Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jeju for the Summer!

After much deliberating we finally decided to got to Jeju island for a few days over the summer vacation. This was quite a tough decision as we've been trying to save as much money as possible since we're going on the Trans-mongolian train in October and that's going to cost us a packet. But weeks of of spending our summer days in air-conditioned rooms made me decide we HAD TO get out ad at least try to spend some time outdoors and see the sun - in a place where we would at least be able to swim to cool down. Plus just getting out of Sangju for a few days would do us a world of good! We were also really lucky in that out friends, James and Barbara, who live and teach on Jeju, offered us their flat for the 4-5 days we were there - this was the final thing which made us decide to go.

Jeju is the largest Korean island - it is the NUMBER ONE holiday destination for almost every Korean person. Most Koreans would probbaly rather visit Jeju than an international destination - it has some 'nicknames' e.g. "The Hawaii of Korea" etc which demonstrate its popularity. It is indeed a beautiful island - but to be fair, one cannot really compare it to Hawaii or other tropical island paradises. It is more tropical than the mainland, has milder winters and a very green and pretty landscape. Jeju has grown into a veritable 'Tourist island' for Koreans - I would hazard a guess that about 80% of the islands' revenue comes from tourism: it is littered with hotels, guesthouses and tourist attractions: some natural but mostly man-made and uniquely suited to Korean tourists: Museums, shows, museums, parks, museums, art galleries, museums, etc etc. You get the idea - the 'places to visit and things to do' list one could make for Jeju would make a fat book.

Jules and I avoided all those commercialised not-so-relaxing options and just CHILLED. The weather helped a lot - we had 3 almost solid days of rain and drizzle which meant we stayed holed up in James and Barbara's apartment reading, watching movies and just chilling. The rainy-beach-holiday kind of vibe that is so good for the soul. We had really hoped to do some diving on Jeju, but alas, the weather was awful and the sea in no state for us to immerse ourselves in it.

We did, however climb Mount Halla - South Korea's highest mountain and an ancient volcanic crater. Climbing Mount Halla (Hallasan in Korean) is a bit of a pilgrimage for most Koreans - living in such a mountainous country, Koreans have a strong, often spiritual, connection to mountains. Mt. Baekdu is the highest mountain in the Korean peninsula but is now pretty much inaccessible to all South Koreans as it is in North Korea, and so they all want to climb Mount Halla - which comes a measly second. It isn't very high at all (1950m) - compared to the 2744 m of Baekdusan, and is easily climbed in a day, as long as one is moderately fit. So, we climbed with with hundreds of other people! The climb up and down took us about 9 hours - it is quite steep, and is about 19km in total. Almost a third of the climb is on boardwalks or stairs which makes it much easier than it would be otherwise. It's an interesting mountain to climb - it has 4 distinct vegetation strata and the geology is very different to all the other mountains we've climbed on the mainland. I really enjoyed the climb - it was quite misty at the top so we couldn't see the sea which one usually can but nonetheless the view was pretty awesome - there is a beautiful clear crater lake in the top of the mountain and the base of the crater is so green!

On our other 'sun-day' we went to a Herb Farm - Jeju Herb Dongsa (yup, one 'tourist' trap which caught us!) where we ate giant plate-sized hamburgers (actually just a giant round ham sandwich) and enjoyed walking around the pretty gardens and taking pictures. In the afternoon we headed down to Pyoseon beach - I was really keen to swim, and I did take a dip, but the lifeguards were overbearing and I was just not ready to srum it in the tiny 'safe swimming' zone into which everyone was jammed so we just lay on the grassy banks above the beach and relaxed.

We also managed to meet up with some friends from the mainland (Joe, Clint and Natalie) and had a meal of traditional Jeju island black pork together - turns out it wasn't 100% good pork as 3 out of 5 of us had an awful bout of food poisoning within 48 hours of consuming the damn pig! Below are some photos of our Jeju holiday. I'm so glad we went - it really was relaxing and great to just have a change of scenery and be on holiday!

We travelled the cheap way to Jeju - by train from Sangju to Mokpo which took about 6 hours, and then another 5 hours by ferry from Mokpo to Jeju. A bit tiring but we had time on our side so it wasn't too bad.

We travelled 'stowage class' on the ferry - all in a big room together!

On the way there we were in a slightly smaller room - 30 people.

Fish trays in Mokpo

Boats in the afternoon - Mokpo city.

Cicadas in the garden at the herb farm - wow, there were so many of them, and also so many beautiful butterflies!

Chair swing! So Romaaaantic - typical Jeju!

Our black pig dinner...

Seogwipo Harbour on Jeju.

Kids playing, yes, really PLAYING, in a small tidal pool in Seogwipo.

We weren't the only ones hiking to the top of Mount Halla!

The crater lake on Hallasan. So pretty!


Some mossy forest - this bit was very moist with water oozing out of the ground.

Drier pine forests lower down the mountain.

Our route up the mountain - as everything in Korea is - very controlled and orderly. No alternate routes, just straight to the top!

Strange conifers near the top of the mountain.

Broad-leaf forest similar to that which we see a lot of on the Korean mainland.

On the way down.

Hallasan Nabi!
(Nabi=Butterfly in Korean)

1 comment:

vee said...

Hi, is it possible to see Canola Flower (yellow color flower) in Jeju on Summer?