“We travel because we need to. Because distance and difference are the secret tonic to creativity. When we get home, home is still the same, but something in our minds have changed and that changes everything.”
First off if you don’t know anything about Jeju Island or Jeju-do(제주도), as it is pronounced in Korean, it’s totally okay! I didn’t know a single thing about it before landing in Korea. Jeju is actually on the New 7 Wonders of Nature list. It is the largest volcanic island off the coast of South Korea. Only a quick one hour flight from Seoul, with literally hundreds of flights every day, it’s actually the world’s busiest air route! Nicknamed the “Hawaii of Korea” it is a top destination for honeymooners and tourists from all over Asia. It is also home to several UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The island holds a special place in my heart. That’s why I visited Jeju twice. Once in 2014 and again in 2016. Both times at the end of my contract before going home. Besides all the good memories I have here, there’s just something about this place… whenever I feel nostalgic for South Korea, I always miss Jeju the most.
Jeju is also awesome because you never know what you will find! Follow my travel diary below to see what I got up to on the island.
Jeju – land of Hallasan(the highest mountain in Korea), wild flowers, lava, waterfalls, caves, beaches and blue skies.
Jeju has two major cities you need to know of. Jeju City on the north side and Seogwipo city in the south. These 2 are only an hour’s bus ride apart. You will fly into Jeju City, so I’d reccommend spending your first day or two there. Then take a bus down to Seogwipo and spend a few nights there. This way you can see most of the island and its most popular attractions if you only have a short time to explore.
Volcanic rock landscapes give an otherwordly feeling to the island – dark, eerie and mysterious, yet beautiful. This rocky island has become one of my favourite places on the planet.
Jeju is also very famous for its tangerines and hallabong(sweet mandarin orange) and the island is covered in orchards which carry their fruit during autumn and winter. Tangerine picking is also a popular couple’s activity and plays a huge part in the island’s economy and culture. Every single time one of my students would visit Jeju they would bring back hallabong (한라봉) flavoured chocolates for me and their classmates.
I loved the different coloured rooftops of most homes around the island. They add some personality to the neighbourhoods.
Walking on a black sand beach in the rain. The water is crystal clear, but looks dark due to the volcanic rock sand.
To scare invaders in the old days, rocks were carved into these intimidating (apparently) grandfather stones known as dol hareubang (돌 하르방.) They are considered to be gods offering protection and fertility. They are also placed outside gates to protect people from demons. Today, you can literally find them EVERYWHERE on the island and people buy them as souvenirs as they serve as a symbol or mascot for the island.
One day while I was walking around by myself, I stumbled upon this really awesome, authentic Korean tea house. The design is called hanok and dates back to Korea’s 1400’s. You can read more about it in this post: SEOUL MISSIONS | BUKCHON HANOK VILLAGE. Since it was a rainy and cold day I decided to step inside for a cuppa. Unfortunately I have no idea what the name is! Check out the awesome architecture and minimalist details below. Just love it!
Dining on the floor in true Korean style.
Catching the last golden light of the day over a cup of tea. One of my favourite photos of all time… ♥
Vitamin K for dinner! Some spicy Kimchi Jjiggae(김치 찌개) and banchan(sidedishes) eaten at an old school korean diner in Seongsan to warm up in the cold.
The little town of Seongsan on the east side of the island is home to Seongsan Ilchulbong or “sunrise peak”. Literally a peak where the sun rises, this 180m high UNESCO World Heritage site was formed by volcanic eruptions under the sea more than 5000 years ago. It is popular for tourists to hike up to the peak during sunrise or sunset to see the bowl-shaped crater that formed, but also for the most magnificent views of the island and black sand beaches below.
We decided to hike up just before sunset. It is a moderate hike that takes about 20 minutes to reach the top. I could not get a good photo of the crater as it was covered in mist the day we went, but I did manage to capture some nice sunset pics. The views are breathtaking! A definite must see.
View of the iconic Seongsan’s Ilchulbong or “sunrise peak” from my hotel room.
Going up can take anything from 20-30 minutes depending on your fitness level. Millions of stairs!
Reached the top! As you can see it was so incredibly misty so we could barely see the crater.
Sun going down from the top of Ilchulbong peak.
As you descend the peak you can glimpse a view of another one of Jeju’s attractions. The house of the woman divers or mermaids of Jeju known as Haenyo (sea women). If the weather is calm, you might be lucky enough to see these elderly women (ajummas) in wetsuits clambering across rocks with their nets. They dive up to 20 meters deep without oxygen masks, fishing for octopus, abalone, sea urchins, sea slugs, cucumber and seaweed which they sell to support their families. This extremely dangerous occupation is popular among Korean women of 40 years and older. Some of them even as old as 70 or 80! Pretty badass if you ask me.
Haenyo or elderly women divers sitting next to the black sand beach selling their catch of the day.
Snack time! How about some dried octopus or squid? Korea’s version of biltong.
