Monday, October 26, 2009

JEJU-DO LIKE WHOA

This weekend I took my first non-bus based Korean adventure to Jeju Island.

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As you can see, it's in the middle of the ocean, giving it a pseudo-Hawaii-vacationland vibe.

I decided to go because:
a) I wanted a fall break, seeing as I get no vacation until Christmas
b) I wanted to go to Jeju pre-bone chilling Korean wintertime, post face-meltingly hot Korean summertime

In a fit of mid-September wanderlust, I impulsively booked a Jeju tour reservation (via Adventure Korea).
I decided to do a tour because:
a) As a lone traveler, I could keep company with forty or so other foreign tour-mates
b) I wanted to be mindlessly shuttled from one activity to the next, and not worry about intra-island transportation/what I should do with my time/if I would get to see everything I wanted to
c) I needed to fit everything in on a weekend, and this tour was perfect: arrive in Jeju Sat. morning, leave on Sunday night

So I met my tour group at Gimpo Airport at 7:10 in the morning. Still slightly hungover from the night before, I immediately appreciated being handed a plane ticket and being told where to stand in line.

After an hour-long flight, we arrived in Jeju and were shuttled to Seonyeo Museum, which was filled with replicas of villages from 60's era Jeju when the island was barely developed. The history was a lost on me, though, because of all of the other much more amusing crap attached to this place: a rabbit pen, a haunted house (?), pretty flower gardens, and many statues of Dol Hareubangs, the undisputed symbols of Jeju.





After a little too much time taking photos of bunnies, we were shuttled off to Samgumburi Crater. Like Hawaii, Jeju was once littered with active volcanoes; this was one of the smaller ones. The crater itself was cool, but once again, I was distracted by all of the stuff around the crater: beautiful fields of grass, and a lovely park full of rounded tombs (typical "Jeju graves" found all over the island). And heaps of Koreans/Korean children rolling down hills where once upon a time lava flowed.




Next up, "horseback riding," meaning a glorified pony ride. Complete with goofy red hat and matching vest. My co-worker Irene swears that this is a typical Jeju activity: not something reserved for foreigners that exists solely for the amusement of Korean stable workers. Who were laughing their asses off at forty or so Westerners "saddled up," looking like Woody from Toy Story.


Understandably, my mood kind of soured after this venture. Maybe it was from the ponies. Maybe my ass was getting sore from sitting on the bus a lot. Maybe it was because the weather was a little hazy/less than ideal. Maybe it was because the girls in front of me on the bus would not stop talking about the awfulness of Korean food/how they couldn't wait to get back to Seoul and download the latest episode of The Hills. Gag.

Anyways, next up: a ferry to Udo Island off the northeastern coast of Jeju. Despite the massive fluxes of tourists to this place, the island still manages to remain remote: only a few hundred people or so actually live there. Famous for its badass female divers called Haenyeo, Udo also is littered with beautiful coral beaches and high, black, igneous cliffs.

Our ferry.





Where the Haenyeo hang their wetsuits.



This glorious scenery should have been enough to lift my spirits, right? No. I don't know what was up with me post-Udo, but after a sub-par dinner at buffet (serving a variety of mediocre Korean food), I was done socializing. I called it an early night (bedtime = 9:00), blaming my mood on my hangover/exhaustion.

I woke up feeling ten billion times better, to the sound of crashing waves: our sweet, super-plush hotel was ocean front. The weather was better, and I had clocked nine + hours of sleep: definitely an all time best for me here in Korea (I typically get about six here, on average). I went for a rouge, guide-free stroll with my Scottish roommate pre-bus madness. It was a gorgeous morning walk along the boardwalk, and I saw a few couples strolling along hand-in-hand/making out ect. Which I did with my tour mate, of course.




Joking about the Adventure Korea action. Of course.
We were then herded off with the rest of the Adventurers to a sweet Chinese acrobatics/motor bike show. Where I was not allowed to take pictures :( But there were little children contorting their pre-pubescent bodies into sick shapes, and crazy bikers zooming around in a very small cage. There was a fog machine and laser light effects. And rope dancers and plate spinners and an audience packed full of mostly older Koreans, munching on dried squid snacks and popcorn. And drinking beer, of course, as it was ten thirty in the morning/not to early to crack open an ice cold Cass.

Then came a tea farm. Tea is grown in neat symmetrical hedges which are cool to take pictures of. A buttload of crops that can't grow on mainland Korea can grow on Jeju: oranges are the most famous, but the island is also known for its catci and tea.



Here is where we ate lunch. Jeju certainly has a Disneyland-like tackiness to it which is difficult to put into words...I feel like Koreans really get into touristy shit. Like the pony rides. To be fair, I guess we Americans have Dollywood. And Las Vegas.


After lunch was Mt. Songak on the Southern coast, known for the network of caves the Japanese dug into its igneous cliffs during WWII. Used as military hideouts during the war, the caves were dark, deep, and strangely beautiful.







Token "I'm on vacation by myself" selfie







It was truly unlike any landscape I've ever seen before. It was the moment where I felt like I'd gotten my money's worth: so breathtakingly beautiful, I couldn't stop taking pictures. And even after I'd taken a hundred pictures, I knew I wouldn't be able to completely capture the uniqueness of the landscape: the caves, meeting the black sand, meeting the water, eventually meeting the southern-most island of Jeju out on the edge of the horizon.
video

Finally, there was Loveland: the last stop on our tour and a place everyone had told me I had to go to. WARNING: IF YOU ARE LOOKING AT THIS IN A PUBLIC PLACE, CONSIDER NAVIGATING AWAY FROM THIS PAGE NOW. Content that could be deemed inappropriate shall follow this.
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Just looking scandalized on a massive phallus (in front of a gigantic butt fountain) is all





Titled "Avarice of Noble Woman"

My personal fave, titled, "When the Pepper Met the Clam"


Built by a bunch of Hongik University students in 2004, the park is popular with honeymooners/old Koreans looking for some scandalized giggling. Krazy Kollege Kids; always ruffling feathers.

In summation: Jeju was a might bit touristy and a wee bit overhyped. But still gorgeous, totally worth the money, and definitely an awesome personal milestone of ballsy solo adventuring.

2 comments:

  1. yay! i'm proud of solo-adventuring maddie. and your scottish middle-aged woman makeouts - romantic! ha.

    also, your vest+cowboy hat pony riding photo is soo worthy of fb profile status. it made me bust a gut. just saying.

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  2. wow, this is cool! Good job... I want to go to Jeju something fierce. You and I should take a trip together sometime soon... you can come down to Daejeon if you want, but there's not much to do here.

    Anyway next time I am up in Seoul I will tell you. It's not halloween or the next weekend... but soon. :D

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