We make a plan to tour the rim road (1132) of the entire island today, stopping at famous beaches or landmarks, basically wherever we decide to stop. Everyone gets their swimsuits on and off we go (I brought donuts with us so the kids all have donuts for breakfast before we leave our room). We go down to the lower level carpark where they have car elevators (a very common thing in Korea and given the lack of space, I guess it makes sense), but they are not common where I’m from and they are very cool as far as I am concerned. They bring our car to us and we go on our way, forgetting the waze app for the time being and just following the map. Our first destination is Pyoseon Beach. It is raining heavily and the temps have cooled right down today and though I made sure the kids had long pants and sweaters, hubby and I do not. It is actually almost cold. Yuck!
We stop and look at the Jeju folk village near the beach but we don’t get out as it is raining quite heavily. We do however, stop at the beach where everyone is eager to investigate but upon crossing the road and heading towards the water, all realize how chilly it is. Hubby and Hunter head back to the car whilst the girls and I use the public restroom. One thing you will notice throughout your travels through Korea is that there are normally public toilets everywhere. What sort of state they will be in is a different story, but I have honestly found that they are normally pretty good and if they’re not, then someone will soon come along and clean them. This particular instance was no exception. We were the only people in sight yet the toilets were open and clean. One other warning, Koreans do not flush toilet paper. Their sewerage system never used to be able to handle it so it has been done that way for a long time, but when Seoul hosted the Water and Sewerage Exhibition in 2008, they totally overhauled the pipes and have been upgrading pipes throughout South Korea ever since.
From there we kept going along the coast road heading towards Sinyang Seopjikoji Beach. We stopped at Aqua planet Jeju, but as it was now almost 11:30, we had missed all the morning shows and the afternoon shows didn’t start until about 4 and we would have had to pick one to attend, with a slim possibility of attending another one. Adult admission was ₩29,000 and children 13 and under ₩24,000 so, though it wasn’t too expensive, it did seem like a lot of money to pay given we had missed the morning shows and would only be able to see one in the afternoon. Also, we had just been to Underwater World in Australia in July of last year, so I wasn’t overly keen on going to another aquarium. I wanted to see the real under-the-ocean underwater. It was then I suggested we all go on a submarine ride. We had other friends who were actually on Jeju at the same time, but they were doing a group tour, and they had done a submarine tour the day before. It looked like fun. Hubby and I had done something like that once before in Malta and he didn’t want any part in it (he gets a little seasick unfortunately). So I decided to take the two girls with me and he and Hunter would go and get pizza (I forgot to mention we had found a Chicago pizza place on our way) then wander around.
Off to the Udo submarine tour, the girls and I went. This is also where I was somewhat surprised that no one spoke English. I don’t mean to sound conceited but this is something inviting to foreigners to partake in and the international common denominator language is English, yet neither of the women at the ticket booth spoke English, luckily they understood enough to at least write down prices and times for me, but that was all, the rest, including where I had to go to catch the boat to get to the submarine, was up to me to decide. Something else I found odd was the limited information on any of the submarine tours, available online. So I’m going to share that with you. It was ₩56,000 per adult and ₩34,100 per child. They do have a number of sub tours going daily and those are written on a board next to the ticket counters. It is all inside the port terminal, and you do have to pay to park in there so hubby just dropped us off and did (quite possibly an illegal) U-turn out of there. There will be a lot of people inside the terminal but most of them seem to be catching ferries to either Udo Island or some other unknown destination. You have to walk outside of the terminal about 15 minutes before your scheduled tour begins and wait underneath the covered area directly ahead of you, near the water. A boat will arrive that will take you to the submarine dock. The boat ride takes about 15 minutes and is not overly rocky or anything (we had some rough seas that day yet I didn’t feel anything until we were docking at the submarine). Then you are ushered off the boat into the submarine. You literally have to climb down a metal ladder into the submarine so it could be difficult for the elderly and for small children without a parent who can hold them. As it was, I went ahead of the girls so I could catch them if they slipped and I went last to get out for the same reason. After you find your spot on the submarine, the boat will begin to submerge. The tour on the boat is in both English and Korean and Chinese (I think). As you go to the bottom of the surprisingly shallow harbour (about 30 metres) you land on an artificial reef, then a diver will swim around the submarine feeding the fish, ensuring you (well no, not you, ensuring the professional photographer) gets a shot of the passengers with the fish in the window. It’s quite cheesy but my girls loved it nonetheless. Then you head over to a natural reef and look at some amazing coral, followed by some other interesting sites. The actual submarine ride is about 30 minutes long, so it’s all over very quickly. The professional photographer comes around at the end and asks for ₩5,000 for the photo he took, I paid it, just because, but I was happy to see another photo they took just before we boarded the submarine, was actually free as a souvenir. You could of course, upgrade, but I chose not to. Would I recommend it? Yes, if you have kids between the ages of 5 – 12. Otherwise, unless it’s something that really interests you and you don’t think you’ll ever have the opportunity to do something like this again, then give it a miss and do it somewhere else where it’s a little more natural.
