Over the mountains and through the mountains, lots of tunnels, past and through cities... we traveled on. The air was so smoky that we couldn't really see the mountains or the ocean. Instead, we passed the time on the bus eating crunchy persimmons and hearing stories about Dr Park's family (from Korea) and the history of Korea - fascinating and sad, both of them. At the Sacheon rest area I bought a headscarf like the egg farmer's wife wore; it will be perfect for keeping the scorching summer sun off my neck and shoulders while working out in the garden.
In the late afternoon, we arrived at the Goseong County Agriculture Training Center. Now this is the way to do it! This place had the healthiest, most relaxed animals we'd seen, by far! And again, no smell due to the IMO used in the feed and in the deep bedding (we're talking 3-4 feet deep!). A After a tour of the barns, we were given a video presentation - all in Korean but interesting anyway... and we were being videotaped the entire time, too. Would have liked more time here, but the Serbia-Spain group was arriving for their tour right after our visit, so... on to the next place.
The kiwi farm was housed inside a gorgeous tall, arched greenhouse with screened-in walls to help soften the off-shore winds. We were at the southern coast now, which is dotted with some 300 small islands, all very exotic and picturesque. Looking towards the coast, we see this view (by the way, this is not the kiwi greenhouse in this photo!):There was a mild evening breeze that day, with lovely ocean views, but when a storm does blow in, the roof can be closed up as needed. There had been flooding last spring that caused some injury to the vines, so he was very apologetic about the poor state of his crop. It looked like a bounteous harvest to us, and we all did our best to show our appreciation of his delicious, juicy fruit eaten right there in the orchard. Saw the IMO production and mineralized water set-up for the plants. We were served coffee, green tea, and fresh kiwi slices for a treat. Everyone signed the guestbook before it was time to move on. By this time it was dark. We headed for Goseong City, population 56,000. Dinner was a delicious duck soup at the Nil Pom (Constant Spring) Restaurant. The soup had "special herbs" in it, one of which looked like a stalk of rose bush, called calapansa or something like that (not sure of the pronunciation, or spelling). Apparently, just for flavoring and health benefits - not to be eaten. The meal was yummy; I liked the rice gruel too. Mike and I had a little evening stroll outside in the cool evening air while the others finished up.
A 10-minute ride through the city took us to the Prince Hotel, a nice room for the night. Like all the hotels here, the room was way overheated, so the first thing we did was open the window to let in some cooler air. The floors are heated so one never really gets the room cool, but the breeze coming in helps a lot. As it was, I didn't sleep very well, but a nice hot shower helped revive me enough for another busy day.
Once we were all packed up on the bus again, it was a short drive and a little walk, past some interesting little shops, for our breakfast meeting with Mayor Lee, Hak Lul and his entourage, at "a very famous restaurant" that I never did get the name of. We were seated right next to the Mayor, a young man who had spent 6 years in the US and spoke good English. He is a great supporter of Natural Farming and we had a lovely lively conversation with him over spicy fish soup and many seaweed side dishes.
A tomato farm was our first stop of the day. These very healthy plants were Unicorn variety. We learned that too much nitrogen attracts the whitefly - a common greenhouse pest - and that spraying with calcium-phosphorus solution is the remedy. In Natural Farming, we get this solution from eggshells or bones.
Next was a very high-tech glass greenhouse full of bell peppers grown hydroponically. There did seem to be a bit of powdery mildew here, most likely due to the higher humidity from the hydroponics. The plants were huge, the tallest pepper plants I've ever seen, and loaded with peppers!
We found out that we'd been on tv last night... and would be again this evening as well!! The videographer was getting some good footage of our official tour group, apparently.
Next up, we got to stretch our legs a bit as we walked past rice fields to a small persimmon farm in a lovely country setting. There we tasted the very best persimmons in the world! Excellent flavor in both the crunchy and soft persimmons. The sun began to break through the clouds, and we all began shedding sweaters and jackets.
And on to a zucchini farm run by an ex-gangster! He had some really nice looking plants, all trained to grow vertically. He gave us a great video presentation of his farm and the innovative ideas he's had for packaging and marketing his squash. This is also the guy who talked the Mayor of Goseong County into supporting Natural Farming in the first place!
After this whirlwind of farm tours, we spent the rest of the morning at the Goseong Dinosaur Expo. It was huge and fantastic! Life size replicas of the many dinosaurs whose remains have been found along this coastline of Korea. The museum was also filled with hundreds of schoolchildren who would call out "hello! hello!" to us... and be delighted when I'd reply "hello!" Their teacher said they were all second-graders and she was interested in where I was from. Hey, if you're not Asian, you really stand out in Korea and the people are so curious and polite, and they really want to practice and improve their English; I found myself having these conversations many times throughout our travels there. I love it! So I had a nice little conversation with the teacher while the kids were entranced by another dinosaur display, and then I got lots of photos of these excited little kids!
