Go-karting, Jeju, South Korea
The squealing of tires, the wind rushing in my ears and the occasional loud report as my four cycle engine backfires are all I hear as I lean into the turn. I am tearing down the track at the maximum speed of 34km/hr in my little go-kart, steering around other drivers going a more pedestrian speed. Man, does it ever feel good to be in control of a motorised vehicle again!
Jeju has not earned its name as a tourist mecca for nothing. One can find almost any attraction – from a green tea museum to an elephant park on this island. One of the more popular activities seems to be go-karts, with five go-kart parks all conveniently located near major attractions like Saebyaul oreum or Sangumburi crater. This adventure loving reporter investigated the latter of those which happens to be the largest go-kart track on the island and the third largest in Korea.
The gokarting park of 조랑말타운승마장 or Jorangmal Taun Seungmajang (Jeju Pony town on the map) is a recent addition to attractions, being only a year old. It shares the property with older establishments (a Mongolian circus and horse riding), with a pre-established client base. When we were there, on a cold afternoon in January, the place was bustling with tourists anxious for the feeling of power and control, small wheel style. The track has also been frequented by Korean celebrities such as the comedians from the TV show 웃찾사, and the actor, Chang Dong Geon or 장동건.
Part of its popularity might be due to the staff’s efficiency and customer service. We were greeted with smiles as soon as we walked in the door, bustled through our removal of hats and gloves, and given special attention in choosing of helmets (ask for the helmet with the ears – it makes for good albeit goofy photos). And then it was out to the go-karts where we were briefed on various safety procedures. There are thirty-one cars at the park, a few of them doubles. They are very safe, with a bumper casing around the wheels and a speed retard to keep them at half their maximum speed of 80km/hr. We asked if there was any crashes and were told that there shouldn’t be if everybody does their jobs. There seemed to be sufficient enough staff to monitor the action on the course and to keep crashes from happening. The track also boasts a truly high speed cart that reaches 120km/hr but you need a special licence to drive it.
We and the other children on the course enjoyed our 15 minutes of high speed driving, especially since the view was so beautiful. The track is out in the country surrounded by rolling hills and the horses walked by us. When the checked flag signalled us in, we reluctantly clambered out of our moulded plastic seats and entered the building with rosy cheeks and red noses. Apparently some children are really reluctant to relinquish their karts, bursting into tears when their time was up. Memento lovers can buy various high class merchandise, including a clock backed with four photos of their smiling faces as their go-kart speeds around the track.
This is a family run establishment with the husband, Gang, Sang-cheol, in charge of the circus, and the wife, Oh, Geum-young, running the go-karts with the sister in charge of the horse riding. We talked to Hwang, In-won, who monitors the go-karts themselves and he had some interesting words to say about tourists from different countries. Apparently Japanese follow rules to the T while Chinese are out of control and pay no attention to the rules!
At 25,000won for a single, and 30,000won for the double kart (there is a 10,000 won discount for Jeju residents), the fifteen minutes of high speed driving is an affordable pleasure. The best idea would be to include go-karting in a day trip out to the east of the island with stops at Seongsan Ilchubong, Sangumburi crater and Seongeup Folk village. Or take the bus bound for Beon-Young Ro from the Jeju bus terminal, and disembark at Seong-eup 2-ri bus stop, a 40min bus ride. (The bus driver should be able to help you find your stop if you are tell them you are bound for 조랑말타운.) Walk to the second go-karting place (there are two right beside each other). Enjoy the drive!