On my final day in Jeju, I decided to check out another part of the island, this time the Northern and Eastern parts. So as usual, I got up super early and hopped on a bus at 6.30am to make my way around the island. Here’s what I encountered:
Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak:
Seongsan known as the Sunrise Peak, as this is apparently the perfect place to watch the sun rise of Jejudo. However, it’s pretty much impossible to get there this early using the public buses. Seongsan is certainly well worth a visit at any other time of the day as well. You can see the massive rock from a large distance, and it absolutely dominates the landscape when you’re standing close to it.
It is located at the coast and offers you great opportunities to take scenic walks and pictures along the coast.
The hike up there can be quite steep at times, but is very rewarding. The view from the top is fantastic.
And when you turn around, you are rewarded with yet another fantastic view. Seongsan was formed in a large volcanic eruption. Once you reach the top, you will see a large crater covered in grass inside. The crater is strictly off limits to protect the unique ecosystem found here. There are some benches at the top, so you can sit down and enjoy the tremendous views in both directions. Seongsan is apparently one of the most well-preserved volcanic craters of its kind, which makes it a very unique and breathtaking sight to visit and earned it a status as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Near the foot of the mountain, you can also witness a very unique part of Korean history, the Jeju woman divers. They put on exhibitions from time to time and sell their finds, but I didn’t have enough time to stick around for that. However, their story is absolutely fascinating and I recommend reading up on it.
After that, I visited Udo Island. Udo is a small island near the main island of Jeju. It is very popular for its beautiful scenery, which stands out even on Jeju. To get to Udo, you need to book a short ferry ride.
When you arrive, you are immediately greeted by a bunch of shops offering you to rent bicycles or scooters. While Udo is quite small, you will still need one of these modes of transportation to get around. So I did what I’ve been meaning to do all semester and rented a bike. My plans to bike around Hangang unfortunately never came to fruition, so it was very satisfying to finally do this. The bike, the largest they had in store, was still comically small and felt more like a children’s bike to me, but what can you do.
I’m sure there are a bunch of other things you can do on Udo Island (I think there’s a cave, for example), but I just biked around the entire island once and took a few breaks to check out some nice beaches and then headed back to the main island. It was a lovely trip and Udo feels very peaceful and relaxing.
Manjanggul Lava tubes:
This is a famous cave formed by underground magma flows. It is quite long and could take you up to an hour to walk from the entrance to the end and back. As mentioned in part 1, the corresponding public bus stop is a whooping 2.5 kilometers away from the cave entrance, so you’ll have to walk that part by foot. Another point for rental cars.
The cave itself is quite fascinating. It may not be as visually impressive as some other caves I have been in before before the magma dug a relatively even and ‘clean’ path through the rock, which means that you don’t find many spectacular stalactites or -mites or stuff like that. However, it is certainly an interesting sight and the geological shapes are quite fascinating. It was especially pleasant in the summer heat, as the cave is refreshingly cool.
You also pass by a large maze park on the way from the bus stop, so you can check that out as well if that’s your thing.
After walking back the 2.5kms to the bus stop, I originally still wanted to visit a beach…which was another two kilometers or so in the other direction. I kept walking, but at some point just pretty much collapsed on a porch surrounded by garlic fields and the ocean in the background. Not quite where I had planned to end this journey, but not a bad place to do so by any means.
After that, I was just done. Blisters all over my feet, barely able to walk, so I called it a day and headed back to the bus stop. The one thing I can never quite figure out is how to actually relax on a trip…instead I just walk and walk and walk until I feel like I can no longer keep going. Maybe one day I will learn how to take vacations like a normal person, but oh well. I certainly managed to see quite a lot of stuff on Jejudo using my…unique methods. On top of that, cost-cutting was priority number one, so guided bus tours or an actual hotel room were out of question.
As alluded to in part 1, I would definitely recommend getting a rental car if you can, as traveling with public transportation can be quite a hassle. Guided tours may be a good option too, but be aware of the obvious downsides of them as mentioned in part three. Anyway, Jeju Island is an absolutely fascinating place to visit, a tropical paradise that feels very unique, but still feels distinctly Korean. I can’t recommend visiting it enough.
And that’s it with Korea and Korea Konas, at least for the time being. This is my last entry on Korea. Once again, I want to reiterate that this was the trip of a lifetime and an incredibly rewarding experience. Of course there were various hurdles to clear, from even entertaining the idea and convincing myself that I would not get lost or suffer some other horrible fate, to the registration and acceptance process at CAU, to to medical stuff that I’m not gonna talk about here, to the culture shock of suddenly being on the other end of the world in a country where you don’t speak the language and most don’t speak English. However, it was absolutely worth it and an amazing experience.
I’ll never forget my time in Korea, but for now, it’s time to say goodbye. And what better way to do so than by watching Yoshihiro Akiyama aka Choo Sung Hoon, Japanese-Korean fighter, actor and all-around sex symbol, make his way to the ring. Something I witnessed in 2010 in London of all places. If somebody had told me then that I would live in Seoul for a couple of months only to see his face plastered on advertisements all over town pretty much every day, I would have laughed in their face. But I did. And it was really neat.