Pig Huts, Dragons and Divers

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October 10th 2014
Published: October 10th 2014
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Pig Huts, Dragons & Divers

8:30 and we’re off for a tour of Jeju City, South Korea. This island, located to the south of mainland Korea has 10 million visitors a year. To put this into perspective, Hawaii has about 6 M visitors a year and Bali about 3 M a year. Jeju City is a two hour flight from Shanghai and a 2 hour flight from Seoul so lots of Chinese and Korean tourists. Jeju is a volcanic island and the volcanic rock is used for everything from steps, to walls to artwork and homes.

15 minutes by bus to the Natural History Museum where we learned about the women divers of Jeju. The women dive for fish as an occupation. They are “fish divers”. They go down to 40 feet without breathing apparatus. They dive with only goggles and a bag for the fish. The youngest woman is 18 and the oldest is 92. The 92 year old was interviewed recently and asked why she still dives. She said that on land, she can hardly walk and has aches and pains but… when she is in the water she is young again.

We also learned about “Pig Huts”. The country folk for Jeju Island build thatch huts that are small replicas of their own homes, for the pigs. These small houses shelter the pigs. They use the pig excrement as fertilizer. Adjacent to the “pig house” they build another smaller hut that is used for a human outhouse. All the waste matter is dried and used for planting.

Strange as it seems, the ancient peoples of this island also made moai’s out of lava rock, that look very similar to the ones on Easter Island, thousands of miles away in the South Pacific. They don’t know the connection between the two. We bought a little moai as a souvenir ;-)

About 15 minutes from the museum we found ourselves at the beautiful cliffs along the sea. We were heading to Yongdaum Rock. First we crossed a stream on a swinging bridge to get a photo op… then back across and down some steps to a viewing spot. From here we could see Yongdaum Rock, the “Dragon” that has been made out of volcanic rock and chiseled into a dragon shape by strong winds and waves over thousands of years. This is a big tourist spot with hundreds of people taking pictures, buying souvenirs and buying Dunkin’ Donuts LOL!

Back into town for our last stop the Dongmun Marketplace. A rabbit warren or maze of fish, vegetable, spices, clothing and toy shops. I’m always amazed at the thousands of types of fish around the world and the things people eat. Here in Korea they eat horses as well as a multitude of things from the sea. Each “shop” is only a few feet wide and is typically run by an elderly woman. Sometimes she has the assistance of another family member. In the back of the shop is a place to rest, chairs or a couch and many times a television to pass the time while they are working. One woman was sitting on an overturned pail selling octopi. The octopi were jumping out of their pails of water trying to escape down the street. The woman would quickly reach over, snatch the errant octopus up and throw it back in the pail….eeeek! ;-)

Next Stop: Heading up through the Yellow Sea to Incheon, South Korea.


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