The quaint little town of Seongsan is quiet and still not too developed. Walking through the streets and alley ways lead to the discovery of many interesting restaurants, houses and cute cafés. This is where we stumbled upon this tiny fish & chips joint called Willala’s. Of course I wanted to try it! We found a little surprise on the menu though… Willala’s house specialty is battered shark meat fillets! We weren’t feeling that adventurous so we stuck to good ol’ fish & chips with a beer. From Seongsan harbour you can also take a ferry to Udo-island (one of my all-time favourite things to do). More about Udo in this post: UDO ISLAND ADVENTURES.
The menu with shark & chips as their speciality #truestory
Pacman donuts for the win!
After a visit to Seongsan Ilchulbong, Manjanggul Cave is an ideal place to stop in the area. The Manjanggul Cave is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site that consists of a unique lava tunnel and stalagmites that have been created by flowing lava. It is said to be one of the best preserved lava tunnels in the world. It stretches for 13kms, but only 1km of the tunnel is open to the public.
Next on the agenda… an outdoor sex theme park.
If I have learned anything from my time in Korea it’s that you never know what to expect! In 2004, a group of art students from Hongik University in Seoul created 140 erotic sculptures in an effort to “break the traditional taboos surrounding sex” and highlight “the natural beauty of sexuality”. And so, Loveland was born. It sure was one of the most interesting places I have been in Korea…
Without further ado (and a PG warning!) here are some of the less X-rated photos of Loveland:
This 9m long lady named “Desire”greets you as you enter the park.
Anyone like to fill up their water bottles at one of these chaps?
I decided to pose with this sweet display randomly found in the middle of all the erotic statues. Korea you are truly weird and wonderful!
And that’s the end of the Loveland sneak peak…I took about 100 more photos which are way too inappropriate to share on this blog so if you’re keen for a good laugh with friends or your beau and curious to see more give them a visit. Click on the link for more info www.jejuloveland.com
Jjajjangmyeon (짜장면) time! One of my all time favourite Chinese-Korean dishes. It consists of noodles with black bean sauce, onions, chunks of pork and other vegetables. When Koreans want to eat “junk food” they eat this. It’s soooooo good! Yup, I had to include some #foodporn in this post.
GIMNYEONG MAZE PARK
Want to feel like a kid again? About a 15 min walk from Manjanggul cave, you’ll find Gimnyeong Maze Park where you can do just that. The maze is designed in the shape of Jeju and it takes anything from 5 to 50 minutes to complete. You start out with a map. There are viewing decks set up along the maze so friends can watch you from the top and try to direct you out. There is a victory bell you can ring when you finally reach the end!
Lazy cats catching some sun outside the maze park.
For that rustic island vibe, head to Seogwipo City.
This is Jeju Island’s second largest city, right in the middle of the island’s beautiful natural landscapes. The Seogwipo city center is a great base to explore the southern area.
It’s home to quite a few tourist attractions such as the Teddy Bear museum, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, KPOP museum, ‘O’ Sulloc Tea museum, Jusangjeolli lava tubes, Soessokak Estuary, Hello Kitty Island, Chocolate Land, Loveland, Aqua Planet Aquarium and PLENTY more! It is also known for its waterfalls and first class holiday resorts. We decided to visit the waterfalls and randomly saw a boat tour being advertised and decided to give it a try. Follow my photo diary below.
The magnificent Jeongbang falls is the most famous (and my favourite) waterfall in Jeju and also the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the ocean. Height : 23m
In order to reach Cheonjeyeon falls one needs to cross the Seonimgyo bridge. The bridge is formed into an arch with 7 nymphs carved into the sides which represent the legend that these 7 nymphs come down from heaven at night to bathe in the waterfalls below.
One of the 3 Cheonjeyeon falls. Cheonjeyeon Waterfalls consists of 3 sections and are called “Ponds of the Gods” by locals as it apparently grants wishes. The water from the first waterfall flows down to the second and third. The water then flows out to the sea. There is quite a bit of climbing up and down as you hike from one waterfall to another, but all the paths and bridges are well-maintained and offer beautiful foresty scenery.
Colourful boats in the Wando harbour in Seogwipo.
Jeju City is the capital of Jeju island and also where Jeju International Airport is located.
Fun fact: the Seoul-Jeju air route is the busiest in the world, with 11.1 million passengers in 2015!
The city is a great base if you’re more of a city slicker and looking to do some shopping and food-tripping. Attractions include Dongmun market and Black Pork Street as well as Manjanggul Cave and Mount Hallasan. You can also go for a day trip to Udo-island (more about this over here UDO ISLAND ADVENTURES ).
Doing some sunset shopping in the streets of Jeju City.
Korea always had the cutest flavoured milk and drinking yoghurts.^^
The very famous Jeju Black Pork Street. A street crammed with restaurants dedicated to the island’s special black pork meat.
Some Japanese for dinner in Jeju City to end off a great trip.
And so my Jeju travels have come to an end. We also visited Udo-island (twice), but I decided to do a whole new post dedicated to Udo (click here to read it: UDO ISLAND ADVENTURES) since this post is starting to become loooong and you’re probably getting tired. Hope you enjoyed reading. There is still so much I’d like to do and see on the island. Like exploring more of the Western side, visiting Hamdeok beach, walking the Olle trails and visiting the tea plantations. Maybe even climb Mount Halla! Thanks for the memories, Jeju.
안녕히 가세요 (annyeonghi kaseyo)!!!