Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Island of the Gods"

I had the opportunity to go to beautiful Jeju Island. My friend Emily, from home, came to visit Korea for a month and this was our first adventure and trip of of my summer vacation! After about a 40 minute flight we were ready to start exploring!

Day 1: We arrived in the evening, so that first night we checked out a fish market, an underground market, and had a yummy dinner of naengmyeon (a cold noodle dish) near our hostel in Jeju city in the the north part of the island.

Day 2: We went to Manjanggul Cave, a totally awesome lava tube. A UNESCO World Heritage site which is one of the finest lava tunnels in the world. It is also a designated natural monument. Only about a half mile is open to the public for walking. It was a nice chilly escape from the summer heat and fascinating to wander through.

Following the cave, we strolled on up the street to a somewhat challenging maze park. The actual maze is the shape of Jeju island, and has several different symbolic images or landmarks that can be seen when overlooking it. There is a serpent, an object of worship until the mid-70s; the native horses of the island; a famous ship wrecked on the island; and dolmens from the Bronze Age. We received a map and meandered through the twists and turns for some time until we reached the stairs that approached the lookout. Once here we rang the bell to signal our success in making it to the end.

That afternoon we went to the other main city of the island in the south called Seogwipo. Here, after dropping our bags off at our new hostel, we walked down the street to one of the three famous waterfalls of Jeju. It was a charming area.

Day 3: We explored the harbor area. There was a bridge to cross over onto a tiny island.

Then we walked a ways to a magnificent waterfall. It is the only waterfall in Asia to flow directly into the ocean! Pretty cool! 

That afternoon it was beach time! The water was so bright and such a vivid blue! The waves were enormous and a bit intimidating! I had never seen waves so big. I managed to conquer the crashes and get in a couple times, but it was a bit too rough to stay in very long.

 Day 4: First we ventured to Seongsan Ilchulbong. Over 100,000 years ago this giant crater rose from a volcanic eruption under the sea. It was quite a strange sight to see. We hiked up to the peak where we were greeted by an incredible view of the sea and nearby city. It was awesome!

Next, we went to Seopjikoji. This a scenic area right along the coast. There's rocky cliffs, stunning views, green fields, and a short little lighthouse at the end of the path.

Later that afternoon we went to beach again, just for a little bit, then scooted to some nearby cliffs. These cliffs were formed when the lava from Mt. Hallasan erupted into the ocean so long ago. The sea vista and stone pillars of the cliffs were quite a breath-taking sight!

easy start to the trail
almost to the top!!
Day 5: Hiking day!! Yay!! Today we conquered the highest mountain in South Korea. This mountain, a dormant volcano, is what truly is Jeju Island. You can't go there and not hike this! I loved it! Everything from the trails, stunning scenery, lush green forests, deep valleys, ever-changing terrain, and especially the peak overlooking the island and out to the sea! Just spectacular!

At the summit, clouds were blowing in and around creating a mystical land in the sky. Unfortunately, the crater lake was dry, but climbing around the peak still provided a captivating view of everything. It was a gorgeous day and a rewarding accomplishment to end our vacation on this incredible island!

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