Thursday, March 31, 2016

Jeju Island Introduction Course

So many you aren't aware of this, but just south of Korea there is a little island called Jeju. Jeju-do (do in Korean means island) is beloved by all Koreans. Seriously, when I lived there I thought this place must be freaking paradise because of how everyone talked about it. It's the honeymoon island and traditionally where the older generation traveled after they got married.
Illustration done by a local artist whose website can be found here

Jeju has a big beautiful mountain in the middle of the island, and plenty of strange and interesting attractions (like a museum dedicated to the local, elderly female divers or the sex themed sculpture park). I will say, as I've traveled to many beautiful places in my life, I was a little underwhelmed by Jeju. Sorry! Maybe an unpopular opinion. Perhaps don't go there expecting it to be like Hawaii. Because it's not. It's different, and that's ok!

The plane ride from Seoul is about one hour. So that says how small Korea is! It's super cheap and easy to get there as there are a lot of airlines that fly to and from there. I recommend Jejuair or Eastar Jet. Once you arrive you have a few options. You can either rent a car (I'd do Lotte rental car because if you become a member you get a serious discount) or you use the bus/ taxi system. Every SINGLE time I've gone, somehow my international drivers license got messed up and I have yet to rent a car. Super annoying! So guess what? We took the bus everywhere. It is definitely cheap, not sure how easy it is to navigate if you don't speak Korean. In the summer the car rentals fill up/ sell out insanely fast so I highly, highly recommend booking in advance!

The first time I went to Jeju was in the middle of summer. I think it was July. It was super hot. And because we didn't have a car rental (this time we didn't get one because they sold out too fast) that meant buses and walking. And let me tell you, bus drivers in Jeju are mental. They drive super aggressively.

One night we were taking the bus back from a day trip and the driver was honking the horn at everyone, flying over speed bumps, and in Korean kept groaning, "I wanna go hooooooooome." He stopped at a stoplight in the middle of a town, got out, peed, and got back on the bus. I can't make this stuff up.

 Even though there is no "aloha" spirit here and it's maybe not as exotic or tourist developed as other islands, I love Jeju. My boyfriend's parents live there, and I've been many times. As a quick overview and in fear that this post could become just way too long, I'll write my recommendations below. Later I'll go more in depth about specific day trips, places to visit, and small neighboring islands to go to!

  • Eat Hallabong oranges. They are native to Jeju and the best oranges I've ever had... in my life. you'll get a bunch of orange themed products. Try them all! They are cheaper in Jeju and eaten all over Korea. The only time you can't get them is in summertime, when it's too hot for the oranges to grow.
  • Visit the beaches on the west side of the island! There is Hallim park, where you can pay an entry fee to see lots of beautiful botanical wonders, caves, and man-made waterfalls. Across from the park is a really great beach, and there is an Italian style pizza place nearby (pictured above)
  • Go to the green tea fields and sample some products. I didn't get to do this but I still want to!
  • Go hike/ drive through Hallasan (Halla Mountain). It's so beautiful and peaceful year round.
  • Drive east and visit Udo (Cow Island). In my opinion, the best beaches in Jeju! So fun and cheap to rent a bike or a little electric car and go around the island, eating the local peanut ice cream or peanut sauce hot dogs & burgers. May sound weird, but even for a picky person like me I loved it. 
Have you been to Jeju before? What's your favorite warm weather locale? I'm gonna sit back now and dream of those oranges... 


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