Edit Blog Post
Published: August 4th 2010
Before I begin, we want to say a huge thank you to Amy’s friends, five of which travelled all the way from England to stay with us and experience a microcosm of the last five months of our lives. During their time here, we pointed them in the direction of some of the most memorable things we have done so far, indeed some of which I have previously wrote about here. Their time here was capped off with a weekend in Boryeong for Mud Festival 2010; a crazy beach party where people basically get very muddy and very drunk. The girls were stars and were not hesitant to immerse themselves in the local culture from the moment they arrived. Thanks for the most pleasant reminder of what is most important about home.
As we left Incheon to take the overnight train to Busan, Amy and I remarked at how quickly our time in Korea is going. It’s actually not all surprising when we considered the fact that we have not had a single free day in approximately two months (I am almost longing for the sofa and a countless rerun of Transformers as I write this). How quickly the time
seems to slip away and how insignificant a year can seem. Anyone who has experienced a long train journey can probably attest to the deep and melancholy battles that take place in the mind to pass the time.
We arrived in Busan eight hours before our scheduled flight to Jeju Island, so to help pass a little of the time, we ventured over to pretty much the only establishment open for business where we paid to watch a movie in a ‘DVD bang’, basically a seedy back-alley type of place where you might expect to see Koreans renting a DVD room complete with tissue paper and porn DVD. We opted for ‘The Book of Eli.’
We eventually arrived on Jeju Island in the early afternoon. Jejudo, as the Koreans refer to it, is as spectacular as it is peculiar. The island’s unusual landscape owes itself to the fact Jeju is spawned from a volcano. Over time, volcanic activity has manipulated the rural landscapes to give rise to differing oreums (large hills in the land with small craters at the peak, giving the effect of mini volcanoes), lava tubes, black cliffs and one black sand beach, amongst other geological
intricacies. Indeed, in the centre of the island stands the towering but dormant volcano: Mount Hallasan. Casting its shadow over the populous, it stands 1950m high, making it South Korea’s highest peak.
From the island capital Jeju-si, we hopped on board a local bus headed east for Seongsan-ri and checked into our guesthouse at the foot of the spectacular Seongsan Ilchulbong, a remnant volcanic crater some 190m tall. After dropping our gear at the guesthouse, we hiked this crater to take in the sunset and an amazing view over eastern Jeju and its numerous oreums, Hallasan casting a watchful eye on the horizon.
The following day, we headed south for the city of Seogwipo, the second largest ‘city’ on Jeju. Seogwipo is a picturesque harbour town with the closest beach standing 15km away. The city draws crowds for a number of reasons, the two most prominent being the beautiful waterfalls, Cheonjiyeon and Jeongbang, standing either side of the city centre. Whilst only approximately 23m high, this takes nothing away from the natural beauty of either, as the pictures can attest. Whilst on our way to see Jeongbang, we decided to treat our taste buds to some local tangerines
and were not left disappointed - the taste was ludicrously good for a simple tangerine!
With the third day came clear blue skies, and so we took a short ferry trip to Udo Island, a very small self governed island off the east coast of Jeju. It is affectionately known as Cow Island given its extremely rural setting. Indeed, the relaxing country roads influenced us to rent a scooter for the day (affectionately christened Julio - still got Paul Simon songs in my head!) to take in as much of the beauty of the small island as we could, the highlights of which included the black cliffs and black sand beach at Tolkani, the stillness of the coral sand beach at Hongjodan-goe Haebin and the pure simplicity of this life for the islands 1700 strong population. This uncomplicated existence was never more evident than when we witnessed the ‘women divers’ of Korea - pension aged women who take to the seas with nothing more than a snorkel and knife and dive to cut seaweed from the ocean floor. Whilst navigating the islands mazy roads, we saw some of the women laying out ridiculous amounts of seaweed in the road
to dry ready for export.
Following a lazy day by the beach and taking in the slow pace of life on Udo, we headed for one of Jeju’s many World Heritage Sites. The Manjanggul volcanic caves on the north-east coast are the world’s longest system of lava tubes and were formed around 300,000 years ago. Also featured 1km into this system is the beautifully preserved largest lava column in the world, for people interested in that kind of thing. Its remarkable how well preserved the features of the caves were, although walking through, I didn’t know whether to expect Indianna Jones to race by complete with momentum-gaining boulder or perhaps Shelob hunting her latest prey!
Our final day, we hoped to hike Hallasan. We originally woke to treacherous stormy weather and so thought better of the idea, however as the weather began to clear and brighten; we set off to summit our first volcano! Hallasan can be hiked via four different routes: Yeongsil, Seongpanak, Gwaneumsa and Eorimok. We decided to take the latter, given its initial hour hike through a heavily forested area before opening out into roe deer filled, azalea fields. As we began our attempt, the
clouds began culminating around the peak however, and emerging from the forested shelter, we were consumed by cloud, rain and wind! With very limited visibility we continued our assault to reach Witseorum shelter towards the peak. We were lucky to spot a single roe deer on the way up, grazing by our trail. Aside from this encounter, there were unfortunately little more highlights of the hike really, excepting the fact we can now claim to have hiked said volcano!
Following our five days on the island, we certainly feel fortunate to have been able to take in the beauty of Jeju, an island with a little something for everyone. To me, it exists as a perfect microcosm of Korea as a whole; with the busier city areas surrounded by the peaceful and beautiful existence of Korea’s rural subconscious. Undoubtedly, Udo and its women divers and idle roads will be an experience we will not soon forget.
Tot: 2.209s; Tpl: 0.051s; cc: 36; qc: 156; dbt: 0.0902s; 1; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.8mb