After a L---O---N---G flight across the rest of the Pacific Ocean to Tokyo, it was another 2-hours to Incheon. Easy trip through immigration and customs, pick up the luggage, and out to the little tour bus that would become so very familiar over the course of the week.
(I think I'll break my no-photos-on-the-blog page rule, and throw in an appropriate one now & then. Great apologies to my dial-up readers... I will eventually post our trip photos in my Picasa album, but I'm having some trouble with it so give me a few days to get it figured out.)
Inside, the bus was wildly decorated in pinks & purples, gold trim, tassels & curtains - definitely exotic! Everybody's luggage was piled up in the first rows, so we couldn't see the driver at all, or out the front window. There were tinted windows all around, and fold out seats to fill the aisles for the other 4 people not shown in the above photo. It was already dark so there wasn't much to see anyway on our long ride to the coast.
Slept really well that first night, at the Sunrise Hotel. Beautiful room with a spectacular morning view overlooking the bay full of fishing boats.
Mike & I had a lovely morning stroll along the boardwalk; Dr Park joined us for some of it and others did tai chi on the ocean's edge.
After packing our bags into the bus, we headed around the corner to breakfast at one of the many fish restaurants in this Sunrise Cove area. The owner was the same friendly man who'd smiled at us on our walk. There was a huge banquet laid out for us, complete with their specialty: live octopus boiled right before our eyes! Okay, I want full credit for this one: When I was served my portion of octopus head, cut into quarters with a pair of scissors, thus turning the delicious broth all inky, I was able to actually summoned up my inner Bourdain/Zimmern... I took up a piece with those slippery metal chopsticks they use in Korea, brains sticking out and everything... and I must say, it was surprisingly delicious! I ate the whole thing! Also had chrysanthemum leaves with sesame seeds, but that doesn't sound nearly as exotic now.
Korea has a great highway system, each section with its own toll-gate, and all criss-crossing eachother. Tunnels take you right through the mountainous regions. Once you pull off the highway, the roads are still good but very narrow, which is why we have a small tour bus: so it'll be able to navigate the country roads where the farms are. There are lots of rivers, and irrigation canals in some areas. Rice and vegetables grow everywhere and anywhere that's big enough to grow something, even in the cities.
Our first farm visit was in DamJin at Mr Choi's apple orchard, all covered in bird netting. These trees are only 2 years old and already producing big juicy Fuji apples! He also has a huge IMO making machine that does the work of several weeks in a couple hours. We got to see this in action, and by the time we returned from our orchard walk, the finished product was coming out. Mr Choi also has quite a large array of solar panels to generate electricity, both for the farm and for income as he sells the excess power back to the utility company.
Loaded with a bucket of apples for the road and packets of fresh apple juice, we were on the road to the next place: Mr Kim's persimmon farm in the "Path to Heaven" area. It is an absolutely beautiful place farmed by this gentle man who led us up the hill through his orchard, and gave us a little talk under the trees about his methods and relationship to the land. Meanwhile, all around us honey bees buzzed and a half-dozen workers quietly harvested the ripe fruit by hand. We all got to wander about and find our own persimmons to munch on - super soft, tender and dripping with juice on the first bite... or crisp and crunchy, like an apple.
One more farm today. As the sun was setting we pulled in to Mr Park Sang Oh's strawberry greenhouses. Unfortunately, there had been a recent leak in the irrigation system and Mr Park really needed to attend to that, so he couldn't spend much time with us there. We peeked in at some beautiful lush strawberry plants (not fruiting at this time if year, too bad). Mr Cho gave us a little talk about Natural Farming, translated by Dr Park.
We headed out just as darkness fell. Went to have dinner at the Double Bridge Barbeque Rib restaurant and soon Mr Park joined us to give his farm talk and share a delicious kahlbi dinner. There was so much food! We learned that Mr Park is the president of a 53-member farmers co-op, and they all do this Natural Farming method! The restaurant specializes in food produced this way... no wonder it was so tasty! Dessert was persimmon tea (more like soup) and it was superb, spiced with cinnamon and a little ginger.
And finally at the end of a busy day, we pulled into the Green Hotel, a seedy little place - well, not too little: we were on the 5th floor! - what they call a 'Love Hotel'. You can guess what that means... and if you need a hint, here's our bed for the night:
Hot pink & silver wallpaper, shall we say 'interesting' little night stand objects for our 'pleasure', a too-hot room, and a faint odor of cigarettes... We aired the room, turned on the a/c, and fell sound asleep.
To be continued...