Jeju Island

In January, we took a long weekend trip to Jeju Island.  Jeju Island is a volcanic island that is part of South Korea, just off the southern coast.  It is referred to as "the Hawaii of Korea" due to it's volcanic origin and semi-tropical climate.  There are palm trees, an abundance of volcanic rocks that are used as fences, one large city with an airport, and many smaller towns filled with colorful houses.  It is also referred to as "Honeymoon Island" because it is the most popular honeymoon location in South Korea.



How did we get to Jeju?  There is a ferry boat available for travel to the island but we chose to fly from Seoul on Eastar Jet Airlines.  There are a few different airlines that fly to Jeju but Eastar Airlines was the cheapest - only 110,000 won (about $98) round trip per person.  Our Eastar jet was comical.  There was zero leg room, there were stars and airplanes painted on the ceiling, and there was a bar/lounge painted on the wall.  We were the only non-Koreans on the flight so we know that the flight instructions given in English were solely for us.  The flight was only about an hour long.


On the plane, we sat next to an older Korean man who was excited to talk to us.  His English was broken but understandable.  We learned he was 76 years old and was a pilot in the Korean army in the late 1960's until a car accident took his sight in one eye.  Since then he has lived on Jeju as a tangerine farmer.  He was so sweet to chat with and helped us secure our rental car when we landed.  He gave us his phone number and told us to call him one day so that he could take us to dinner.  He seemed harmless so we did actually call him.  We met up and toured the Cheonjiyeon Waterfall with him and then he treated us to a fresh sushi dinner at a little seafood restaurant owned by a friend.  Meeting him was such a serendipitous event and an added treat to our trip :)


We rented a car online from Budget for our stay on the island.  It took a little while to find the Budget office when we arrived because it was in a small bus!  It looked like there was a new rental car building being built at the airport, but for now all the rental companies worked out of buses in the parking lot.


Being that Jeju is the honeymoon destination of Korea, it has some huge and luxurious resorts.  Those large resorts also have large prices.  We opted to stay at "the cheap hotel next to the expensive resorts." We weren't expecting much with that description but we were very pleasantly surprised.  Our hotel was The Suites Hotel and is situated next to The Shilla and Lotte Hotel resorts.  The Suites was a great hotel that was very clean with large rooms and bathrooms, marble floors in the lobby, an intimate lounge area to enjoy drinks and appetizers, a large buffet area with a breakfast every morning, and every room comes with a free handmade pizza!  One night we walked over the The Shilla and enjoyed an amazing seafood buffet and then watched an outdoor jazz concert by their pool.


One of the most common sites on Jeju Island are the Dolhareubangs statues.  These statues are carved from volcanic rock and range in size up to 10 feet tall.  They are believed to have been around since the 1750's but no one seems to know for sure what the origin of the statues is.  Some believe the statues offer protection against evil spirits and diseases.  Others believe they encourage fertility due their phallic appearance.  Whatever their purpose, they have become the official symbol of Jeju and are a popular souvenir item for Jeju visitors.


These two were a little different that the others.  The one on the left is flipping us off!  The one on the right looks embarrassed that he's naked :)


Another common sight on the island is speed cameras.  The highways in Korea are not patrolled by police like they are in the United States.  Instead, there are speed cameras on the highways that take your picture if you speed past them and you get sent a ticket in the mail.  The funny thing is, there is always a warning sign that there is a camera coming up so you have time to slow down!  In Jeju, these speed cameras were everywhere!  Our GPS unit was warning us of them literally every two to five minutes.  It's a little overkill and a lot annoying.


There are many touristy spots on the island and since we were tourists, we stopped at quite a few.  One of the first we stopped at was a Ripley's Believe It or Not that was close to our hotel.  Ripley's Museums are always just a bit cheesy but we had fun wasting some time there :)


There is a Chocolate Museum on Jeju that is supposedly one of the "World's Top 10 Best Chocolate Museums in the World".  We saw Chocolate Land next to Ripley's so we stopped in.  We quickly found out that Chocolate Land is NOT the Chocolate Museum.  Chocolate Land is a tiny "museum" displaying different chocolates from all over the world.  This place was a joke and not worth going to.  At least we found a classic "not quite right" example - the peanut M&M character is yellow, Korea, not red!