The views from the grounds were stunning, overlooking the bay:Across one arm of the bay, was a ship-building yard:
Had an excellent lunch at what we called the Happy Pig restaurant - I have no idea of its real name. Instead of the usual pots of broth bubbling away on the table, there were little grills this time, and platters of pork belly and shiitake mushrooms waiting to be cooked. Mike was in hog heaven sitting right in front of one of the grills and having a blast at the mini-bbq! Oh my, that was a delicious meal!
The long bus ride back up to Seoul took up the entire afternoon, with a few quick pit stops along the way. At the San Cheong Rest Area, there was a display of beautiful bonsai trees for sale:As we drove on and on, there was a gorgeous red sunset:
Crossed the Han River at 7:33pm. Seoul is an enormous, bustling city! We went right downtown to the Doota Shopping Center for a late dinner on the seventh floor, at their version of a food court:Then outside for a stroll along the canal. It used to be a sewage canal, but you wouldn't know it. Lots of people taking in the night at this ribbon of park. There was a sax player under one of the bridges - but darn, not enough light for a photo. Lots of city lights though, lots of color and life, and those humongous tv screens on the sides of building. Quite overwhelming for a country girl like me!Back to the Doota for a little souvenir shopping. Our city guide, June, was great at haggling for lower prices for us at each little shop. Thank you, June!
We spent our last night in Korea at the Dragon Hills Spa, a 'sauna hotel'. Sorry, no photos allowed here! The first thing you do is, of course, take off your shoes. You stuff them in a little locker and take the wristband key. They hand you a uniform and 2 small towels which you take into either the men's or women's changing rooms, which are on different floors of this 6-story building. I'll admit, I wasn't really looking forward to this, but it turned out to be rather pleasant, except for the lack of sleeping space. At first, Tanya and I, being the only non-Korean speaking women left in our group, clung to eachother with big wide eyes. But after an hour or so, I got to know my way around a little and felt more at ease. I loved the women-only area - it felt very liberating and nice. You find the bigger locker that corresponds to the number on your key and stash all your clothes and stuff in there. Then you can relax, naked, in any of the variety of saunas, hot pools, showers, or spa treatments. Or, if you want to go out into the common areas, you put on the uniform shorts & shirt, and there are more saunas, as well as computers, tv, snack bar, massage chairs, and just space for men & women together. The whole place is floored in huge marble tiles, warmed from beneath, and glistening clean. There was a cold room too, which felt absolutely delicious. I spent a while in there, catching up my journal. A young Korea man was impressed with my writing - just the act of it I think - and we got into conversation about the places I'd visited and if I liked Korea. (Everyone asks this.) Much of this conversation was done with smiles and signing and nodding, but we both seemed to enjoy it. I had a great massage chair treatment - it was so nice, I talked Mike into getting one too! The downside of this place is that there's really no where to sleep. There are stacks of vinyl-covered foam blocks; you take one of these for a pillow and just lie down anywhere - really, any piece of floor that's not already occupied by a sleeping body - and that's where you're supposed to sleep. Uh-huh. Yeah, that's not gonna work for me. We wandered all over every floor in search of maybe a cushion, bench, or chair to lie down on... all were already taken. (See, it's not just us!) Finally, finally, at about 2 in the morning, we stumbled upon a long couch out near the foyer and pounced upon it. Sure, it was kinda noisy and brightly lit... but we managed a few measly catnaps off and on for the remaining few hours of night. Mike got up a couple times to see if he could possibly unplug that damn video game around the corner, but no, it was hardwired; I bet it had been unplugged maybe one time too many.
And so, on our last morning, exhausted - but clean! - we ate a quick, not-so-good bowl of noodles for breakfast at the sauna hotel, and boarded the bus once more. Everybody agreed that, interesting though the experience was, a sauna hotel is not the best place for the night before traveling.
A morning of sight-seeing through the city by bus...
...and one more stop: the National Palace historic grounds & Museum. We had an hour to wander about this awesome place.
The stupa with monks under the sacred tree:
On to the airport for a quick rearranging of the suitcases and carry-ons. Goodbyes to the Parks (staying on for a few days) and the Chos, with many hugs.
Customs and immigration - no problem.
Check-in, boarding... and off to Tokyo/Narita airport, then back across the western half of the Pacific Ocean on the L---O---N---G flight home.
At last, many, many hours later... we arrived at our own front door... finally collapsed into our own comfy bed... and slept for 12 hours straight.
I am so very glad we seized the opportunity to do this trip, to have this experience, and to learn so much more about the Korean Natural Farming methods. Thank you, Mike! Now let's put what we've learned into practice and transform our own place!! :-)