Thursday, 25 April 2013

Jeju Island in South Korea - Part III South Jeju

Waterfall Day - Tuesday 10th April

Jeju Island is a pretty small island. It takes about 1 hour to take the bus from the south city of Seogwipo to the north city of Jeju. It takes 3 hours if you're taking the bus around the coast from both the west and east, which means that by bus it only takes 6 hours to get around the entire circumference of the island. So no surprises that it didn't take us long to get from our guest house in the north east to the city in the south. Also no surprises that we got off the bus one stop early and got lost....again....

BUT we soon realised that we were lost and decided to momentarily give up looking for our next hostel and go find a waterfall instead. That took a while but we eventually found our first site in Seogwipo, Jeongbang Waterfall. It's the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the ocean. What made me laugh was above the waterfall was a garden and a museum dedicated to a man called Seobul who was a servant of the Chinese emperor in the BC200's, who travelled to Jeju to find plants that would make the emperor immortal. On the wall under the fall he wrot“Seobulgwacha” which basically translates as "Seobul was here". What's even more ironic is that he's probably more famous in that area than the Chinese emperor ever was. Sadly I couldn't see the graffiti :(

Once we'd seen the sights we decided that the best way to find our hostel was to follow the coast rather than get lost in the back streets. So we followed the road down through food street, around the bay and into a valley that at the end of apparently had the next waterfall we were going to see. But we decided to find the hostel first so climbed up the cliff, walked a bit more and found it! Check in wasn't until 2pm though. We were allowed to pay and dump our bags behind the counter though so unburden we headed back down the cliff to Cheonjiyeon Waterfall.

This area was a lot more touristy than the last with buses of school kids, a few non-Asian tourists, restaurants and cafes (another Dunkin' doughnuts), and the tourist information centre for the city. After paying to get in it was only a short walk down the valley before we reached the waterfalls. The pool at the bottom of the falls is 20ms deep and the river is apparently full of eels.

We then decided to go to another waterfalls which was down the coast a bit, which meant we had to catch a bus. The only problem was we didn't know which bus to go on. We saw one at the top of the cliff and was going to ask but the woman there seemed really grumpy and ignored us, so we went to the bus station, which was no good cos we didn't understand any of the signs. At least we knew what direction it was was going in so I suggested we walk down the road to the next bus stop and grab the bus there....Let's just say 2 hours later we still hadn't found the frickin' bus. So we returned to the hostel and asked for directions. Guess was the first bus we'd seen with the grumpy lady!!! I felt a lot better once we'd got on the bus and on the way to the falls. Luckily we'd started the day off early and still had time, even more lucky was the fact the bus driver stopped outside the entrance and told us we were there (would have missed it otherwise).

The falls were on the otherside of the valley so to get there they'd built this massive red bridge with white goddesses all along it. It was pretty. It was also really high up and a surprisingly steep bridge. But we survived! We survived to see that the waterfall we'd been searching for looked like this......

I was a bit disappointed that the waterfall wasn't falling. I also read later that the waterfall was inside a cave (I think), so I guess that's why we couldn't see it. However, there were another 2 waterfalls which were grouped with this one which were further downstream and yes, they fell.

Just down the valley by the sea from those water falls was another sight we wanted to see. A place where lava had hit the sea and crystallised into hexagon shapes. We didn't time this one as well though cos there was a bus load of Chinese tourists. The sun was setting too so it was hard to get a good picture without over exposing it.

As we'd walked to the hexagon rocks we passed a huge building which I'd kept seeing on the maps as the island's duty free. What it was doing on the south of Jeju away from the airport I'm not sure, but it wasn't just a huge duty free but also a concert hall and conference venue with a huuuge hotel next to it. We explored a little and saw that everything was way too expensive for us, not that we could buy anything anyway because apparently it was illegal for non-Koreans to buy stuff from there. We managed to catch the bus ok this time and got back to the hostel safely. We were both pretty hungry so went out food hunting. That's when we found the BIGGEST burger EVER! It was about 17,000won ($17/£12) and sooo goood. It was about 12" in diameter and cut into 6 pieces. Wes and I halved it along with a bowl of creamy pasta. The burger was a flat port battie with cabbage, lettice, tomato, mayo, mustard, apple, pickles/gherkins, and ketchup. It was amazingly good!!!