From here, we met up with hubby and dear son, they had even bought extra pizza for us, which was both lovely tasting and very prettily wrapped. We headed back to our favourite rim road (1132) and continued our tour of the beaches and sites. Next stop, Gimnyeong Seonsegi Beach.
This beach certainly could be beautiful. There was white sand (I think) hidden underneath the netting and rubbish that covered most of the beach. I guess it wasn’t officially open yet (apparently July is opening season for a lot of the beaches on Jeju Island). We were just disappointed with not only the netting cover, but once again, the litter situation. I don’t understand how people cannot care about their surroundings, their earth, their neck of the woods, so to speak. It really does flabbergast me and this country in particular is particularly bad when it comes to trash. There is literally garbage everywhere! Half the time one cannot find a rubbish bin either, which definitely exacerbates the issue, but in a country that has 30 people planting individual plants in some fields (even grass blades getting planted individually) one would think labor could be better spent perhaps picking up the garbage that litters everywhere. I know that sounds super negative and I honestly don’t mean it to. It is just my perception of one thing that could so easily change if priorities were steered in a different direction. Just like Australia could so easily start making people who collect unemployment benefits start cleaning up our beaches, or contributing to society in some way that ensures they are participating in the betterment of our world whilst being paid by our government during a time of perhaps difficulty in finding regular employment. Simple solutions are sometimes the best and if Jeju was clean, wow!
The dark volcanic rock that decorates some of the shoreline, is very pretty. I loved the way the divets had been created leaving little tiny rivers ebbing through. Even the seaweed added something to the picture. From what I can see in other people’s photos, part of the beach ‘opening’ includes the removal of the seaweed. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you’re swimming. At least the sun was finally attempting to break through the clouds, so we all stood there soaking up the clear water combined with the massive wind generators in the distance, for quite a long time.
Hamdeok Seoubong Beach was next on our list, well my list really, put together from the little I could find on the Internet without reading super long blogs like mine! 😜 and it was definitely worthwhile seeing. Very pretty. Crazy, even during non-peak times like May 29, but worthwhile. Unfortunately, the first thing we see is a massive group of garbage bins that stink to high horses, filled to the brim, overflowing in fact, with all sorts of garbage. This place is very scenic yet this is what you see as you walk from the carpark. The green grass opens up before you as you cross the road, in the distance you can see some sort of point or bridge, something that goes out towards the water. There’s a beautiful statue of gold fisherman holding their net, lining a small piazza (square) right beside the beachfront road. The restaurants right opposite Hamdeok Beach seem to be traditional Korean restaurants (which would be fine except the one we walked past doesn’t seem to be overly clean once again). The restaurant that sits right on the beach though is a different story. A little more international with the focus on gourmet coffee and ice cream, but with such vogue-ish offerings come vogue-ish prices.
The beach itself was looking very green- as in lots of seaweed (I guess the cleanup crews weren’t in hurry just yet for this beach either). But the walk out on the pier/dock/bridge (not really sure of the best word to describe it) was very nice. There were a couple of pontoon anchor things out, we assume during peak season these have many things available for hire, docked to them. The bay is quiet with calm waters and shark nets so quite protected and the perfect location to take part in all sorts of activities. Once again, all of these things were not operating during our time here. There was a little bridge leading out to the pier and the view from there looked over to an amazing hill that bordered the seaside. Covered in grassland, it reminded me of the charming knolls that litter the landscape in southern England and Ireland, with all the charm but a little more warmth, on this day anyway. Truly magnificent. No wonder Koreans love to come here.
