Monday, October 12, 2015

Adventure Time: Part 4

That's right, the adventures didn't end with the last post. These are from February through May.

Boseong Green Tea Fields

The Green Tea Fields in Boseong are a huge plantation filled with rows and rows of green tea bushes. There is also a beautiful bamboo forest with trunks bigger than my hand. While February isn’t the peak time for green tea plants and none of the bushes were flowering, they were still surprisingly green for the middle of winter. I went as part of Enjoy Korea to see the light festival there, and I was quite excited to see each row lit up in different colors. Sadly I didn’t actually get to see the main lights—I was in the wrong section until the very end—but I was still able to enjoy the Fields’ famous green tea ice cream, which was better than expected. The gift shop also had lots of interesting green tea-flavored things, like cookies, candy, and chocolate.

Jindo Sea-Parting Festival

In March I went with my favorite travel group, WinK, to an island off the southwestern coast of Korea for the annual Jindo Sea-Parting Festival. Once a year, the morning and evening tide there goes so low that it reveals a rocky path all the way from the mainland to Modo Island (모도). We traveled overnight and arrived just in time for the first crossing at 5am. We all rented a pair of super stylish thigh-high yellow boots and were given tiki torches that looked awesome but were a little frightening considering the number of people and the slipperiness of the rocks. (Thankfully no one's hair caught on fire.) It was quite crowded for so early in the morning, and we had to wait for some time with the mass of Koreans and other foreigners before the precarious path through the sea was even walkable. In the meantime, my friend and I were interviewed by a Korean newscaster trying to promote the event. He essentially told us to act as excited as possible and made us try again because the first time wasn't enthusiastic enough. Thanks, camera dude.

We weren’t able to make it all the way across to the smaller Modo Island during the morning parting, but we were tired and used the extra time to retire to a pension for the next few hours. The afternoon festival was bustling with tourists, and the road leading to the crossing site was lined with street food and various other booths. Our group got an “exclusive” (but very delayed) boat ride to Modo Island to await the evening crossing so we could walk back against the tide of people from the mainland. While we waited for the sea to finish parting, we were treated to several traditional Korean performances by Modo locals, including the Korean fan dance, lots of traditional singing/wailing, endless drum-beating and pan-banging, and those maddening Korean mini trumpets. I think I got enough traditional Korean music to last a lifetime that weekend.

The path across the sea opening up

We were finally able to cross back to the mainland around 5pm, and it was a much lengthier and more difficult journey than I expected. A long red banner with people’s handwritten dreams and wishes was carried across as we walked back to Jindo, along with yet more pan-bangers. There were several ajumas and ajishis (old Korean women and men) crouched close to the ground amid the crowds while digging furiously in the mud for clams that they could sell later in the market. There were also some families digging together, kids and all. What a strangely cute family tradition.

Anyway, the first part of our 45-minute trek involved lots of sharp, painful rocks, followed by larger, duller rocks with plenty of slippery seaweed that required very careful footing. At the end was good ol' gray sludge and water that was surprisingly deep at points. We all quickly learned that our ridiculous-looking boots were absolutely essential. I was quite tired by the end of the journey but felt accomplished nonetheless. I might not do it again myself, but I would still recommend the experience to anyone interested.

Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival

As in Japan (and to a lesser extent my hometown in Georgia), cherry blossoms are very popular in Korea and can be easily spotted all over the country when in bloom. In May I went again with WinK to see the famous Cherry Blossom Festival in Jinhae, known for its abundance of cherry blossoms and the picturesque railroad running through them. It was quite crowded and everyone vied to get that famous picture of the Jinhae train emerging slowly from a tunnel of cherry blossom trees. In fact, they were so eager to get the perfect picture that many people kept getting dangerously close to the tracks, and I could barely see the train over all the heads and selfie sticks.

Afterwards we went to a stream that was supposed to be lit up with pretty lights at night. There was also a military parade with soldiers twirling guns and marching in different formations. Unfortunately, it started pouring down from the afternoon until we left in the evening (my first Korean thunderstorm!), so I spent the rest of my time trying to find shelter. At one point I ventured up to a tower that had this hilarious sign on the ground. The arrow to the right pointed to the cable car back to the surface; the arrow on the left pointed to the stairs. Oh Korea. I admire your bluntness.


Buddha’s birthday on May 25th was another holiday we don’t have in the States, and there were many lantern festivals to celebrate the occasion. I spent the three-day weekend in Pohang, a city on the east coast. It was nice to enjoy the beach, despite the cold water and the giant steel mill (POSCO) sitting across the water, which actually lit up in multicolored neon at night. I also happened upon this very cool statue of two intertwined dragons (left) while exploring the city. But one of the main attractions of Pohang is the mysterious “Hand of Harmony” on Homigot Beach on the easternmost point of Korea. If you stay up all night to catch it right at sunrise, it looks like it’s holding the sun between its thumb and forefinger. You might even see some birds landing gracefully on its fingertips. Unfortunately I only caught it at sunset, but it was still beautiful and a little haunting, like there was some giant trapped underground, struggling to get out. Its other hand was situated on the mainland nearby.

Geoje Island

The paragliding site
In June I signed up for my very first paragliding trip and was quite proud of myself for it. I've already vowed never to go skydiving, but I figured a slow float through the sky would be a less terrifying way to enjoy the scenery. The location was Geoje Island off the southern coast of Korea. We were taken up the mountain in a rickety old van driven by seasoned Korean paragliders, whose head-to-toe covering made them look a bit like colorful ninjas. And then we waited…and waited…and waited. After an hour the wind still wasn't blowing hard enough or in the right direction, and we were told to go home and try again later. My group was sorely disappointed but unwilling to make the trip again the next day. So much for being spontaneous and trying something new.

Nevertheless, at least we had plenty of time to see the other pretty sites on the island, including a giant Dutch-style windmill and some of the most fascinating rock formations I've seen. Each layer was a different color and looked like it had been cut into blocks by a knife. My favorites were those that had an amazingly rich, purple hue. I could've sat there for hours in the warm sunshine, surrounded by those rocks and with the vibrant blue sea in front of me.


And now, for all the people who say they're not interested in visiting Korea, I hope these adventure posts have shown you how beautiful of a country it really is. ♥︎


Fatina said...

So sorry I never had the chance to join you there. There is obviously a lot to do in Korea.

JOJOBEE said...

Hi Hania, I recently started reading your blog. Great work and awesome pics! I have a thousand questions and would like to correspond with you about working in Korea. I am weary of the recruiting agencies and would like to know how you found your school. Could you suggest any good ones?

HB said...

JOJOBEE, thank you and I'm glad you're enjoying my blog! I mentioned it in my first post, but I went to Korea through Teach ESL Korea and they were really fantastic—professional, friendly, and very responsive. I definitely recommend them!