Although Donald and I are traveling, we managed to work multiple gigs while staying in Busan, South Korea. We wanted to pick another place to visit in Korea but the thought of visiting another major city did not sound appealing. At least, not as appealing as Korea’s volcanic island, Jeju. Enchanting waterfalls, unique topography, and warm beaches where the sparkles of light that made the small island of Jeju glimmer like an undiscovered star. After finding the cheapest round trip tickets we could find, we booked our mini vacation that was well needed after working almost everyday.
Chasing Waterfalls Around the Southern Shores
A laid back layout carved the broad coastal streets of Jeju island. The sticky salty air smelled of the ocean’s sweet breathe, inviting us to explore. After observing the seaside scenery, watching crabs and other crustaceans scurry in and out of the craggily rocks, we headed back to the apartment we were staying in. The hustle did not simmer on the sidewalks like in Busan and the long stares as we passed by locals made me realize we were a random pair to be in Seogwipo. Our first full day on the island was spent hiking to waterfall destinations. The first fall we visited, known as Jeongbang, is currently the only waterfall in Asia that leads out to the sea. After paying the entrance fee, we descended down the manmade staircases that led to the extraordinary phenomena. As we strained our necks to watch the gushing water spill over the cliff side, we avoided the clusters of people scrambling to capture a (adjective) memory. We headed to another waterfall nearby, Cheonjiyeon, where the path to the waterfall’s cove was even more concrete. Not only was it literally a concrete path, there were vendors selling treats and souvenirs, statues of Jeju folk lore, and man made dams that created faux falls before reaching the waterfall viewing point. Swimming in the water was prohibited, along with venturing off the perfectly paved path only created for picture snapping tourists.
Hiking Udo in the Stormy Weather
The next day greeted us with soggy weather. It was predicted that for the next couple days there would be rain and we were leaving Seogwipo to head north of the island where the beaches were. We decided to make a stop along the way to hike up Udo and try to catch a glimpse of the beautiful view and natural wonder. Yet we didn’t have much luck since at the top all we could see were the thick grey foggy sheets that encompassed the top of the large crater. We decided to imagine what it would’ve looked like, what we would have expected to see if we came on a clear day. It reminded me of all the times I went to Twin Peaks in San Francisco. To this day, I have never been there when it’s been clear to see a great view of the city. Today proved that the clouds love to block my view of gorgeous settings. We headed down the paved staircase that led to the trail that descends the giant hill. Another hardened block of slab that guided tourists around the must-see site on Korea’s vacation island, Jeju.
Afterwards, we decided to embrace the rainy day and venture to the Manjanggul Cave. We figured the cave would create some protection from the ongoing drops that kept pelting our backs. After one bus and taxi ride later, we were at the entrance of the cave; another zoo-like attraction where there was a mini museum, souvenir shops, a restaurant, and small eatery. We were soon discovering how tourist friendly Jeju was, especially when it came to hiking and trekking through the wildlife. Even the huge hollowed out cave had a large sealed pathway, not just a natural dirt route, and mini lights that guided trekkers. We took a tour through the damp darkened cave, which was incredibly large and more epic than we imagined. At the end of the cave, the largest stalagmite or lava column in the world was showcased. We had no idea this existed on Jeju Island!
Clear water and Clear Skies
We ended the day at our new guesthouse, Blue Sea, located near Hamdeok beach. We dreamed the sky would clear up on our last day so we could enjoy some beach time. After working in Busan at a newly opened hostel and doing other odd jobs around the city, Jeju Island was our vacation from our prolonged vacation. We were trying to soak in as much relaxation time as we could before heading to our next destination in the Philippines. When we awoke to the soft sound of waves crashing on the nearby beach, we could see the clouds were slinking by to let the sun dance across the sky. We were happy it was going to be a pretty day after all. We decided to visit the beach with black volcanic sand and watch beginner surfers take lessons. We headed back to Hamdeok beach where our hostel was near and after joining a group of people who were passing a ball in the ocean, we soon became friends with fellow Americans. The four of them were in the military and they worked near the border of North and South Korea. They shared gut wrenching, note worthy, and powerful stories of their daily lives and what they’ve witnessed being placed at their base. We thanked them for their service, expressing how we don’t feel enough Americans respect or appreciate the work people in the army do. They are ultimately helping to protect South Korea, risking their lives at times to defend another country’s freedom, it’s truly remarkable.
When we returned to our hostel later that night, we met the guesthouse owner, his name was Sam. Sam was a very friendly guy and started a conversation with us. We learned that the guesthouse had recently opened back in March 2016 after he decided to quit a long corporate job. He said he had fallen under the trap of working just to make everyone in his life happy but he wasn’t truly happy himself. He decided that he would quit his career and open a guesthouse on Jeju island. Him and his family take a big trip somewhere each year; they’ve visited Germany, France, Italy, and are still deciding where to plan the next visit. Sam’s story was very admiring, we told him we’d recommend his cozy beach guesthouse, Blue Sea, because not only is it a great place to stay, but the staff is wonderful and friendly as well! When we first arrived, the assistant, Soyeon, drew us a map of places to go and check out. She was super friendly and helpful in every way. The guesthouse location was amazing since you could walk to the beach and also local restaurants and bars. It’s a convenient place to stay on a budget since many hotels in that area go for over hundreds of dollars a night.
Jeju was bigger than we expected and although it was nice taking a bus around the island, we heard renting a car is cheap and one of the easiest ways to get around. The entrance fees to tourist places are nice too, it was only W1,000 (around $1 USD) to enter if you were under 25 and only W2,000 (around $2 USD) if you were over 25. The island itself had a lot of history that made it culturally unique and we wished we had more time to explore it. Jeju is definitely an island geared for vacationers, tourists, and honeymooners. Many sites and attractions are paved and their landmark is very distinguished. It was a nice treat after working in Busan for a month and a great introduction to the many islands we would be exploring in the Philippines.