We had been told by many people that Memorial Day weekend (the last Saturday, Sunday, Monday in May) was a great time to visit Jeju Island, also known as the ‘Hawaii of Korea’. So we booked our package mini holiday and off we went.
So let me first start with the entire month of May being both chaotic and not necessarily the best time for me (please read my other blogs if you’re interested in knowing more). The week leading up had been very busy for all the family with Hunter’s birthday, field days for both girls, exams for Ally, excursion for Hunter, busy days for the husband, dental appointments for three of us, you name it! We were ready for our little holiday! Unfortunately expectations and reality didn’t quite meet.
Thursday night we had Ally’s choir concert, followed by multiple things when we got home. Friday the kids all went to school but hubby (who had the day off – sort of) and I had to go and pay a deposit for a birthday party, do a couple of errands, then he had to call into work and take care of some business whilst I did some grocery shopping. From there we bought Maddy’s birthday present, and that was it, day over, the kids came home from school, we got them showered and dropped our dog off then headed to the dentist. Friday night was a late night, with our dental appointment taking longer than expected, then it was home to pack. I fell into bed about 1am only to awaken at 0545. Yay.
Everyone was tired when we set off for Gimpo airport at 7am. Thank god for the Waze app. If you live in South Korea, you will soon find this a necessity. We took a couple of wrong turns even still, but I had allowed us plenty of time for error and/or traffic (something one must always allow for in South Korea). We eventually made it to domestic departures and the domestic car park, only to be told the wait to get into the car park was itself about 1 hour, what! Yes, if you plan to park at the domestic terminal at Gimpo airport, allow yourself at least 1 hour. Panic mode did set in a little then but I had seen a lot of cars waiting for something at the actual departure area and hubby suggested maybe we could leave the car there. We took the loop back around and pulled up behind all the cars and I jumped out and found someone who spoke English to ask. This was valet parking. For an extra ₩15,000 we could leave our car here and have it delivered to us upon our return and we wouldn’t have to wait in the other line. “Yes! This will work!” we said in our haste, not quite realizing at the time that parking itself was also going to be more expensive than we had originally planned. All in all, it cost us ₩55,000 (about US$50) and we parked at 0900 Saturday morning until 1900 Monday night, but we made our flight, so it was worth it for us.
They took a video of our entire car, handed us a piece of paper and we went and found our checkin counter. Our travel agent told us we wouldn’t need ID’s for the kids to check in but we thought it best to be prepared, so we bought their passports with us (thank god we did that too as we’d still be standing at the counter 3 days later had we not)! Bring your little one’s passports. After checking in we were told to wait for 15 minutes so they could notify us of any issues with our bag, we did, then we left. Unfortunately something was taken from our bag, we were not notified until we reached our hotel in Jeju and found the notice in the bag but we couldn’t read what was taken either and couldn’t find anything missing, so who knows! The lock never went back on to our suitcase (we only took one check-in for all of us), the zipper was closed over our son’s walkie talkie, so the antenna was sticking out through the zipper as well). Oh well.
We get to the Jeju International airport and have been given a piece of paper (more like a booklet) directing us to the car rental location. it is raining. We hum and ha about whether we should all walk there and eventually decide yes, we should. We nearly get hit by a taxi as we are crossing at a pedestrian crossing with a green light, so, with Hunter in my arms, I karate kick the side of the taxi, I am a little pissed off by now and that just really made me mad. The taxi speeds off and the whole family are a little in shock and awe at Mummy’s kicking skills! 😜
Eventually, the rental place is located and the exchange is actually very easy. Yay! It’s the little wins! Everyone is starving, so the plan is to make our way to our hotel (we are staying at the M Stay – Taepyeong-ro 353beon-gil 14, Seogwipo) and look for somewhere to eat along the way, here is where we hit some trouble.
Let me give you some background information; I have picky eaters and a reasonably picky husband. I too am not fond of many foods on offer in South Korea. I worry about meat being something other than beef, pork or chicken, I’m also concerned about which part of the animal they are using. We all like very lean meat and that too, is something not found in too many places. None of us eat ‘fishy’ fish and I’m about the only one who will eat anything else that comes out of the sea. Jeju Island was challenging to say the least and given that horse meat is consumed regularly on Jeju, I was very skeptical about what meat was actually what.
We found no restaurants of appeal on the hour long drive to the hotel. We finally pulled into the hotel and the rain has gotten heavier but it was still somewhat warm so the plan was to find some food then get in the pool and take it easy for the rest of the day.
Ms Lee (our travel agent at the CTO on Camp Humphreys) had told me there was a pool but it was outdoors, I said that I didn’t mind, as long as there was a pool. Well we arrive in the hotel, which is very nice mind you, I check in and ask where the pool is. At first they didn’t seem to understand me, but that wasn’t the problem at all, the problem was the pool didn’t open until June 1st! Not good! Not good at all. No one is happy.
