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The New 7 Wonders of Nature: Jeju Island, South Korea

semi-overcast 25 °C
View Jeju Island Trip on Anja Fourie's travel map.

August in Korea brings the wonderful gift of Chuseok to us. A short little 5 day holiday gives us enough time to leave Incheon and do some exploring.

Chuseok is a major harvest festival and celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month on the lunar calender. This means somewhere between September and October . This year it fell on 30 September. Koreans celebrate the good harvest by visiting their hometowns and sharing traditional feasts with their families. It can be seen as Korean Thanksgiving.

Our destination for Chuseok: Jejudo. The island of Jeju, located about 100kms Southwest to the South point of mainland Korea, is the biggest Korean island and also one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

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As this was Chuseok weekend, the busiest Korean holiday for travel, no flights were available. We had no other choice, but to take the ferry. The ferry ride consisted of 13 hours of slight seasickness, sleeping on the floor and old Korean men snoring in your ear. We drank Soju to fend off the cold and danced to English songs we only recognised from the music. The lyrics were slightly mangled by the Korean singer on deck. Fireworks went off at midnight and more Soju followed.

The sun started rising as our enthusiasm for Soju, as a means of keeping warm, started to fall. The clouds made way for our first sight of Jeju.

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JEJU CITY

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We stayed in Jeju City, in a hostel called HK Jeju. A basic room with two bunk beds, a little fridge and bathroom was plenty for us three girls. We were just eager to explore the Jeju Special Autonomous Province, the only self-governing South Korean province.

The island is a dominated by Hallasan, the highest mountain in South Korea. It has an elevation of 1,950m. All roads, cities and towns are built around the base of the oval shaped island, with the massive Hallasan in the center loomng out over everything. Koreans love functional public transport and Jeju Island also boasts with a well-oiled public transport machine operating there. On Jeju, life moves slower than in the big cities of South Korea. Roads are wider with occasional palm trees lining them. People are less rushed and friendlier. This relaxed island atmosphere could be why Jeju is one of the main honeymoon and holiday attractions for South Koreans.

1. Love Land
Our first stop, the much anticipated Love Land. During the 1980's, Korea became a popular honeymoon destination. This was because of the warmer climate of the island. During this time, many couples were arranged marriages. To help the newlyweds relax, hotel performers would put on shows containing erotic elements. This is where Jeju got its reputation for being an island of sex education.

Love Land was opened in 2004. It features about 140 different sculptures, centered around the theme of sex and love. Some are innocent, with others less so.

The bathroom door handle at Love Land is a massive penis, while the men have to grab two breasts to open their bathroom door.

For this reason, no underage kids are allowed inside the park. The sculptures were made by students from Hongik University in Hongdae, Seoul. Walking through the park, people can constantly be heard giggling as they round a corner and see yet another sculpture in a strange position. The park is a fun place and should not be entered with prudes by your side.

One of the tamer sculptures at Love Land
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2. Jeju Mokgwana
The former Government Office of Jeju and where administrative affairs of Jeju were handled here from 1392 until 1910, when WW1 broke out. Mokgwana is also home to Gwandeokjeong, the oldest remaining building in South Korea. It was built in 1448. Restoration on the Mokgwana grounds started in 1991 and by 2002 the project was finished. Extensive excavations were done and old documents studied to find the exact locations of the previous buildings. Most were burnt down during the Japanese colonial period from 1910 - 1945.

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3. Dragon Head Rock (Yong Duam)
To the North of Jeju City, lies Yong Duam, the Dragon's Head Rock. Legend has it that a dragon tried to steal precious Jade from Hallasan and was shot down over the sea. Here he fell and he turned into stone. Today he is still looking up at the sky in his rocky formation. The famous Haenyeo women divers dive for seafood here and they are prepared fresh for the customers. The divers are world famous as they free dive without the use of breathing apparatus.

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4. Black Sandy Beach of Samyang
Samyang Black Sand Beach is a beach with healing properties. The minerals in the sand, which causes the sand to be black, will apparently help with pain and other problems like obesity. The beach is located in a very remote part of town. After visiting the beach, we didn't even spot one car or person pass us. We had to walk to a nearby store and ask the lady to call a taxi for us. We played a little in the shallow waves and the water was very warm.

The contrast between the black sand and the normal sand washing in from the ocean, can very easily be seen when the waves pull back.

