Last Monday was Buddha’s 2556th birthday. In honor of the occasion, we got the day off, which gave us a much-needed three-day weekend. In retrospect, I should have spent it resting and getting myself prepared for the two and a half months of school I have left before summer vacation. I didn’t of course. Instead, some friends and I visited Namhae, an island off the southern tip of Korea.
Getting to and from Namhae proved much more difficult than anticipated. As you can imagine, traffic in a tiny nation with around 50 million people can be WILD. But Namhae was worth it.
We visited two villages on our tour. First was Darangee, a village built into a hillside overlooking the sea. Famous for its terraced rice paddies and its garlic crop, Darangee was a village populated almost entirely by spry octogenarians.
During our stay, we had the opportunity to plant rice. I watched in amazement as an elderly farmer hoisted several pallets of baby rice onto his back and set off into the terraces. I breathlessly tried to keep up as I slipped and slithered my way along the perilous edges of rice paddies.
Once we arrived, he tossed the baby rice into the paddy and stood smoking as he waited for everyone to catch up.
Rice planting looks peaceful and romantic. Who hasn’t seen Asian prints of almond-eyed peasants in cone-shaped hats smilingly planting rice with beautiful mountains soaring in the background? The reality is not so picturesque.
For starters, the paddy is a lot deeper than it looks and is covered in a creepy, green frothy mixture.
There are also things that live in the rice paddy. I could feel little critters swimming around my legs and through my toes. I told myself that they were tadpoles, and then refused to think about it anymore.
It’s very difficult to walk in a rice paddy. The mud was remarkably reluctant to release my feet and several times I almost went ass over tea kettle into the sludge!
Rice planting was extremely hard on my back, and I have to say I am extremely thankful to have been born in Canada. 😀 Still, it was neat to try my hand at it. And the mud made my skin marvelously soft for much less than a mud bath at a fancy spa would have cost. 😀
The next day, we made our way to the other side of Namhae island. We were headed for Boriam Temple located on the top of Mt Geumsan. As one Korea’s top 3 holy sites (although it was unclear what made it so holy, or where the other 2 holy sites were…), it was heaving with people. But the view was gorgeous from the top of the mountain.
After visiting the temple, we made our way to Doomo village, famous for garlic and fishing. As we ate lunch, we were shown how rice is really planted. It’s a neat little machine, kind of like a rice zamboni.
It was a marvelous weekend and I could ramble on all day about what we did. Instead, I’ll leave you with some more pictures. 😀
Very fresh sashimi, or hwe as they call it in Korea.
Eating hwe Korean style: raw fish, a bit of rice, a piece of raw garlic and some hot sauce, all wrapped in lettuce. YUM! 😀
And last but not least, the sound of frogs in the rice paddies just after sunset.