Three days in the vacation paradise of South Korea, the island of the little grandfathers, the hallabong fruit and beaches which look like they were stolen from a high glossy magazine.
Facts about Jeju
Jeju (제주, or actually Jeju-do, because the abbreviation “do” stands for province) is an island and the southernmost place of South Korea. Furthermore, it is one of the nine provinces of the country. The capital of the island has actually the same name, it is Jeju-si (“si” stands for city) or simple Jeju City. The island is built up of volcano rocks from the mountain Hallasan, which is with 1,950 m also the highest mountain in South Korea. The mountain is a dead volcano with a crater lake and located in the centre of the island. Nowadays the mountain and its environment are a national park. The island has subtropical climate and is a really famous vacation destination for Koreans. A few years ago, it was also the most popular place for honeymoon travels. Nowadays Europe is also a favoured aim for newly-married couples.
From little grandfathers and new fruits
Dol hareubang (돌 하르방) is the Korean name of the stone figures which are everywhere in Jeju. Rather the word “dol” (돌) stands for stone and “hareubang” (하르방) for grandfather, so they are the (little) grandfather stones. And of course, they sell this little sculptures also in any variations of souvenirs. Those versions remember me actually a little bit to the little trolls from the Disney movie Frozen. However, originally the figures are considered to be gods and should bring protection and fertility.
I think hallabongs and tangerines are the most sold fruits in Jeju. Hallabong is a variety of mandarin and orange. The more widespread name of the fruit is “dekopon” and it is a hybrid fruit. But in South Korea, the fruit is named after the mountain Hallansan in the centre of the island, where it is primarily grown. Besides the fruits, the markets also offer freshly squeezed juice, chocolate and pastries made out of hallabongs and tangerines. Also, popular fillings for chocolate are blueberries, green tea and cactus fruit.
Day1 : Seongsan Ilchulbong and U-do
Seongsan Ilchulbong (성산 일출봉) is one of the must-see sightseeing points. It is a volcanic tuff cone formed by an eruption. Seongsan Ilchulbong is also called “Sunrise Peak” because it is located on the eastern side of Jeju, so the view of the sunrise is perfect. The ticket office opens one hour before sunrise. However, the public transport doesn’t run before 6 am. That was also my problem why I couldn’t see the sunrise at the peak. Seongsan Ilchulbong is part of the UNESCO World Heritage, beside the mountain Hallasan and the lava caves Geomunoreum.
Close to Seongsan Ilchulbong is another small island, U-do (우도). The island was also created by a volcanic activity more than 2.1 million years ago. U-do is named after its shape which remembers reputed to a cow, that’s why it is also called “Cow island”. The island is easy to reach by ferry. Many Koreans feed the seagulls with shrimp crisps. Some of the birds ate them out of their hands, others caught the crisps the Koreans throw to them out of the air. The seagulls seem to like the crisps a lot. So if you want to see them from near you should buy one package in the convenience store and give it a try. Actually, it gave me the chance to make some good photos of the birds.
Many people also bring their (rented) car to the island. Though the island is much smaller than Jeju it is still too big to walk everything by foot (unfortunately, I speak from my own experience). If you want to visit the island and don’t have a car or don’t want to bring it, you should at least rent a bike or better a quad. Otherwise, you won’t have the chance to visit the real beautiful places of the island. If you don’t want to rent a vehicle I wouldn’t recommend a visit.
Day 2: Many waterfalls around Segowipo
Segowipo is the second largest city of Jeju and takes the whole southern part of the island. Near the centre of the city is also the Cheonjiyeon (천지연폭포) and Jeonbang Falls (정방폭포). I visited both falls at the same time. Unfortunately, it rained the whole day, as you will see in the photos. Most Koreans wore rain capes which are, in my opinion, really useful, but still you feel like seeing the Teletubbies everywhere ;). To visit the two waterfalls, you have to pay 2,000₩ (~ 1.82$) for each.
The Jeonbang Fall is the only waterfall in whole Asia, which falls directly in the sea. Furthermore, some ajummas (older Korean women) sell fresh sea food at the waterfall. The other waterfall, Cheonjiyeon, is near by the Saeyeongyo Bridge (새연교). A loop road guides the visitors to the waterfall. You also see other smaller falls and can cross the river by using flagstones. The translation of Cheonjiyeon is “sky connected with land”, so the waterfall falls from heaven to earth. In warmer seasons there is also the possibility to go to the Donnaeko Valley (돈내코유원지) and swim in the clear water under the Wonang Pokpo Waterfall. The water is ice cold because it comes from the Hallasan Mountain.
The Saeyongyo Bridge is at the harbour of Seogwipo and lead to the Saeseom Island (새섬). The translation is simple, “Saeseom” means “bird island”. Saeseom has a warm temperate forest consercatiom zone. A loop way guides around the island and offers beautiful spots. But be warned, if you have a spider phobia this way might not be the best for you because a lot of big spiders (the body has the size of your thumb) live in the coppice around. But of course the spiders are not poisonous and actually also stay in their cobwebs, so don’t worry. The bridge is illuminated by night and the major tower, which is designed after a sail from a ship, changes its colours.
Click here to read part II:
Jeju – The vacation paradise of South Korea Pt. II