Monday, September 15, 2014

Jeju Island with the Family

As told by Barbara Souders, guest blogger

After realizing that Kylee wasn’t coming home anytime soon, we decided to take the leap and make plans to go see her in South Korea. So as Kylee wrote in a previous article, I flew over on July 1.  When I arrived in Seoul it was wonderful to be greeted by her smiling face holding a sign that said, “Welcome to Korea. I Love You.” It was wonderful to get to hug her and see her in person! For the first two weeks of July it was just Kylee and I. I had a wonderful time just hanging out and exploring her city, but we were both anxiously awaiting for David and Patrick to arrive so we could start our adventures together as a family!

David and Patrick arrived the evening of July 18.  Unfortunately they didn’t get the big welcome I did because Kylee was working, so they got instructions that Kylee had sent them in English and Korean on how to get from the airport to Kylee’s city of Jecheon about 3 hours away.  So after planes, subways, trains and taxis they finally made it to Jecheon around 11:00 p.m.!  After hugs and travel stories we decided we were all hungry and headed out for some yummy Korean BBQ. This would be David and Patrick’s first real Korean meal, chopsticks and all!

Everyone slept in a little the next morning, which was Saturday, and we headed out early afternoon to explore Jecheon. We walked downtown to the markets and just wandered around for a few hours. We didn’t have much time because we had to repack and get ready to catch a bus for Seoul that evening.  We arrived in Seoul that evening, took a subway and then navigated our way through the streets of Seoul to our hostel for the night. Bright and early the next morning, dragging our luggage though the dark streets, we walked from our hostel to the subway station, and caught a train to the airport.  We were flying to Jeju Island, a volcanic island located off the southern  most tip of the South Korean Peninsula and is a popular tourist spot among Koreans. They refer to it as the “Hawaii” of Korea.  After about an hour flight  we arrived. We had come prepared with International Driver’s Licenses and our first objective was to try and rent a car because bus transportation on the island was not very dependable and taxis would get expensive. After trying multiple carriers Kylee finally found one that specialized in renting to foreigners. We got a really nice Hyundai equipped with GPS and off we went to try and find our hostel.

Once on the road David decided we better fill up the tank. Little did we know that trying to get gas would be an adventure in itself ! After stopping at two stations and being told “no” we finally were able to get gas on our third try. We finally figured out that our car ran on propane! That is why the first two stations could not fill us up. From then on we knew that we had to stop at the stations that said “LG”.  After an interesting hour drive (Korean’s drive crazy!) we found our hostel.  It was nice, we had two sets of bunk beds and our own bathroom, and our hosts were very nice as well.  

Our hostel and rental car

Our first objective was to find something to eat. We drove around and found a place that looked good. It was a very nice traditional Korean BBQ restaurant.  The owner was very welcoming and she seated us at a table and we sat on the floor on matts. Kylee did all of the ordering since she can speak some Korean and she ordered the Blackened Pig which Jeju Island is famous for.  The meal was very tasty and entertaining. We were the only people in the restaurant and the little Korean lady was obsessed with trying to help us with everything and watching us eat!  We got a big laugh out of it.

Eating blackened pork belly, a Jeju specialty

We also hit up a McDonald's one day because we were over Korean food.

Our next stop was Manjanggul Cave, one of the finest lava tunnels in the world and a designated natural monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site on the island. A lava tunnel is formed when the lava that was deep in the ground spouts from the peak and flows to the surface. This particular tube is about 200,000-300,000 years old.  We walked through a nice park to the entrance of the cave which was a flight of stone steps which took us approximately two stories underground. It was very much just like a cave except everything was made of lava. It was a rocky and wet walk to the end of the tunnel which was about a mile long, and it was also very cold and damp, but it felt nice considering it was very hot and humid outside.

Lava Tubes 

That evening we drove around once again looking for a place to eat and Kylee spotted a “fried chicken” restaurant.  She had always raved about Korean fried chicken so we decided to try it out. It was a quaint little place with husband and wife cooking in a small kitchen. As usual, Kylee order for us. To be honest, I don’t know what we would have done without her knowing Korean! The fried chicken was served up with a side of some sort of pickled radishes and we shared a couple bottles of Coke. The chicken didn’t disappoint and we headed back to our hostel for the night.

The next morning we were up early to check out Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, also know as Sunrise Peak. This tuff cone was formed over 5000 years ago due to hydrovolcanic eruptions and is another one of Jeju Island’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  We could see the huge mountain from our hostel and it was only a few minutes away. At the base of the mountain is a parking area and lots of vendors selling various types of street food and souveniers.  About a 45 minute to one hour hike up thousands of stairs will take you to the top to view the breathtaking scenery overlooking the East Sea and the Island. David, Patrick and Kylee jumped right in and headed up the mountain. Unfortunately I’m afraid of heights so I stayed behind and sampled lots of street food and purchased souveniers, including some of Jeju’s famous tangerine chocolate.  About an hour and half later Patrick showed up hot and sweaty followed by Kylee and then Dave. It was really cool that they actually climbed to the top!

We made it to the top!

Later that day, after recooperating from the mountain hike, we decided to drive to the southern part of the island and go to Cheonjiyeon Waterfalls. It was about a 45 minute drive and we stopped at a few beaches along the way just to check them out. It was a fun drive and after navigating our way through some narrow streets we finally found the park. We walked along a gorgeous stream with a beautifully landscaped walkway full of tropical plants, encountering multiple small dams along the way. At the end of the path was the waterfall. It was beautiful and we took multiple photos. We even got to see some of the Mutae Eels swimming around! The walk back was a different path and we met up with a High School Korean soccer team. The coach asked if we could take some team pics and they returned the favor. We also got a group picture of all of us. Before leaving we all rubbed the “Golden Magic Pearl” for good luck and made a wish!


We met a soccer team!

                                                  In front of the "Golden Magic Pearl"

One day we went to Loveland Park aka the Sex Park, which has many provocative statues of people in compromising positions.  This is a popular place for Korean newlyweds to visit on their honeymoon.  We were dying of laughter the whole time walking around!  

                Treats at Loveland                                                        Adventures at Loveland

We decided our last day on Jeju should be relaxing so we spent the day at the beach.  We found a beautiful beach with white sand, gorgeous blue/green water, and lots of nearby food. The beach scene in Korea is definitely not like anything we had seen before and was very entertaining. Koreans don’t like the sun on their skin so most beach goers were fully dressed in long sleeve jackets, hoods up, hats, sunglasses, and umbrellas! And most of them don’t swim so they only go out around waist deep. The four of us love the water and started wading out towards the bouys until the life guard kept blowing his whistle at us and motioning us back! So we were stuck in waist deep water as well, but made the most it. At one point schools of baby squid were even swimming around us! Later in the afternoon we found an outdoor Korean BBQ restaurant for dinner near the beach then decided to pack it up and head back to our hostel.

                                     We forgot to take pictures at the of like 2!

Early the next morning we left for the airport and boarded our plane back to Seoul where we would spend the next four days. Stay tuned for our next article which will be about our adventures in Seoul!

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