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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.


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.




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

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.


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.


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.




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

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.



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)

The Jisan Valley Rock Festival 2012

“Music does not excite until it is performed.” ~ Benjamin Britten

sunny 35 °C

Every year, thousands of people enjoy the Korean summer by going to the magnitude of music festivals held all over the country. Some, like the Jisan Valley Rock Festival, are bigger than others. First started in 2009, this festival continues to bring in big international acts like The Arctic Monkeys and Oasis. This year the headlining acts were Radiohead, James Blake and The Stone Roses, who were preceded by Beady Eye (Oasis without Noel Gallagher). The headliners all hailed from England, making my English friends at the festival very excited.


Welcome to Jisan

The festival is held at the Jisan Valley Ski Resort which is a green valley ideal for festivals and camping in the summer. In winter, the slopes surrounding the valley, becomes an icy ski paradise. It is located about 1.5 hours away from Seoul near the city of Icheon (note: not Incheon). During our bus ride there the traffic was so bad that it took us more than three hours to make our way down. We finally arrived and then we had to queue three different times. First, to hand in our e-tickets to get our festival band, then we had to queue for our camping band and finally for our over 19 band, which allows you to buy alcohol of course.

The Jisan Armbands

As we were moving about 10km/h on the way to Jisan, we arrived pretty late and was only ready to go out and explore at about 6pm. We had to pick a spot, carry all our bags up the hill and then set up our tents. The camping area was up one of the ski slopes to the one edge of the festival. After setting up, we went down to load money on our T-money cards and started enjoying the festival. T-Money cards are Korea's solution to an electronic money society. These cards are mainly used for public transport in Korea. When you want to walk trough the turnstiles at the train station, you use your T-Money, on the bus, in the taxi, etc. You can even use them at stores. The problem is that once money is loaded onto the card, you cannot take it off, and when you lose your card, the money on it is also lost. That is why no one ever uploads a lot of money on their cards. The really clever thing about Jisan, is that they did not accept cash at any of the stalls or shops. This meant that when you buy something you quickly swipe your T-Money card, there is no hassle with money or change. And when you have money leftover on your card after Jisan, it doesn't really matter as you can use this card everywhere in Korea.

The tent village up on the hill

First sunset over Jisan

At Jisan there are a few different stages. The Open Stage is for amateur bands and singers who get invited to perform here. The Green / Red Stage is the same stage. During the day, it was called the Green Stage and some bands would play, but during nighttime it became the Red hot stage and Korean Rap crews and Dubstep DJs would take to the stage. The Red Stage came to life after the last act at the main stage finished and everyone who weren't too tired or too drunk to party on, moved on to the Red Stage. The main stage was called the TOP Stage and this is where all the headliners performed.

The Open Stage: Surrounded by all the food stalls, here we mostly sat down and had some food and listened to unknown Korean bands.

The TOP Stage

1. Elvis Costello and the Imposters

2. Radiohead

Red Stage Craziness: Drinking out of buckets, crazy semi-naked rappers on stage, Koreans jumping all over, sitting on each others shoulders and getting chased off by security, that's the red stage for you.


With temperatures ranging between 35 and 40 degrees during the day, sleeping late was not an option. The tents were in the middle of a field and not long after sunrise, everyone had to jump out to get some air, a quick shower and then move on to seek shade. The showers at Jisan were very clean and neat, but I did wait an hour for an icy cold shower. Also, it's metal trailers of open showers. About 5 girls can shower at the same time. Koreans have no shame about their bodies and being naked. Being a foreigner, Koreans will always stare. Being a naked foreigner, they will stare even more. Upon entering the shower trailer and realising the shower situation, I took a deep breath, quickly threw my clothes in the locker, showered with my back to them and jumped out to get dressed as quick as I could. Glad that ordeal was over, I made my way down to the festival area to get some food and shade.

Passed out Koreans everywhere: Seeking some relief from the crazy heat just like us.

Daytime at Jisan: Centaurs, promotions, shade seeking, extreme sunblock application, eating junkfood, and finally finding a magnificent lounge complete with lounge chairs and amazing fans.

That night James Blake headlined the TOP stage. An unknown boy, who sang the most depressing music known to man. We headed to the Red Stage instead to watch Owl City and some Korean rap crews again. I only knew Fireflies by Owl City, coincidentally using it in a lesson with my kids the previous week too, but he was still fun watching.

More Red Stage Craziness: We met Mario, drank out of buckets again, ate some pineapple that someone stole somewhere, danced with more crazy Koreans and wore buckets as hats, all the while dancing to good music.


The second morning, we woke up even earlier than the first. The reason: this day was boiling hot. Later, temperatures would go up to almost 40 degrees. There is only one advantage of waking up at 6am after going to bed at 3am and that is the showers are empty. Disadvantage, no food stalls are open yet and thirsty, hungry, hungover people are cranky.

