Jeju Island – part 2

Jeju Island – part 2

Sunday
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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Jeju Island Part 1

Jeju Island Part 1

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.

Saturday

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.

m.jejuweekly.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=352