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Published: April 17th 2015
The arguably most unpleasant of these 3 famous characteristics of Jeju I am experiencing right now: I am stuck on a 12 hour boat ride from the South Korean Jeju Island to the coastal city of Busan and a storm is rocking me literally up and down. The crackling vessel is only topped by the relentless whistling of the wind on my cabin window and the rain pouring on the deck. Although I am a born but reluctant mountaineer I have always had a fascination with the sea, opting for the ferry over a 30 minute flight...
It all started 4 days ago. For this easter break I decided to head to Jeju Island in the extreme south of South Korea (ROK) and travel my way up to Seoul. I have never been very interested in the ROK and I have genuinely enjoyed meeting Koreans asking me whether I had been to their country and answer "of course, Pyogyang, Khaesong, Sinuiju..." 😊 However, life is about discovery and the ROK it is for a couple of weeks. So, let's get talking and bitchin' about my 4 days spent on Jeju.
Jeju-don is the ROK's biggest island with about 500.000
Misty coast line
inhabitants and recently has become somewhat of a tourist Mecca for Chinese travellers due to special visa regulations (they can come to Jeju visa-free while they need visa for the rest of Korea). I believe that this time is not high season but the island is definitely already feeling the negative consequences of economic development. Chiense tourists crowd up the narrow mountain paths and obnoxious resorts have sprung up, scarring the natural landscape around the coastline. Asians and Koreans in particular love the place as a honeymoon destination, which is a little weird to me as beaches are mediocre at best and the island is pretty much a dormant volcano. As such, Jeju has been nominated as one of the seven natural wonders of the world in 2011. Not sure about that, but nature is quite impressive over here.
I did not make it to the top of the island's highest Hallasan mountain where a lake lies in the dormant crater of a volcano (9 hours of hike!!) but I went to the Manjanggul cave where one truly realizes the power of lava, which has carved enormous tunnels through the rocks. The black lava stones around the island also
Stones... one of the 3 Jeju assets!
form a nice contrast with the yellow flowers and pink cherry blossom of the Korean spring.
Culturally, Jeju is pretty much countryside and far from Seoul's androgenous K-popsicles and surgered fashionistas. Lady divers gather seaweed and fish without oxigen tanks, plastic surgery seems kept to a minimum, and the women (as one of 3 notorious Jeju attributes) are better in numbers than in looks. Food centers around black wild pig bbq and pretty much anything from the sea. Urban Korean honeymooners and Chinese tourists seem a little out of place, as I saw them taking selfies with a famous rock from a Korean movie set (which to me looks like a giant black penis pointing out of the water). 3 newly built "sex-museums", showcasing exotic goods such as condoms and vibrators add to the fun. All in all, no big surprises, but the stunning nature makes Jeju worth a trip and a rocky and windy ferry ride.
Next stop, Busan, the ROK's second biggest city. If I don't sink. And even if, it was predictable. My German friends always told me that I am sinking too much...
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