Jeju-do – South Korean treasure

It may irritate you if I write that we had holiday during our trip, simply to have a rest 🙂 We don’t really call our trip holidays, but the life that goes differently than before, so we deserve a few days off, right? If you keep on reading, you will see a beautiful volcanic Jeju island, situated to the south of South Korea, visited by crowds of Korean and foreign tourists. Flights between Seoul and Jeju is one of the most frequent in the world! Planes take off and land every 5 minutes there, we know what we write, as we slept by the airport in tents, fortunately, the planes calm down at night. Whereas at the airport there are really crowds of tourists, we didn’t feel it while visiting the island. Maybe strong rain scared them or we just wandered different places…

Jeju stories have been with us since we arrived to South Korea. Cyclists we met asked if we go there, others told us wonderful things about the island, and we also saw many cosmetic and food products with ingridients from Jeju. The cheapest way to get to the island is to take a plane from Seoul, what througly checked our friend, Maciej, who came to visit us with some Polish delicacies (of course!). Since December when we set off, we haven’t met ANY Polish person, so except occasional chats with our family and friends we didn’t really have a chance to talk in Polish with anyone else than to one another 😉 So, ready for the adventure, three of us, we set up for our holiday in subtropical zone.

A good place to visit in a rainy day is definitely a cave 🙂 Many kilometers of lava tubes were discovered at Jeju, partly not accesible for tourists unfortunetly. One-kilometer length part is open to walk through in Manjanggul cave, listed at UNESCO world wonders, with its 8-meter high lava column and other formations. Darkness and evil, that’s what we felt inside! It was interesting to observe all these shapes created by ‘frozen’ lava, gradual layers on the walls, leaks on the ceiling and floor that looked as bubbling mud.

If you type ‘jeju island korea’ into a web search engine, at half of the pictures you will see so called ‘Sunrise Peak’. It is an amazing extinct volcano, Seongsan Ilchulbong, with green, overgrown crater in a shape of giant bowl. Of course we wanted to see it and of course we climed up to the crater. However, Seongsan Ilchulbong gave us a lesson, as rainy clouds and dense fog covered the landscape completely! We haven’t seen absolutely anything! But at the bottom of the volcano, there is a picturesque beach, with access to the sea and impressive cliff, where we spent some time when it just stopped raining.

The symbol of Jeju is Dolharubang, stone grandfather. It is a cute figure with bulging eyes and visible hands, with a funny kind of hat, mostly made with volcanic, porous rock. It decorates and guards the island from the bad spirits; it used to be situated at the entrances to the villages, today it is copied at every souvenir from Jeju.

As far as it is a paradise island, waterfalls are must-be! There are of course beautiful, numerous waterfalls, we saw two of them: Jeongbang and Cheonjiyeon, situated hitchhikable distance from one another. What we always do while sightseeing: we sit, have a look around, talk, comment, don’t hurry, but this is not Korean style of sightseeing! Everyone there runs to the closest point of attraction, shots selfie with a selfie-stick and lead by this magic wond follows up the sightseeing route 🙂 They don’t like people staying too long at scenic points, occupying the central view. Noisy groups of tourists push you to move, just as if you were doing something wrong. Standing aside and watching what was going on was an entertainment for us, especially that ‘actors’ were changing every minute.

Neighbouring to the waterfalls on the southern coast, there is Jusanjeolli cliff with its basalt body creating black, cracked columns. We have seen similar formations in Ireland, at Giant’s Causeway, but here they were more dramatic I would say, because of their black colour and maybe rainy, windy weather that pushed angry waves at the geometric wall. Rocks are up to 25-metres high and are placed along 2 kilometres of coastline between Jungmun and Daepo. They were created due to fast temperature change of cooling lava.

The highest peak of South Korea is Hallasan, a dormant volcano, 1950 m high situated right in the middle of the island at the heart of Hallasan National Park, also figured as UNESCO site. We didn’t go the the summit, but we crossed the Park from south to the north with Yeongsil and Eorimok trails. The routes are prepared for 150% in Korean style, there are stairs and wooden platforms everywhere what make the hike easily accesible, but does not remind Bieszczady mountains adventure at all 🙂 The nature is unique there tough, landscapes are breathtaking and its spring aura with blossoming flowers made a great impression on us. Although at the beginning of that day we dind’t wish to catch sunshine, we spent a few sunny moments at the trail.

Not for the first time we have experienced genuine help from strangers, and each of these moments is worth memories and positive comments. In Hallasan National Park, at the end of the day, we were looking for a place to put the tent (and inside the Park it is forbidden), so we asked random Korean couple if it is possible to put a tent neraby. Finally, we spent night in their garden and they invited us for coffee, oranges and baked potatoes. As souvenirs we got Jeju scarfs and wishes for the safe trip. Even though, there were so many differences between us, we felt like being at home, when we sat by the fireplace, watched family pictures and simply spent these precious moments together. These are not differences that matter but being a good man at heart.

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