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SEOGWIPO CITY

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The southern side of Jeju, is governed by Seogwipo City. The population down south is about a quarter of the population up North. We took a bus from Jeju City south to Seogwipo and it took us about an hour to get there. The bus was only about 5,000won. We then took a taxi to the Jungmun Complex. It is located by the beach and has all the big hotels, casinos and museums located around it. Seogwipo is even more laid back than Jeju City. A few other Westerners were spotted, which made us less of a spectacle than usual. It seems Jeju is much more used to Western tourists than Incheon.

The wide, open roads and palm trees of Seogwipo are so different from what we are used to in our big, polluted Korean city.

The minimal amount of air pollution and the surprisingly exceptional level of English from some, was a real breath of fresh air.

Wider, open roads lined with palm trees almost creates the illusion of being in a whole different part of the world.

We visited Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, the Teddy Bear Museum and Chocolate Land. The Teddy Bear Museum is adorable and well worth the visit, just for the cute factor. They recreated famous paintings such as the Mona Lisa, as well as famous events or people, like the Moon Landing, the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe, all with bears. The other two museums were less eventful.

9. Seogwipo Sights
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Ater four days in Jeju, we got back on the ferry, took our seasick pills and slept the night away. We woke up to the magnificent sight of Incheon Bridge welcoming us home.

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TOP TIPS:

1. DO BOOK A FLIGHT: As we went during Chuseok, the busiests traveling weekend in Korea, most flights were booked and the rest were ridiculously expensive. The flights are normally quite cheap and travel time is about one hour compared to the 13 hour ferry ride.
2. DO STAY IN ONE PLACE: We just booked our stay in one hostel in Jeju City. The bus down to Seogwipo, the southern city, takes about one hour, and is very cheap. It is just easier on yourself leaving all your things in one place.
3. DO YOUR HOMEWORK: There are so many things to do and see on Jeju Island. Some are worth it and some are not and if you only have a limited time, plan ahead what you want to do.
4. DO GET THE NAMES FOR THINGS IN ROMANIZED HANGEUL: English is still a foreign concept in Korea, so make sure you at least write down the romanized words for the hangeul equivalent. For example: Saying to a cab driver, I want to go to the Dragon Head Rock, will get you nowhere. Saying 용두암 (Yong-du-am) will get you there for sure. The romanized Korean names are all easily found on the internet (cough cough Wikipedia)
5. DO ENJOY JEJU ISLAND!: With less people, and the typical atmosphere of an island, Jeju is quite tranquil and calm. People are friendlier and more eager to help. A lot of giggles are still received from staff at restaurants, who are terribly embarresed to speak English. Jeju is cheaper and cleaner and the idea place for a very refreshing break from the mainland.

Posted by Anja Fourie 04:54 Archived in South Korea Tagged chocolate flight island love korea ferry jeju hangul love_land sex_park dragon_head_rock yongduam seogwipo jeju_city Comments (2)

Deokjeokdo, South Korea

Exploring a Korean island

overcast 21 °C

Buddha's birthday is on the 28th of May, conveniently falling on a Monday this year, giving us all a lovely long weekend. For this long weekend we decided to visit one of the numerous islands populating the Korean coast. One of these islands, Deokjeok Island, or Deokjeokdo (do meaning island in Korean), is the largest island of the Deokjeok-myeon islands. It is located in Ongjin County which falls under the jurisdiction of the bigger Incheon Metropolitan. Living in the Dongincheon area, we are very closely situated to Yeon'an Pier, which is Incheon's ferry port. Deokjeokdo is aproximately 75kms from the port and the ferry takes about 1 hour to the island.

1. Map
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2. Waiting at the Ferry Terminal
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3. Fun on the ferry
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We left the ferry at approximately 10am on Saturday morning. Arriving at the island, numerous ladies are cleaning and drying small Rays. This I have tried and it is very hard and chewy and not nice at all. It comes to your table resembling squid, but then suprises you with its wet cardboard taste. Passing the ladies with their Rays, we walk up the pier and wait for the busses from our different pensions to come pick us up. Pensions are Korean style guesthouses. They look like small apartment building with maybe three floors. Bedding is provided, but this is Korean style. You sleep on the floor.

4. Partying in our pension room
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At night, some bands were playing on the beach. Apparently it is also Deokjeokdo weekend custom, for the English teachers that is, to go in their animal onesies. I went as a panda.

5. Animals at Night
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6. Animals at Day
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After a nice long weekend away, we return to the port to catch the ferry back to reality. On the way back, we don't race for the outside of the ferry, but rather a nice chair inside, where we can all fall asleep on the way back home, to Incheon.

Posted by Anja Fourie 02:48 Archived in South Korea Tagged water beach island south_korea ferry pension deokjeokdo deokjeok Comments (1)

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