The Day We Climbed Over a Huge Mountain - Wednesday 11th April

Climbing Mt Halla. 1950m tall inactive volcano in the middle of Jeju. We'd been looking forward to this climb all week. Well, Wes had, I'd been slightly dreading it. After climbing Mt Houmanzan in Japan I was worried that this was going to be just as brutal but worse because the climb was expected to take 9 hours up there and back down again. But I was still willing to give it a go, I would have regretted it otherwise. 

We got up at 7am, got dressed and ready so we could grab breakfast before getting the bus (which we checked in advance this time). It didn't take too long to get to the base of the south east trail, Seonpanak, which we'd chosen because it was the 2nd hardest trail and was supposed to have a beautiful flower field about 3/4 of the way up, so it if was too much we'd have lunch there and turn around.

When we arrived the place was full of people! Mostly buses of school kids but also buses of older people. Including one group of older people doing Gunamn Style as a warm up exercise.

The mountain climb was surprisingly easy actually. The crowds of school children made kept the pace slow, and it was mostly worn down wooden platforms and steps, and a few sections of giant rocks. We started at 600m and got to the flower field, which was 1500m up, after about 3 hours with no breaks and neither of us were tired. We took a short break anyway and had some water before heading up to the peak. It was shame the time time of year was still too cold for the flowers to be out. It was also hard to see any of the views because of the clouds, but now and again they would break and you could see down the island below.

(The southern city Seogwipo at the bottom of Mt Halla)

The last part of the climb was brutal though. It was much steeper and colder because we were so high up. When we finally got to the top we were inside a cloud that kept blowing frozen snow in our face. It was so cloudy we couldn't see the famous lake in the crater of the mountain. But we made it!

(I didn't realise how bad that waterproof jacket fitted me until after this climb -_- )

So then we just had to get down. We'd made it to the top in about 4 hours, but instead of climbing back own the way we came we decided to give the northern pass (the most difficult one) a go. I'm really glad we did too! We probably would have died climbing up because of how steep it was but climbing down was great! First of all there weren't any tourists, mostly climbers in proper climbing gear. It was north facing so all the trees near the top were covered in ice, and the views on the way down were spectacular. 

(The top of Mt Halla is the part covered in cloud at the back of the picture)

It took us another 3 hours and 20mins to reach the 450m mark at the base of the trail. On the way we could see Jeju city at the base of the mountain and came across the location of a hut that disappeared after a storm in 2007. Just disappeared...
Anyway. To say the least we were knackard by the end. We got a taxi to the bus stop, the bus back to Seogwipo. We only had dinner from the convenience store cos we were too tired to find anything else. But I'm glad to say my legs didn't hurt as much after that as after Houmanzan, and I actually think Houmanzan was a lot harder than Mt Halla. It was worth the climb.

Lazying Around Jeju City - Thursday 11th 

We got the same bus we took to Halla to get back to Jeju in an hour. We dumped our stuff at the hostel and wandered around the town, eating waffles, running into Korean Jehovah witnesses (who were very nice), and picking up food and presents from the market. It was not an exciting day but was a relaxing one.

Flying back to Japan - Friday 12th April

We flew back to Japan early Friday. It was pretty much uneventful apart from immigration which almost didn't let me back in because they couldn't understand why I was studying for 6 months on a tourist visa and not a student one (even though I explained the school wouldn't give me one). *sigh* That crisis was averted after they called NILS. So don't worry!! Wes and I were back in Japan safely with not too many disasters and many fun adventures to tell.

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