Saturday, September 17, 2011

Jeju Island

Traditional Jeju statues made of volcanic rock

Jeju-Do. For months I have heard this and that about Jeju and all it beholds for Korea. I've read about it, had friends visit there and seen lots of pictures of it. For Chuseok (Korea's version of Thanksgiving) I had a 6 day vacation from school, so off to Jeju I went. 

Late Friday night Garry and I hopped on an overbooked train from Suwon, and headed south to Gwangju. We arrived in Gwangju blurry eyed and tired at 2:30am. The plan was to linger in the train station for a few hours but exhaustion got the better of us and we checked in to a local love motel for a 3 hour nap. At 6am, outside Gwangju station we hopped on a free shuttle bus headed for Jang Heung. On our last leg of the journey, we took a 3 hour ferry headed to Seongsan Harbor in Jeju. It was a long and tiresome journey, but we made it there feeling pretty accomplished. There are 2 big ferry ports at Busan and Mokpo, where most of the foreigners go to get to Jeju (or by plane). We heard about a cheaper, more difficult and not so tourist friendly route (it was all Koreans on the ferry), hence feeling a little proud to actually have made it to Seongsan-ri.

Ferry to Jeju

Sleepy and Happy

Saturday afternoon, when we arrived on the island, the weather was horrible. Strong winds,  lots of rain and a chill in the air. After dealing with 2 weeks of tropical storms in the Philippines, the LAST thing we wanted was to endure the same thing in Jeju. We checked into a guest house, attempted to brave the elements for lunch and came back soaked head to toe from the rain. I was not impressed. Things were not off to a good start. Pretty much the only redeeming factor for Saturday was a delicious meal of grilled mackerel and large dose of Jeju's own soju.




Sunday we woke up to a few lingering clouds from the day before but by midday the sun had burned them off and it was lovely summer weather from then on in. HUGE sigh of relief. Just outside of our guesthouse was the Ilchulbong Crater. We climbed to the top of it for beautiful views of Seongsan and the surrounding area.  Ilchulbong is an extinct volcano. It was a short climb up and definitely worth the trip to look over the surrounding area.


At the top of the crater looking in

The view of Seongsan-ri

Dry & Fashionable

Next on our list of places to go was Loveland. Yup, Loveland. Jeju is chalk-a-block full of random amusement parks, a Ripley's Believe It or Not museum, a mini world, golf courses and other bizarre tourist attractions. Loveland is one of these. I had seen pictures of it from a friend before I even had a job secured in Korea and it was on my list of things to do and see from the get go. For such a non-physical and reserved culture, Loveland is definitely out of the ordinary here. It is a small park full of erotic statues and beautifully manicured gardens and ponds. There were a few galleries and an XXX gift shop. It only took a short time to cover but we got such a kick out of it. Most of the people there were foreigners but watching the few Koreans couples and families (!) and even ajummas and ajoshis giggle their way from exhibit to exhibit was worth its weight in gold!

From Loveland we headed to Jeju City, the capitol. It was a surprisingly large city and we just barely covered the sea front. We wandered about until we found a black pig (heukdwaeji) restaurant. This is one of the foods Jeju is famous for (abalone is another one, but I am not a fan of this seafood). So we had black pig and it was utterly disappointing and overly priced. It tasted just like regular saemgypsal. Saemgypsal is just pork barbecued in thick strips, but Koreans eat it really fatty. Like picture 80% of the meat being fatty bits. Not my cup of tea. We figured the black pig would be a little different or special, but no, to me, there was no difference (except in price!).

Black Pig in Seogwipo


Monday morning we left for Udo. Udo is a small island just a 10 minute boat ride off the east coast of Jeju-do. It's population is less than 2000 people and it spans 17km in circumference. We rented a cute little car and drove around the island. It was so refreshing to get behind the wheel of a car and DRIVE! Ten months is a long time not to have driven. We drove around the island stopping anywhere we saw that tickled our fancy. There were lots of seafood restaurants, lookout points, a few beaches, a traditional cemetary and a few light houses just to list off a few of the sites. It was a great way to kill a few hours out in the sun and exploring the island life.

From Udo, we headed to the southern part of the island to the second biggest city called Seogwipo. We arrived late afternoon and had time to check out the city and walk to Cheonjiyeon waterfalls. There was a huge temperature drop from being out is the sunshine to walking through the canyon leading to the falls. It was a nice break from the heat. We got to stroll the harbor at dusk and see everyone enjoying the evening. The food specialty here was raw fish but Garry and I didn't have the energy to fight our way ordering in a chaotic Korean restaurant. After lots of walking we finally settled on a comfortable little Hof (a Korean style bar usually with a basic food menu). The food ended up being great and we spent the evening there relaxing with a few bottles of Jeju soju.

Seogwipo Harbor

Cheonjiyeon Waterfalls

Seogwipo Harbor
The morning of our final day in Jeju we were beach bound. We randomly picked a beach off the map, grabbed a local bus and headed to Jungmun. What a beauty. It was a mission to get to it, but once we reached it,  it paid off. Crystal clear water, sandy bottom and perfectly tempered waters. Just what I needed to round off the perfect trip to Jeju-do, because what island vacation is complete without beach time? We didn't have long so we soaked up as much sun, sand and sea as possible and then started the long and arduous journey home.

Jungmung Beach


From Jungmun we hopped in a taxi to Jeju City. This took maybe just under an hour and afforded us a nice cross island driving tour. In Jeju City we were booked on an overnight ferry back to Incheon. The ferry was epic. I had heard of this through friends and love being on any kind of vessel, so this was right up my alley. We boarded at 3pm and sailed north for 14 freaking' hours! The boat was such a happy place. Upon our departure there was an entertainer throwing a dance party complete with bubble machine and booming speakers. At one point there was a Survivors Game in play and we heard annoucements for a Treasure Hunt too.  For the older crowd there was a bar, complete with a horrible Korean band playing mostly Abba and other elevator tunes. There was a small restaurant which we didn't actually have the nerve to brave. Garry and I settled for a romantic instant ramien noodles and soju meal on the boat. The soju came in smaller than normal bottles and we saw groups of people set up with boxes of it, obviously thinking the trips back and forth to the store on the boat would be saved with just one mass purchase. Classic. As the night wore on, the more soju and beer and was consumed, the more entertaining the sights. There were sleeping rooms but lots of people just dropped where they stopped. We played cards in the main hall area for ages watching the night unfold and then eventually headed back to our common room for some kip. I had a decent nights sleep till we docked at 5am at Incheon. From Incheon Port we grabbed a taxi to Incheon Bus Terminal. From Incheon Bus Terminal we found a bus to Osan. Almost 24 hours later, and worth every bit of the journey, we walked in and opened the door to my apartment in Osan. There is no place like home.

Boarding @ 3pm

Sleeping accommodation

Disembarking @ 5am.   Zzzzzz.

1 comment:

tamade said...

hi alex!

so glad to have found your blog!
i am trying to find out where and how to take the free shuttle bus from jangheung harbour to gwangju bus terminal. no idea how the bus look like, where to find the bus outside the harbour and whether i need to reserve seats and most importantly the timing?