Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Summer Vacation Day 15 -16: Jeju Island part 3

The weather was still looking very misty but this was our last chance to go to Udo (Cow Island), a small island just 3.5 km off the east coast of Jeju, so we jumped on a coastal bus to Seongsan-ri. We got off a few stops early by mistake so had to walk to the harbour. The weather was still looking distinctly unpromising and had started raining. A mini sandstorm was whipping our legs and we were really unsure about going to Udo but as the ferry only cost 5500 won return and they were very regular we decided to go for it. It stopped raining when we landed on the island and we immediately set off to hire ourselves some form of transport top explore the island. We had been told that you don't need a driving license to hire a scooter or ATV on Udo and this was actually one of our main reasons for going there as neither of us has a full driving license and riding a scooter sounded like fun. We got a bit scared of scooter riding and as it was still threatening rain scooters didn't seem like that uch fun. We briefly considered hiring golf buggy but in the end we settled on an ATV for the bargain price of 2500 won for 2 hours. All they required was for Rowan to leave his Alien Registration Card (ID card for foreigners) and they let us loose on the public roads of Udo with only the slightest nod towards safety equipment (helmets that didn't fasten and no arm of knee pads - pads were required to be worn when we went on the ATV course at Sanbangsan).

The gruesome twosome on their trusty ATV.

The view from the back of the quad bike we hired on Udo, much cheaper than taking the special course at Sanbangsan but not quite as many steep hills and banked corners to enjoy.

We set off on our trusty ATV and had a great time though it was a little terrifying on the public roads. We saw all the main sights of Udo including the Korea's only coral sand beach (Hongjodan-goe Haebin), some black lava cliffs and a lighthouse that was perched on a tiny little rocky island that was joined to the mainland by a (at the time somewhat flooded ) causeway. We didn't want to stop when we had to return the ATV 2hours later! I seriously started plotting to get my own ATV to ride to school through the rice paddies in Gwangju!

People wading across the rather flooded causeway to get out to the lighthouse.

View of Seongsan Ilchulbong from Udo island.

We climbed the large hill on Udo that gives way to the black lava cliffs. It was exciting riding the ATV up the narrow road to get there but we couldn't take it to the very top and had to leave it in the car park just like an ordinary vehicle.

We caught the ferry back to Seongsan-ri and on the way Rowan got a bit of a laugh as it was very windy and a young Korean woman stood in front of us had her dress blown up by the wind exposing her underwear to the whole boat. She looked very embarrassed and hurried down below decks unable to look at any of us. We were a bit unlucky with the buses again and ended up waiting around for a while for the next one so though we took a but straight to Jeju Waterworld in the hope of some water park action we were too late and it had turned into a Jjimjilbang (Korean sauna) for the night. So instead we caught a bus out to the Jungmun waterfalls and got in for free as there wasn't anyone manning the ticket booth. These waterfalls are set in a deep forested gully which was very beautiful though as we had come in the early evening it was alive with biting insects. We had to cross over a steep humped bridge that soared high above the gully. Getting to all 4 of the falls involved a lot of climbing up steps which was hard work in the incredible humidity that had descended on Jeju by this point.

This picture does not do this vertigo-inducing bridge justice - it was an incredibly steep humped bridge and the gully was a hell of a long way below it.

One of the waterfalls at Jungmun.

Some Dolharubang (grandfather) statues in Jungmun. These statues are the symbol of Jeju and are the protectors of Jeju's people. We saw these figures everywhere on the island.

We had a tasty dinner of dolsot bibimbap (rice and mixed vegetables with chilli paste served in a sizzling hot stone bowl) in E-Mart that night and ended up back down the Rose Marine bar where we bumped into two American girls that we had met at the ATV course the previous day. Needless to say we ended up staying out far too long and drinking far too much beer. The girls told us about a nearby restaurant they had been to that served horse that was really delicious. Rowan was pretty gutted we wouldn't have time to go there ourselves. We eventually got to bed about 4.30am.

