July 17, 2013

Green Tea in Boseong

When an extremely rare three day long weekend appeared on the calendar, most of Korea was on the move. A journey from one end of South Korea to the other should take at most around 5 hours. My bus ride to Boseong lasted 10 hours, but bumper to bumper traffic on the national highway was only part of the problem. I was traveling with a friend who was headed over to his hometown of Wando in the same general direction. We were already over an hour behind schedule by the time we escaped the holiday related chaos at the express bus terminal in Gangnam.

The rest areas on the highway were packed, so we were redirected to a makeshift facility which was nothing more than a giant parking lot with several portable potties. The consistently predictable mistake or sadistic tendency of planners and architects around the world to put the same number of male and female stalls without calibrating for the physiological and behavioural differences of each gender proved our downfall here. The men finished their business in around 15 minutes despite the 200 meter long line up. Several cheated and just took leak at the side of the parking lot, away from any prying double eyelids. The women took another hour as the men snoozed on the bus.

At another rest stop we waited for half an hour for two missing passengers to show up, until the driver got a call that the the pair of dimwits had boarded another bus which somehow happened to have the exact same two seats free. That bus had deposited them in the middle of the highway, and we picked them up en route. "I can't even understand Korean but I got on the right bus. How difficult can it be?" moaned an under-skilled yet over-compensated English teacher who was headed for the annual Boseong Green Tea Festival as well.

By the time we finally reached Boseong it was dinner time. My friend and I enjoyed a sumptuous pork barbecue before he continued on to his hometown. I dropped my backpack at a minbak (guesthouse) operated by an old grannie and then enjoyed a cultural performance in the town's main square. I returned to the guesthouse early so the grandmother would not have to stay awake too long waiting for me.

This allowed me to wake up extremely early the following day and reach the tea fields before the holiday crowds stormed the idyllic location, a frequent backdrop for locally produced movies and television serials. The plantations were a vivid shade of green, akin to the colour that my face changes to every time I see an irresistible Korean beauty accompanied by an effeminate boyfriend with about as much personality as he has body hair.

Apart from the green tea itself, I tried out some green tea yogurt and ice cream at some of the festival stalls. As a kind and thoughtful colleague, I bought some green tea crackers at the tourist shop within the grounds of the tea field. I handed the gift to a coworker who laughed cruelly upon examining it, pointing to the fine print on the packaging stating the crackers had been manufactured somewhere near Seoul and not in Boseong itself.


Tea, though ridiculed by those who are naturally coarse in their nervous sensibilities will always be the favourite beverage of the intellectual. ~ Thomas de Quincey