Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chuseok in Jeju-do

Wow, I have literally been working on this post since September. Procrastinate much? Patrick and I went to Jeju-do for Chusok with our friends Allison and Jeremy. It was pretty awesome, even though it was typhoon season (and one was creeping our way while we were there).

The main city on the semi-tropical island is Jeju-si, or Jeju City. It's located on the north coast and also happens to be where our ferry from the mainland city of Mokpo dropped us off. It was a nice ferry, too! There was a jjimjilbang and noraebang and a nice restaurant and the scenery wasn't bad, either. Chusok is a notoriously busy time to be travelling in Korea; there was literally bumper to bumper traffic from Suwon to Mokpo, turning a 4 hour journey by bus into a 7.5 hour journey. I personally didn't mind how long it took us to get there as long as I didn't have to set foot on a plane. I'm irrational like that.

Jeju-si was cool. We stayed there our second night on the island and as it was the holiday, the streets were eerily empty. We were hard pressed to find an open restaurant, but had no problem find a hotel room anywhere. We were content; even during the bad weather.

On the south coast is the "city" of Seogwipo. This is arguable the nicer side of the island with many beautiful coastal scenes, waterfalls, botanical gardens and lots of palm trees (and lots of people trying to sell you things). While we thought the waterfalls were nice, the real highlight of the trip was our trek up Songsan Ilchulbong- a massive, extinct volcano crater completely covered in green vines. It was quite an interesting sight and a fun but easy hike up about a gazillion flights of stairs. This is located on the east coast of Jeju; very close to Udo Island which I didn't get to go to, but wanted to check out. Apparently it has a beautiful white sand beach.

This waterfall, or popo in Korean, is located at the end of a beautiful walk through a delicious smelling botanical garden.

I spent a lot of time taking pictures. So, apparently, did Patrick.

On our way to the second popo which falls over an oceanside cliff. Nice vista, no?

Jeju is famous for it's "Old Women Divers". These women dive for shellfish and other seafood when the ocean is calm and sell their catch right there on the shore. Those are some brave old ladies right there.

Posing in front of the popo in absolutely freezing water. Crystal clear, gorgeous, freezing water.

Koreans think the water is good for their bodies. I guess water is generally good for our bodies. But you know what I mean.

Here's Pat with the popo!

The angry Japan Sea... it is the Japan Sea, right?

We went to check out one of the largest lava tubes in the world. My brother would have been in geological heaven. Lava tubes are what they sound like... tubes whose walls are made of lava. Yawn.

Patrick (looking totally impressed) and me (looking shiny) in the lava tube. It was so cold in there.

Since it was a holiday, cabs were hard to come by. We started to walk to the nearest bus stop but a nice man picked us up on the way and drove us the rest of the way. Such kindness.

Walls of black volcanic stone help separate the different fields.

I saw some pretty berries near Songsan Ilchulbong. Anyone know what these are?

It was Chusok AND Gay Pride week in Jeju when we were there. I wish. That would have been fun. I'm not sure what the story is with the coloured flags.

At the base of Songsan Ilchulbong (I make it sound so huge; honestly, it took 20 minutes to climb). Koreans like to climb it veeeery early in the morning so they can watch the sun rise. I wish we thought of that!

A view of the village at the base of the crater.

Getting further up... almost at the top...

And we made it! As you can see, the top was quite busy.

View from the top.

The other view from the top.

The vines covering the crater.

Me and Pat at the top of the crater. I'm saying crater too much in my mind and it is losing all meaning. I hate it when that happens.

The slow descent down the stairs! We saw a big, scary spider.

We decided to go all the way down to the shore to see the women divers.

And of course I stuck my feet in the lovely warm water. In closing, I would highly recommend Jeju-do. Just go in the summer or something.

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