I’m surprised and disappointed that, so far, almost all of my time here in Korea has been right here in Busan.  I love this city, and I have many of my best friends living within 20 minutes of me… so I rarely need to travel far for a lot of fun.  I’ve got mountains and the sea within an hour via pubic transportation.  There are super fun bars and restaurants here.  I could shop as high as Prada and Louis Vuitton and as low as handmade market clothes.  Life is good.

I have traveled a bit.  I’ve been to Seoul a few times, and this spring I’ve traveled to Ulsan, Gyeongju, and Hadong.  Usually when I leave town, I have to find someone to watch my dog, and since I usually want all my friends with me when I go out of town, that can be hard.

However, day trips work great, and that’s what we found the other day.  Our friends Aaron and Callie invited us up to the top of a mountain just right outside of Busan.  They have been regularly visiting a well known, very traditional, and very, VERY amazing old tea house in a quiet mountain village, and they asked if we would like to join them.  In Hadong I had the chance to go to a traditional tea house, and I was anxious to go out to another one.

We had to take the Express bus (1004) to Gupo Market, then switch to a country bus (#1) that headed up the mountain. It has been overcast and rainy in Busan for the last week, and this day was particularly heavy with fog and mist.  As we climbed higher up the mountain, all we could see were lush green plants and leaves to our right and the thickest grey misty cloud hovering above the cliff to the left of our winding road.  When we got to our stop, Aaron was waiting for us, and he lead us up a country path, past a little field, and up to the tea house.

In the back is a huge old kiln where they fire all of their own pottery.  Frogs were chirping, and we could see nothing farther than the yard as the cloud swirled and mist made everything wet.  The tea house is wooden, and upon entering we found ourselves in a cozy, large room where detailed, perfect, hand made, traditional Korean tea set pieces were crowding the walls and floor.  In the center of the room was a tea table, and an elegant Korean woman was preparing tea.

We sat as they told us about the tea, the pottery, the house, the tradition.  We got as much tea as we wanted, (all for free).  We wandered around the house looking at the various pieces – all the pieces are beyond remarkable, and therefore incredibly expensive.  The green tea bowls, which must meet certain requirements while being made (of which only 1% are ever sold, as 99% do not meet the traditional standards) were selling for as much as $1000.  Steven and I found a beautiful tea set that we loved, and we decided to splurge on it as our one beautiful Korean gift to ourselves (we didn’t spend nearly as much as one of those green tea bowls, but it was definitely more than I’d planned to spend this week).

We stayed for a few hours, and each sip of tea and introduction of new information made me feel so content.  It was simply Korean magic to share that evening with my friends and Koreans alike, in a place so far from where we’ve come from.   It was a highlight of my time thus far in Korea, and I can’t wait to go back up there again.

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Oh yeah, then we went to the BEST 삼겹살 (samgyeopsal = pork) and washed kimchi meal I have EVER eaten.  Wait, more specifically, one of the BEST meals I have ever eaten PERIOD.  With the SWEETEST, BREAK YOUR HEART AND MAKE YOU CRY hunched over Korean 아줌마 (ajumma – older woman) I’ve ever encountered.  You can see my glee in the pictures.