My dad has always been pretty busy with his work; too often our family vacations have been canceled or changed to a closer location. But not this time! Since both my sister and I are studying abroad in the US while my parents are in Korea, we decided that this summer was the chance to set some time aside and embark on a family road trip!
We drove from our home in Seoul (see it way up at the top?) down to Jeollanam-do (aka South Jeolla Province), where the different cities within it are rich with character and best of all, LOTS OF DELICIOUS FOOD! My family doesn’t have much association with this particular province (my mom’s side is from Gyeongsangnam-d0/Busan, and my dad’s side takes roots in Gyeongsang buk-do/Daejeon), so most of the things we saw and did on this trip were a first for all four of us.
Without further ado, here’s the video of my trip:
Read on for the detailed itinerary of our amazing trip!
Our first stop was Damyang. My family stayed at a teahouse/B&B, where we were kindly greeted by our hosts with some amazing bamboo shoot tea and traditional Korean music. Turns out Damyang is famous for its bamboo! The numerous gardens and houses are surrounded by bamboo forests, and they even had a Korea Bamboo Museum, where we could observe all the different products that could be created using a bamboo tree (who would have ever thought that you could make a computer mouse, musical instruments, and weapons all out of bamboo!?)
As for food, Damyang is known to be the origin of the famous tteokgalbi. It is a version of Galbi, which is a form of marinated meat, that is ground, marinated, and reshaped into rectangles and grilled on charcoal. Because all the marinade is soaked into the meat really well, the flavor is that much deeper. Along with the galbi, we had some fragrant bamboo rice as well.
Before we left Damyang, we made one last stop at a Bamboo noodle shop, where fresh noodles made with bamboo leaves are used to create a variety of delicious noodle dishes. The noodles were on point! Not too floury, but not too thin.
If you are Korean, you have probably seen and/or heard the name Boseong Nok cha; indeed, Boseong is super famous for its Nok cha (green tea), and the only thing that could top its fame is probably the incredible Green tea fields that stretch over the vast hills of Boseong. The fields are huuuge, and after a painful climb to the top, my sister and I were able to see the entirety of the fields, it was absolutely beautiful.
At the bottom of the fields, a wide variety of green tea products are on sale, so if you are a huge green tea fan like me, you can definitely purchase some authentic Boseong green tea products here!
We spent our second night at the next location, Yeosu. There is a popular song from a few years back called Yeosu-Bambada (which roughly translates into ‘Night on the Yeosu Beach’), and like the lyrics indicate, this city is one of the southernmost points of Korea with a lot of water. We got to stay at a super nice guesthouse that night (which means that I could finally sleep on an actual bed!!!), but before we settled down, we headed to Hyangiram Hermitage (I think this is basically like a little Buddhist temple), located on the top of a high hill. The stairs were crazy, but the view at the top was truly breathtaking. I don’t think a lot of beaches have mountains in the background as well; but this view had everything, and it really looked like a beautiful painting.
For dinner, we went to a seafood restaurant; the amount of food served was literally insane!! My stomach was about to explode by the time we were halfway through the meal. That’s how bad it was. But the problem was that everything was so delicious that i couldn’t stop eating!
After a relaxing stay at the guesthouse, we headed to Suncheon. If Damyang had forests and Yeosu the ocean, Suncheon had wetlands! I think Suncheon might be my favorite part of the trip mostly because it had a piece of nature that I had never witnessed in my life. The wetland park also had an absolutely amazing view (albeit with a painful climb) at the top of a 20-minute hike. I loved the organic shapes of the round patches of land among the wetlands; it just goes to show that my God is indeed an amazing artist.
Can’t forget the food in Suncheon! We got a kkomak lunch set that filled up the entire table with delicious side dishes and fresh seafood. Kkomak is the korean word for cockle, a small, edible saltwater clam. When seasoned just right, this stuff IS THE BOMB. We also tried a soup made with a type of eel, which was very flavorful.
Next we headed to the Suncheon Drama Film Set, where a small Korean town in the 60’s 70’s was recreated for various Korean dramas and films. The set is very accurate down to the little details according to my parents, who were actually alive during that time. It was cool to explore what life was like back then, but also kind of sad to see how hard the times must have been (since it was not too long after the end of the Korean War when people were poor and trying to recover from the losses caused by the war)
Next stop was Gurye, where the great Jirisan (one of the major mountains in South Korea) lies. We visited a Buddhist temple here, and it was amazing to see just how high the mountains are in this area (they almost loom over you, threatening to swallow you into the dark depths of the forest). We also tried a type of tree nectar that comes from a particular type of maple tree on Jirisan; apparently its good for strengthening your bones and is rich in vitamins.
Namwon (it’s not included in the vlog, but we did stop by) was on our itinerary, where we took a brief walk across the site where a famous folk tale was based on.
Next was a spontaneous stop at Imsil, the cheese mecca of Korea. The big pastures in Imsil are ideal for producing fresh dairy products, and cheese from Imsil is indeed famous throughout the country for being rich and delicious. We visited the Imsil Cheese Theme Park, where we could learn about the different types of cheese, and also walk along the fields near the dairy factory. I also got to try yogurt freshly made from goat milk, which was super thick and sour (in a good way, of course).
We finally arrived at Jeonju, where we stayed for our third and final night. Jeonju is a city famous for the Jeonju Hanok Village (Hanok is the name for the traditional Korean house); we got to stay at an authentic hanok, where each detail of the house boasted beautiful, traditional Korean architecture. My sister and I also got to try on hanbok (traditional Korean dress). The ladies at the hanok that we were staying in picked out shoes and did our hair for us, which made me feel like a princess! The streets in the village were full of people strolling in hanbok, and we got to snack on a bunch of different things, including octopus and chicken skewers, frozen beer (very refreshing!), dumplings, and strawberry soft serve ice cream. Oh, and the hosts treated us with a gorgeously plated Bibimbap breakfast (did I mention that Jeonju is famous for its bibimbap?)
Our final stop, which we made on the way from Jeonju back to Seoul, was Gunsan. There is an area where a bunch of shops were built on the ruins of an old train track; they sell vintage snacks, which I thought were pretty cool (but at the same time made me feel kind of old, since I very well recognized some of the snacks from my elementary school days). We grabbed lunch at a famous local restaurant, where we got noodles and bibimbap. I ordered the bibimbap, and the spice was so strong, but in a very, very addicting way. Like I just couldn’t stop eating it.
There it is! Our great trek across Jeollado.
I was so in awe upon witnessing so many different areas within this little stretch of land, each with its own unique characteristics. The unending amount of pure nature was so refreshing (though a bit exhausting to travel!), and I think it definitely was a healing experience for me. I really enjoyed editing this video, and I will remember this amazing adventure for years to come!!