Shana and I have made a solemn pact that the next place we travel will be cold. Sweden, Finland, Andes Mountains, Sweden, Mongolia, The Alps, Russia, Hokkaido, deep space… really anywhere that doesn’t result in a full sweat just leaving the hotel room. Our three most recent trips have been beset with… slightly above average temperatures for the region. Osaka and Kyoto experienced record breaking heat while we were there. Seoul basically turned into a steaming pot with the high temperatures and excessive rain. Did I mention that we visited Santorini and experienced record breaking heat there too? Athens, Yep. Venice? Uh huh. Thailand? Well what did we expect? Yeah of course it was hot there. We been on a record breaking streak of temperature record breaking while traveling.
Anyways, we had planned to visit Jeju island, the “Hawaii of Korea” as a way to beat the heat, hang out on the beach and generally enjoy some laid back island time.
A couple short notes on logistics. If you plan on taking a ferry from Mokpo there are three different ferry terminals in Mokpo (that I saw) and the international one is where you get tickets and board the ferry. Jeju has some sort of ambiguous self governing relationship with the Korean government so its technically an international boat ride. Second, if you plan on going to Jeju in Late July or August, don’t. Seriously. Go some where else. It’s peak season in that time frame so many of the nicer hotels will be booked solid and guest houses can be hit and miss. Also, IT’S REALLY HOT!
The ferry was quite pleasant and a brief respite from the heat while being on open water. Once at the ferry terminal Bus #95 goes to the Jeju-si (Jeju City) Bus Terminal which is the only effective way of really getting anywhere on the island without paying a fortune in cab fare or renting a car.
If you hate logic and have zero sense of self preservation, a scooter may be a cheap rental on Jeju and an efficiently dangerous way to get around. One tourist we met had done just that. Our chosen form of near death experiences was put it in the hands of deranged bus driving maniacs. Lacking the stones to risk our lives to see half assed museums the bus is really the only way to go. It may be inefficient, slow, dangerous, nauseating and occasionally smelly but it beats walking. Based on the pattern of the bus routes, staying close to Jeju City Bus Terminal is the best option. Just about everything thats worth seeing on the island is about an hour by bus from something else. It’s a hub and spoke system basically run out of Jeju City and there aren’t a lot of transfers to be had because most bus lines don’t cross.
From the ferry terminal we arrived at the bus terminal and had to catch another bus to get to the south side of Jeju where Seogwipo-si is located. Total travel time, 4.5 hours on the ferry, 40 min from ferry terminal to Jeju-si bus terminal – 1.2 hours to Seogwipo by bus. When we arrived in Seogwipo we had assumed that when the bus said it went to the Seogwipo bus terminal that was where it was going. However the bus driver pulled over at a round about in Seogwipo and basically asked all the foreigners to get off the bus. I’m still not sure if it was good or bad but we had a about ten minute walk from there to where the hotels were.
We stopped in at a guest house that came highly recommended on TripAdvisor.com and found they were completely booked. However the woman at the front desk was super nice and called around to the other hotels to see who had any vacancy. On the fourth or fifth call she found a love hotel nearby called Hotel Queen that had a room.
After spending some time in the AC we decided we would walk down and see the waterfall that is one of the main attractions in Seogwipo as well as catch a glimpse of the setting sun. After a brief incident that involved some water, band-aids and a sterile wipe proffered to use by a British couple we made our way down the 800 meter path following signs to Jeonbang Falls. Keeping in mind that there is an entrance to the entrance, and when we finally arrived at the stairway to the falls proper we found out that it A) costs money and B) closed about 10 minutes before we got there. If the Jeju tourism board is interested in money they should look into extending hours during summer when it would be light for another 2 hours after the gate closed. Also, a sign at the front with the hours posted would be nice so that a person who is unfamiliar with the area, say… a tourist for instance, doesn’t have to walk the 800 meters to find out that its closed. No waterfall for us.
Thoroughly disappointed and starting to get a bit hungry we made our way down Chilsmini-ro towards the harbor, what Seogwipo calls, Seogwipo Food Street. While there is plenty of food on this street that has a view of the ocean, all of it was incredibly over priced. I even saw a fish listed at 237,000 won. Thats in the neighborhood of 230 dollars for a fish. Anyways, we ended up getting pizza that was decent enough and relatively inexpensive. We also decided that we had essentially had enough of Seogwipo and would be heading to Jeju City the next day.