Early morning deserted festival

Daytime at Jisan: As one of the hottest days of the year, we just seeked shade, I spotted the South African flag, and we just watched crowds suffering in the heat from a top our lounge view.

And then suddenly the sun started setting and like vampires hiding from the sun the whole day, we could risk leaving the shade. The time had arrived for the highlight of the weekend. Beady Eye and The Stone Roses. The British boys being so in their element at seeing The Stone Roses that they could not contain themselves.

British Pride

Beady Eye and The Stone Roses

When The Stone Roses finished their set, a massive display of fireworks started next to the stage. Bob Marley's Redemption Song played in the background with everyone singing along. The words "Won't you help to sing, these songs of freedom" felt very fitting as we watched the fireworks light up the night sky. Music is about expression and expression is freedom. Music is freedom. Music brings us together and sets us free. DSCF4181.jpg

And that's a Korean music festival for you. Just like the Benjamin Britten quote says: Music doesn't really excite until we experience it when it is performed. And that is what a music festival is all about. Soaking in good music and talent on stage with thousands of people who love it just like you do.


1. Do book a place in a pension. If you do not want to camp and want to be able to sleep late, try and book a place in one of the pensions or hostels right outside the festival. They fill up very fast, so try as early as possible.
2. Do book the official Jisan bus. Public transport leaves from the Bus Terminal and then stops in the nearest town which means you will have to take a taxi or walk down to the festival area. The official busses start at three different destinations throughout Korea, our closest was Seoul Station, and then drop you off right at the festival. The busses take you back again as well. Well worth it. A friend booked these tickets, but the information is on the official Jisan website.
3. Do take enough money. I loaded about 300, 000 won on my T-Money and it was more than enough. If you are a full-blown alcoholic, a little more money would possibly have to be taken.
4. Do take a fold-up mat or light blanket of some sort. Sitting or sleeping on the grass with ants biting your bum is not as fun as you might imagine.
5. Do take your T-Money card with. If you already have a T-Money card, you can use it at Jisan, no need to buy the official Jisan card.
6. Do take your ARC / some sort of identification with. How else can you prove your age and get an Over 19 armband?
7. Do take sunblock and apply regularly, drink lots of water and stay in the shade. You will dehydrate to the point of being sick and this is no fun for anyone.
8. Do take advantage of all the free stuff. Promotions, promotions and more promotions. Just take it all.
9. Koreans are efficient and organise things to the extreme. This is an amazing festival, so please, DO HAVE FUN!

Official Jisan Website!

Posted by Anja Fourie 20:20 Archived in South Korea Tagged oasis music festival south_korea promotions korea alcohol jisan beady_eye the_stone_roses james_blake south_african bob_marley official_jisan Comments (1)

The Korean Chinatown

"I will bring you down, baby. I will bring you down to Chinatown." ~ Jack (Meet the Parents)

sunny 20 °C

Less than 1km from where I stay, is Korea's only official Chinatown. It falls within Jung-gu ward, which is the same ward my apartment building and school falls in. To get there you can get off at Incheon station, and you will be right in Chinatown. If you are on the rapid train, get off at Dongincheon station and walk for about 10 minutes. According to international sizes and compared to Chinatowns in other cities such as San Francisco or New York, Incheon's Chinatown is quite small.

The official entrance to Chinatown greets you with a massive stone gate. The gate is 11 metres tall and built in the traditional Chinese gateway style, called a paifang.

1. Stone Gate Entrance to Chinatown

The Chinese Consulate in Incheon was built in 1884. From here, Chinatown started growing. During the 1940's the town flourished with about 10,000 Chinese living here. The Chinese residents traded silk, chinaware and oriental medicine with the Koreans. Korea had approximately 80,000 registered Chinese residents during these years. Unfortunately after the Korean war, a nationwide distrust of the Chinese appeared, because of their invasion of Korea. The post-war policies also forbid Chinese to own businesses and they were forced out of Seoul and out of the country. Today there are only 30,000 registered Chinese residents in Korea, with only about 500 still living in Chinatown.

Chinatown is very much a tourist area today and with the large number of visitors from China and all over the world who come to see this town, the Korean government decided in 2002 to revive and restore it. The cost of this restoration was approximately US$6.2 million (6.5 billion won).

2. Welcome to Chinatown, Incheon

In the Chinatown sign above, a big bowl of Jajang-myeon can be seen. This is known as Koreans' favourite Chinese dish. This dish was also created right here in Chinatown. Living so close to a big port, a lot of sailors and labourers pass through this area. When the port opened the town flourished, so the residents created this simple and cheap dish for the harbour labour who pass through every day. Jajangmyeon is noodles with fried soybean paste, giving it the look of a black noodle dish. Sometimes pieces of meat and little pieces of vegetable such as carrots are also added. Chinese food in Korea is very Korean inspired and influenced as you can see below with the side dishes such as the kimchi (fermented cabbage). Living across the street from a Chinese restaurant means I can always get some Jajang-myeon when I want some. The Jajang-myeon Festival takes place in October over three days and is sponsored by Incheon City.

