Jeollanam-do: Living it out in the countryside

I was lamenting the fact that my friends could all lose weight while abroad because their body rejected something about it. Despite how my first two months or so here when I first arrived in Korea being riddled on and off with colds and such, I never had any digestive problems and I never had major moments of weight loss other than the steady toning up due to nightly taekwondo work outs. My mother likes telling my friends that I would gain weight after merely drinking a glass of water. Well, turns out my body decided to listen to me for once: on the morning of October 6th, I woke up feeling sick – and when I say sick, I mean nauseated and incredibly hot.

I wasn’t ecstatic because, of course, this had to be the same morning of our trip to Jeollanam-do with Adventure Korea. I had booked this so my friend (and I) could experience a little something about Korea outside of what most foreigners experience. The tour advertised itself as harvesting crops from the countryside, making green tea, and staying in a traditional Korean house called a hanok. I eventually got myself better after taking a cold shower but I lost my appetite. Even so, we were off because we had already paid and it was too late to cancel for a refund. After a five hour bus ride from Seoul and two rest stops later, we were finally there.

We put down our things and were ushered into the main hanok to eat a lunch of bibimbap. The second hanok, we later found out, was mostly complete (after 15 years) but still required some finishing touches. The guys would be staying there.

Now would also be the time to explain the video crew in the background. We were told last minute-like on the bus that because we were the first tourist group, Korean or otherwise, that would visit this village and this was their first time meeting foreigners, the Korean news station MBC had sent a crew over and would be filming us. Yay for being on national television…

Afterwards, we were led out to a nearby persimmon grove just 5 minutes down the road and another five to ten minutes up a nearby hill. Here, we were given the bare minimum in instructions when it came to picking the fruit (yellow only) and only the round ones. And so, our persimmon picking began!

My friend and I had forgotten to pack a bag so we used her purse instead. It was enough for a good dozen of the fruit. They were large and most beautiful and we all know how famous the fruit in the south are for their sweetness. Unfortunately, they needed time to ripen so we haven’t tasted it yet, but once that time arrives, I shall gorge myself upon the fruits of our labor.

As we walked to our next harvesting experience, we saw a bit of how life was there with field after field of some sort of grain. Then we did another hiking expedition up the side of a mountain to get at some wild deodeok. It was only later that we found out the farmers in the area actually had a deodeok farm where everything’s ready to be farmed in one place, but we were stuck going through the thorns and vegetation of the mountainside to find this elusive root. Some people were pretty good at it while others… just weren’t. Myself included. However, the tour guide made sure that everyone left with at least one baby deodeok.

 

It took us a while for the guides to find an area on the mountain where there was deodeok so by the time we finished and hiked our way back, it was too late to harvest the last item on the itinerary: gochu. No matter. There were always things planned for us. 🙂

 

We visited a temple named Ssang Bong Sa and before we left, the monks there served us lotus tea with rice cakes. It was a very delicious treat! Then off we went back to the village to relax and prepare for dinner. We made songpyeon and they allowed a number of the participants to help make kimchi with this giant mortar and pestle for the sauce and then dinner was served buffet style, after which we were treated to a special performance by our hosts’ daughters playing the gayageum, a traditional instrument. It was amazing – the sounds and the skill in order to produce the music was rather uplifting. Then we all made our own flying wish lanterns. It was my first time doing this so I thought it was really cool to have all the lanterns float up into the sky.

 

 

 

It ended with a bonfire which was great because by this time, it was getting rather cold and I didn’t bring anything extra other than my thin jacket and shirt. However, as I wasn’t feeling very good the entire day though I thoroughly enjoyed myself (although the hike for the deodeok was a bit taxing for my oddly and spontaneously weakened body), I retired early for the night.

The next morning, we woke up early and was treated to some homemade sikhye, a traditional sweet drink made from rice. Shortly thereafter, breakfast of porridge was served along with a multitude of side dishes, as per usual.

 

The next day was to be our green tea experience. First, after some detours, we finally arrived at our destination: we would be making our own green tea. There were 6 people to a table and at each table, there was a large basket of fresh tea leaves ready for us, along with gloves and an apron.

 

Then we learned how to dry them into their wilted, twisted state for tea. First, we lightly rolled them around before placing them into the dehydrator to dry, which required constant attention. It was a long process and very hot, as the dehydrator was heated to around 350 degrees and we had to keep the leaves moving by hand, hence the gloves. The process was repeated another three times before the leaves were deemed dry enough for packaging to take home.

 

We were given the opportunity to taste some tea as well as buy some tea products. I purchased some green tea powder as well as salt. I can’t wait to use them! After that, we went to the largest tea plantation in Korea to explore as well as get some lunch at a specialty restaurant that sold green tea flavored food items. The area was most beautiful and I got myself some green tea ice cream that was perhaps overly priced but still delicious.

Overall, this entire experience was awesome and although we were very much tired, I took us straight to COEX for the ending concert for the Gangnam Festival and we got there just in time to catch Super Junior, DBSK, and Girls’ Generation. We left early because we were too tired, but what a perfect ending to the weekend…

 

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One thought on “Jeollanam-do: Living it out in the countryside

  1. Pingback: Korea 2012 Trip: Directory | Up in the Clouds

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