Headed South

On Saturday, we took a long one-day trip to the southern part of the peninsula to visit the green tea fields and a bamboo forest. I’m going to write about the trip and put a few miscellaneous pictures in this first post, then write up two separate posts with photos of the green tea fields and the bamboo forest.

We picked up our KTX tickets at Yongsan station at 7:30 in the morning. We were given a detailed itinerary, all in Korean, but I had a basic itinerary in my email from the company, so we sort of knew what we were doing. We were on the train for almost two hours before meeting up with our bus tour at Jeongeup Station. The Korean bus driver met us outside the station – we had buttons to wear identifying which tour we were on – and ushered us to the bus. There were maybe 15 other people on the tour, all Korean. The driver turned on a booming, echoing loudspeaker system and provided to give a lecture, or perhaps it was instructions about the day, or perhaps it was a political rant. We didn’t know, because it was all in Korean.

After 90 minutes on the bus, we arrived at Yulpo beach. We checked in with the driver to confirm the departure time, but he had even less English than we had Korean (this will come into play later). Finally, writing out the numbers, we did confirm that we would leave Yulpo at 12:30. He made eating gestures at us and took off. Everyone else was eating in Yulpo Beach, a very small town, but we wanted to wait until the green tea fields for lunch. It was very overcast and starting to rain a little, so we looked at the gray water and wandered around the small town, killing time until the bus was ready to leave.

Huge sculptural blocks on the beach – interesting bit of random art
Makes you want to get right in the water, doesn’t it?
Look closely – main street in Yulpo Beach and that’s a woman speeding by on a motorized wheelchair. You can’t see it, but there’s a car coming up behind her.

After leaving Yulpo, we made it to the green tea fields, about ten minutes away. Pictures to follow, stay tuned for the next post! We did find a tasty and cheap lunch there, some sort of green tea-flavored noodles with a dark sauce on top. Dessert was green tea ice cream, good but I could only finish half of mine.

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After the green tea fields, we had another 90 minute bus ride to Juknokwon bamboo garden. After touring the garden and walking around the town, still following our itinerary, we went out to wait where the bus had dropped us off. We were early, just in case we had misread or misunderstood anything. 20 minutes before the itinerary time – no bus. At the itinerary time – no bus. 10 minutes after the itinerary time – no bus. We saw one other man from our tour so we weren’t too concerned, except he looked concerned and was pacing around, seeming to be searching for the bus as well. My phone rang. It was the bus driver – I think – but all I got on his end was a lot of shouting in Korean. I eventually gave up and hung up. Luckily, we went up to the man who was also on the tour, and the bus driver called back and shouted some more Korean at me, and then I was able to hand the other man the phone and he explained where we all were. The bus came roaring up a few minutes later and we were very relieved.

I’m not sure what we would have done if that other man hadn’t been there. Now, I understand the burden is on us since we are in a foreign country and don’t speak Korean. However, if the only person in charge of our tour doesn’t speak any English, and has already realized we don’t speak any Korean, I would think that if he announces to the bus an alternate meeting place he would pull aside the dumb Americans and try to convey to them with whatever sign language possible that we had a different meeting place after touring the garden. There was only one entrance and exit! And it couldn’t have been that obvious or the other man wouldn’t have missed it as well. Anyway, all’s well that ends well but I had a few stressful moments there.

Overall, a fabulous one-day getaway from Seoul and it was 100% worth doing.

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