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August 7th 2015
Published: August 7th 2015
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After my time in Busan it was time to hit the road and try to get to my next destination which was to be Jeju Island. This wasn’t a planned area to go to but when you listen to people who have travelled to the countries you are going to go to, you take up their recommendations of where to head for and Jeju was one of them. Due to the failed attempt of trying to get the ferry from Busan which had been cancelled for the unforeseeable future I decided to get the ferry from Mokpo on the west coast while staying the night at the nearby city of Gwangju for a couple of days to see what was about. I looked online on Hostelworld and found a decent enough hostel with enough good reviews to stay there. However on arrival at the city after a 3 hour bus trip, I was stuck in the centre with no idea of how to get there and directions were a bit vague. Thanks to a tourist information centre they gave me proper directions along with a load of pamphlets and booklets on Gwangju which I tried so politely to say that I didn't have the room to take them! The hotel was on the other side of town and a 20 minute walk from the bus stop, with 2 backpacks and the temperature in the 30’s is not a good walk. The best way to describe this hostel is that it was a 3 bedroomed apartment that the owners had decided that they could make some money out of these travellers. We’ll make the dining room into a 8 man room, single bedroom into a 2 man room and the main bedroom into a 6 man room and charge them the going rate! I arrived into the lounge, which doubled up as the reception arena there was no one around at all, in fact no one turned up for about half an hour and in comes this Korean woman with a big smile and welcomed me. First thing first was why I was in Korea and what I was planning on doing, as I held my wallet waiting to check in and pay her for the nights stay. I explained that I was looking at staying in Gwangju for a couple of days then head over to Jeju island by ferry from Mokpo, and all of a sudden out came her laptop and she was typing away and 5 minutes later asked me for my credit card. She explained that she had booked me a ferry for the next day and that it was cheap. Looked like she had planned my next trip for me. One thing that I have learnt about South Koreans is that they will go out their way to help you, even to the point that you want them to stop helping, they will still go ahead. I just handed over my card and let her do her thing which she then printed out, obviously in Korean, and told me that this was my reservation and gave me a time that I should be there for. Due to the hostel being in an area that had nothing around it for tourists, then I was happy to go. The rest of the night was me spent on the sofa watching CSI Miami with Korean subtitles with a cup of coffee and it actually felt that I had broken into someones house and was invading their lounge!

The next day was the ferry trip to Jeju and I headed back to the bus station with reservation ticket in my hand. Going to the counter I asked for the bus to Mokpo and showed them the ticket so they knew I was heading for the ferry port. Unfortunately they were a bit confused even with their lack of English and looked at me saying “No Mokpo, Wando”. Wanda? What does that even mean? So I was lead to the ferry office within the station and they gave me a bus ticket after they had looked at my reservation and said the bus would be leaving in 15 minutes! Hmmmm time for a quick cigarette and then jumped on the bus showing my ticket to the driver who just nodded. One thing I have on my mobile phone that works well without wifi is the Maps app. So as the bus is merrily driving away down the motorway I looked at where we were and how far it was, and discovered the bus was actually heading the opposite way from Mokpo! 2 and a half hours later I found out that I was in the town of Wando! Who would have thought! With some difficulty I asked the locals where the ferry station was, if it had one, and was pointed the way. Still totally confused I walked onto a ferry and headed for Jeju, at least I hope I was.the journey across was similar to the one I did from Japan to Busan in that I was the only westerner on a boat full of Asians and lots of double takes when I would walk by them. I landed in Jeju safely and straightaway I found wifi and found a hostel that was only 10 minutes walk away and looked decent. This was looking too good to be true. Arriving at the hostel, I dumped my bags down and fell asleep… I was shattered, exhausted and slept all the way through to a free breakfast.

