I love Autumn. I love the change in colors in the trees, the local apple orchards preparing for visitors and making all sorts of goodies for guests to snack on, and pie. Making pie in South Korea isn’t easy. Oven’s are not really a thing. I have a conventional oven, but I don’t quite trust it to bake things evenly. Something I’ve learned from trying to make muffins.
There are several foreign tour groups in South Korea. Little groups that meet up in Seoul and do day trips to different festivals and events going on. I hadn’t been with any but Nathalie suggested we go try an apple picking tour on a Sunday with Goh travel Korea. I paid them through a direct transfer for specialties, jam making and pie making, and then e-mailed them all the specifics they wanted. When I met up with Nathalie though we realized that they hadn’t put me on the list, and after some awkward phone calls they found all of my information and verified that I was going. (Make sure you get a confirmation) It had been worrisome since at first no one answered the phone and second because the event page said they were full and couldn’t take anyone else.
We met our group at 7am, boarded a bus full of other foreigners from all over and headed to Haemi Folk Village 한국민속촌 which was having a festival. The event page made it sound like we would be guided through the folk village to watch performances, participate in archery and other traditional things and then watch a martial art event before being given free time. However our guide was new, admitting early on he’d been just a person who liked going on the tour often enough that they snagged him to be a guide last-minute.
At the Haemi Folk Village we were left to our own devices, so Nathalie and I first headed off to try to find a place to exchange money for coins. I’m use to places where you need fake money tickets to be able to do anything. We asked for advice from one of the foreigners working at the booth on what to do and more specifically where the archery range was.
We wandered a bit, Nathalie filming people making traditional foods and writing, before we passed the Go tournament or (바둑) and ended up on the archery range. We handed over coins watching as other people handed over cash, realizing that maybe we hadn’t needed to exchange won for coins before settling in to practice.
I love archery. In high school I spent a lot of my summer’s learning how to and actually practicing archery at a classmates house. So having the opportunity to try again, in a more traditional sense, and actually hit the target a couple of times was a lot of fun. Sadly it was pretty much the only fun we had at Haemi.
Nathalie is use to getting stared at in Korea. I usually can ignore it too. But at Haemi it was a bit much. Old men didn’t seem happy we were there, grumbling at us as they passed, in English about it and people with camera’s following us around or trying to get us to pretend to be prisoners so children and adults could hit us and they could film it. (We didn’t.) Even when just trying to get a snack a guy with a camera tried to take photos of us eating and when I abruptly turned and walked away, not wanting someone to take a photo of me while I was eating, the man chased after us trying to get the photo anyway. It was all a bit much and draining. It seemed that the tour we were on got a deal or something out of taking all of us there, some sort of agreement, since we ended up with little handless mugs as souvenirs on the way home.
I would like to note that after chatting with other people on the tour, they seemed to have had a much better time than Nathalie or I had. A lot of the families that had gone had a blast.
We arrived at Yesan Apple Orchard at about 3pm. From that point on everything left our somewhat dazed and confused tour guides’ hands and went into the hands of the orchard which did this all the time and was rather excited to welcome us, already working like a well oiled machine. First we “made” pie.
A man walked up onto a stage and preparing to walk us through the steps of rolling out the pre-made dough, putting it in the pan, scooping out the pre-made filling, and covering it with the next layer of premade dough. Somewhat disappointing to be honest, but due to time constraint and the amount of people with different cooking experience they had to shuffle through their doors I understood. I decorated my pie, filled it until it was bursting and left it with my name to be baked.
Next we headed off to “make” jam. Once again 90% of the work was already done. A woman came out and explained in Korean all the work she had done to pre-make the jam and how much time she was saving us, which our guide finally in his element translated. All we did to the jam was write our names on the jars and heat it up to stir it to its final consistency before we were given a nod of approval and it was poured into our jars to take home. After which we were shepherded into the basement to enjoy a small tour of their winery, one of the only one’s in Korea. The owner explained how he’d studied in America and after marrying into the orchard decided to try his hand at making wine and bourbon. We tried apple wine called Chusa, blueberry wine, and some 50 proof bourbon that numbed my tongue.
After our wine tasting we hiked out to the buzzing orchard where the owner explained how to remove an apple from the tree, that we had to look at it from all angles for bad spots before selecting it, and to be careful because we only got 5 and anything we plucked even if it was rotten on one side, counted. This was a bit disheartening, but it made for some amusing picking, watching as people twisted this way and that we should try to get a good look at all of the apple before picking it. They were also good size apples.
After picking our apples, collecting our pies, and making rushed purchases of the Chusa apple ice wine we headed back to the bus to return to Seoul. We stopped once on the way for a restroom break, running off to get hot drinks to warm our hands, and food since it was our only opportunity for dinner. We didn’t get back to Seoul until almost 9pm, after which it took me an additional couple of hours to get home.
You can visit the Yesan Apple Orchard 예산사과와인through other tour groups or on your own. I’ve added a link to their website and here is their contact information: