Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jeju (Pt. 4): Yongmeori Coast, Western Jeju and Jeju-si

With the 'biggies' out of the way already we finally let our guard down and got a bit of extra sleep Thursday morning. Even so, once awake I quickly hustled Laura out the door and into the steaming hot Avante. A note here on check out procedures. At each of our hotels (motels and minbaks included), check out consisted of no more than either leaving a key in the open door or tossing it on an unattended front desk, that is, if there was one.

Day 4's goal was simple and that was to make our way to Jeju-si by way of the western coast. Our only planned stop for the day were the surreal landscapes of the Yongmeori Coast, other than it, it was smooth sailing. . .or so we thought. For some reason, likely because I was trying to do so while driving, I was unable to correctly convey to Navi that we'd please like directions to Yongmeori. Thus, we decided to simply hug the small coastal roads that shot off highway 1132 and look for, well, a 'promenade of soaring cliffs,' as they're described by LP.

The Cliffs of Insanity!

Shortly after pulling out of Jungmun we found ourselves in a harbor surrounded by cliffs. A number other parked cars in the area indicated that there must be other tourists near by. Upon parking our vehicle, we soon learned that we were not at all alone as a huge gang of middle schoolers had taken over the area on a school trip. By the way, almost all Korean students (or at least all of mine) get to go to Jeju at some point on a school trip. How awesome is that!? Work like a slave for 240 days a year and maybe once you'll be lucky enough to take a 2 day vacay! Sounds like a deal to me.

Assuming, but wholly uncertain, that the cliffs ahead were in fact Yongmeori, we decided to follow the throng of students as they made their way up a trail. While the grade was much more manageable then our previous day's climb up Hallasan, the terrain was much more rugged and overgrown. I at first questioned whether we were in fact where we wanted to be but soon put aside any reservations I had figuring that if a troupe of kids on an educational trip were making the hike then certainly there was something worth seeing. Boy was I wrong. . .

After an hour or so of climbing the path eventually leveled out but, to my dismay, we were no where near the cliff edge where I had hoped we would end up. Rather, we found ourselves in a sprawling field that seemed to be sectioned off for cultivation. While some of the areas obviously had crops growing, others were left to be taken over by weeds. None of the vegetation was easily recognizable though some of it greatly resembled wheat. . .or at least, what I think wheat might look like.

Fields of Joy

Although there seemed to be no obvious trail, we continued to follow the little ones as they, only partially aware of the growth underfoot, marched across the fields. Eventually we found ourselves pack on a wooded path where blue ribbons seemed to steer up towards our eventually destination. This small recognition of a known path again got my hopes up for something grand at the end of this journey. Again, I was wrong.

My alarm went off immediately as we turned a corner and began the descent down a dirt path on the opposite side of the cliffs from which we began our journey. I'm no professional hiker but I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that it's never a great idea to go down the opposite way you came up. Especially when you have no clue where you are.

Even so, we pushed on, praying that these little brats, guided by their teachers, had some sort of interesting destination in mind. When we finally broke through from the trees and the ground again evened out, we were treated to a beautiful view of a rocky beach, and, a water treatment plant right in front of it. Stepping out on to the rocks we were able to look back at the cliff and see where we had just managed to walk up, over and back down again on the wrong side.

King of the Mountain!

This is where we were forced to make a choice. Having hiked for almost two hours in order to see the same view that we had from the place where we parked the car, our first inclination was to simply leave as quickly as possible. The issue with this is that doing so would, at first glance, require us to go back over the way we came. Another two hours of all-ready-been-there-done-that-bought-the-t-shirt scenery. So, we started to brainstorm.

Looking out at the point which separated us from our vehicle (go back to the top and check out the picture), I remembered seeing people fishing out on the rocks on the 'car-side' of the cliffs. I then posited that perhaps we could simply walk along the beach towards the point where we would miraculously turn the corner and BAM, be right back at our car!

These seemed to the both of us a much more reasonable idea then simply backtracking the terribly boring route we had just come, so, off we went. Perhaps our decision was misguided by the wavering light on the horizon, or maybe it was due to the intense heat and our lack of water, but, either way, in retrospect, these are the types of decisions that get young travelers maimed and killed in the far corners of the world. . .