Near Ripley's and Chocolate Land there is also a Teddy Bear Museum.  This museum features teddy bears from all over the world with some depicted in famous scenes such as the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper.  We are not big teddy bear fans so we opted not to tour the museum.  We saw two large teddy bears in Chocolate Land and that was good enough for us :)


In the city of Jeju, we walked through the bustling shopping areas of the Dongmun Market Place and the Jungang Underground Shopping Center.  These two shopping areas are next to each other, one above ground and one under ground.  The Dongmun had a lot of food for sale with some random souvenirs and household goods.  The Jungang primarily had stores selling clothing, shoes, and accessories.


Jeju, the honeymoon destination, isn't shy about sex.  One popular tourist destination is Loveland, an outdoor erotic sculpture park featuring over 100 sculptures of humans in various sexual positions.  We chose not to go to Loveland but instead went to the Museum of Health & Sex.  This museum contains statues from all over the world, photos and videos, artwork, erotic toys and products, evolution of sanitary products and birth control, pregnancy development, and much more.  The museum claims that its purpose is to educate, which it does, but it also provides some great entertainment ;)


Jeju Art Park Museum is a large outdoor sculpture park that you could spend hours exploring.  It was a peaceful well-maintained park in a natural setting with paths winding through the woods.  There was an eclectic collection of sculptures from abstract to modern.  There seemed to be a large number of erotic sculptures which isn't surprising on an island covered in phallic statutes with multiple sex museums.


There are many beautiful waterfalls on Jeju Island.  Pictured below is the Cheonjeyeon Waterfall and the Cheonjiyeon Waterfall.  The Cheonjeyeon Waterfall had multiple different waterfalls that could be seen by following a hiking path made of many stairs.  The Cheonjiyeon Waterfall was an easy walk on a wide paved path with some souvenir shops at the start of it.


The Manjang Cave, or Manjanggul Lava Tubes, was an awesome sight to see.  Manjang Cave is the one of the longest lava tubes in the world.  A lava tube is a conduit or tunnel through which lava once flowed. The evidence of lava flow was very apparent and well-preserved.  The floor of the cave that you walk on is actual hardened lava.  The cave is the same cool temperature year round making it an especially great place to stop if you visit Jeju in the heat of the summer.


We drove along the beautiful coastline for a while.  The water was an amazing shade of blue.


Seongsan Ilchulbong, also known as Sunrise Peak, is a volcanic crater on the east coast of the island.  It is the first spot in Jeju to greet the morning sun and is one of Jeju's premiere landmarks.  For a small fee, you can climb a hiking trail that goes to the peak but you are not allowed to go down into the crater itself.  We didn't hike the peak but we did admire it from a nearby beach :)



*******
"A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving."
~Lao Tzu

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for all the information my wife and I plan to visit Jeju sometime in 2012, Did you find the prices on the island to be much more expensive than on mainland Korea?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your welcome! The prices on Jeju were what we expected for being a resort island. For the most part food and shopping were comparable. Our Suites Hotel was about like staying at a Hampton Inn and about the same price. The Shilla was about the same as what I would expect a Four Seasons type resort to charge. Note that most hotels adjust their prices based on the time of year and we went during the low tourist season. Most of the entrance fees for the touristy places were not expensive, for the most part 5,000 to 10,000 KRW.

      Delete
  2. hi where is the exact place of Dolhareubangs statues in your pictures? :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They were taken in the garden at the visitor's information center near the intersection where you turn toward The Shilla and Lotte Hotel resorts. It's a nice garden filled with Dolhareubangs statues.

      Go to http://maps.google.com
      and copy and paste these coordinates: 33.254847, 126.413750

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