A great way to spend a weekend in Korea is to visit and explore the beautiful valley of Boseong County, located on the southwest coast of the peninsula. The region, established in 1957, is home to rolling hills that reach heights of 350m and green tea fields as far as the eye can see. The temperate climate of this region is ideal for green tea cultivation and, today, Boseong accounts 40 percent of Korea’s total green tea production and some of the southern area's most beautiful scenery. We started our journey from Daegu early in the morning, arriving at the tea fields five hours and two busses later. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and the place was like an emerald green blanket cascading over the hillsides, and we immediately felt calm and at peace - not always an easy transition to make in such a densely populated and sometimes bustling country.
There were lots of people here, too, but it was rather different; we saw a lot of young couples and families, too. Boseong was like an ongoing party and everyone was invited. Kids were running around laughing and happily gulping every drop of their green tea ice cream, except the bits that ran down their chins. After we devoured our own cool cones - each bite bursting with green tea flavour - we slowly began our hike through a rocky trail that was shaded by large cedar trees, whose branches fanned out like an umbrella to shade us from the sun. We made our way through the wooden entrance that stood erect next to a stream that flowed alongside the hillside.
As you stand at the base of the hill, you look out at what seems to be thousands and thousands of rows of green tea bushes. Each row is carefully spaced out just enough for you to walk through and capture great pictures with the greenery as your backdrop. Eventually you make your way up a wooden staircase that leads to further idyllic scenery, with flowers everywhere as if weddings are planned for each day. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say, but the pictures you'll take in Boseong are worth one above all: breathtaking. It's no wonder Boseong has been used as the setting for many Korean movies and TV miniseries.
Of course all play and no work wouldn't translate into much of a green tea industry in Boseong, so we did see a number of adjummas - or elder Korean women - hard at work harvesting the tea leaves from the bushes. Green tea leaves are categorized based on when the leaves are picked, depending on the season and weather conditions. The first leaves picked in season are called ujeon and the second are called gogu, followed by sejak and jungak. Ujeon is considered the highest quality and is the most fragrant.
The hike through the fields to the top of the hill takes between one and two hours, depending upon how often you stop for pictures and to admire the view. And what a view it was! The sight from the top of the hill was incredible, like looking at a painting created by Mother Nature. The landscape was a cross between Monet’s The Water Lily Pond (1899) and a Bob Ross painting, with each tree showing a different shade of the rainbow. After taking a few moments to enjoy the view, we began making our way down the hill.
As most travellers know, there is always a gift store right before you leave a special place, and Boseong is no exception. Of course most of the trinkets sold here are green tea related and included various types of green teas, chocolates, cookies and tea sets. Naturally, most of us walked away with some sort of souvenir or tasty treat. My purchase of green tea chocolates and cookies was just the icing on the cake; this trip was awesome in every sense of the word. It wasn't only the exotic scenery, but also the taste and scent in the air, as well as the many unique attractions Boseong has to offer.
A great place to head after a nice day exploring the tea fields is Yulpo Beach, which is a short ten minute bus ride away. It’s a small fishing town that gets heavy foot traffic from those visiting the tea plantations. We stayed at a reasonably priced maebak, or guest house, and weren't disappointed: our rooms were on the top floor, which offered up an awesome view of the beach. There’s not a lot to do in Yulpo with respect to touristy activities, but there is a nice sauna to visit. It is reasonably priced and well located - just a short walk from our maebak - and has plenty of green tea and ice water baths on offer. Further enhancing the relaxing visit are the tub-to-ceiling glass walls, which allow you to steam away while staring out at the receding tide.
Not too far from the sauna was a shipyard, with boats lined alongside the shell-filled beach. It looked like a ghost town for boats with each one displaying stresses of the sea. We continued our quiet walk along the shoreline. Seashells blanketed the sand like an open oyster bar. The soothing calm of the morning was serene as we made our way back. Our weekend exploration was coming to an end.
Boseong definitely lived up to its reputation of being a remarkable place to visit - a place to be recommended to those living in the country and visitors as well. We hesitated to leave, but we knew it was a trip we'd never forget. Boseong was like reading your favorite book, each page revealing magnificent wonder that captures the imagination, so much so that you just hate to have to put the book down.