As we moved along the beach, the small rocks under foot quickly grew into massive volcanic (?) formations with razor sharp edges but, on the plus side, really good footholds. I ambled on a head of Laura with the help of my trusty hiking stick, a bamboo pole I picked up along the way. A few steps ahead I was able to help try and guide her along the 'safest' path as she had to be extra cautious of her footing as her feet were protected only by a pair of sandals. . .obviously we did not plan on hiking when we stepped out of the car oh so long ago!

Pushing on the rocks only grew larger, and larger. While they were mostly stable and seemed to be extremely solid, one slip would easily have sent either one of us down into a tight crevice where the waves pounded below. This is about the part where I'm terrified and envisioning myself being stuck, slammed against a rock as sharks nibble on my toes and Laura clamors for help, loosing her sandals and shredding the bottom of her feet like parmesan cheese. Luckily, this isn't how it turned out. But I wouldn't have been surprised if it did!

We made it to just about the tip of the point you can see in the first picture were a man stood atop a giant boulder, calmly fishing by himself. By this point we were moving probably about 20ft a minute, this was, well, not easy. When we eventually got near enough, I asked him if we would be able to make it around the point and towards land. Who knows if he understood me but the motions he made with his hands made it pretty clear that whatever we were up against wasn't going to be pretty. So, what did we do? Well, the only thing we could. Jump in to the water, swim out to see and around into the harbor. . .no, just kidding, but I thought about it! Too bad I brought the camera out with me or I might have!

We turned around. . .to backtrack, along the treacherous rocks, when all we were trying to do was avoid having to backtrack in the first place. I found this slightly amusing. Laura didn't. See below for clarification.

Say, "I'm Gonna Kill You Adam"

Another 45 minutes later we made it back to the safety of the water treatment plant beach. Our students had apparently vanished in to thin air and in their place, a group of elderly climber glad in fluorescent clothing had appeared. They gaily gulped down water and ramyeon while we still hadn't had a drink since leaving the car. Oops. Can you say, prepared?! Hey, at least we made it off the rocks!

(For the sake of the story this picture is placed here, though an intelligent reader should easily surmise from our general expressions that this is not in fact a victory shot from our failed attempt at rounding 'The Point.')

Still not wanting to take the stupid hike back up and over we tried to walk along a small access road running parallel to the big plant. It didn't take us long to run into a swarm of angry flying insects which sent us back the way we came. At this point it became obvious that someone was sending us a message to just do the stupid hike already and get it over with. We had run out of lifelines.

hour 'n a half or so later we made it back to the car and immediately took off, wanting to leave all memories of the morning's climb behind. Neither one of us were happy but hey, at least we're a bit more experienced now when it comes to rock climbing! I think author Laurence Gonzales would agree with me here as he once wrote that 'the word 'experienced' often refers to someone who's gotten away with doing the wrong thing more frequently than you have.' I'm just glad we got away with it!

Still not entirely sure what we had just climbed or why, we continued to drive aimlessly heading west along Jeju's southern coast. It wasn't long until we came across a sign pointing us to the Yongmeori Coast we had initially set out to find. . .great, if only we had driven on another 5 km instead of getting out to oogle at the first cliff!

At the next big turn off we followed a number of cars in to a parking lot surrounded with bustling vendors and activities. Walking down a long flight of stairs we came out long a quaint promenade of stores and, um, a horse 'track', and um, carnival rides, and um, a giant sailing vessel? Apparently, Yongmeori is not only celebrated for it's beautiful natural landscape but also for its ability to sell the story of a Dutchman, Hendrick Hamel, who was the first westerner to 'discover' and subsequently write about Korea.

I was immediately intrigued by the small horses, referring to them, apparently incorrectly so, as ponies. By this point Laura and I had already discussed her reservations about riding horses as one didn't take kindly to her in her youth and decided that it preferred Laura on the ground, rather than on its back. I however don't recall ever having ridden a horse and couldn't think of any better time then the present. So, I forked over 5,000 won to a dusty ole' cowboy and he helped me up on the back of one of his finest ladies.

