제주도: Jeju Island is a Heaven on Earth (posted by Indira in South Korea)

As the time I have left in Korea is slipping out of my hands like the grains of sand, I definitely try my best to balance traveling and school. Korea is such an amazing country and I don’t think that a lifetime of traveling and exploring would be enough to see everything the place I now call home has to offer. Knowing that I have about 3 weeks left and so much to see, do, and experience, and also to make sure I finish all my assignments on time is somewhat putting me under pressure. But the motto should be “work hard, explore hard” and it is all possible.

Last weekend a group of 15 of my friends and I decided to go and see Jeju-do, an island that contains the natural World Heritage Site Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tube. The entire Island is dominated by the Halla Mountain (Halla-San) and there are many beautiful waterfalls, caves, cliffs, and beaches to see and spend time exploring. The island itself is located to the south of the Korean peninsula and it undoubtedly offers a scenery that is truly unforgettable.

Out trip started by taking a plane (fairly inexpensive one hour fight) Seoul to Jeju City from where we took a two hour bus ride (5000 won = less than 5 dollars) to Segowipo, a city in the south of the island. It is interesting that the Jeju Island consists of two cities only: The entire north part of the city is Jeju-City and the south half is Segowipo. We stayed in Segowipo as most of the tourist attractions are located there. First day we went to one of the waterfalls that is very close to the harbor. The area is really beautiful and there are quite some tourists. Afterwards we went for a lunch at one of the numerous Korean restaurants serving famous Jeju black pork, which was by all means delicious.

pork

Jeju black pork

Afternoon was reserved for a lazy day at the Jungmun beach, which is one of the most famous beaches in Jeju. Since everything on the island is located somewhat far from each other taking a cab or a bus is highly necessary. Beach was about an hour or so from the city. Even though the swimming season was not open and the water was cold some people were brave enough to swim. I didn’t dare to do so. Laying in the sun was also nice  and relaxing! Since Jeju is in the south, it is much warmer and sunnier there so it was perfect weather for sunbathing and frisbee on the beach.

frisbee

Playing frisbee on the beach

The second day at Jeju was by far the most intense day of my life. Hallu-San is 2000m high mountain and smaller group of us decided to hike up to the top to see the crater. After about 5 hours of hiking steep mountain in extremely high temperatures, I made it to the top! This was one of the biggest challenges of my life and I was actually able to prove myself wrong (I am not much of a person who does sport or exercise, but I definitely did manage to hike up to the top of one of the tallest mountains in Korea). Since it is a drought season we were not able to see beautiful lake in the crater (Google “Hallu-San” and you’ll know what I’m talking about) and the view was blocked by the clouds of smog. It was very disappointing not to be able to get any reward after enduring so much pain to hike up the mountain. The hike down was, however, really nice and the trail was very beautiful, which somewhat made up for the bad summit. The aftermath came right after I made it down to the starting point 8.5 hours after the hike started – my whole body was aching. Despite my muscles being sore and my ankles swollen, this was definitely one of the most interesting experiences that will shape my semester in Korea and the idea of pushing personal borders. It is good knowing that I can challenge myself and actually win the challenge.

trail

Trail down the Hallu-San

Our last day in Jeju we spent visiting yet another waterfall, which was very hidden. We heard from the locals that it is a great spot to visit and not so many tourists know about it. The small waterfall hidden from the world was definitely one of the most beautiful wonders of nature I’ve ever seen. We spent quite some time there climbing the rocks and swimming in the crystal clear water. The rest of the trip we spent in Jeju City exploring the cuisine of the region.

waterfall

Hidden waterfall

Overall, Jeju is definitely worth a visit and I am so happy I managed to visit this island before leaving Korea. Coming back to Seoul was a bit hard since we were welcomed by rain and loads of schoolwork. Now I am trying to finish everything before I leave for an adventure to Cambodia on Friday. I can’t even put into words how excited I am about this upcoming trip! 🙂

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