Destination: a KTX trip – tea fields in Boseong and rail-biking in Gokseong (Jeollanam-do)
There are quite a few ‘KTX Tours’ available – typically one- or two-day trip offering to whisk you away to sights around the country using Korea’s fast train service. While the KTX train didn’t take us all the way to our first destination, the chartered bus took us the rest of the way.
The rural area of Boseong seems neither overwhelmed by the traffic or unruffled by the tourists entering. While Boseong is certainly the name of the area, the part of the county most people associate with the area is the Daehan Green Tea Plantation. This one farm is responsible for a significant percentage of Korea’s tea exports – and most of the Korean green tea pictures you’ve ever seen.
Much like the bamboo forest, the sizable souvenir shops offer a little bit of everything.
Green tea salt, anyone? Body wash, moisturizer, and plenty of other products lined the walls.
Korea has China and Japan to thank for the tea plantations – originally, this area was planted during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Some Korean entrepreneurs bought the land in 1957, and with time turned it into a tourist destination.
Some tombs amidst the hills of tea.
To say these plants go on for kilometers is not an understatement. The rolling hills get as tall as 350 meters – better grab some of that green tea from the shop before making your way up!
Our time here was a bit short – perhaps an hour and a half – so we couldn’t get too far from the starting point. Our next destination was almost as picturesque – and a lot more fun.
A replica steam engine train welcomes you as you arrive! The real trains don’t run on these tracks anymore, making it perfect for the rail bikes.Not pictured is what the train is pulling – the railcars we were all set to pedal down the rails. After some safety instructions in Korean (don’t stop pedaling, don’t reach down to the track, etc.), we hopped on, put our seat belts on, and began pedaling.
These aren’t exactly built for speed, although the seats are adjustable. There also isn’t a passing lane; if you’re a speed demon, head for one of the cars in the front. Much like biking along the road, everyone naturally finds a comfortable speed.
Between the breeze blowing through my hair, the Seomjin River hugging the road left of the track, and sights such as these to the right, it’s much like biking along a trail – without the need to steer.
Arriving at the end of the rail bike’s line – the old Gajeong station. There’s no sign of it anymore, but the tracks remain. Some hostels made out of old train cars, you’ve gotta do something with them, after all.
We grabbed some drinks from the nearby shop, then hopped on the bus back to Jeongeup station, where we would catch the KTX home. There was enough time between arriving via bus and leaving via train to get some dinner in the area, although there was little direction on the ‘where to eat’ part. Suddenly, 50 tourists who have been led around for the day were unleashed on the small town, hungry and a bit lost. While not the highlight of the trip, it was certainly the funniest moment.
Since Boseong and Gokseong are both in the southwestern part of Korea, a one-day trip is a long, but interesting trip. We left early morning from Seoul and got back late in the evening with enough time to get the subway home.
As this particular tour was entirely done in Korean, I couldn’t recommend it for a tourist or someone new to Korea. It’s well-coordinated, but you’ll want a Korean friend to make the railbike reservations (if you’re able to navigate Korean websites and pay for things, kudos on you – personally, it’s typically more of a hassle than it’s worth). The English-language website is a bit more compact, but still offers several choices, including a tour of Gapyeong and Chuncheon specifically aimed at foreigners.
Ratings (out of 5 taeguks): How do I rate destinations?
Ease to arrive:
Worth the visit:
Directions to Boseong (on your own):
Directions to Gokseong (on your own):
© Chris Backe – 2011
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