Friday, July 4, 2014



Not my map. Credit goes to

It's known as "The Hawaii of Korea." When you mention it to people in Korea, they will likely smile and say (if they speak English) one of three things:
  1. I've never been there, and I want to go visit.
  2. I've been there before, and I loved visiting.
  3. I've been there before and I want to visit again.
Basically, people in Korea love Jeju, so I figured that I should go check it out.

The round trip flight between Seoul (Gimpo) and Jeju cost 152,000 won, or about $150 USD. I booked the flight, through T'way Airlines, about a month and a half before the trip. Since South Korea is a fairly small country, it took less than an hour to fly from Seoul (in the northwest on the country) to Jeju (off the southwestern coast of the country)...and thank goodness. The flight was fine, but budget airline seats don't take kindly to the knees of gangly folk like me. In other words: My knees were up against the seat in front of me for the whole flight.

I got off the plane, retrieved my luggage, and stepped out of the airport. I saw several palm trees and felt a nice breeze blowing as the sun shone bright. Though Jeju is unlike Hawaii in that it experiences all four seasons, I could see why Jeju has been given the Hawaii moniker.

After a 5000 won (~$4.50 USD) taxi ride, I arrived at my hostel, HK Jeju. HK Jeju was good to us. The staff members were helpful and the rooms were nice enough. Unlike the other hostel I had stayed in when I visited Seoul before, each room had direct access to a private bathroom. Luxury!

The hostel was located right by the sea, and it was also a 10 minute taxi ride to the Intercity Bus Terminal (if you don't rent a car, this is your transportation lifeline).

Front of HK Jeju

Seaside walkway - a five minute walk from HK Jeju

Okay. Enough about that. Let's talk about what to do in Jeju.

My first stop: Seongsan Ilchulbong. I first saw a picture of this place in 2011 at the Korean Cultural Center in DC and thought, "I must go here." Since it would be a few hours before other members of my group arrived, and after an hour-and-a-half of getting lost in Jeju City and trying to figure out which bus I needed to take, I went on my own to the crater.

First, I should note that it took an hour-and-a-half (different from the hour-and-a-half  that I may or may not have mentioned in the last paragraph) to get from Jeju City in the north to Seongsan Ilchulbong in the east. At one point, before coming to Jeju, I had this idea that Jeju was really small and that I could just rent a bike and take a quick ride around the island...lololol.

After a while, the crater came into view.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy!

A few minutes later, I got off the bus, paid the 2000 won to get in, and hiked up. I also took many, many pictures. You've been warned.

Still here? You're tenacious, aren't you?

Seongsan (the village) from the trail

Seongsan from even higher on the trail

At the crater...I couldn't go down in it, nor did I want to. In related news, seeing other birds besides pigeons and crows (Seoul has an abundance of both) is a really nice experience.

Back at ground level

It's hard to see, but there were several divers in the sea. Jeju likes its seafood.
Man. I loved it. I loved it so much, I went again the next day with the rest of my group.

It's a good thing I did, because I ended up running into a friend from DC during round 2 at Seongsan Ilchulbong.

Hey Andrea! She was on her way to China before starting a combined masters/doctoral degree in Chicago. NBD.

Udo Island

Proof that I was in front of Udo Island
On the way back to our hostel, we stopped at Saehwa Beach, because who goes to Jeju without going to a beach?...the truth is, I may have skipped the beach completely if it weren't for the earnestness of a few of my traveling comrades.


See that strip of sand? We walked out to it, put our stuff down, and learned that tides are sneaky critters. Thankfully, no one's stuff got damaged.

Thanks for the sunset, Saehwa.
Okay. Let's be real here. The actual reason for me coming to Jeju was to summit Hallasan, the tallest mountain in South Korea. I was worried about the weather, since late June is around the beginning of monsoon season and weather can be unpredictable on the top of the mountain.

People, the weather couldn't have been better.

The first 60% of the trail on the way up, and the last 60% of the trail on the way down, was covered in pine trees. Beautiful as it was, it got monotonous, so most of these pics are from closer to the summit.

First vista. The city of Seogwipo is in the distance.

See that knob? That's the first sign of the peak.

As Lucy and I were relaxing, someone came up to us and gave us each a potato.

We were then invited over to eat cucumbers, mangoes, and treats with several people who had been friends since middle school. I loved this day! Such generous people.

Getting closer...

One kilometer left!

9.6 kilometers to the top, 8.7 kilometers to go to get the bottom...SO close to the summit


By the way, Hallasan is an extinct volcano.

Jeju City in the seemed so close, but it took SO long to get back.


Last view of the summit on the way down

It was a long hike. But with the chance meetings with generous people, and the amazing views, it was worth it.

I returned to Seoul the next day so that I could get ready for work, which meant that I spent a total of 3.5 days on Jeju. Could I have stayed there for longer? YES. But 3.5 days was a good amount of time to see a few of the things I wanted, and I worry that a longer stay would have tempted the weather fates.

Jeju, it was fun.

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