We woke up late and pretty hungover the next day and had to pack our bags and make our way up to Jeju City in the North of the island as this was our last day on Jeju. We caught a bus to Jeju-si and found a reasonably priced motel called the Olympia that was right opposite the bus terminal. We got the 'special' room for 30,000 won (after first having been given the key to an occupied room) and found that it was pretty special - in a weird way! It was a really big room with a massive LCD TV on the wall, enough extra bedding to make up another bed on the floor, strange folding doors with magnetic seals and a kitchen area with no utensils or cooker, just a fridge! We dumped our bags and caught a taxi to Jeju Loveland, one of the world's strangest theme parks. It was basically a park filled with models of people having sex, sculptures of massive cocks and giants breasts. It really was a very odd place filled with shy, nervous looking Korean newly weds and groups of raucous, laughing ajummas (Korean older ladies) making their way among the obscene displays.

This photo really doesn't do justice to how massive the ejaculating cock sculpture that ran down the entire centre of the park really was.

Giant ecstatic woman sculpture -she must have incredible neck muscles to be able to hold that position.

Vag in a can - for those nights when a can of beer just isn't enough!

Jeju Loveland seemed to take a dim view of homosexuality...

His identity maybe shrouded in mystery but his gender certainly isn't...

All aboard the cock train!

There was a section of sex themed dioramas that included this one of a poor traditional Korean family who had to share one room for sleeping with the parents and kids altogether - note the look of horror on the little girl's face on the right while her parents get down to it on the left.

This dog seemed to be taking the 'lead' from his master...

This woman sure knows how to bed a man to her will. There were a whole series of sculptures like this one of a larger, stern looking woman forcing a puny, wimpy looking guy to do her bidding.

Rowan operating the automatic rubber dildo display.

We were forced to beat a hasty retreat from Jeju Loveland as the insects had started attacking again so we caught a taxi to the centre in the hope of finding a Mexican restaurant mentioned in the guide book. As usual the guidebook had let us down again and we couldn't find it so we ended up going to a fantastic Indian restaurant called Café Baghdad. The atmosphere was great and the food there was amazing - in fact it was so good that Rowan was threatening to make himself sick just so he could eat some more!

Tasty samosas from Cafe Baghdad - they were huge.

Afterwards, we made our way back to the motel and went to bed. The next day we flew back to Seoul from Jeju airport and our 16 day tour of South Korea was over. Phew!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Summer Vacation Day 12-14: Jeju Island part 2

Well, we woke up to ropey looking weather, so we decided to check out another sheltered attraction on Jeju- the lava tube caves. Jeju is home to the worlds longest lava tube cave, Manjanggul. Manjanggul is quite a distance from Seogwipo, right round on the east side of the island, so we eventually found the east coast bus and got on our way (navigating the buses is not that easy on Jeju, the stops are far from clear and lots of the buses have no number just a name in hangul). The bus journey took about 1 hour 45 mins and took us to the bottom of the road that led to the caves. Plenty of taxis wait at the bottom to take people up the road, its only about 3km but the road is narrow with no pavement and given the standard of Korean driving we didn't fancy walking, besides taxis are cheap here. By the time we arrived at the caves the weather was clearing up, shame we were about to go underground! The caves cost 2000 won each to get in and very, very wet, the rain had stopped above ground but it was still falling in the caves having been held up slightly by the rock.

Just by the entrance to the caves, you can clearly see just how soaking wet it was inside!

Lava stalactites created by molten lava dripping from the ceiling.

After a few photos we gave up trying to get any pictures of the inside of the cave, water was falling heavily and it was almost pitch dark, not great photography or sightseeing conditions! To be honest we weren't very impressed with the caves as they were dark, cold and miserable. The floor was very uneven and full of puddles and the lighting was almost non existent so it was hard to make much out, I was sure that the cave would look beautiful if only there was enough light to see it and that can be confirmed by pictures from tourist websites taken with much better lighting, so the next few pictures are not our own.

The lava pillar at the end of the cave, this had been formed by the floor of another lava tube above collapsing and the lava pouring down.

The straight lines on the sides of the cave indicate the height of the lava flowing through the tube at various times in the past.

