The Paradise that is Jejudo

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April 19th 2010
Published: October 15th 2010
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It's been quite some time since a blog entry has been added to this thing. I've had a bit of a hiatus from travelling for the past couple months what with working overtime on Saturdays and teaching new courses that require much more prep time than usual from me. However, this trip had been planned 4 months before its occurrence...making it my motivation to get through the nontravelling months.

Seungmi and I headed to 제주 ("Jejudo") from Cheongju airport early Friday morning. We flew on Jeju Air, an orange plane that reminded me a bit of Air Canada Tango. I was glad as we didn't have to wake up uber early or anything...and yet we still arrived in Jejudo around 1130am since the flight was only an hour long.

As a small informational side note, Jeju Province is the only special autonomous province of South Korea. It has a population of roughly 565,000 people and is a volcanic island dominated by 한라산 ("Halla-san") aka Halla Mountain.

While on the plane, Seungmi sat next to a little girl, Minju. Speaking of little girls, there were TONS of little kids on the plane. Jejudo seemed to be THE place for kids to ride on the airplane to for the first time. I guess the stewards/stewardesses noticed as well and were quite prepared because midway through the flight, they came down the aisle in silly hats and Polaroids, taking pictures with little kids as well as making balloon animals for all of them! I thought that was pretty great of the airline to do so. But then...about the balloon made me wonder...what with all the changes in air pressure when the plane goes up and down...what if all the balloon animals popped in the kids' faces? THAT woulda sucked. But luckily that didn't happen. One more interesting thing about the flight was that the stewards and stewardesses were wearing hanbok style uniforms! THAT was pretty badass.

Upon arriving in Jeju International Airport...we headed out to the rental car parking lot and picked up our ride for the weekend: a white Samsung SM3. I didn't even realize that Samsung made cars....that's just how freakin big of a company they are, I guess.

Instead of heading straight to our hostel in 서귀포시, we decided to grab some grub (since we hadn't eaten in the morning as we had been too excited...yes that always happens). The rental car rep recommended some grilled seafood at a pretty popular place caled Oh Na Ri near Jeju City. With the help of our handy dandy GPS, we managed to find the restaurant which was bustling with customers coming in and out. As we sat ondol-style, I looked around and saw all the mouthwatering grilled fish...something I haven't had since leaving Canada as it's too difficult to cook fish in my dingy apartment. Anyways, I told Seungmi we just had to have whatever THAT guy (I pointed to my left) was having. We ended up ordering a plate of grilled mackerel, coral fish, and a seafood hotpot. When the food arrived, I was NOT disappointed at all.....the fish was deelish...I swear I could just eat grilled fish and a bowl of bap everyday and not get sick of it.

After satiating ourselves, we happily left the restaurant and decided to conquer the Western area of Jeju before checking into our hostel, which was located in the Southern part of Jeju. We got onto the Shore Road and as we drove, just took in the beautiful island scenery which was scattered with black rugged rocks, beach sand, and pebbles. Anytime we saw a place worth checking out, we'd stop, get out, take some silly pictures, and just look out into the waters before heading back into the car and continuing our scenic drive.

We arrived at Hallim Park and spent the next lovely few hours wandering through its 8 different sections. I took so many flower pictures for my mother that I've had to put together a separate online photo album just for her! We meandered through caves, bonsai gardens, desert gardens, rock gardens, a tangerine orchard (which sadly wasn't in season at the moment), as well as plenty of other themed gardens.

Afterwards, we finally arrived at our hostel in was an incredibly beautiful, clean, and comfortable hostel...not to mention large! Each room had its own bathroom. There was a lovely foyer check-in well as large common/kitchen room. Sylviah, the owner, was very hospitable, offering and suggesting the best places to eat around the city area and recommendations as to where to walk during the day and in the evening. We were located in downtown Seogwipo, making it convenient for Seungmi and I to forego our car in the evenings and just wander throughout the city area.