While travelling you meet so many people who are doing exactly the same as me, travelling for as long as they can and doing as many countries as they can. One such bloke was Sami who I had met in Malacca in Malaysia and when he found out I was going to be going to Jeju, got in touch with me and explained that he knew a local that was an excellent person and would be willing to put me up. Of course, the Bank of Stuart came up and said that it would be a brilliant idea as I would get to meet and stay with a proper South Korean in their own house. Bob was the local guy! All South Koreans when they learn English are given an English name so they can feel the part more. So Bob contacted me and said he would love to put me up and asked how long I was planning on staying for. I didn’t want to over stay my welcome so thought that 3 nights would be enough which he readily agreed with. Bob had said that he would meet me at the hostel as his place was hard to find so although he was an hour late I followed him like a lamb. Why was he late? The poor bloke works every night from 5 pm till 3 am. He bikes it to and from work and that takes about 20 minutes, so he had slept in! He also to get me had taken 2 buses and an hour to reach me which shocked me. There is no way that any British, European, Westerner would give up a normal nights sleep and travel that distance to pick up a stranger that you were recommended by another stranger to stay in your house for 3 days, especially as he was still working which meant I was alone in his place on a night time! South Korean hospitality at its very best and there is no way that I could ever repay him as this was meant to be a money saver but Bob refused anything that I offered as he knew what it was like as he had travelled before through Eastern Europe which was a surprise for me. Not knowing what to expect from where he lived apart from him telling me that it was a bit messy and that he called it home. I arrived and it turns out he lives in an apartment/cabin on its own on the outskirts of a village, the place had 4 rooms which was a very basic kitchen, a study, a bedroom and a shower room. Sounds ideal but there was no furniture at all, except a table and chair in the study which i never sat in. The bedroom was where he kept most of his stuff and the beds were 2 inflatable single mattresses on the floor. The shower room was where the washing machine was and there was a tap on the wall with a bucket underneath and a cup to pour water over yourself. After 3 days in the place, I knew what he meant, it was his home and he was happy and I actually fell in love with the place. So what did I do with myself in a small village that was stuck in the middle of nowhere and with Bob at work or asleep. First proper day was spent looking for an ATM which took me 5 hours in heat that would kill a badger. second day was Bob taking me out for 4 hours to the other side of where I walked to show me some of the views and places that he loved to visit. He is an outside sort of bloke that hates the hustle and bustle of the city and this was good exercise for me. third day was spent in a forest that had trees growing out of volcanic rock which was fascinating and took about 2 hours of walking around. Bob was in his element however my flip flops were taking its toll on all this walking! Night times was spent, and i have to be honest with this, drinking alcohol as all I had for entertainment was my iphone and not a lot else. So cans of lager was bought from the local shop and I think the owner was sad to see me go as his profits for Kloud lager had gone through the roof. It was the fourth day and I think that Bob would have wanted me to stay a lot longer as it was a bit of company for him and the fact that he could practice his english again.

I decided that I would go to Seogwipo so booked a hostel. Bob decided to come with me and make sure that I got there safely and then once my bags were dropped off wanted to show me the sights as he goes at least once a week to do ‘stuff’. The city is not as touristy as Jeju city but its an absolutely gorgeous place on the sea. As we walked round the edge of the path overlooking the sea, he pointed to some stairs that lead downwards and down we went. At the bottom was a small rocky beach but there was also a wall behind us with an side entrance where you could hear children squealing and adults laughing. Bob told me it was a pool that was used by fisherman of old to get cleaned up using the natural waters of the island and would I want to go in. Automatically I thought of hot springs and even though I was sweating I wanted to experience it, so followed him to be greeted by the sight of just male persons all naked! Bob stripped off and I was not sure of how this would look in UK, except that social services would be called especially as one of the adults was taking pictures. This was obviously a father and his son but it looked innocent and I was asked by Bob if I was okay as this was a South Korean thing. So strip off I did and it felt so weird, especially as a westerner the Koreans were looking at me, in the eye and face of course, and the squeals from the kids was because it wasn’t a hot spring but absolutely freezing cold water and I mean it was proper cold! I didn’t want to get feel uncomfortable too much so as the fathers and sons all left, we dried off in the sun as we had no towels and asked to leave, which Bob was happy with. He then took me round his favourite shops, cafe and everywhere and I could tell by the time he had to go and with a good manly hug it was time to say goodbye to an awesome bloke who had taken me into his life. With a promise that he would come to UK eventually he got on the bus and I went to the hostel. That night I had a walk around the ‘famous’ bridge and with no alcohol had an early night for the first time in a week and i think my body needed it as I fell straight off. The next day I jumped on a bus to go to the original hostel that I stayed in Jeju City as I had decided that it was time to move on. Once booked in and the staff had recognised me from last time, for some reason, I went off to explore as I didn’t do the previous week and spent some time in the Jeju museum which explained more about how the island was formed with a few customs of the people but not much history of how they got to today which was disappointed, as Bob had told me previously the Jeju had been its own country once upon a time. A second night of doing nothing is where I am now. Tomorrow I leave Jeju and to be honest I am not sure where I’m going to and I have a couple of hours to go through various options which is the way I like to travel.


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