A good kick in her side and off I went around a big dirt track. Here are my observations from my brief ride. Horses are really strong. Riding on one immediately makes you feel like a cowboy. Cowboys must have had terribly calloused backsides. It is obvious why jeans, tight in the crotch, were, are, and always will be preferred by horse riders. Anyways, my short ride was actually great fun though I was certainly glad when she finally came to a halt! Not sure if I ever need to do it again but if I do, I won't be wearing shorts with boxers, that's for sure.

Giddyap Cowboy!

The most beautiful ladies on Jeju!

Dismounting and making sure that everything was still in one piece, we headed out towards the elusive Yongmeori coast. While we debated paying 2,500 won to walk amongst a bunch of rocks, as we had done so earlier in the day for free, we eventually caved in and coughed up the entrance fee based on the presumption that we wouldn't likely ever visit it again.

Hanyeo displaying the day's catch

The the short walk around the 'cliffs' are in fact beautiful, they aren't quite the National Geographic must have that LP made 'em out to be. Maybe it's because I was already fed up with geological formations, or perhaps the lighting was a bit off, then again it might have been my terrible sunburn setting in from walking along day on bright white rocks with no shirt on. It was beautiful, but, not awe inspiring. Worth the 2,500? Sure, but not more than once!

Where in the World is Lars!?

The 'cliffs' at Yongmeori simply held nothing on those that we had just finished tackling. Even so, the eerily clear water that filled the pockets of volcanic rock made some pretty interesting tide pools. The only thing I regret is not eating at least one thing from a Haenyo though if we were to, who knows what we would order and how we would go about eating it. All I know is that it would likely be the freshest kill of the day, if not still squirming. The best view of all came just before heading back to the board walk where we could see both the cliffs and Sangbansan in the background. LP swears that its only a 10 minute walk up this 'craggy' mountain but neither of us were willing to test this hypothesis!

Sanbangsan from the Yongmeori Coast

Back on dry, flat, solid, man-made land, we began searching our refueling options. Trying to make out the Korean on a number of different building, I was intrigued by one that offered a 'couples burger.' This sounded both big, and interesting, so we went to investigate. Remember that giant hamburger Laura mentioned earlier (Day 2), well, we had finally found it! It didn't take us long to order and as the ajumma pulled out a giant bun from Red Pond Herb Farm I knew that we had finally found this long awaited treat!

Though it wasn't the best burger I've ever had I couldn't argue with a single bite! Especially not after the day's numerous mishaps! We quickly wiped the plate clean of a meal that LP suggested could feed up to four people. Koreans, maybe, but greedy hungry westerners pissed off at the difficulties of the day, no way! Two tops!

Laura and the Giant Burger from Red Pond Herb Farm

Flora at Yongmeori

After lunch we did a bit of souvenir shopping before deciding that any more walking around would certainly be detrimental to our health. Thus, it was again time to eat. While in Korea, I have frequently been faced with the task of having to consume dried cuttlefish, or squid, known as ochingo. This popular treat is served at numerous bars to accompany drinks and is also a favorite street snack of Koreans. I have only really tasted it a few times and found it to be somewhat similar to a very fishy tasting jerky after I finally got over the smell which I initially found to be absolutely repulsive.

Well, there weren't a whole lot of snack options available at Yongmeori and Laura and I both wanted to try the Jeju Orange Wine (which is not recommended as it tastes like bad oj, or, bad oj gone bad) we kept seeing everywhere. So, well, you have to have something to eat with your drinks and ochingo is what we went for. After ordering, our dried squid was heated briefly on a rack of hot coals. Then, the rest was up to us. We ate the majority of the 'body' though we avoided the tentacles, mostly for aesthetic reasons! It wasn't great but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't growing on me!

Ochingo and Jeju Orange Wine

After eating we took a quick spin through the giant replica ship of Hamel's that led him and his fated crew to spend seven years in the Hermit Kingdom during the Josen Dynasty. His story was pretty interesting and I can't help but feel bad for him as I've been here nine months and can't wait to get back to, well, anything else! Hamel's story was great but we didn't stick around to ponder life in tight quarters very long. Either he and his crew were shorter than the average Dutchman that I've met or moving about in those boats was not an easy task! I can't imagine that his Korean prison was any better though. . .

On our way out of 'town' I pulled off the road to examine a clothes line covered in, well, something. Turns out it was nothing more than the squid that we had eaten just a few minutes before. Mmmm, it's always good to know where your food comes from!