Early the next morning, Seungmi and I awoke at 4am, were out the door by 430am and driving to the Eastern area of Jeju, towards 성산일출봉. This has GOT to be one of my most favourite places in the world so far.......also known as Sunrise Peak, 성산일출봉 is a volcanic crater that rose from the seas over 100,000 years ago. As we zoom-zoomed our way there, I spotted the skies slowly lighting up in pretty pink and blue pastels with fluffy white clouds throughout the horizon. In the far distance, we could see the silhouette of Sunrise Peak looming ahead and with it pitted against the pale colours of the horizon, it was definitely a sight to see. My heart began to race as I worried we wouldn't hike up the crater in time to see the sun rise. We parked, paid our 1,000 won entrance fee, did some fake stretches and began our ascend up the ancient crater. As expected, the 20 minute hike up saw us huffing and puffing as the two of us weren't exactly the fittest couple of hikers there.

I"ve never seen a sunrise in my life....never made an effort to venture and find the "go to" spot in Edmonton to see something of the sort. However, as we hung over the railing, looking out into the glowing skies, there was a soft collective gasp as all of a sudden, something bright and orange (and small) peaked out from the clouds......and as the next 15 minutes passed by, Seungmi and I were struck with awe as we watched this small bright and orange dot blossom into the day's Sun. All other onlookers were if uttering a single word would scare away this magnificent occurrence. I always found the idea of watching a sun rise quite appealing...however, actually seeing it just magnified that appeal by a million times. After we were satisfied that the morning show was over, we slowly made our descent down the crater....occasionally stopping to take pictures of the surrounding beautiful scenery. Right before heading down to the parking lot, I leaned over the railing and spotted a flock of the island's infamous 해녀. Literally meaning "sea women", the 해녀 are female divers in Jeju and are representative of the matriarchal family structure of the island. Did you know, 해녀 are skilled divers who are known to be able to hold their breath for more than 2 minutes and dive to depths of 20m? They're pretty much badass dames who're usually over the age of 50, kicking ass and taking names under the sea while in search of abalone and conch.

Our next stop was 정방폭포 aka Jeongbang Waterfalls. This is a very famous waterfall on Jeju Island, about 23m high and some even say that it's the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly in the ocean. It's actually considered one of the 10 greatest scenic wonders of Jeju. There are two other famous waterfalls of Jeju, Cheonjiyeon Waterfall and Cheonjeyeon Waterfall. (Yes, note that there is only a one letter difference in spelling yet it makes all the difference in pronunciation and meaning.....welcome to the world of Korean) Definitely another breathtaking sight to add to the rapidly growing list. We even saw two ahjummas down by the waters, shucking shellfish and creating hotpots for customers to indulge in by the scenery.

Coming up on our list was Sanbang Mountain. Legend says that the peak of Mt.Halla where Baekrokho Lake now exists was taken off and thrown away, which then became Mt. Sanbang. On the southwestern side of the mountain, a 5m high rock cave originally called Sanbanggul Cave is now called Sanbanggulsa because it is one of the world's famous Buddhist shrines. There, we found statues of Bodhisattvas and other guardian deities and the central statue being Buddha. Buddha gazes over the forested hills and across the East Sea to the horizon. Another Jeju beauty to behold.

We woke up to a dreary, rainy, spring Jeju morning on the last day of our trip. Determined to make the most of it, we packed up and headed out in search of 만장굴 ("Manjanggul"). Manjanggul is one of the longest lava tubes in the world and is one of 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Jeju (The other two being the previously mentioned Sunrise Peak and Mt.Halla). We paid our admission and ended walking 45 minutes throughout the dark cave-like tubes with the occasional drip of water (?) falling onto our shoulders.

After a quick lunch, the last stop on our list before hitting the airport was Yongduam, also known as Dragon Head Rock. It's located at the western end of Jeju City and its basically a rock formation resembling a dragon rising from the sea into the sky.

All in all, quite the jam-packed trip filled with marvelous sights, good weather, and great cuisine. We had our fill of spotting 돌 하르방 (Dol hareubang) aka grandfather statues throughout the island as well as tantalizing orange trees growing alongside the city roads.

I'll definitely be back for another sunrise experience and to harvest some tangerines come December!!

Additional photos below
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16th October 2010

Rocking entry!
Your writing is a lot better than you give yourself credit for....can't wait to go to this place again.....but this time together with you!

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