With Summer Camp done and dusted we were officially on Summer vacation. We’d decided early in the year (to the delight of our co-teachers) to spend a week on Jeju Island (Jeju-do). Jeju is a volcanic island, located in the Korea Strait, right at the bottom of the South Korean peninsula. Often described as the Hawaii of Korea, it’s a really popular honeymoon destination for Koreans and a favorite vacation spot for Japanese and Chinese tourists.On Sunday we boarded our Korean Air flight from Cheongju International Airport to Jeju. Just over fifty minutes later we arrived to a brilliantly sunny day in Jeju City (Jeju-si), with 80% humidity and a high of 34 degrees… oh boy! This would be the start of seven days of perfect weather.
After doing some research a few weeks before we’d opted to tour the island via motorbike and not pre-book anything, just take it as it comes. We grabbed a tourist map and then jumped on a bus and headed towards downtown Jeju-si. After getting off at the wrong stop (my fault, who knew Jeju Citizens Hall was different to Jeju City Hall…) we walked and walked and walked before finding a dodgy love motel for 30,000 won and heading out for pizza and beer.
First thing Monday morning we set off for Mr Lee’s Bike Shop, one of the few places on the island that rents scooters and motorcycles to foreigners. After a quick look at Neil’s ARC (Alien Registration Card), his International Drivers Licence and 230,000 won later, we had our helmets and our wheels for the week.
We’d decided to make our way around the coast, stopping at points of interest and staying where we could.
What We Saw
As soon as you step foot on Jeju you’re greeted by one or many Dol hareubang. Only found on Jeju, they’re considered to be gods offering both protection and fertility and were placed outside of gates for protection against demons travelling between realities.
We made our way in an anti-clockwise direction around the island stopping at pretty beaches and random museums that caught our interest including Hyeopjae Beach, The Chocolate Museum and the Yongmeori Coast. We had planned to spend our first night at one of the most popular parts of the island is Jungmun Resort. In typical Korean fashion this is not a resort as such, but a collection of museums, luxury hotels and a beach all labelled a resort. Unfortunately accommodation options here were a tad out of our price range – rooms at the Hyatt start at 350,000 won (peak summer rates) and there wasn’t anything available. So we opted to stay at Seogwipo-si (about 30 mins away) at a love motel for 50,000 won instead.
Our limited Korean meant that we were only able to secure the room for a night at a time, however eventually we figured out we could stay for three nights and used the city as a base for exploring other parts of the island. The museums and amusements parks are one of the strangest things about Jeju, there are hundreds of them ranging from teddy bears to sex and everything in between. On the western side of the island we stopped at the Glass Castle Musuem, the Sex Musuem and O’Sulloc Tea Gardens as well as several waterfalls – Cheonjeyeon and Jeongbang. When it got too hot to ride the bike we headed down to Jungmun Beach and swam surrounded by inflatable rings.
Over on the eastern side of the island we carried on along the coast road, past the folk village museum and Seongsan Sunrise Peak. Again we wanted to stop in the town and climb the peak in the morning but we couldn’t find any accommodation so we continued along the coast and ended up back in Jeju City. We then used this as our base and travelled out to see the lava caves (Manjang Cave, Yeongchon Cave etc), Mini Land, Love Land and Hamdeok Beach. This beach is the best beach on the island by a mile and even when the tide is out it’s perfect for a paddle or an inflatable ring float. There’s a really nice beach style cafe on the rocks where you can enjoy a beer and a burger and chill out.
Almost all of the attractions have a fee attached, including the naturally formed ones – lava caves and waterfalls to name a few. Whilst the fee is mostly inexpensive (2,000 or 3,000 won) it’s great when you find something that’s free and equally beautiful.
What We Ate
Jeju is famous for three types of food – hallabongs (an orange type fruit), black pig pork and fresh fish and seafood. Unfortunately hallabongs weren’t in season and samgyeopsal isn’t our favourite so we focused on the seafood. This is often gathered by women free divers or haeneyo (sea women) who are known to be able to hold their breath for more than two minutes and dive to depths of 20 meters.They earn their living from diving year round for abalone, sea cucumber and other ocean life.
After a swim at the beach we popped across the road and had raw sliced squid with lettuce, sesame leaves, soy sauce and wasabi. Pretty tasty!
There are a handful of Western food places on the island, by far the best choice is the Bagdad Cafe in Jeju-si, closely followed by a Mexican place called Zapata’s, in the same area as the Bagdad Cafe. Always keen for some Western food we enjoyed really nice meals at both places. I even had a glass of house Chardonnay with my chicken tikka. Bliss!
Seven days and over 700km later we’d exhausted ourselves swimming, eating and sightseeing and we were both in need of replacement backsides. There is nothing as hard as a Hyosung seat!
Wanna visit Jeju Island?
We flew to Jeju with Korean Air and hired a motorcycle from Mr Lee’s Bike Shop, in Jeju-si.
We stayed at love motels scattered all over the island for between 35,000 and 80,000 a night.
Here’s a link to a map of the island with English descriptions.