Jejudo’s Natural Beauty

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This is part two of my trip to Jejudo in August of 2009. You can see the first part, including our visit to Korea’s famous Sex Park, here.

The stunning Seongsan Ilchubong and a black sand beach

A visit to South Korea’s Jejudo isn’t complete without exploring some of its many naturally stunning locations. The most popular of these is Sunrise Peak (or Seongsan Ilchubung – above), but there’s plenty of other fascinating sights to see on the volcanic island.

 

Our second and only full day on Jejudo started early, as we met our chartered cab (a bargain at 80,000 won for the day) and immediately got things underway with a visit to the imaginatively titled ‘Mini Mini Land‘. If you haven’t guessed what this entails yet, it’s basically a park full of miniature replicas of famous world sites. They seem to be constantly adding to their list, and even some lesser known locations (such as the New Zealand House of Parliament for some reason) are there. Then there’s a whole bunch of random things such as human sized Smurfs, the characters of Shrek, and a pair of pirates. It’s delightfully Korean, and we had a lot of fun posing in front of the many landmarks from around the world.

Fallon poses in front of mini Bayon. She was in front of the real one a few months earlier!
Mini Forbidden City
An impressive replica of the Statue of Liberty
The randomly placed life sized pirate recoils from Cody's advances
Truly terrifying
Coming Soon: Something from New Zealand
Fallon posing in front of the Sydney Opera House.

Mini Mini Land was a fun little excursion, and despite the presence of a truly obnoxious group of students bullying and generally harassing the unfortunate woman who was in charge of them for the day – we had a good time. Aside from the random replicas and statues, there’s also a decent souvenir shop and ice cream & snacks are available on site. It’s not a must see by any stretch, but Mini Mini Land has a few good photo opportunities and would be a good spot to take the kids.

From there we headed for a more traditional tourist location – the Sangumburi Crater. Let me just say that while this crater was quite beautiful, it was completely underwhelming. So much so that we spent the first fifteen minutes of our walk wondering where on earth the crater actually was. Like the other famous craters on the island, Sangumburi was formed by a volcanic eruption, but unlike the rest of them Sangumburi exploded quickly and so did not form the usual hallmarks of a volcanic crater. In fact, aside from the fact it’s lower than the land around it, it’s not particularly easy to spot.

Still, we managed to snap some nice photos of the grounds and of the crater, but it wasn’t really worth the trek. I’d have preferred to check out Jejudo’s famous waterfall or to have spent a few hours lying out on the beach.

Long grass at the base of Sangumburi
The somewhat underwhelming crater
Long grass obscures the view as I look up towards the buildings
My attempt at a Christian rock album cover

Our trip at Sangumburi had helped us to work up an appetite, so we had our driver take us to a nearby town where we could get a bite to eat. We searched in earnest for a Kimbop Nara (a chain that sells basic Korean foods such as kimbap and bibimbap) but eventually settled on a restaurant that seemed to be run out of the person’s living room. While we waited for our food her kids were stretched out watching TV and from to time her husband would duck his head into the ‘restaurant’ and mutter something in Korean too her. Still, we couldn’t complain. The bibimbap was decent and the kimbap was of a good standard – and soon we were full of food and on our way to Jejudo’s most famous landmark – Seongsan Ilchubong.

The aptly named Sunrise Peak offers truly stunning views of the ocean and (at the right time of day) the sun rising over the island. If you can survive the somewhat grueling hike to the top, you’re in for an absolute treat as you take it all in. On the way up you’ll pass some nice photo opportunities that afford a good view of the city below, and there’s a store that defines convenience as it sells water, snacks, and sunscreen about a quarter of the way up the mountain.

After you’ve snapped a few shots and made your way back down, you can detour down to one of the gorgeous black sandy beaches to see the famous women divers. These remarkable ajummas (married women) free dive to bring up oysters in a way that would wear out even the fittest young go getter. When you consider most of these women are on the downhill side of fifty, it’s a pretty amazing sight. Even if that doesn’t do it for you, you’ll find plenty of good photo opportunities as you stroll along the beach and take in the beauty of it all. It’s somewhat diminished by the thousands of nameless insects that scurry away in terror as you near the rocks, but in a country that doesn’t exactly boast beaches, it’s a picturesque change from the murky norm.

The view out over the crater. I didn't do a great job of capturing it.
The view out over the ocean
The home of the famous women divers
A closer view of the black sand beach

Our day of adventure wasn’t over just yet, and with the sun coming out, we sought the shade in a souvenir shop and picked up some of the famous Jejudo chocolates as well. These are basically generic chocolates with interestingly flavored fillings such as cactus. Quite good. We also grabbed a delicious potato twist, which anybody who has ever been to a county fair will be familiar with.

The next stop on our trip was a visit to the lava tubes. After descending into the cold darkness from the increasingly humid heat outside, you’re basically left to stumble your way through the watery dark with only a few ghost lights to guide you. It’s a lot of fun, and while it obviously doesn’t provide a lot in the way of photo opportunities or things to see, it’s still a fun experience to be walking through a tunnel that had once been filled with liquid hot magma.

One last look out at the light before entering the tunnels

By this point in the day we were more than a little tired, but we had paid our driver for another hour and a half, so we decided to hit one last destination before we returned to our hotel. That destination turned out to be the Gimnyeong Hedge Maze. Designed by an American man who settled in the area, the Hedge Maze is a pretty spectacular way to spend an hour or so. There’s panic bells and a map if you want to cheat, but the maze isn’t terribly hard to navigate – and you get a real sense of achievement when you finally emerge from its arboreal depths, climb to the top of the catwalk that overlooks it all, and ring the bell to signal your triumph over nature.

Girls lost in the maze
An example of the maze's intricate design
A pair of Korean lads find themselves at a dead end

Thoroughly exhausted by our day of trekking around Korea’s island paradise, we decided to head back to our hotel and shower before heading out to explore the area around our hotel. We found a cute little seaside carnival which was, sadly, closed – and then found our way down to the waterfront which was a hive of activity in the setting sun. Kids riding around on their bikes, families out for a walk, and even a busker with an army of adoring fans populated the area. We got into the spirit with some fairy floss and some store bought KGB Vodka and Asahi before heading back to our hotel where we discovered a most wonderful thing…

Drunk foreigners savouring home delivered McDonalds!

 

Korean McDonalds delivers!

We whiled away our last night on Jejudo eating Big Macs, drinking ourselves silly, and watching terrible 1980s Jean Claude Van Dam movies. The next day it was back to the ho-hum of mainland life, but I don’t think Jejudo has seen the last of me just yet.

Links

Jejudo Tourism

  • I was in Jeju for lunar new year 07, but it rained all the time. So much for being Korea’s Hawaii! At least you got soem good weather.

    I got to say though, that after spending 15 minutes climbing up the hill to see the bloody crater, it’s not worth a look.

    Did you jump over the warning fence? We went in the middle of the crater until some ajosshi started yelling random things at us and we climbed back down. Fun times.

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