Out to dry

Working our way along the coastal roads we turned the three corner on Jeju and began working our way north along the western edge. We pulled off the road at random intervals to check out the sea below but didn't find anything to terribly exciting. A bit of cliffs here and some rocks there. This clearly isn't the exciting side of the island but if you're looking for peace and solitude, look no further!

Cliff Hanging
(Thank you to Laura who held on to me as I precariously dangled myself over this drop off!)

I did stop once to try and grab some sunset pictures before turning east towards Jeju-si but unfortunately the sun wasn't quite ready to set and I wasn't about to wait any longer for it! So you take what you can get I guess. . .

Pre-Sunset from Northern Jeju

Making our way into Jeju-si we plugged the LP recommended Bobos Motel into Navi and cruised onwards. As we pulled alongside the airport I noticed a small road rolling around back that Navi seemed to think was accessible. Veering off the highway we rolled down a small hill and over some rocks only to find ourselves on a winding path that did in fact lead just along the outskirts of the airport.

As we drove along slowly I noticed that the giant light towers we were passing under marked the impeding runway. Having never before watched a plane land from the back of a runway I thought this would be a great opportunity to do so. Boy was I right! We got out and waited for a plane to come and when it did, it did! Only a hundred feet or so above our heads roared a giant jet just seconds away from touching down. The noise, proximity and ferocity of its wake was so exhilarating that we decided to wait for another, and then another! While we forgot a blanket and didn't even actually lie on the top of the care, I felt like I was a highschooler in a 1970's coming of age movie. All I can say about this experience is that if you haven't stood under a landing plane, well, you're missing out on something big my friend!

Hello There!

Bobos proved to be every bit the Love Motel that LP said it was. Heck, we were even credited 5,000 won off the room price because I had a 'beautiful smile.' While it seemed that the ajumma was telling me this was the reason, I'm still certain she was talking about Laura but simply looking at me. I am after all not the beauty in this operation!

As for Lonely Planet, well, they've been pretty hit and miss with Korea but surprisingly spot on with Jeju. My only complaint was that the recommended 'Mexican' restaurant, El Paso, should be avoided at all costs. I've had my fair share of Mexican-style food here in Korea but this place didn't even come close. The only decent part of the meal was the taco salad and that's because it was mostly lettuce, there was nothing for the chef, who studied (but it doesn't say what) in Mexico City, to ruin!

Highly disappointed but too exhausted to care we crawled back to Bobos threw on a movie and I can't say that I even remember watching the opening credits. This was an exhausting, exhausting day. Back to Seoul tomorrow but not after first checking out the Mysterious Road (where an idling car rolls uphill) and of course, the much anticipated Jeju Love Land! Don't miss either, but they're going to be for you to find out about on your own.

Thanks for traveling with us!

'Cool, Welcome to Jeju.'

Jeju (Pt. 3): Hallasan National Park and Jungmun Beach

According to a number of different travel sources, including LP Korea, the trip up Mt. Halla (or Hallasan) is not only not to be missed but is often the highlight of a Jeju vacation. Either we came at a really bad time of the year or took the totally wrong trail because I can't say that either are entirely true. Sure the hiking is good fun and great exercise (if you enjoy torturing yourself) but as for the views, I would contend that scenery on my nearby Bulamsan are at least equal to what we encountered.

Apparently there are four primary trails leading up Hallasan that were only created relatively recently as the many free climbing hikers who took to the mountain each day had quickly started to destroy the landscape. Of the four routes, we went with the one most highly recommended by LP and the travel literature on island, the Eorimok Trail. The scenery on this hike is said to be beautiful and it is the most moderate of all the routes taking about 2 1/2 hours to get to the top.

The Yeongsil Trail ends at the same place as the Eorimok but via a substantially easier route. The Gwaneumsa and Seongpanak trail are both over 8.5 km and take a minimum of 4 hours up. Though, the advantage of the later two routes is that one gets to actually summit Hallasan and get a peak into the natural crater lake that has formed on top of the mountain. The former two hikes, including the one we took, do not go all the way to the summit as the trail is temporarily closed, until 2011, to allow regeneration of destroyed wildlife on the western side of the peak. Oh well, maybe we'll make it to the top next time!