3. Jajang-myeon

Chinatown is very colourful and alive. The colour red can be seen everywhere with Chinese lanterns, writing, dragons, pandas and murals decorating everything.

4. Some Chinatown views

After walking around for a bit, we decided to go to one of the restaurants there. The restaurants in Chinatown are famous throughout Korea and many people travel there to eat at these restaurants. The queues outside some of the places were standing down the street. We decided on a smaller place with no queue. Having no queue is definitely no indication of a bad food quality as their food was amazing. We had Mandu (dumplings) and Seafood Noodle, which was a noodle dish with shrimp, calamari and mussels. You get tea with your food and as per Korean tradition, the water bottle on your table. The table next to us were eating Jajang-myeon like animals. Our menu did have some interesting choices as well...

5. Shark fin!!!

When it started to get dark, we decided to go and bid Chinatown farewell. Chinatown is very much a little gem here in the hillside of Incheon. Unfortunately not all the residents here are Chinese. They restuarant owners speak Korean, and most are Korean. The food is very Korean style influenced, but none the less you still get a very Chinese feel when walking through this little town.

6. Goodnight Chinatown

7. Look who came home with me...

Posted by Anja Fourie 17:30 Archived in South Korea Tagged chinatown china south_korea korea incheon Comments (1)

Hi Seoul! ~ The Soul of Asia

First real visit to Seoul and my birthday in Itaewon

overcast 18 °C


It is still cold out, but not as drastic as two weeks ago. Spring is finally settling in and my hands are freezing less and less. Today is the day I make my very first trip to Seoul. My first time using public transport in Korea as well. Still without a phone, I have to rely on a little map of the subway I tore from a magazine. This does get me to Bupyeong station where I meet my friends. From here on, people who seem much more adapt in navigating things like subways, take over to get us to Seoul. We arrive in Myeongdong late afternoon and meet more of our friends there.

South Korea has an excellent metro system, the Seoul Metro. I live near Dongincheon station which is the first stop on the Rapid Line. This means that there are two trains leaving form Dongincheon station. One to your left and on to your right. The train on your left is the slow train and stops at every station on the way to Seoul. The train on your right is on the Rapid Line. This train only stops at every third or fourth station. It is called the Yongsan Rapid as the train does stop at Yongsan station. The Rapid train takes approximately 45minutes to Yongsan while the slow train will take about 60minutes. From Yongsan you can take a taxi for as little as 4000won to for example Itaewon if you do not feel like transferring to another train.

1. Tea in Myongdong, Seoul

2. Wandering the busy streets

3. Galbi dinner

4. Animals in Seoul ~ Very often you will see promotion people dressed up in animal suits.


5. Bosingak Bell Tower

While walking back from the restuarant to get a taxi, I spot a building in the background. The group is in a big rush as we are on our way to a club in Itaewon. I quickly pose for a picture. This is the Bosingak Bellfry. It was built in 1396 to notify the residents of Seoul of the opening and closing of the city gates. Every morning it would ring 33 times at 04:00am. The 33 signifies the 33 cheon (Heaven) of Buddhism. In the evening the bell rang at 7:00pm for 28 times for su (the stars). The building has been destroyed many times by fire, Japanese occupation and the Korean war. The actual bell is preserved in the National Museum. A replica was installed in 1985.

Today the bell is not rung daily anymore. There are New Years parties held here and every year at the strike of midnight, the bell will be rung 33 times. During this time, the area is so busy and so popular that the station closest to the bellfry is closed. The train simply passes it and does not stop for any passengers to get off.

We make our way to a taxi, get in and soon we arrive in Itaewon. The two areas are very close to each other. It is much more cheaper by train, but will take you a little while longer as the taxi is quick and direct. The club that we are visiting is called Helios. Entrance is paid for by one of the boys, we conveniently check our coats in at the entrance and we are ready to go. When the clock strikes twelve, I also celebrate my 23rd birthday in Seoul!

6. Birthday Time!

7. Awesome birthday cake from my co-teacher

In other news, a friend took me to traditional Korean dinner in that week. The food is so much that it feels like no one will ever be able to finish it. This is what an ultimate traditional Korean dinner looks like.

7. Traditional Korean Food

TOP TIP: Get a Seoul Metro App on your phone as soon as possible. If you do not have a smartphone or no phone at all, print out the metro system. This will come in very handy when navigating the subway as you will have to get off the trains and transfer many times.
I RECOMMEND: Metroid App for Android. Or, get the printable maps here.

Posted by Anja Fourie 22:21 Archived in South Korea Tagged south_korea seoul subway korea incheon bosingak seoul_metro itaewon myongdong galbi dongincheon yongsan express_train rapid_line Comments (1)

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