The following post is a) unreasonably long and b) slightly pg-13 at times... consider yourself warned
So last week my friend Uzoma and I went on vacation to Jeju island for Chuseok (추석), the Korean version of Thanksgiving. Five days on a semi-tropical island laying out and sightseeing around one of the most beautiful parts of Korea, yes please! Can you say amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing!
Let's start from the beginning.
Day 1: We ended up taking a KTX to Mokpo and then taking a ferry boat to Jeju. This entailed us waking up at 3:30 am and arriving in Jeju at maybe 1:30 in the afternoon, so needless to say it was a looooong day of traveling. But at least it was more scenic than an airplane...
Eventually we made it to Jeju, settled into our hotel room, and immediately headed off to the nearest beach. What else would you do on a semi-tropical island, right? Our hotel was located on the south part of the island in Jungmun, so it only made sense that we start our beach-hopping adventures on Jungmun Beach, the largest on the entire island. We got there a little before sunset, and oh gosh, it was gorgeous!
View from the top
I loved it!
On to Day 2. We headed up to Jeju City on the north part of the island to do some sightseeing and beach-hopping around there. We started out our day at Love Land, the infamous erotic-themed sculpture park on the island. It's funny, Koreans are so conservative about sex and sexuality, but I know of at least 3 sex-themed sculpture parks in the country, which is more than I can say I know back in the states. And I guess it makes sense to have sex-themed parks on Jeju, actually, seeing as Jeju is a major honeymoon destination, why not? Regardless, it was a really entertaining start to our Day 2 to say the least...
Some of the milder sculptures at Love Land...
I definitely recommend visiting! So much fun!
After Love Land, we decided to hit up Jeolmul, a "nature resort" with a "massaging stone walking path" and mineral streams, etc, etc. Totally lame. The massaging stones just plain hurt, and there was nothing resort-like about it. Add on to that that I was still sick with some upper respiratory whatnot, so when we set of on a simple little .8 kilometer stroll up to the top of a lookout point, I found myself panting and wheezing like crazy. All in all, a total bust, but at least it was pretty!
After barely making it to the top of that lookout point... I look happy, but I swear I was about to pass out!
Koi pond along the walk. I told you it was pretty!
The "massaging" foot path. Really just rocks. Kinda hurt a lot... oh well.
After Jeolmul, we decided to resume our beachgoing at Hamdoek Beach, a pretty beach on the northwest side of the island. We tried going out for a little ride in one of those two person blue paddle boats, but we maybe possibly kinda took on so much water that we needed the rental guy to kayak out to our water dumping rescue... maybe twice. Whoops!
After our embarrassing boating adventures, we decided to skirt off to another beach, this time Samyang beach, a gorgeous black sand beach we were lucky enough to catch at sunset! By far my favorite!
View from far away
The black sand was so amazing! Deeeeefinitely stole some...
And Uzoma loved it too!
All in all, successful Day 2.
Day 3, we decided to stay around Jungmun. We started our day out with a little horseback riding in this kitchy little place where they made us wear hats and boots... quite silly really.
We looked ridiculous. Fun times.
Next we decided to check out the Jeongbang costal waterfall, which was absolutely fantastic! It was so pretty, everything from the waterfall itself, to the scenic panoramic view of the ocean, to even the boulders we were walking on, I thought it was just so beautiful!
The waterfall... so pretty right! And it just fell almost right into the ocean!
Proof I was there... and apparently in the mood for some YMCA?
Even the mist looked amazing
View out towards one of the coastal islands... did I mention I thought this place was beautiful?
We finished all our plans for Day 3 early, so we took a spontaneous trip out to the Museum of Sex and Health. Pros, there were lots of really cool art pieces both inside and outside the museum. Cons, all the exhibits were written in just Korean, so we didn't learn a darn thing. Oh well. It was a good time.
Pretty sculpture outside the museum
Butt chair... which made me giggle...
Later that night we decided to try our luck at a nearby casino. After losing 10,000 won on the slot machines, I won back 8,500, but then ended up losing it all again. It would have been a pretty big deal, if the exchange rate wasn't so crazy... in dollars, I lost maybe all of $15 total that night. Rough.
Day 4. We headed out to the far west side of the island to visit Hallim park, the only place in the world where they have volcanic lava slash stalactite cave formations in the same place. Fascinating right? It was really cool, but as a whole Hallim park was a pretty random assortment of things including but not limited to botanical gardens, cactus, palm trees named after George Washington, a bonsai garden, caves, a bird park, hedges shaped like dinosaurs, a replica folk village, and a whole bunch of Dolharubang sculptures. Whew! Kind of lacked an underlying theme, but I think it was definitely worth the hour long bus trip out.
Inside one of the lava caves...
They not only had an entire greenhouse filled with cactus, but they also had century plants! The desert horticulture part of me got really excited!
One of the Dolharubang sculptures they have all over the island. The native people of Jeju needed something to do with all that volcanic rock, so they started carving these guys, which have been compared to the mysterious statues all over Easter island. Fascinating, right? Nowadays they're pretty much one of the kitchy unofficial symbols of Jeju and you can find them absolutely everywhere. I liked them a lot anyways...
Fun times. Day 5, Mt Halla-san, the volcanic crater national park in the middle of the island. We figured it would be nice to take a short 3-4 hour hike on the Yeongshil trail, the seemingly least tenuous trail since I was still feeling under the weather at this point. Surprise! This is what we found ourselves climbing up...
Did I mention I was both a) out of shape, and b) still sick with a breathing problem?
It felt terrible! To make it worse, the only reason we were even there was because this was supposed to be one of the most scenic parts of Jeju, but we were inside a cloud for the majority of the hike up, so we couldn't see twenty feet in front of us, much less see anything from the highest point in all of Korea. We almost turned around a couple times, but at the urging of some overly excited Korean ladies we ran into along the trail, we persevered and made it all the way to the top alive. Miraculous, really. Even better, by the time we started our long trek back down, the clouds had started to lift so we could actually see that there was quite a view.
Clouds starting to lift
Pretending I am happy and can breathe
Cool rock formation
In retrospect, Mt Halla was really cool and I'm glad we did it. But oh my goodness, at the time I thought I was about to die! Oh, and it didn't help that I realized during the trek back down the hill that I have an unreasonable fear of falling, probably stemming from a certain tailbone fracture and granite sidewalk slip in my not so distant past... regardless, the walk back down was rough, but I survived. (Barely)
After that, we headed back to the hotel and passed out. The next morning we woke up early and started off back towards the peninsula.
Whew! This was such a fun trip, and I maybe kinda sorta wish I was still vacationing there now. But alas, I start teaching again tomorrow afternoon, and won't have a day off again as far as I know until December. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.
Happy Chuseok everybody!
- Christine -