Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Muan County" of South Korea offers lotus flower heaven

MUAN, South Jeolla Province -- There’s more to lotus flowers than meets the eye as a recent trip to Muan County in South Jeolla Province proved just a few weeks ahead of “The Lotus Industry Festival of Korea Muan, 2010.”

Despite the jarring, cold nature of the festival’s official English moniker, the venue itself is anything but.

Calm, serene, quiet albeit scorching hot, the Hoesan White Lotus Ground -- where the festival will be held from Aug. 5 to Aug. 9 boasts Asia’s largest lotus patch that lies within sprawling 30,300 square meters of pristine wetland.

The county is situated at the very tip of the peninsula on the southwestern coast, about a four hour drive south from Seoul.

At the start of the festival visitors can take a scooner ride across the Hoesan lotus wetland on its “lotus path fantasy boat ride” event.

The name of that event might be flattering itself a bit, but the experience is quite pleasant and relaxing.

Also on hand during the five-day festival are a host of family friendly DIY activities, such as lotus root harvesting, making lotus soap, and creating lotus dye.

Just in case all of the walking gets the legs aching a bit, festival organizers have said they would provide cold lotus water baths for visitors to dunk their legs into to cool off.

Later in the day, just when the blistering summertime sun begin to have some mercy on folks, a series of stage performances has been lined up for festival-goers to sit and relax with maybe an ice cold lotus leaf brew or tea.

With South Jeolla Province being home of the Pumba performance, there will plenty of them throughout the festival.

Pumba refers to a traveling minstrel of performance artists and vagabonds of the Joseon period. They were nomads stricken with poverty that roamed from one town to the next staging shows in marketplaces in the hopes of earning enough to eat.

Another event which will surely see both smiles and scowls of contempt will be the mixing of a gigantic wooden bowl of bibimbap big enough to serve 2010 adults.

There is much more to be explored in Muan County -- family friendly activities like digging for octopus and crabs in the ocean flats after the sun sinks behind the horizon, for example. This is done by torchlight, since the area becomes nearly pitch black once the sun goes down.
Visitors can be rest assured they’ll be in for a real culinary treat since food is something that the Jeolla Provinces can boast about.

Here foodies can enjoy everything from lotus cookies, lotus noodles, lotus ice cream, lotus bread, lotus “dasik,” or traditional Korean confectionary, and iced lotus tea -- which in the summer heat is a godsend.

With that said, faster than you can cite a Forrest Gump reference to shrimp, Muan and its province are known for other local delicacies -- not just lotus.

Dug up from the ocean flats of the beaches surrounding the county along with its onions and garlic, octopus is in season.Dug up fresh either in the early hours of the morning or in the evening, they are served roasted on open flame pits wrapped and skewered on wooden chopsticks and seasoned with sea salt, garlic, and sesame oil and seeds.

Locally called nakji horong, most other coastal regions that sling the same dish lather the skewers with spicy chilli sauce which one over zealous local claimed was “because the octopus in other areas doesn’t taste as good so they have to use strong seasoning.”

One might wonder why they abandoned such a unique practice that might give the dish more historical resonance and texture than using just two disposable sticks.

I have taken out this article from " The Korea herald"

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