After heading into a thick forest, we hiked for about a half kilometer before we were faced with a steep set of ascending stairs made of rock. This, unfortunately, turned out to be about the majority of the hike. Up we climbed, and climbed, and climbed, through thick sub-tropical jungle, continually hoping to get a view out over the south of the island but never actually getting a chance. Climbing higher the forest continued to grow thicker. While an abundance of wildlife is reported to live in the area, it seems as though the majority has learned to stay far away from the hiking trails. That is, except for the giant black magpies.

Finally, after an hour-plus on the natural StairMaster we burst out into a clearing, obviously passing some sort of tree line for the mountain's favorite residents. In only a matter of a few steps we passed from the dark green of a lush forest to a dry and barren gold of drying vegetation! The expanse was startling. For over an hour we could see no more than a few meters in each direction yet now the sky opened above us as though we had stepped into a recently harvested field on the Great Plains.

Big Sky, Jeju

After filling up on spring water we continued onwards at a much more manageable grade. While some of the trail was composed of loosely piled rocks, the majority was actually lifted up above the ground on wooden planks. My guess is that this was done in order to protect the wildlife underneath rather than make the hike easier for, as it seems, Koreans don't really dabble in simplicity when it comes to their hiking. The harder, the better!

Having started out at around 1,100 meters, we eventually made it to the mile high point as averred by the marker seen below.

Mile High in the Jeju Sky

We continued winding our way along the wooden platforms, all lone for the most part except for the occasional herd of school children who would come barreling past in the opposite direction, brushing us off the path as though we didn't exist. Thanks for saying excuse me guys!

In to the distance

While I've heard reports, and seen pictures, of Hallasan in bloom, we clearly missed that by a few weeks. All the tall yellow flowers noted for their impressive beauty had since died out and the only real color we were left with were a few blooming rhododendrons located sparsely throughout the climb.

Where are the flowers?

After breaking out of the forest, it took just under an hour for us to reach the Witseoreum Shelter, the top of our climb! Here we were afforded a beautiful view of Hallasan's peak but unfortunately, the nearby cliffs rose up to high and prevented us any real view of the sea down below.

Witseoreum, We Made It!

Luckily Laura and I had pounded down a pair of gimbap earlier in the morning because the refueling station at Witsereum was rather light. To much on we had a choice between ramyeon, and well, ramyeon. There were choco pies of course for desert but we both opted to pass on the gooey marshmallow treat. Slurping down the last of the noodles, and the high sodium broth, we packed up and headed back down the trail, anxious to get going. Who wouldn't be when your next destination is the high acclaimed resort area of Jungmun Beach!

Harubang guarding Jungmun Beach

Back of the mountain we relieved ourselves of a whole lotta spring water then hopped back in the car and shot down cross-island highway 1139 towards Jungmun. Just before pulling into town, we veered off towards the coast to check out the 'legendary' Cheonjeyeon Pokpo (or waterfall).

Cheonjeyeon Pokpo
(Courtesy of LLB Photography)

A three tiered fall, we only managed to visit the top two before deciding that we had conquered more than enough of our fair share of stairs for the day. Anyways, the view from the footbridge spanning the falls was perhaps more spectacular than any view of the falls themselves!

Cheonjeyeon Footbridge

Cheonjeyeon's First Fall

From the falls we took the short drive down towards the beach where we cruised in and out of the different resort complexes. While accommodations such as the Vegas-style Lotte Hotel (pictured below), art-deco Hyatt Regency and chic Silla Jeju were recommended to us by my co-teachers, we figured that 300,000 Won wasn't quite worth whatever they had to offer. Even so, they certainly were worth exploring as the grounds of these three establishments are pristine!

Lotte Hotel was by far the most interesting as it's enormous property is situated on a cliff overlooking Jungmun Beach. The palace-like hotel is further accented by an enormous pool area that includes a paddle-boat pond, mini-volcano and even three enormous Dutch-style windmills.

The Lotte Hotel, Jeju

Finally making our way to the beach I'll have to admit that I was far from impressed. Widely recognized as the ritzy-resort area, I assumed Jungmun would be flanked by white sands as far as the eye could see. Rather, the beach reminded me of a wet sandbox that no one really wants to play in. The only truly interesting part about the beach was that is backed up to a lush escarpment that shot up towards the base of the hotels.

