip. Nearly 40% of the nation's green tea is grown in Boseong, which is said to have the optimal climate and soil conditions for growing green tea. Many have written about the green tea fields, and this region is considered a top destination for travelers in Korea. We went there for the Boseong Green Tea Marathon.

Our trip began Saturday morning. Mary picked us up in Gwangyang and it was a quick drive to Boseong. We arrived at the stadium where the marathon was to be held and checked into a motel across the street. We paid 40,000 won (around $40) for a room with three floor mats, blankets, and pillows. After an amusing detour to an eye clinic, we met a lady friend named Zoe at the bus terminal and had lunch at an amazing vegan restaurant that happened to be open at the time. The restaurant served what appeared to be traditional Buddhist temple food and it was unlike any other meal I've had in Korea. We enjoyed a set meal comprised of various pickles, salads, yeonip ssam bap (rice steamed in a lotus leaf with dates, chestnuts, ginko nuts, and beans) and kong katsu (soy cutlet), which was vegan but resembled the Japanese pork cutlet (tonkatsu) so beloved in Korea. We enjoyed several pots of fermented green tea and I promised myself I'd return again someday.

After our meal, we drove to the Boseong Green Tea Plantation, which was essentially a really large, extremely fun photo op. A selfie stick may have been involved. The fields were not as pristine as I'd imagined, either due to harvesting or perhaps to the number of tourists tromping through them. If you go to this plantation, wear your hiking boots, or at least some good walking shoes. It was surprisingly steep at times. Prior to admission, we sampled some green tea ice cream outside the gates. Inside, we met a kind and outgoing family who bought us another cup of ice cream, this variety sweeter and tastier than the first. 


That evening, we said goodbye to Zoe and searched for a spot for dinner. Ignoring Hillary's request for a light, pre-race meal, I pointed out a rather hidden gamjatang restaurant we passed on our way back to the motel. Gamjatang (pork bone soup) is one of my favorite Korean dishes. Toppings vary but it's a humble dish, a soul-satisfying cauldron of pork bones, potatoes, greens, and herbs. This version did not disappoint. After dinner, we took a walk as the sun set, chatted in broken Korean with some older women, listened to frogs singing, and headed back to relax at the motel. We laughed and laughed. The next day, we got up early for the run. Despite not training, I finished my first 10k in about 1:06. Some of my coworkers had come to Boseong for the run and we talked and congratulated each other as we ate our post-race meal: chicken, kimchi, tofu, soup sprinkled with green tea powder and red pepper, and makgeolli (Korean rice wine). Some of my favorite moments included the pre-race group dance led by cheerleaders and passing a woman who was running with an entire bottle of makgeolli in hand.

Later that day, we wound up at Ilimsan, a mountain known for its spectacular azaleas that bloom in spring. The summit was crowded with hikers. I changed shoes and we prepared to hike, only to surrender to exhaustion shortly thereafter. I approached two women collecting leaves from a small tree in the woods and asked, "Cha?" (so as to say, "Are you collecting those in order to make tea?") They shooed me away, then called "Hey!" and approached with some of the leaves in their hands. One of the women gave me a leaf and motioned for me to rub it with my fingers. I did, and it smelled like very sweet lemongrass. The woman explained that she was collecting the leaves as a garnish for chueotang, which is a variety of fish soup. We wandered down to a pleasant spot and sat by a cold running spring. Hillary took a nap in the sun and Mary and I sat talking while I plunged my tired feet into the frigid water. A young Korean man came to say hello and took a photo with us. Once again, I told myself I'd come back to Boseong to properly experience this beautiful mountain.

We headed to the coast and shared a meal at a seaside restaurant: bibimbap made with bajirak (short-necked clam) tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce. The banchan were unique and very fresh. We took a walk around the shore and laughed some more. Our last stop was a gorgeous cafe overlooking rolling fields of green tea. I ordered some tea and the ladies enjoyed their third green tea ice cream, the best yet with a sour, tangy flavor. I cursed my poor decision-making and savored a few nibbles from Mary's cup. The view from the cafe and its accompanying terrace was breathtaking. It was the perfect place to end our trip. 

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3 comments

  1. So beautiful! I love the photos of the green tea growing in undulating rows. Especially that one with the two trees and bench; very nice framing. The food looks and sounds delicious, and the whole weekend sounded like great fun! Congrats on the 10k!

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  2. Thank you, Nate! It was a really wonderful, full, fun weekend. I'm sorry I did not have more photos to share of our delicious meals - too much mood lighting, haha. It was fun and I was surprised that I completed the 10k so successfully! Thanks for commenting, as always!

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  3. I love the way your images come together to tell a story. As I was scrolling through, before reading, I feel like I had a really great sense of your weekend. Then I read what you wrote and it confirmed what I got from the photos. What a wonderful adventure you had!

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