Jeju was just a 50 minutes plane ride from Seoul and there are flights departing almost every 30 mins from Gimpo airport on various airlines. I’ve managed to get my tickets on Jeju air for about USD150 return. I think it’s usually cheaper if not for the Friday public holiday in Seoul. Going from Incheon to Gimpo is also about 30 mins train ride away direct on the AREX.
Jeju was so easy to get around by taxi. You can get the airport or hotel to write the address in Korean and off you go! It’s not too expensive either. A 10 mins taxi ride costs about KRW6000. There is also an airport bus that goes all the way down to Seogwipo if you’re staying lower down and it takes about an hour.
On my first evening of arrival, I ate at a local black pig restaurant my seoul sistas said I should eat at called Don Sachon. The huge piece of 400g of black pork was tender and tasty and the lady grilled it for me to perfection. It also came with a whole load of Korean side dishes that I love!! I was also greedy and so I ordered the kimchi stew. The pork belly in the kimchi stew was so soft it melts in your mouth so I highly recommend it!
Most people who come to Jeju would rent a car and drive around, but I was a solo traveler and I guess the most economical way is to join a tour group. I joined Yeha tours because I got a promotion on ‘klook’ and also I read that its a small group. My East and West Jeju day tour was only 8 people on a mini bus which meant that it’s very comfortable and the tour guide made sure we were punctual and everything was on schedule. I missed the South day tour as that is only conducted on Sundays.
On Wednesday, I did the West day tour. Our first stop was the beautiful white beach Hyapjae. The water was crystal clear and the sand is white, very rare for a volcanic island like Jeju. It was very cold when I was there as it was February but it was still beautiful and the water crystal clear.
Hallim Park was the highlight of the day. When I was there, the Ume, peach blossoms were in full bloom and the park smelt so wonderful with the blooms. In April, it’s cherry blossoms season so I guess that’s another good time to visit. The park has special caves which you can also walk around and I also like the birds that were there. There are also other sections like the folk village, tropical flowers, bonsai and water gardens. If I wasn’t in a tour, I could have easily spent a whole day there.
O’sulloc was the next stop and you can admire the large green tea fields and shop for premium teas and Innisfree products. It’s not cheaper than the shops in Seoul, but I enjoyed my ice cream and the beautiful architecture.
After lunch, we took a cruise to see Mt Sanbang and made a wish on the holy rock. The cruise was one hour and it was rainy and cold when I was there. Hope you have better luck.
After the cruise, we hiked the beautiful cheonjeyeon waterfalls. The falls was interesting because there are 3 parts and 1 part is just like a lake. The second part was beautiful and apparently it’s said to cure diseases if you stand under it. But it’s not open except on special religious occasions. We didn’t get enough time to go to part 3. If you’re on your own, you can.
That night, I had a delightful Abalone dinner at a local restaurant near my hotel called Jeonboknara. I sooo wanted to order the grilled Abalone but the lady said no, too much for 1 person and she advised me to eat the Abalone rice pot instead. I think she underestimated how much I can usually eat. I decided to go with her suggestion as I was enticed by the sea urchin soup. It was also delicious, but I would have been so able to stomach the 6 grilled Abalone on my own. 😂😂
On my second full day, I headed to the east side of Jeju, famed for their livestock breeding. Thai means horses. Horses are the specialty of Jeju, they ride them, breed them for racing and also, eat them. I didn’t try it this time around but my first activity on the tour was horse riding. The horses were mostly female and very tame.
Next, we headed to Seongeup village which is a folk village where real people lived. We were lucky to visit a family of an old man and his wife and he was so entertaining telling us how life is like in Jeju when he was younger. Apparently, all the women do the work and men just enjoy themselves once they were married. Which is why divers are all women here on Jeju Island. He joked that many man migrate to Jeju to enjoy life, whereas women shouldn’t marry the men here or they’ll have to be superwoman. I guess they are still very traditional in thinking in Jeju.
After our grilled black pork lunch, we went to Gwangchigi beach which is one of the most beautiful beaches in Jeju Island. Along the way, we saw beautiful canola fields and the yellow flowers were in full bloom too! From the beach, you could see Seongsan which is the sunrise mountain and this mountain is special because it rose from the sea about 100,000 years ago and has a beautiful crater at the top. We didn’t see the crater but I guess from a plane you could. It’s one of the UNESCO sites in Jeju and you could hike up to the top via 600 over steps. The hike took about 45 minutes.
When you’re hiking Seongsan, do remember to head to the bottom for the live women divers show at 130pm and 3pm. They also sell their fresh catch and I had delicious Abalone Sashimi.
The women divers are really old with their average age being 65 and the oldest is 90 years old. Different parts of Jeju have different diving clubs and you cannot dive in all areas of Jeju, you can dive at only your designated spots. The women divers also have 3 levels with level 3 being able to reach depths of 20 meters. Diving for sea produce is a dying trade as it’s really really tough. These amazing women dive with only a wetsuit without scuba equipment and they dive daily, even in 6 degrees weather when I was there. They can hold their breath up to 2 minutes and the ball they carry can be a resting platform for them when they get tired. The tour guide said the government is now appealing to younger women and some men to join this trade as once these older women pass on, the skill will be gone. I highly recommend you watch this if you’re in the area, plus the coastal drive here is gorgeous. If you’re lucky, you also get to taste Abalone, conch or sea cucumbers freshly caught by them.
We ended the tour after heading to the Manjang cave which is a lava tunnel that’s 7m long. I didn’t enjoy the cave very much but if you’re into caves and archeology, you would love this. It’s UNESCO too!
The tour bus dropped me off at the airport to Seoul after the trip and I thoroughly enjoyed my trip in Jeju!
Never stop wandering!