|The view from Ilchulbong|
Because it was a long holiday weekend, we had to book our flights quite ahead of time. When I checked about two months before, there were no roundtrip tickets available so I snatched up a pair of one-ways into Jeju. Later, I was able to grab a couple of returning tickets when other travelers canceled theirs. Still, I had to check back everyday on the site to see if there was anything available and it was a stressful annoyance. Once the tickets were purchased though, it was more or less smooth sailing! I asked Jen to take the lead on planning this one since I didn't have time and I had to plan my Vietnam trip coming up the week after. It was Jen's first time getting us organized for a trip and she acquitted herself of the task quite well!
|Some of the art at Loveland|
|Clay art scenes|
After our Loveland experience, we decided to go grab some dinner at a local microbrewery called Modern Time Jeju Brewery, where we enjoyed a so-so IPA with a meal that left a lot to be desired. We continued our night out by checking out a few drinking establishments, including the Lonely Planet recommended Factory (which had a very nice ambiance). Shortly after, fatigue started to set in and we retired back to our hostel (Backpackers' in Jeju, if you were wondering) for a good night's rest before our hectic weekend schedule came into effect.
|Modern Brewery's IPA - passing grade|
In the (not so early) morning, we finally set out to conquer the east side of the island. Jeju is much bigger than I had anticipated. With an area of 1848km2, getting around can be costly, time-wise at least. That's why we opted for public transportation as we had read it was pretty accessible and easy to navigate. We found that to be entirely true. From our hostel, we bused to the nearby bus terminal where we hopped on the eastbound-Seongsan bus. On the way, we stopped to walk through a real hedge maze (it's been a dream of mine since I was a child) and to check out the Manjanggul Lava Tubes. While both were really fun, the latter was also very interesting and instructional. After descending in the depths of the cave, you are greeted with fresh, bordering cold, humid air (which is really quite refreshing) and dark surroundings. The 1.5km walk to the actual lava tube is loaded with informational signage that made the whole experience rather enjoyable. On the way out, the heat hits you like a grenade and you remember why you are wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
|Map of the cave|
|The lava tubes (UNESCO heritage site)|
|These "Jeju guys" are everywhere. Origine unknown, but they have somehow become the symbol of Jeju|
|Ilchulbong, volcanic crater|
|The top... doing a weird L thing|
|Haenyo getting ready for the show|
|Watch them go!|
|In my top 3 restaurants in the world!|
Our first stop was Jeongbang falls, which apparently are the only waterfall in Asia that spew directly in the ocean. Regardless of whether that is true or not, the setting for this waterfall is absolutely gorgeous. On the one side, you have water falling from high above with beautiful rock and greenery as a backdrop. On the other, you have the vast and open sea, endless blue-green water and the blue sky mixing together in a poetic feast for the eyes with a few islets scattered here and there to add colour and depth to the already incredible view. There was something serene and peaceful about this area that made me wish Jen and I were all by ourselves to enjoy... except there were hundreds of other people also coming and going that slightly hindered the atmosphere. Regardless though, we both thought it was one of the most beautiful places we had been in Korea (sharing it with hundreds of people has kind of become an expectation here anyway). Before we left, we also got to enjoy the best tasting oranges in the world. Jeju oranges are truly the best I have ever tasted. Nothing even comes close!
|Best oranges in the WORLD!|
Next, we were off to the Jungmun tourist area for some well deserved beach time. Due to my being cheap, we had been walking a lot (to Jen's many objections and threats of getting a cab) so getting time to relax on the "nicest" beach on Jeju sounded like the perfect medicine. However, Jungmun beach was definitely not what we were expecting and we were actually a little disappointed. While boasting an incredible view and nice waves, the beach itself was not covered with beautiful soft white sand. Instead, it was that rough, super hot, sand that hurts your feet when you walk on it. Secondly, we arrived there around noon, and were expecting some beachside restaurants where we could grab a bite and possibly a nice cold refreshment. However, except for the resorts' super exclusive huts, there was absolutely nothing on the beach. It was really nice to just lay down, soak in the sun, and refresh in the water, but after a couple of hours, there was just nothing else to do or see. The water sports that were illustrated on the map were also nonexistent so it didn't take long for us to decide to head back.
Our last stop before going back to Jeju city was to try the renowned black haired pork. To do so, we looked no further than Lonely Planet who recommended Saesom Galbi in Seogwipo. At about 5pm, we were the first customers so we got the best seats in the house, but it did not take long for the place to fill up. The meal itself was extremely appetizing (for me) as it was a meatfest of pork and beef, accompanied by some good old Cass (Korean brand of beer). The restaurant was an authentic Korean BBQ place with a great view of the river and I really enjoyed the mix of food and ambiance. The table next to ours was occupied by a group of Korean girls intent on getting blasphemously drunk on soju so that was fun to watch as well!
Back in Jeju city, we layed low, walking around city hall and relaxing over drinks for our last night out. We also went out to the market area to buy a couple of boxes of Jeju oranges to bring back with us since they are extremely hard to find (and extremely expensive) off the island. Both of us were pretty tired but extremely satisfied with out weekend. While Jeju had not been exactly what I had anticipated, it truly was an island paradise. I wish we had more time to explore more of its hidden treasures and beauties but I guess that will have to wait til next time!