Once we escaped from- sorry finished enjoying looking round the damp lava caves we walked a little way back down the access road to a large hedge maze and since the weather was now lovely got a couple of ice creams to walk round with. The first time we started out round the maze I tried to follow the technique of keeping my hand on one wall and it was a miserable failure, we ended up back at the entrance after ten minutes. We set out again and eventually found the bell in the centre and then made our escape via a bridge.

See the big arrow in the middle of the picture? We totally missed it when we were walking round, if we'd noticed it we might have made it to the middle a little quicker.

Finally made it to the middle to ring the victory bell!

View of the maze from the exit bridge, it looks so simple now.

After find our way out of the maze we caught the bus back towards Seogwipo but just as far as Seongsan ilchulbong which means sunrise peak in Korean. It is considered by Koreans that climbing the peak for sunrise is just one of those things you have to do at some point in your life. We're not early risers so we decided to do it for sunset instead and it was still awe inspiringly beautiful. Seongsan ilchulbong is a side vent of the main Jeju volcano that has formed a cone right on the edge of the island, it rises up steeply from the coast and has incredible views from the top.

The bus dropped us off right next to the bottom so the walk wasn't long.

The walk may not be long but it sure is steep! I was very glad that there were well maintained steps all the way up and that we didn't try to climb it in the heat of the day.

The view from the top was well worth the climb.

The view over the crater out towards the sea unfortunately the path going out across the crater was closed.

Rowan looking a little hot after the climb to the peak.

You can't see it in the photos but for a few brief seconds at the top the clouds parted and we got our only view of the peak of Hallasan the main volcano in the centre of the island and highest mountain in South Korea. We would have liked to climb Hallasan, but it takes about 8 hours to get right to the top and its a pretty tough climb even without the stifling heat and humidity. After Seongsan Ilchulbong we caught a bus back to Seogwipo, but it was pretty late by then so we found all the restaurants closed and had to have instant noodles for dinner again.

Day 14 and we woke up to discover that most of the island had disappeared! It was so misty you could barely see your hand in font of your face. We had planned to spend this day on Udo island which is supposed to have some of Korea's best beaches, but it didn't look like there was going to be much in the way of sun, so there was little point in that plan. Instead we decided to go and do our bit for global warming by riding quad bikes! So we picked up the west coast bus and headed towards Sangbangsan, the driver took us one stop too far but that meant we got to see a beautiful temple.

The temple was perched on the side of a mountain which you can just make out through the mist.

A display of hundreds of little Buddhist figurines, the temple also had a "gold" Buddha, unfortunately its was more like a spray painted yellow Buddah and looked just a bit cheap.

The temple was not an ancient one but had been finished in 1997, it was still very beautiful though.

Buddha converting and redeeming a cannibal in the forest.

After the temple we got back to what we'd come here for and did some quad bike/ATV riding which was awesome fun!

Me ready to go on the quad bike.

The course we rode around included mountain, forest and beach parts.

After quad bike riding we went on to check out the Yongmeori coast, just round the corner, this is one of the oldest parts of Jeju and home to some beautifully eroded volcanic cliffs, when the weather isn't too bad you can walk along the bottom of the cliffs right next to the crashing waves. It's beautiful but a bit scary, good thing the rough volcanic rock provides good grip, I don't think you'd have much chance if you fell in. All along the route there were ajummas sat gathering and cracking open shellfish which they were selling to tourists, none of them looked under 60 but they were fit as anything and laughing joking and having a great time! The cliffs were also home to the biggest sea lice I've ever seen some of them were well over an inch long (sea lice are like aquatic woodlice if you don't know what I mean).

Some of the cliffs of the Yongmeori coast.

The ajummas cracking and selling raw shellfish.

More beautifully eroded cliffs

Like I said the path at the bottom of the cliffs was right by the crashing waves.

The sea was still pretty rough when we visited because the typhoon had only just passed.

While we were there we got stopped by this Korean local TV crew who wanted to ask our thoughts about Jeju, famous at last!

