Muan is a small town in the south-western corner of Korea. It wouldn’t be notable except for the 330 km2 habitat of White Lotuses cultivated in the area, the largest in Asia. The root, which looks almost like a large potato, is sliced thickly, steamed and pickled with rice vinegar, sugar, or soy sauce. Lotus roots are rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, copper, and manganese, while very low in saturated fat. The leaves and flowers are also dried and shredded to make a strong but sweet tea. It tastes like what grass might taste like if it were delicious!
Most lotus are pink but the pure white lotus that grows there is quite rare. Also, the flowers and leaves are huge and have a particular shape. There is a species that grows thorns all over the leaves, making it rather uncomfortable for any frog who tries to make it his pad!
At the end of each summer, there is a festival in a part of the area that’s been made into a nice park. There are boardwalks and stepping-stones throughout the Lotus pond, making it a nice spot to spend a few hours gazing at some of the world’s most amazing lotuses.
The first time I visited was a busy, scorching, sunny day, almost too hot to bear. I was traveling with a friend who spoke Korean nearly fluently. I remember him translating the conversation he was having with the cab driver. He was saying that in his church, the minister said that Buddhist monks took care of the environment and animals well, so they no longer are going to Hell, but the laypeople are! I came back a year later in the middle of a rain storm, but it ended an interesting element to the lotus pond. When the rain and wind began to chill me, I took shelter in the museum tea house and enjoyed a pot of White Lotus tea.