Either way, with the sun out and shining we took off for the far end to see what was going on. Although we certainly weren't alone on the beach, it didn't appear as though anyone had come with the idea of 'going to the beach' in mind. Everyone, literally everyone, was fully clothed and most even worse shoes. The few who were braving the chilly sea were equally as covered. From prying eyes or the suns rays I can't say with certainty. Therefore, in an act of defiance, I decided to whip off my shirt and give my torso a good ole' dose of Vitamin D that it has so long craved working under fluorescent lights, my arch nemesis, all day.

Jungmun Beach

Having had enough of the mediocre sand and cold surf we headed topside to check out the small boardwalk. Only a few steps away from the beach access is the Jeju-renowned Pacific Land. This rather small indoor venue hosts a slew of daily wildlife shows using dolphins, sea lions, and monkeys to entertain the masses. While I briefly entertained the thought of attending, as I did miss the dolphin show at Seoul Grand Park, seeing how poorly the animals' living conditions were in their less than capacious outdoor cages was enough to deter us from supporting the place any further. To be honest it looks rather aged and unkempt, almost as though others have begun to frequent it less and less too. . .good going!

Outside Pacific Land

Growing hungry we began to discuss our dinner possibilities. So far, all we had really seen on the island are two choices, hwae, raw fish, or Korean bbq. This is why a sign pointing towards an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet quickly grabbed our attention. While normally such a deal just outside of an animal theme park would seem a bit off putting, the idea of eating fresh seafood while overlooking the sea seemed, well, seaworthy.

Turns out just to get to the restaurant involved a bit of a hike itself as we had to go up down and around and down some more to get to the water front restaurant pictured below. After surveying the place and the menu we decided that the 35,000 was worth it, especially as we had worked up quite a hunger that day. So, we hightailed it to the main office, which also operates the sailing cruises and unfortunately Pacific Land. Inquiring as to making a reservation we were told that there was only one time left available, 5:30. Being 4:30 as it was this seemed like a ridiculous notion, especially as we had yet to find a hotel and showers were certainly in order. We did after all climb to 1,700 meters earlier in the day!

We politely declined and turned away disheartened right before I dashed back inside and assured them that we'll be there. All but picking Laura up and throwing her in the car I was determined to find a place to get settled and then get back to the Shangri-La Restaurant before 5:30. . .or, at least around then!

The Shangri-La Seafood Buffet from the Jungmun Boardwalk

We both agreed to simply plug in the best sounding LP recommendation to Navi and and just do it. Turns out this was a great idea! The Gold Beach Minbak was no more than a mile up from the beach and our third floor balcony room offered a superb view of the falls, botanical garden and South Sea! For 50,000 this was by far the nicest place we stayed on the island. Might not have compared to Lotte but we still had cash left over for dinner at least!

Gold Beach Minbak

In a random twist of fate, or a meticulously planned maneuver, we somehow both managed to shower, change and make it back to the Shagri-La just after 5:30. While they at first pretended not to acknowledge our hastily made reservation, a quick call to the office top-side straightened everything out and got us a seat, next to the door and across from the waiters table. Hey, you can't win 'em all!

For the next hour 'n a half we dined on an array of seafood treats, some familiar and others, well, anything but! Sashimi and sushi of all varieties, king crab legs, fried octopus, boiled squid, hot chicken wings, seafood filled egg pancakes, noodles, rice, samgyeopsal, jelly fish (which we both did try) and much more! Oh yeah, plus an array of fruit and most importantly, ice cream, for desert! While the seafood wasn't the best I've ever had, it sure beat eating gimbap or another overstuffed night of bbq! Mmm mmm good, and, who can argue with free Cass on tap!

The Shangri-La Yacht and Seafood Club

Lars pounding down the sea creatures!

After dinner, trying to move anywhere was like pushing a cruise ship into port with your bare hands. We slowly and uncomfortably ambled up the steps at the beach towards Lotte Hotel to check out the romanticized views. While none of the sunsets on Jeju were spectacular by any means, the final rays of light that came up over the far end of Jungmun did a great job of reminding me why I will always be a sucker for island life!

Sunset on Jungmun Beach

Out to sea. . .

