A visitor’s perspective, Jeju, South Korea
Usually when my alarm goes off at 4:30am on a Saturday morning, I am filled with rage that I have to get up at such an ungodly hour, but this time was a bit different. I had been waiting for this weekend for months, and when the buzzer started, I couldn’t jump out of bed quick enough. I was finally going to Korea’s Hawaii. Sunscreen and bikinis packed, I rushed out of the door to meet up with the rest of the group. As we lounged in the airport, we all anticipated beautiful beaches populated with palm trees. However, one thing did not fit into our weekend getaway equation: Rainy Season had come early.
At 8am, our small plane touched down on the island, and sadly it was already misting. That was no way to enjoy a “Hawaii” during rainy season. The weekend had barely begun and I was tinged with disappointment.
As we bused to out first destination, I stared out of the window miserably. But during my sulking, a commotion started on the bus. The bus driver turned off the engine, and we started rolling down a hill. Just what we needed, engine trouble. But then, as I looked out of the window, I realized we were rolling up a hill! We had reached out first destination, Doggaebi Unduk, a mysterious road where cars seemed to roll upwards. Sure enough, our bus did just that. Once we reached the top, it was time to head to the much talked about Love Land. Knowing this place now, I wouldn’t recommend a 9am visit. Thankfully, the beer took a bit of the edge off. Not knowing much about Love Land, I was blown away by what I found. All in all, I was surprised to see a place like this in Korea. It compared to some of the things I have seen in Amsterdam. Created in 2004 to help stimulate newlyweds, this place is definitely a ‘must see’ for visitors.
After lunch we spared no time and headed to a beach close to Songaksan. A pleasuring stone beach with an unnerving amount of sea cockroaches, this place was fun for rock hopping and exploring the Japanese-made caves created during the occupation. Already close by, we then visited Sagban Mountain, where we climbed up to see the Sanbanggul Temple. It can sometimes be hard to distinguish one temple from another, but this one was quite unique , as different parts were scattered up the mountain. A pathway that led up the mountain ended with a stone Buddha in a cave, and a great view of the sea.
Our next destination, which was one of the better-known tourist attractions on Jeju Island, was Yeomiji Botanical Garden. The indoor garden (shaped like a sunflower) is separated into different rooms, each displaying a different genus of plants from around the world. In the centre, an elevator brings visitors up to an observatory room with a great view of the island. Although the view and plants were beautiful, one of the highlights for me was to taste the surprisingly delicious cactus toffee chocolate.
At this point of the day, although most of us were dying for a nap, we were convinced to continue on to see some of the more picturesque attractions that Jeju had to offer on a rainy day. As we pulled into Jungmun, we were confused to see tourists flocking towards an unseen attraction. We followed then down some wooden steps and to the coast and saw what all the fuss was about: spectacular “columnar jointings”, hexagons of rock which were produced during the solidification of the lava greeted us. This particular site, Ju sang jeol lee, was one of my personal favourites during the trip. After a photo shoot with the lava tubes, we were on to our last destination for the day. Although tired, we climbed down to the waterfall, sat on the rocks, and gazed around at the falls, the cliffs, and the sea.
After power napping and showering, the rest of the evening was comprised of eating, singing, and of course, drinking. Like any good Korean town Jeju offers an array of barbeque restaurants. Special to Jeju, is huk-daeji. I had been hearing about huk-daeji all day, only to find out at dinner that its diet also consists of human waste. If you don’t concentrate on what your pig meal consumed, then your dinner will be very enjoyable. After dinner (and a quick stop at the local convenience store for more beer), the night ended with a visit to a noraebang. Finally, after our voices were gone, we moseyed back to the hotel, drank some more beer and ate some scrumptious Jeju oranges and watermelon generously provided by the owners.
As it turned out, Jeju Island during the Rainy Season proved me wrong. Although I need to go back to Jeju to experience the beach life and other sunny weather attractions, rain or shine, Jeju is a place well worth a visit.