Over the Luna New Year (설날), Jo and I headed to Jeju Island. It was to be our first trip out to this magical place and something we had both been looking forward to achieving. Jo, being the master planner that she is, scoured the travel sites and books to come up with really interesting things for us to do each day.
It’s probably the greatest thing I love about her. She really knows how to go out and find exciting things for us to do. Then we show up, film with our cameras, and move on. While in Jeju, we approached things “A Day Away” style. Each day we focused on an area of Jeju and hit as many attractions as possible. This meant for some long days, but they were filled with excitement. We also managed to find some truly hidden gems. The big problem (for me) has been with the video editing. Normally, “A Day Away” videos are broken into two parts. Since we shot four days worth of videos, this meant taking half of my month to show Jeju videos. While I like what I shot, I didn’t want to turn my YouTube channel into an exclusive Jeju outlet, since there are so many things going on locally I want to share. The result? At long last, I’m going to experiment with a longer format video. Each of the Jeju videos will be roughly twice as long as my normal ones. I hope people still enjoy them.
Up first we traveled to the East Side of the Island for sunrise.
Our destination was the Seongsan Ilchulbong. A stadium sized crater next to the ocean, it faces the east and is high enough that one can climb it in the morning to see the sun rise and return in the afternoon to see it set. The drive took us 90 minutes from Jeju City, long before the sun came up. I’m happy to say that we made it there and up the hill long before everyone else. As the sun neared the horizon, scores of others came to join us. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy and hazy day, but still great. On our way down we managed to stumble upon a temple and walked its grounds before grabbing a little bite and heading off to our next destination.
What Jo and I decided to do was spend a few hours on Udo Island. It’s small in comparison to Jeju, but has its own roads and Olle course. We could only spend a few hours driving around. The wind really kicked up but what made everything worth it was the crystal clear water. If I didn’t know better, I’d say we were in the Caribbean and not Asia.
The one mistake we made was not taking our car on the island. While we did hire a golf cart to drive, it was just too slow to drive. If we had been smart and took our car on the ferry, we could have zipped along and hit everything we wanted to see. Plus we’d have navigation and not some hand-drawn map that was quite lacking in details.
While on our way to our next destination we saw a sign for the Haenyeo Museum. The word Haenyeo literally means “Sea Women” and is applied to the women of Jeju that have spent their lives diving in its waters. These women are amazing and start as young as six learning the ways of the ocean. The museum isn’t that large, but includes a short film about these magnificent mermaids of the sea and how their life evolved. Outside, there’s a large monument dedicated to their heroic efforts during the Japanese occupation.
From there we continued our drive to the Gimnyeon Maze Park. I had been looking forward to this all day. Frederic Dustin, an American, invested his life savings to create this park. It’s massive and marked the first time I had ever been inside a labyrinth this size. What was even cooler (to me) was the fact that the maze included seven hidden features about Jeju:
- The maze itself is shaped like Jeju.
- A horse’s head to mark the arrival of the Mongols.
- Snakes to represent native beliefs.
- Dolmon Stones.
- A ship representing the arrival of the Dutch
- Yin/Yang to represent harmony.
- Location – it sits perfectly on Jeju’s East-West axis of orientation.
The final stop of the day took us to Manjanggul Cave. It’s part of a larger network of lava tubes on Jeju, that UNESCO has designated as World Heritage Sites. I have to say that I was personally amazed. Coming from Flagstaff, AZ where we have many lava tubes, I was astonished to see something so large. In places, this particular tube was 24m high and 18m wide. I’m used to crawling through tubes on my belly with a hard had and lantern. That simply wasn’t the case here.
Inside this particular section is a lit course that takes visitors 1km inside the earth. At the end is a 10, double column lava flow from a higher level. It’s one of only a few on earth and a primary reason this system was the UNESCO tag. Geologists are doing a great job preserving the cave, as they have numerous monitors scattered along the walking course to ensure temperature and humidity remain at optimum levels. This cave is certainly one not to miss while in Jeju.
That capped our first day. We started before the sun came up and exited the cave just as the sun was setting. Not a bad way to start out the new lunar year.