Hoping to catch a glimpse of the resort town's nightlife, we ambled from the Lotte to the Shilla and all the way down to the Hyatt in search of something happening. Turns out, nothing was. We ducked in to the casinos at each of the hotels but the two that were open (Shilla's was actually closed) seemed deader than the crab we had just finished eating. So we moved on. Finally, at the end of the road, meaning the Hyatt, we hopped in a luxury taxi and bolted back up towards Golden Beach where we figured we might find something more exciting on the commercial strip. Again, we were wrong. Maybe it was being there mid week, or perhaps the excitement really is all contained within Pacific Land but from what we found, Jungmun was a lot of bark and no bite to follow up!

Time to get to bed, tomorrow we got a big day of rock 'climbing' ahead!

Lotte Hotel's windmills at night

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Jeju (Pt. 2): Seongsan-ri to Seogwipo-si, and Udo Island

Tuesday morning we didn't quite make it up in time for the sunrise hike but it wouldn't have mattered anyways as we were greeted early on by overcast skies and a hazy view. No worries, the sun would soon rise enough to burn off the mist and by then we'd be well on our way to the first full day of Jeju adventuring. Heck, we even did two islands in one day! Enjoy day two from the perspective of Ms. Laura Leigh Black!

Base of Seongsan Ilchulbong Tuff Cone

Driving from our hotel to one of Jeju's three UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites, Seongsan Ilchulbong (sunrise peak in Korean) was only a mere five minutes away. We arrived at the bottom and walked though a little pavilion with souvenir shops only to be met by throngs of South Korean students who were mostly making their way down while we were starting the 20 minute trek up the mountain. The view from the top of the punchbowl shaped crater was fantastic despite the somewhat hazy and windy conditions. The 182 m summit was met with spectacular views of the town Seongsan-ri and sea-cliff exposures that plunged steeply into the sea. We even managed to pass an English speaking family on our way across the top area who were clearly not from the Western Hemisphere.

Windy conditions at the top

On our way down the mountain after making it to the grassy hill that led down to the pavilion, Adam and I broke out in a downhill race. I won, although, he was still injured from soccer so I can't really count that as a win! We grabbed some snacks on our way out at the faithful GS stores which sell everything you could imagine and most of them have outside seating for their customers. We then decided to head over to the ferry terminal to catch a ride out to Udo Island, only 3.5 km off the coast.

Hanging out on the ferry

The ferry terminal was also only 5 minutes away from Sunrise Peak, this was the point when I realized that
Jeju wasn't that big of an island and everything is not nearly as far away from each other as I thought. After parking in the lot with at least a half dozen or so exact replicas of our sweet Hyundai Avante, we walked into what we thought was the ferry terminal. However, little did we know, we were walking into a fish market. Ducking into the next building we finally got it right. A lot of other tourists were taking their cars over, however we decided against it, mostly based on the 25,000 won it would have took to get it over.

Welcome to Udo!

A quick ferry ride of about 15 minutes and we made it to Udo Island! Not really having a clue of where to go or what to see, as the map that we were given at the terminal was entirely in Korean, we walked down the ferry ramp expecting to walk around the island. Immediately after exiting we saw a scooter rental place! After asking the rental price I was informed that it was 15,000 won for 1 hour. Seeming to be a good deal in my eyes, I eagerly replied yes and then was told that it would be 15,000 for 2 hours. The three old and somewhat crippled men in charge definitely sold me. Adam was however rightfully cautious as he was going to be the one driving me while I just got to sit back and enjoy the ride. But before you know it he was taking the scooter for a test spin.

Adventuring on
Awesome helmets!

1st stop at Korea's only coral beach!

(picture taken by our Korean 'tour guides,' meaning the cute couple on a scooter ahead of us whom we continued to follow, at a distance)

Our first lighthouse stop


We definitely saw more haenyo on Udo Island than anywhere else in Jeju. We drove by these old women in wetsuits walking or riding a scooter fresh from their most recent dive. We saw some of their catches being laid out right on the side of the road. It's amazing that these women can hold their breath for up to 2 minutes under water!

Lovely haenyo statue in the middle of a rocky beach

Upon passing the South Korean couple whom we were following, we luckily avoided the awkwardness of deciding who goes first when they pointed for us to go to the road behind them. There was a lighthouse out on the point but the pathway was covered by the rising tide and blocking our passage to the second lighthouse for the day.


