Exploring Jeju Island
23.07.2011 - 27.07.2011
Summer vacation was the last week in July and we decided to head to one of Korea's most popular destinations, Jeju Island. Jeju Island is volcanic island, just south of the Korean peninsula and it is very popular with Korean honeymooners. The Korean and foreign teachers at our school all told us we only needed a few days to see Jeju. So we planned just over three days on Jeju and two days in Busan.
Jeju is a volcanic island that features black sand beaches and stunning rocky shorelines. After several months in the urban jungle, we decided to get back to nature by conquering one of Jeju's ollehs (trails). Olleh number 10 wasn't too far from our guest house, so we chose that one. There are flags and arrows every few hundred feet so it was easy to figure out where we were going. It started out great. We saw the dramatic coastline, hiked around a volcanic crater and walked through some small villages. We made our way through some agricultural land and an old air field, when the trail went cold. No more flags or arrows. We retraced our steps to the point when we saw the last arrow and made sure we hadn't missed a turn. We hadn't. It was fairly hot and humid and we were running out of water. We decided to turn down another road that looked like it led to a larger road and we hoped for the best. We walked for about 20 minutes and were just about to turn back when we found another flag!
Relieved to be back on the trail we continued on and about half an hour later we ended up in another village. It seemed like a couple of cold drinks were in order so we stopped at a small shop. Feeling refreshed and fairly confident we were almost done with the Olleh we took off again. We soon came to another flag and an Olleh sign. The sign was for Olleh 11. Oops. Somehow we had gotten off Olleh 10 and ended up on Olleh 11. It seemed like a good time to call it quits, so we hopped in a cab and went back to the guesthouse.
The next day we decided to go to O'Sulloc Tea Museum. I LOVE tea, so this was especially exciting! Armed with directions from the woman at our guesthouse, we hired bikes and took off. It was only supposed to be 8 km. The pleasant bike ride took us through picturesque agricultural land. The only problem was.....we got lost.....again! We rode around for 2 hlours and never found it. We consulted our map, but we never could quite figure out where exactly we were, so the map wasn't much help. At least it was good exercise.
After the morning's adventure we headed to the beach at Jungmun. Jungmun is the resort section of Jeju and there many hotels and restaurants in the area. We wanted to check out the beach, which our Lonely Planet guide said was nice. The beach was crowded, which was to be expected, but nice nonetheless with a jungly cliff backdrop, golden sand and warm water. It was a great place to cool down for the afternoon.
The next day we took the bus to the eastern part of the island to see Seongsan Ilchulbong, which is a giant volcanic crater. You can climb up to the top of the crater and apparently it is very popular among Koreans to watch the sunrise from here. The views were quite spectacular, but for the me, the highlight was the haenyo, traditional women divers. The haenyo can be seen in the waters all around Seongsan Ilchulbong and they do daily performances in front of their little beach side restaurant. The women are pretty incredible. Many of them are quite advanced in age yet they still don their wet suits and brave the water without any breathing equipment. You can sample the food they catch at their restaurant.
There is so much more to see on Jeju Island and we wished we had stayed the whole week. The island is very laid back and quiet and a perfect place to experience some of Korea's natural wonders.