Thanks to Heegyu letting us borrow his car for a week, Kristen and I were able to embark on a trip across Korea. Our first stop was Jeonju Hanok Village (전주한옥마을). We picked a motel nearby and headed out about 9 the next morning. When we arrived we were surprised by the number of people who were there. Families and groups of students were everywhere.
While we were walking around we received many hellos from students. One group even came running after us and asked if we could take a picture with them. We should have asked for a copy of the picture, but I thought of it after the fact. We decided that we should eat Jeonju Bibimbap while we were in Jeonju as it is a famous local dish. The restaurant we ate at had delicious bibimbap.
After eating we were back on the road heading south towards Damyang Bamboo Forest (담양 대나무 숲). The gps and I were not friends during this portion of the ride. One thing I learned was that I should really check names and make sure I am headed to the correct, ‘ Bamboo Forest.’ This adventure brought us out into the quaint countryside of Damyang and into a tiny abandoned grove of bamboo trees. I thought about getting out and exploring, but I saw someone walking up the small dirt path from the house in back and decided we better move along. I regret the fact that we didn’t explore it. So back off we went and this time I found the name of it in Korean
(죽녹원) from the Korea Tourism Website. Our gps took us an hour out of the way to a restaurant by the same name in Gwangju. I should really pay attention to that, as I felt it wasn’t right, but put my trust into the gps. We decided to try one more time and we found the correct address! When we got into the city we realized we had definitely chosen the wrong weekend to travel Korea. It took us a good half hour to reach the front of the bamboo forest when we realized the Damyang Bamboo Festival was that weekend. Kristen and I looked at each other and decided we didn’t need to see the bamboo forest that badly after all. So after wasting two hours driving around to find the elusive bamboo forest we set off for our next destination Boseong (보성).
The Boseong Tea Fields (보성 녹차밭) were out in the countryside. I’ve never seen tea fields so I didn’t know what to expect. We decided that we should hike to the top of the tea fields to get better pictures. Kristen had pushed me to hike up there even though I was exhausted from driving. I’m very thankful she did since we were rewarded with a stunning view of the whole area.
Thinking back the view reminded me of the time I lived at a higher point in Old Saybrook, and we could see the ocean from a rock as well. Absolutely beautiful and excellent weather. We decided to indulge in green tea ice cream and drink hot green tea.
We lucked out when we were at the tea fields as there was a bamboo forest! So we actually were able to see bamboo that day afterall!
When we were leaving the tea fields we decided that we needed to figure out where to grab a room for the night. We decided that we would head to Yeosu (여수) to find a place to sleep. The expo area in Yeosu is very cool and beautiful even just passing by in the car. Next time, I come to the area I will explore it more. We tried several hotels by the water to find accommodation everyone came back with , “No!” Getting frustrated we decided to travel around the beach area where we passed through a stone tunnel to get to the next beach. The area was super cute and we decided that we should definitely go see it tomorrow during the daytime.
After driving towards downtown we found a motel and decided to ask the woman if she had a room. She said she did so we went and parked the car down the street and grabbed our shit for the night. When we appeared to check in there was a line of people in front of us. Tired, exhausted and hungry we became panicstriken. We got to the desk and the lady looked at us and mumbled in Korean that she had forgotten about us. Did we have a room? Were we gonna have to go back to the car? Luckily, she haded usa key and we went into our cheap room. The smell of stale smoke permeated the room. It wasn’t great, but after searching for a room for two hours I was thankfulf or a place to crash. I took a quick shower and then we headed out to find some food to eat. Kristen wanted chicken so we walked around and saw a chicken place. We went ina nd the owner said, “No, no seats.” in English. She wouldn’t even let us wait for a table to clear. I’m not sure if she wanted us out, because we were foreigners or not. So we headed across the street to a hof and ate some chicken. The chicken bitches restaurant was still open with less peple. We would have waited, but most likely we never would have been serviced.
The next morning we woke up and decided to hike GuBong mountain(구봉산). The mountain supposedly was supposed to give a great view of Yeosu. I put in the address for one of the trailheads and we ended up int he middle of a tiny village. I wasn’t sure where to park the car, so I got out and called toa grandmother working in the field.
“안녕하세요. (Hello.)” …silence. So I turned and saw a farmer on the other side of the road.
“안녕하세요. 저 질문 있어요. 등산을 하고 싶은데 여기 주차 가능해요? (Hello. I have a question. We would like to go hiking can we park here?)”
Same thing again.
“감사합니다. (Thank you.)”
I move my car and am asked to move it again, by someone who apparently doesn’t know how to get out of a parking spot. We get our cameras and backpacks and start to head up the trailhead. We begin hiking and we hear,
“Hello. 호주? 영국? (Australia? England?)” .
“ 미국. (America.)” We both reply.
The farmer has a small conversation in English with us. On our ascent up we stop and check out an abandoned army post. The trek wasn’t hat bad, but it was warm out. The view at the top was really nice. We could see the city of Yeosu and the ocean surrounding it.
On our way down we passed the farmer again and he asked if we had enjoyed our hike. We most certainly did. All that hiking we decided it was time to relax and hit up a jjimjilbang or public bathhouse. While we were at the jjimjilbang an older woman showed us how to put cold water over ourselves before we stepped in the cold pool. That pool was extremely cold.
After feeling refreshed and relaxed we jumped back into the car and headed to ManSeongri Beach (만성리해변) the only black sand beach in Korea. This was the beach that we had passed last night in the car and wanted to see again. We decided to eat Raw fish bibimbap (회덮밥).
An older couple came up to us and took our photos and we took a few shots for them as well. They were super cute as they played on the beach together.
Next up on our drive Macheon Village (마천면) near Jiri Mountain (지리산).
Go to Part 2!