The sun was definitely attempting to shine, but not nearly enough to entice us to pay the prices at the lovely waterfront restaurant in Hamdeok, nor to wait the half hour to be seated. It was time to get on our way and see the next beach on our (my) list, Samyang Black Sand Beach. We drove on our ring road once again and followed the signs, low and behold, before we got to the black sand beach, we passed these really cool looking huts and a sign indicating a historic (prehistoric) site. I am all about random heritage sites. Yes, there’s the modern day tourist stuff but the history buff in me just has this steadfast curiosity about the way people thrived in previous times and I guess my husband shares it because the minute I suggested we call in, he pulled in to the nearest cross road and looked for the car park closest to the site. I jumped out to find out how much it would be and was pleasantly surprised when the very nice gentleman at the information office told me it was free.
Jeju Samyang-dong Remains – National Historic Site No. 416.
Definitely well worth it for some insight into South Korea (particularly Jeju) during 100BC. Amazing to imagine this now well-developed area as it was then with this indigenous culture thriving on the sea and the land, trading, using pottery, decorating themselves with jewellery, living within huts, yet socializing within their village, with both a village elder/leader, but also a meeting place. If this sort of thing interests you, I would definitely suggest going here. It is clean, well organized with some interactive stuff for the kiddos (all in Korean mind you but don’t be afraid to just go with it) and just plain educational.
Samyang Black Sand Beach itself was very disappointing. Here we were, four of us remembering black sand beach on the Big Island in Hawaii, hoping to bring some black sand home without being cursed, yet, instead, we were hoping to find a small corner of that beach that wasn’t covered in litter. It was pretty atrocious! The worst beach thus far. The kids kept begging me to take their shoes off and step onto the sand (there’s a wrap around concrete stairway/footpath that literally does wraparound this very small beach that we made them stay on until I could find a small stretch of sand that was free of rubbish). Once again, I was shocked at the lack of care given to something viewed as so incredible. Dog crap everywhere and rubbish piled upon rubbish. I did find a small area the kids got to hang out in but that was it. No begging or pleading could change either of our minds about where they could and couldn’t step on this beach. It was rather disappointing and very sad for those of us who care about our environment.
Today, our timing actually worked out, we had been heading for Jeju-si for dinner and taking our time getting there, and it all actually worked out. The kids even had extra pizza from the Chicago pizza still in the box if they didn’t like anything on the menu for dinner. We were trying to follow Trip Advisor (of whom I am a huge fan, but once you download the app, becomes a very difficult app to use here because it keeps saying you need wifi, yet I have a smart phone that accesses the Internet). Anyway, we used hubby’s phone to locate at least some of the top ten international restaurants from both Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet. Some difficulty was had again using the Waze app to find addresses. I’m not sure what the best way to go is but I suggest researching restaurants close to your hotel prior to going to Jeju, including dishes they serve as well as hours they are open, as well as possibly calling them ahead of time to ensure they will be open during your scheduled trip. You may also even want to plot them on your physical map because heaven knows what your GPS will do once you are on Jeju. We were hoping to find one of a number of international restaurants recommended on Trip Advisor, Trazy and Lonely Planet but had a lot of trouble entering addresses. We eventually decided on Cooking Story BOB, or D Stone Pub as they were supposedly near each other, but couldn’t find either on said Waze app, so I just put in the local landmark of Yongduam Rock (Dragon Head Rock) and clicked on the first thing that came up on my Waze app with fingers crossed. Somehow, we accidentally found D Stone Pub, pulling into it without even knowing we had found it. The reviews were right, in that it is a lovely view and the food is very eclectic. None of the kids wanted anything on the very short menu, instead opting for hot chocolates. These were expensive but honestly some of the best hot chocolates I have ever seen or tasted. Wonderful. Highly recommended. Hubby and I shared a taster of the beer on offer and he ordered a burger (it was ok but had a distinctive mayonnaise on it that he didn’t particularly like but his fries/chips that came with it were wonderful, unfortunately there were only about 5 on his plate) whilst I ordered the spaghetti. Very interesting take on spaghetti with large pieces of broccoli in the mix, but the meat was very tender and the entire dish worked very well. I would highly recommend this dish. It was definitely pricey though with the entire order totaling about ₩65,000 and the children didn’t eat.
We were done with our explorations for today so opted to drive through the center of the island to get back to Sogwipo and were shocked at how foggy and rainy it was as we neared the volcano in the middle. This did remind us of Hawaii in places and was quite majestic and haunting all at the same time. We made it though, no headless horseman to be seen and once again were reminded that the Sogwipo side of the island just didn’t cut it like the Jeju-si side.