However, I had a better idea. Since there was no one around and ample open space, I decided to try and drive the scooter. This task is definitely not easy to maneuver, I can't imagine those food delivery boys that speed though red lights on their scooters in Seoul. I couldn't even get the thing going without Adam standing next to me holding up the scooter so I didn't fall! After deciding against me driving any further we stopped to find a beautiful poppy field in full bloom.

Cliffs of Udo

We parked our scooter and walked down to explore the beautiful cliff sides of
Udo Island. This was the third and biggest lighthouse on the island. However, we tried to make our way to Lighthouse Point, only to have turned down 2 wrong roads which lead us first to a water treatment plant and then right back where we started. Having never found the correct road we decided to return our scooter with only about 40 minutes left before the next ferry departed.

Tractor contraption on our way to return the scooter

After returning the scooter we watched as one old man refilled the gas by water bottle while simultaneously smoking a cigarette. We then decided to walk 10 minutes on the road from which we had just come from to stop at a store for some snacks. We ended up sharing ramyeon and watching other tourists fly down the steep road on bikes, scooters, or ATVs. However, one Japanese tourists presumably hit the brakes on his bike too hard and ended up taking a nasty fall, one in which the ambulance had to be called. We then headed back to the ferry and left about 15 minutes early because the ambulance insisted on leaving as soon as possible with the injured tourist.


Onto our next stop San-Gumburi Crater. After taking the inter-island road 1119 and the hopping over to the 97 we were there. After paying 6,000 won to enter, we were greeted with loud music and virtually no one around. However scenic the volcanic cone may have been in the misty weather, I don't know quite what the hype was for this national monument as couldn't see any of the various animals that supposedly lived in the crater.

Top of San-Gumburi Crater

Looking down into the crater

Continuing our coastal trek around the island we decided to stop at Pyoseon Beach which LP claims when the tide is low has vast expanses of white sandy beach. After grabbing some coffee at a GS in the town of Pyoseon, we parked and walked out to the beach. About a hundred or so Korean students were playing around in the cold water and being whistled at to come back to their buses. As soon as we reached the ocean it started pouring!

Pyoseon Beach

Sprinting back was quite the challenge as the small puddles of water on the sand had now become large, deep pools of water. After making it back to the car drenched we decided to go in search of the infamous hamburger that's big enough to feed four people, according to LP. After following the vague LP directions, we thought we had found it but it ended up being closed (or so we thought...more on our hamburger quest later!)


Off to
Seogwipo, Jeju's second largest city for our second night in Jeju. We wanted to stop at the popular waterfalls in the city so after seeing a sign for them we parked in a small lot, jumped a barrier and walked through a deserted botanical garden area overlooking cliff sides. When we finally reached the parking lot to Cheonjiyeon Falls, we realized that we were clearly in the wrong place and walked back to get the car and go to the right parking lot.

Cheonjiyeon Falls

Supposedly one of the only waterfalls on Jeju that runs directly into the ocean, though as you can see, it actually falls first into a small lagoon that then drains out to the sea.

After a long day of adventuring, we wanted to call it a day and find a hotel. After visiting two hotels suggested by LP, we decided to try a third one (thanks to the help of our trusty Navi). Named the Bally Hotel, it was much more centrally located than the first two and we had no problem paying the 40,000 won. True to LP, the hotel was "more business hotel than love motel." Obviously whoever wrote that didn't get the room with the circular bed in which Adam's feet hung over. We finished off the day by walking through a fish market (I'm bummed I forgot my camera) and then I tried cheese rabokki for the first time for dinner. The sheer amount of food that one can order for the price is astonishing!

After dinner we decided to walk around
Seogwipo. Deciding to duck out of the rain we went into a place called the Cool Hof where we tried Mt. Halla soju for the first time. I couldn't really taste the difference, but then again, I'm a soju newbie. After leaving the hof, we walked 90% of the way home and then couldn't figure out where we were so we got a cab. Little did we know we arrived at our hotel before the meter even made its first tick...who knows what the price was for this ride! That's the end to our fabulous day 2 on Jeju! Thanks for listening!!

Your Adventurous Reporter, Laura!