Once we came to the end of the Youngmori coast we came out by a recreation of a 15th century Dutch trading ship which had been ship wreck on the island. After they had been wrecked the crew were held captive in Korea for 13 years before some of them escaped to Japan. One of the crew, a Dutchman called Hamel went on the write the first account of Korea by a westerner.

Hamel's ship, the Sperwer (or a recreation of it anyway).

Next to Hamel's ship is a museum/gift shop dedicated as far as I could work out to the friendship between Korea and the Netherlands, silly hats and dinosaurs an interesting combination to say the least! The Dutch part of the museum mainly featured displays about Korea's favourite Dutchman of recent years. Guus Hiddink, a former manager of their national football team who became wildly popular after leading them to finish in forth place in the 2002 world cup (which South Korea co-hosted with Japan). The Dutch displays also focused on the Dutch sex industry, something which they seemed very envious of! Outside the museum was a fibreglass model of Hiddink standing next to some fibreglass dinosaurs. And finally the museum as a collection of various random hats to try on which seemed to have no connection to anything else but were a lot of fun all the same!

Sophie posing in a Russian hat next to a cardboard Guus Hiddink.

No museum about the Netherlands would be complete without some windmills.

Or of course some clogs! Apparently they also became popular on Jeju after the shipwreck.

After the museum the mozzies were starting to bite so it was time to get back to civilisation in Seogwipo. We had another black pig dinner when we got back and went to bed hoping for better weather the next day.

Summer Vacation Day 10-12 Jeju part 1

After arriving at Jeju ferry terminal, we realised that getting to Seogwipo where we planned to stay was going to be a nightmare by bus as it is right on the other side of the island and the ferry terminal is two buses away from the bus terminal on the other side of Jeju city and then Seogwipo is another bus away again. We decided to go by taxi, The taxi ride across the island was hair raising as usual with Korean taxis, we actually had to ask him to slow down a few times not that it made a difference for more than 10 seconds, the taxi ride cost us 30 000 won. When we arrived in Seogwipo we first went to the Jeju hiking inn, a cheap hostel very popular with forgeiners but they were booked up so we ended up at the Wooseong(or Useonng depending on the guidebook you read- 우성 in hangul) motel jsut accross the road, it only cost 30 000 won a night and was pretty nice, the room even had a sea view on to Seogwipo harbour.

View of Seogwipo harbour from our motel window.

After dumping our bags at the motel we strolled down the hill to the harbour to visit the tourist info by the car park for the Cheonjiyeon waterfall, they were very helpful, spoke good English and sorted us out with a good supply of maps, bus timetables and other info. We took a quick stroll along the harbour down to the seaside, unfortunately Seogwipo has no sandy beach, just a rocky shoreline, still the view is nice and they do have a submarine! After some umming and arring about the 50 000 won cost of a submarine ride (about £30) we decided to go for it, after all it's not everyday you get to ride in a submarine and since we both have narrow sinuses its the only way we're going to see deep underwater (Rowan has been scuba diving and it made his nose bleed and my ears pop going up gentle hills). So we made a booking to ride the submarine the following morning. Feeling very excited about the submarine we walked up into Seogwipo town and along to the Jeongbang falls at the back of the Seogwipo conference centre. The Jeongbang falls are touted as the only waterfall in Asia which falls directly into the sea, some pedants dispute this and say there are others or that they fall into a pool next to the sea. Either way the falls look incredible and fall pretty much straight into the sea.

Tourists splashing in the pool at the foot of Jeongbang Falls.

Rowan getting soaked by Jeongbang falls. The water was a curious mixture of warm sea water and absolutely freezing river water.

After the waterfall we had a delicious dinner of Jeju black pig samgyeopsal from a very friendly restaurant just up the hill from our motel, Jeju is famous for its own breed of black pigs with a distinctively delicious taste, they are very tasty.

Black pig barbecue in Seogwipo.

