After waking up at 6:22 a.m. on a Saturday-if you know me, you know of my personal life goal to not wake up before 7:30 on any day, for any reason-I wasn’t sure I was going to be in the chipper mood I wanted for our wine train adventure.
However I eventually picked up by the time that we’d boarded our train at Seoul Station. My chipper-ness was in part assisted by the very intense energy of a Korean lady about my age who accosted me as I stood in line to tell me (while stroking my hair) “yepuda! ahh! mori yepuda! chincha! Which translates as “So beautiful! Oh! Your hair is so pretty! Really!” Yeah, that definitely stroked my ego a bit and got me rarin’ to go. My escorts, Jon and Dave, made fun and said she was crazy, but I just think she had good taste. And/or hasn’t seen many blonde, blue-eyed miguks in her life. Oh well.
The wine did not flow as freely as I wanted it to but it was probably all for the best, since it was only 9am. The trip started with a mini lecture by a fella from the winery, from which we deigned that we’d be drinking sweet, white and red varieties. We were the only foreigners on the trip and received a shout out for it. Woo woo whiteys!
I have to say that I’ve never been treated so well by a group of Koreans. We were given, throughout the course of the day, chocolate, oranges, a bottle of wine (that one was given to me by the boss man of the winery!), a wine soap bomb, and a bag of shrimp chips by various people on the tour.
The attendants of the trip were also pretty much only female-out of a group of 60 or so, I think I only counted maybe 5 men. Everyone was just lovely to us. It really was a fun day.
As for the wine, well…it was not so yummy. We figured out by the time that we boarded the train for our journey back that we’d be sectioned onto the “red train” and there was another car for the “white”. This apparently meant that you only got to taste versions of the wine train you were on…maybe? We could find no white wine, and were a little bummed by that discovery. Everything was far too sweet and or flat-out grapey for my taste, but then again, Korea isn’t really known for it’s wine, now is it? As for hospitality, I’ve absolutely experienced nothing better in my year spent in Korea-everyone was so wonderful and sweet to us, it was the happiest I’ve felt surrounded by Koreans in awhile.
Our excursion to the vineyard Chateau Mani had several parts. First, the train to Yeongdong county, which took a little over two hours, then lunch followed by a tour of the cellar. Following lunch we were split into groups and took a tour of the private cellar and an art gallery. We also listened to another lecture/sales-pitch for the line of wine-centric skin care sold by the chateau, and then had a little arts and crafts time where we made wine-soap bath bombs (as I mentioned earlier, I was later gifted one by a kindly old grandma-type). We then ventured outside for a hot wine foot bath. Like, really hot. Like, I couldn’t do it at first and had to get up and add cold water and the Koreans were laughing at me kind of hot. But that was the best part, for sure.
After we finished at the vineyard, we hopped on a bus, not knowing where we were heading. Turns out, we were headed straight to a little ginseng village about 30 minutes away. Yep. A village that promotes and sells every type of ginseng product imaginable. We tasted some fried versions from a street vendor, and made a little sachet of ginseng potpourri (too bad I really detest the smell of ginseng…it’s pretty too look at though).
We were also taken on yet another tour-this time of a room all about the cultivation of ginseng. Turns out the stuff is buried for like, 6 years. Crazy, right? And it’s fiddled with while in the ground to make sure it comes out looking as human-like as possible. This particular museum even had a special podium set up for the ginseng with qualities that deemed them worthy of the titles “mr. ginseng”, “miss ginseng”, and “king ginseng”. Creepy human-looking vegetables.
After leaving the ginseng village, we took the bus back to the Yeongdong train station, then began the trip back to Seoul. More wine was served, and by this time I’d had to grab a solid beer as well (bought at your friendly local Family Mart pre-boarding of the train). We made it back to Seoul Station, took the subway to Itaewon and headed for a delicious dinner and a beverage at the Wolfhound. Yummm.
My score for the day: 7.5 out of 10. Would have been 10 for 10, but that wine was just not anywhere near yummy, in my fancy shmanzy Westerner opinion. But the company and the experience overall was fantastic. My advice-check out the wine train if you’re ever round these parts.
Oh, and if you want a live blog of the whole day, as done by my techie and new Google-phone obsessing boyfriend, you can go here.
And on that note, I’ll have to finish up. For whatever reason wordpress isn’t letting me add my pictures. Lame. Come back later!
Edit: Pictures added, woop woop.