Ok, let’s tackle this from a different angle, let’s just unpack, we’ll wander around and get some food then we can tackle the pool issue. So, we head to our very modern, very small room. I pull out the snack bag, thankful I brought something with us and everyone eats a little bit of something to tide them over so we can wander the streets near the M Stay Hotel to find something that all will eat. And I laughed and laughed.
We literally walked those streets for about two hours. There was an abundant amount of fish. The streets were dirty and filled with filthy garbage. The rain had started to subside but the puddles everywhere made one cautious to walk, in case a hidden danger lurked within. I carried my son, well the husband I took turns, because he only had open toed shoes to walk in. The minute the sun came out, everything started to smell too. We walked by restaurant after restaurant hoping to find something, anything. We stopped at a pizza place but the salad bar looked awful and the pizzas had fish on them. There were some barbecue pork places (Jeju is well known for its ‘black pig’) but the places either smelled too fishy or weren’t as clean as anywhere I would have liked to dine. We found a bakery that also sold pasta but not like any pasta any of us would have eaten, though we did buy a yummy cheese focaccia for the kids to share until we found somewhere suitable. During our adventures of hangry whining, we did stumble upon a very pretty street that was closed off and filled with artisans and their wares. The street is named after the artist who’s place of residence for a period of time (more of a small room within a hut) is along it; Lee Joong Seop (Lee Jung Seob). You can find more information about this famous oil painter here: http://m.jejuweekly.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=352
Eventually, when the hunger overtook us and the whining would shortly lead to someone getting hurt, we had to stop. Angel In Us cafe seemed the place to do that. We had been into at least 15 cafes – all of them offering coffee, cake and beer. Yes, I kid you not, if you want to eat/drink those things, you will be just fine!
So the hubby checked the menu at Angel In Us and there was a grilled cheese & ham sandwich. There was also a ham, egg and cheese ciabatta that I opted for. It was a small fortune, but anything to stop the rocky road we were on. The entire family was at the point well beyond walking on any egg shells. Hangry could no longer define anyone!
The sandwiches and ciabatta arrived, we all dug in. Mine was actually pretty good but the cheese and ham toasted sandwich was smeared in some sort of awful sweet mayonnaise type sauce. They all spat it out almost in synchrony. It would have been funny at any other time, but not now. Dear son decided he too loved my ciabatta and proceeded to eat most of it. I couldn’t bring myself to order another one given the whopping price and the small size. Hubby forced himself to swallow his sandwich given how hungry he was and the small fortune we’d spent on his sandwich too! I was sure that he wanted to behave like a three year old at that point in time, laying on the floor, kicking and screaming and partaking in a tantrum of tantamount proportions, but he didn’t. Somehow he kept his cool. If you know my husband then you know it takes a lot for him to get upset but when he’s hungry, it is a completely different ballgame. We are all done by now, just done. It is time to head back to the hotel and eat some snacks then come up with a new game plan for where to eat dinner. Off we go.
By now, I am sorting through a list of international restaurants in Jeju. Unfortunately, the family were a tad tainted by the idea of eating somewhere local given the quality of restaurant we had seen so far. I had posted something on Facebook about the frustration we were all feeling but I hadn’t really given the entire story about the cleanliness of the numerous restaurants we had already observed, so I think some of my FB friends were fairly quick to judge even the fussiness of my family, but to be fair, it had thus far been a pretty horrid ordeal. I had read some rave reviews about a place called Gheckos, so we headed to the car to try once again eating somewhere. We drove the 14km to get to the restaurant and though I had read that some thought it difficult to find, we actually found it fairly easily, it is literally just off on a side road, rather than the main road. Unfortunately though, Gheckos was closed for renovation! Can you believe it? Here we were, 2 adults, 3 kids, Having had nothing decent to eat for the entire day, and the one place we were relying on being open, the one international restaurant that was at least sort of on our side of the island, was closed for construction! Some expletives were said.
Hubby is looking at me for some answers and I am looking at him saying I have none. None whatsoever. We sat there, somewhat in shock and awe for about 10 minutes, neither of us knowing what the best move was. It was now after 8pm Saturday night. Eventually, I suggested we meander down the road for at least another few kms and see if any of the resorts (there were some on our map) were open and if they had restaurants serving international cuisine in them. There weren’t any. Resorts or restaurants. Well there was one place that looked pretty dodgy and had some fishy looking pictures and everyone said no in unison. So we turned around. We had passed a McDonalds about 8km back near the stadium so that was where we headed. Bloody awful McDonalds! What else could we do by now? Some basic food was bought (the McDonalds was dirty also) and to the hotel we returned, hoping Sunday would be a better day, thank god it was, in some ways.