In the summer of 2009, I took a job in South Korea to teach English to elementary kids for one year. Just one month after I started teaching, we were informed that the school would be closed for five days to celebrate Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving, or as the Chinese would call it: Mid-Autumn Festival. FIVE WHOLE DAYS?! The traveler in me knew that going someplace new was absolutely necessary. So I chose to spend my time off on Jeju Island. I had heard that the Koreans consider Jeju-do the “Hawaii of South Korea.”
Oh, and if in case you were wondering: no, I didn’t go alone. My traveling companions were a couple of new friends I had just made who were also English teachers in Korea. You might know one of them as the amazingly talented photographer who shot my wedding, Inge Hooker. She is also a regular participant in the monthly Photography Styling Challenge. So now you know how she and I met!
This trip took place over Chuseok Holiday weekend, October 1-5, 2009.
Fly out of Incheon International.
Land at Jeju International Airport by 4:50PM.
Transferred to hostel by Limousine Bus #600.
Stopped for refreshments at Buzz Coffee to wait out the pouring rain.
Walked downhill to hostel.
Overnight in Jeju Hiking Inn.
Checked out of Jeju Hiking Inn due to unavailability on the second night.
Checked into Tae Gong Gak Inn, just up the hill.
Rented bikes and rode two hours to Jungmun Beach.
Hung out at beach all afternoon.
Took the bus back to the inn; stored our bikes in the lower compartment.
Hunted down dinner at a Chinese restaurant that served food that looked a lot like Korean.
Overnight in Tae Gong Gak Inn.
Checked out Tae Gong Gak Inn and back into Jeju Hiking Inn.
Rode taxi to O’Sulloc Green Tea Farm.
Sightseeing continued at Cheonjeyeon Falls and Jusangjeolli Rocks.
Watched sunset over Jusangjeolli Rocks.
Dinner at Seogwipo Harbor.
Overnight in Jeju Hiking Inn.
Woke up early to catch the bus to Mt. Halla.
Started hiking Mt. Halla at 8:30AM.
Returned to the bottom of Mt. Halla at 5PM.
Overnight in Jeju Hiking Inn.
Checked out of Jeju Hiking Inn.
Morning flight out of Jeju International to Incheon.
Jeju Island is essentially made up of two parts, as far as I know. There is the northern part and there is the southern part. I can’t remember why we chose to go to the southern part of the island, but that’s where we went over Chuseok. The whole southern part is called Seogwipo, (pronounced soggy-po) which is the city of Jeju Province (Jeju-do). During the course of my year in Korea, I did eventually pay a visit to the northern part, but I’ll share that trip with you another day. There’s already much to share in Seogwipo!
I’m not exactly sure if there is a name for this market. My friends and I referred to it as the Seogwipo Market and our hostel staff called it the market, as if there was only the one in all of this part of the island. There was no shortage of kimchi or seafood in the stalls!
Our first excursion on the island involved renting bikes to ride to the beach. The hostel staff looked at us as if we were crazy to even consider it.
“What? Is it far?”
“Very far! Maybe one hour!”
Pshhh! We’ll be OK!
We never could have known that our rental bikes would give two of us sore bums (me included) and that part of the trip would be uphill. That super kicked my sore butt. So, TWO hours later, we finally arrived at the beach. I was huffing and puffing and soaking in sweat just a wee bit more than my friends.
So, you can only imagine how much I needed to relax on this beach. I napped really hard.
O’Sulloc Green Tea Farm
After the super physical day we had of riding bikes, we decided to take it easy the next day and hire cabs to drive us around Seogwipo for sightseeing.
O’Sulloc is a very famous green tea farm in Korea. There is a small gallery there with a display of teapots. You can also sample tea in their sampling room. This is also where you can buy some green tea ice cream.
The architecture of the sampling room and retail space was very organic, with feature walls constructed of wood and curving planes.
One of the design elements I liked the most about O’Sulloc was the bathroom. I loved the use of full height windows in a space that is usually completely walled off with no natural light. I thought this was a bold design move and it really worked! Furthermore, the glass wall angled in. Very cool design. (The toilet stalls were, of course, enclosed.)
The elements that make up Cheonjeyeon Falls is, of course Cheonjeyeon Falls, Second Waterfall, Third Waterfall, and Seonim Bridge. It seemed that Cheonjeyeon Falls ran dry the day we visited because all we saw was a wall of beautiful rocks and a clear pool under the bridge. The Second Waterfall did much better living up to its name of a waterfall and we never located the Third Waterfall. We think it was a tiny drop of water in the river below the bridge.
Jusangjeolli Rocks was quite the amazing sight to behold! We were absolutely right to wait until sunset to visit these rocks. Set on the water facing west, there was just no better place to witness nature at work. The rocks were shaped from volcanic lava. The columns took on a hexagonal shape and lined the shore. They’re so beautiful in person.
And now saving the worst for last…
For the rest of my life, I will never forget Mt. Halla (Hallasan). On our final day, we woke up early to catch the 8AM bus to take us to the foot of the highest mountain in Korea. Let me tell you something about Koreans. They LOOOOOOVE hiking. Well, the older ones do. And they are really badasses at hiking. They hike every weekend all over the country. I felt so out of shape in their company. Dressed in brightly colored windbreakers, they’re fully equipped with a backpack full of food, hiking poles, and hats or visors to ward off the sun. They zip right by
me you as I you struggle uphill, flash you a smile, and greet you with, “Anyeong haseyo!” (The Korean way to say hello.)
The hike started off just wonderfully! There were boardwalks laid out and stairs were clearly defined. Then 15 minutes into it, all the man made structures disappeared and you were out there [alone] battling the untouched land of craggy rocks posing as stairs that constantly climbed up and up, never stopping….!
Then four hours later, you finally reach the top! (Or if you’re my friends, you reach the top in three hours. Seriously, those byotches.) And you join the pilgrimage of Koreans who had anyeong hasayo-ed you on the way up. And you realize the only reason why you agreed to hike all the way was the promise of seeing this beautiful lake in the crater at the top with greenery and flowers, but further reality results in the fact that the lake is currently dried up because it’s autumn and everything in sight is dying because Persephone freaking ate six pomegranate seeds when she was in the Underworld and these are the six months she has to live in Hades while her mother, Demeter, gets all sad and lets everything in nature die. So I never got to see the beautiful crater lake as depicted in the picture at the bottom of the mountain and who cares that I climbed Mt. Halla and lived to tell the story??!
And yes, I totally went off on Greek mythology there. I guess, four years later, I’m still irritated that I was duped into hiking all that way for nothing.
Then you think because going down is easier than going up, it should be faster to get back down. It’s not. It still took me four hours. And my a$$ hurt like hell for seven whole days.
My advice? Don’t bother making the climb unless it’s well into May, June, July, or August. Maybe not August… it gets so hot and humid there.
I’ll have to share with you my trip about the northern part of the island some time. Maybe not next month, but at some point. Did you enjoy traveling through Seogwipo with me?
Read more of my travels here!
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