The next day we got up early feeling excited because it was the day of the submarine ride! We went down to the harbour to the submarine tour offices and, with a load of Korean tourists, were led to a boat which took us out to where the submarine was waiting. For some reason, when we were moving from the boat to the sub, we were put in the front of the queue - maybe they gave us preferential treatment because we were waygooks (foreigners) or maybe they just wanted us out of the way! The sub was awesome, we dived to a depth of about 45m, saw lots of fish, coral and even a ship wreck. A diver came down with the sub and swam alongside it, feeding the fish to draw them near so we could all gawp at them.

Submarine 'Jiah' awaits!

The submarine captain stands at attention.

A diver attracting fish by feeding them shrimp.

Fish swarming around the boat chasing after the shrimp left by the diver.

The captain of the ship at the controls.

Some stripy fish, no idea what sort of fish they are though.

Jeju isn't quite warm enough for hard coral but there were magnificent displays of brightly coloured soft coral.

It was pretty cramped in the submarine but nowhere near as cramped as the little North Korean sub we saw in Jeongdongjin.

After the sub ride we were given free photo souvenirs of us grinning like idiots. We went back to the motel, picked up our stuff and caught a bus to Jungmun Beach, Jeju's big, luxury tourist resort where Korean newly weds stay on their honeymoon. Our first stop in Jungmun was the Teddy Bear Museum. This museum is apparently very popular with Korean newly weds and we saw a lot of happy looking couples wandering around it, having their pictures taken with every, yes every, single bloody exhibit. The museum of course had lots of exhibits about teddy bears and featuring teddy bears recreating fsmous moments from history including: the teddy moon landing, the the teddy Beartles, the teddy titanic disaster of 1912 and the discovery of the teddy-cotta army in China!

Korean couple having their photo taken with a giant teddy.

"Is that an iceberg ahead, Teddy?" The brave teddy-tanic musicians play on as disaster envelopes them.

The Teddy Moon landing, 1969.

Teddies storming the beaches of Normandy, 1944.

Brave American teddies fighting their way up the beaches in Normandy.

Teddy Van Gogh.

After the teddy bear museum we wandered down to Jungmun beach and spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in the sun and swimming. We rented another inflatable ring and rode it up some massive waves. Jungmun beach is very popular with families and though it was a nice, clean beach with lots of amenities (showers, stands selling noodles, beer etc.) we did wonder why it was so popular as the current seemed really strong and the waves were ridiculously big. We realised later that this was not the norm. In fact, it was because a typhoon was about to hit Jeju and it would be the first either of us had ever experienced. We left the beach about 7pm and got caught in some serious rain waiting for a bus back to Seogwipo - this was the beginning of the typhoon though we didn't realise it yet. Luckily we had some cheap little plastic rain coats which saved us from the worst of it. We picked up some beer and noodles and retired to our motel for the night.

The next day was really miserable, with driving rain and strong winds. We went to the tourist info and got some bus timetables grabbed some breakfast from a convenience store and tried to decide what to do given the horrible weather. In the end we decided to take refuge in the Rose Marine (Pyeonuijeom), a bar that looked like a tumbledown shack almost completely hidden by jungly foliage with bits of boat attached to it and some random skis for decoration. Yep, the most random bar we've come across in Korea and one of the best with friendly staff and a chilled atmosphere. We had a few beers there while we waited for the rain to stop and amused ourselves taking lots of portrait photos with my dslr camera on different settings.

View of Seogwipo harbour in the rain from the Rose Marine.

Yet more rain, this time soaking the wooden picnic benches outside the Rose Marine.

By about 4pm the rain finally started to ease off a little so we caught the 600 bus to Jungmun to see the Yeomiji Botanical Gardens, housed in a huge greenhouse. The plants were nice but the gardens were not that special, not compared to Kew Gardens anyway. The view from the top of the building was pretty good though.

The giant greenhouse structure of the Yeomiji Botanical Gardens.

A massive Amazonian water lilly, some of the pads were nearly a meter across and had spines on the outside.

Cactus plants at the gardens.

The delightful weather outside from the windows at the top of the gardens.

Some of the debris blown down by the typhoon.

We eventually ventured back outside and the weather had got even worse so we caught a bus back to town, picked up some beer and noodles (again!) and took cover in our motel room. We watched some trashy films and hoped for better weather for the next day.