Christmas at the Boseong Green Tea Plantation Light Festival
As we drive towards the Boseong Green Tea Plantation on this Christmas Eve, my wife and I battle those homesick emotions that come during this time of year. This is probably the worst for us thanks to a couple of Skype calls home and the tears that came during and after them. You can only tell them I miss you and assure them that you’ll be home again so many times. To revive those holiday spirits, we’re going to turn Christmas around with a night at the Boseong Green Tea Plantation Light Festival. The only expectations we have are bright things to stare at and a slight hope that something resembles a Christmas tree there.
Anticlimax, Crowds and Lights
Korean Light festivals have long been one of my favorite ways to forget homesickness and that’s what tonight’s all about. After driving up through Suncheon before veering west, we pull into the tollbooth that starts the interstate and pass through the ticket feeder. The lack of cars around really makes the whole night feel anticlimactic even though I’m jittery at the thought of seeing lights. Nobody else seems to care and it’s safe to ask, who can blame them? My own excitement levels never really jump up during Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) or Seollal (Lunar New Year) but I know it’s a pretty big deal here.
A Small Hint of Lights
How many times have I explained that our Thanksgiving happens on a Thursday and is best spent eating, drinking, and watching American football? Whatever. My mind has drifted long enough and we’re almost at the exit leading to Boseong’s Daehan Dawon Green Tea Plantation that’s been pretty popular on our Quick Weekend Daytrips list. It’s time to see the place at night when it’s all lit up and finally, we find traffic and a lot of cars parked pretty far away. Not only is it crowded and surprisingly so, I can see a small hint of lights in the far background. Maybe there’s a tree somewhere in there.
If the cars were any sign of what’s to come, I should’ve known that parking wouldn’t be easy. I mean it is and it isn’t in the sense that I don’t want to put the ’99 Sonata in a spot that’s likely to make it vulnerable to getting blocked in. Failed parking is all the rage here and pretty funny to watch when it’s live and in action. Amazingly enough, we find a place in a makeshift lot that seems to have been dug out of the ground as recently as last Tuesday. The lights appear in the background and in a more convenient spot away the main green tea plantation area.
It’s an easier access point with stairways that lead down pretty much right off the road. First we walk past lines of street food vendors and stare at the massive sticks of hot potato rings that have been fighting against the cold, windy night. One of my favorite scenes in this country is the bundled up ladies and gents (ajummas and ajosshis to the expats) standing inside tiny spaces and serving up steaming food that’s either right on the mark or needs a few more minutes. I can never resist but will this time because we arrive at the entrance. Down we go into the lighted green tea field.
Green Tea Lights
When my parents were still together, I remember getting excited for rides through our southern West Virginia park that lit up every year for the holidays. My memories switch to wondering if I’d ever imagine spending a Christmas at a Korean green tea field in search of holiday cheer. Though we haven’t found a tree yet, the lights against the normally bright green bushes look pretty cool. Christina and I walk through various tunnels and pathways and shoot our obligatory selfies that pale in comparison to the hundreds of sticks and poses going on in our midst.
Colorful Trees, Cool Statues, and Dinosaurs
Throughout the field, there are interesting approaches to the light displays. I guess in a country where bright neon colors most of the cityscapes, they should be doing this right. Along the way we run and find colorful trees, cool statues, and even dinosaurs shining through the night. This moment is perfect and erases any anguish that we felt earlier in the day. People chat all around us and it’s really starting to feel festive down in this green tea valley. Christina walks around and tries to capture the night without getting too distracted by the atmosphere.
Driving to Yulpo Beach
After at least an hour walking around, we decide to see if there are any similar happenings at Boseong’s Yulpo Beach. It’s not the most spectacular patch of sand but over the course of a few visits, Yulpo is one of my favorites that hug the southwest coast. Getting there tests my patience like any drive through gridlock that barely inches forward every couple of minutes. Eventually things loosen up and we reach the beach just in time to walk past more street food vendors along the way.
Yulpo Beach Lights
The path leading to Yulpo Beach transforms into a light-lined boardwalk with random sand displays that shine off the water. Waves can barely be heard in the distance and strange cubes that sit in front of them, send beams of light their way. More people are back at the green tea fields but the scenes here are still pretty fun to walk through. At the end of our walk and in front of a beachfront hotel, we find the most special tree of them all. Resembling a Japanese maple but with pine needles, lights surround it and set it apart from everything else.
A Wonderfully Festive Occasion
We don’t spend much time at the tree but can safely say that it rounded out a wonderfully festive occasion here in coastal Jeollanam-do. The drive back to Yeosu is mostly quiet and spent recovering from those awesome holiday scenes. It’s safe to say that this night was exactly what we needed to forget about the homesickness that comes and goes when living abroad. My only advice for those interested in listening is to follow what you know only when you absolutely need it. I’ve followed the “when in Rome” approach so many times but when it comes to the things I love, nights like this one at Boseong’s Green Tea Plantation Light Festival are the best way to get by in Korea.
I’ll drop the mic now but not before asking you a few questions:
Have you ever been to the Boseong Green Tea Plantation Light Festival? What did you think? Ever battle homesickness while abroad? What did you do to overcome it? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below!