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Cheonjeyeon waterfalls and Seonimgyo bridge, Jungmun Resort, Jeju, South Korea

20 June 2007 No Comment

Resorts across the world usually provide their guests with a taste of the country’s cultural highlights: you can’t get everywhere within the short time of a stay so bring it within walking distance for guests. The tourists and honeymooners of Jungmun don’t have to go very far for their bit of Korean culture. For example “Viva Jeju: the performance” should give more than a flavour of what’s on offer.

What makes the Cheonjeyeon water falls instantly appealing then is the fact that they’re natural. They were there well before any resort. As was the accompanying Seonimgyo Bridge. However as you’ll find over the course of the visit they’ve been cleverly incorporated (read: assimilated) into the whole cultural microcosm shtick. Nature has been tamed and even concreted over in places.

If entering the grounds to the side of the Yeomiji Botanical Gardens, strolling on past the ticket booth one of the first things you’ll notice is the strangely worded English sign. This one reminds us that photographs are only permitted ‘in the zone’ (cue excited North American sports caster references). Where or what ‘the zone’ might actually be remains an unexplained mystery throughout.

The temple pavilion has ‘wow’ factor despite looking like every other one, with its blue, red and green striped paintwork.

Across from here scramble behind the souvenir sellers and onto a rocky outcrop from where it’s possible to get a rather satisfying shot of Seonimgyo Bridge. With the right angles any photo could look good.

And so the bridge begins, arching over the stream below. It’s red and white décor sits starkly against a backdrop of deep green which according to historical sources symbolises the descent of seven beautiful nymphs from heaven at night.

The view from the middle of the bridge allows for a view down the gorge towards the ocean and a dizzying spiral straight down. However you’ll probably spend most of your time dodging tour groups and couples having their photo’s taken at various points. Best find a little bit for yourself and stop to gaze out for while.

Hanging left upon exiting the bridge leads towards the stairs down to the waterfalls. It’s a little hike covered by a canopy of tree branches along the way. Be thankful for this because in summer direct sunlight and a searing humidity don’t make for much fun. Upon reaching a sign-posted (especially) is eminently forgettable.

The first and most impressive of the falls is a place of natural beauty. It’s the only one you must see. Water shoots directly down from a twenty two meter high cliff and forms a pond some twenty one meters deep. Walk out in front and sit on a rock to get a photograph. Then retire to relax and meditate, let thoughts run randomly through your head.

The three waterfalls of Cheonjeyeon and the Seonimgyo Bridge form a small, attractive haven of natural beauty in an otherwise modern, commercial driven machine that is Jungmun Resort. They’ll be many others here doing what you’re doing but if you’re able to find your own little private spot down by the waterfall – perhaps behind a rock away from everyone else – then it’ll be well worth any effort or expenditure.

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