In an effort to be more consistent with my writing here on this page I realize I cannot wait until we are on an adventure or else I am never ever gonna write. I wish we were traveling frequently ALL THE TIME(like most people) but we got to work(like most people) to pay for these trips. I found that during our last vacation writing while traveling allowed me to reflect on our experiences as we went and I was able to do a day by day breakdown. If I am writing from memory then I won’t be able to remember the exact order of events but at this point we have traveled to almost 20 countries together and there are still plenty of travel experiences we can share that might help other travelers…even though this site currently has a following of zero. Heh heh.
Onward, to the point of this post. Jeju Island, what some call the Hawaii of Korea. Having never been to Hawaii I can’t personally speak on this comparision but I thought I would throw it out into the ether that is the internet. You can find the island just south of the Korean peninsula. It is probably most famous for the citrus fruit they grow, the Jeju black pig they breed, and Hallasan Mountain. Hallasan is a dormant volcano and reaches a height of 1,950 m. It is the tallest mountain in Korea and hiking to the summit is not for the faint of heart. Kole and I enjoy hiking a ton and have gone to 7 national parks during the past 11 months of living in Korea. **Brushing shoulders off**
Hiking culture in Korea is no joke. Generally, people take it SUPER serious here. There are accessories, outfits, and equipment that you could not imagine needing for a casual weekend hike. While us, basic foreigners, we might just take a small backpack filled with some waters, a few granola bars, and my very needed inhaler for my very asthmatic lungs. Upon reaching the top of a mountain, it is not unusual to see a group of friends sharing a full on meal with the traditional Korean drink of choice, soju, while seated on large mats or hiking chairs carried up the mountain. I should mention the hiking pastime is practiced by an older generation here. We rarely saw people our age(people in their twenties) hiking unless they were hiking with their parents.
Anyways, back to our Hallasan climb. I should immediately say, we did not think we were going to make it to the top of the mountain at all. The only opportunity we could go visit Jeju Island was mid January, aka winter. Meaning, the mountain was going to be covered in snow and ice. Sounds cold, right? It was. We thought we would climb for a few hours and then go back to the coziness of our hostel. BUT. After about 3 hours we hit the ice on the mountain and started to slip and slide. The vice principal of Kole’s school had recommend we get some crampons, gear to attach to your shoe when climbing icy areas. We would not have made it without these crampons. Because of those damn crampons we kept going for 6 more hours. Due to Hallasan’s height there are strict rules of when you can ascend and a mandatory time you must turn back by, I think the day we went we had to turn back by 4:30PM. We reached the top an hour before that time and had a bit of time to enjoy the whipping wind and ice pellets being in a snow cloud provides. We couldn’t really see the crater lake that is at the top of the mountain because of the snow cloud. After taking a few pictures and a video, ice crystals began to form on us so we thought it was time to go. We finally made it down and our bodies proceeded to feel pain from intense soreness for a week following the climb. So worth it though. One of the best experiences we’ve had in Korea during our time here.
Other highlights of the trip include:
Staying in Seogwipo City, this is on the south side of the island. After doing some research we decided this was the best place for us to stay. It was an easy 1 hour bus ride from the Jeju airport to our hostel, Backpackers Home. The staff at Backpackers Home were also super helpful. Upon our arrival they sat us down and helped us decide on our what trail to take for climbing Hallasan and they also gave us a detailed map with directions on how to get to the park entrance via bus.
Attached to the hostel out front, there is a specialty cafe that focus on unique Jeju black pork burgers. The burgers were massive in size and the staff seemed to be trained to help patrons cut the massive sandwich with some intense flourish. It also seemed to be general practice for the severs to take a picture of you with your food while you and whoever you are with create a heart shape with your two hands. Cutesy? Yes. Unneccessay? Yes. Delicious? Yes. We also got a really tasty shrimp sandwich but the pork burger was the favorite hands down.
The last highlight would have to be the natural beauty of the beaches and waterfalls Seogwipo City is recognized for. Kole and I only had one weekend in Jeju and while Saturday was spent hiking, Sunday was reserved some relaxing exploring and wandering around. We woke early and went in search of some coffee and found this cute little cafe/food truck making some delicious smells and decided to stop there. The truck was located right in front of the ocean and had these picnic tables surrounding them. The tables were filled with older locals who were obviously about to partake in a round of golf at the course nearby. One man asked us in English where we were from after cajoling from his friend. We had a short nice conversation while our drinks were being made and as we attempted to the pay, our new friends said no repeatedly and said they would cover our drinks as we were guests in the country. This surprisingly generosity was much appreciated we thanked them profusely and waved goodbye. The rest of the morning was spent exploring the rocky beaches of Jeju and frolicking in the waters beneath Cheonjiyeon Waterfall.
We returned to our hostel to collect our bags and took the bus back to the airport to take the hour flight back to our Korean home city, Cheongju.