Sunday, June 17, 2012

Jeju Island - Part 1

So, we hop on a plane to Jeju island.  It's only an hour flight, so Hannah handled it like a champ.  Jeju island is just south of the mainland, and it is sub-tropical.  It is an island that was completely created by a volcano, so you see volcanic rock everywhere.  It sort of has a Hawaii vibe, but it's still Korean culture, so they have the bali bali (rush rush) mind of thinking.
The first thing we do is rent a car, because you really can't do anything without a car here.  The transit system is small and a lot of the neat locations are remote.  So, we rent a crappy car again (Some Daewoo that looks like a Chevy Spark) and start heading up Halla mountain.  Along the way is beautiful hilly landscape with grass, trees and flowers. 

We only get about halfway to take pictures, because to hike the actual mountain takes a very long time, and we really can't spend all day on a mountain with a baby. We are sort of near the top, so the mountain doesn't look that big, but it actually is the largest mountain in South Korea.

We then head down the other side of the mountain and get to the south side of the island.  The island is quite bigger than I thought it was.  It took almost 2 hours to go North/South.  On the South side we check out Jusangjeolli which is a rock formation formed by lava.  What makes this special is that the lava was crystalized in the water making these rad columns that you see in this picture. 

After visiting this natural phenomenon, we go to the go-kart track.  Something that's pretty much the opposite. This was a lot of fun, but sorta dangerous.  These karts are super fast, and there is zero safety gear.  I already paid online, so I decide to give it a go.  Some of the adolescent kids around me were drifting and whatnot.  I didn't do that crap, I just did the normal apex turning I learned from video games. They often spun out, so I actually did quite well.


After this, we eat, then take I take a tylenol, because I have a huge headache from racing.  We then make our way to Cheonjiyeon waterfalls.  The falls are 72 ft high and sometimes display different amount of streams depending on rainfall from the mountain.  There is a pathway lit up all along the way and the falls themselves are lit, which makes for great nightime shots. 

Here is the pathway made with this beautiful volcanic rock stones:

By this time it's getting late, so we check into our condo (they call them pension here, no idea why) and get some sleep.  We then wake up the next day, travel very far with our car, then get aboard a ferry, then get on this floating dock.  Why are we doing this?  We are going for a submarine ride!  Yay!

Actually, it was kinda scary.  I think our submarine driver was drunk and often smashed into the reef.  I do not know if this is normal, but it certainly was not comforting.  Anyways, fear was put aside quickly because there was some beautiful sights under sea.

Fishy Fishy
Scuba Scuba.

Reefy reefy

After that amazing experience, we head for some lunch.  We opted for some spicy pork noodles and they did not disappoint.

Porky porky (Okay I'm done now)
  Next, we hike up Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak).

Wait, that picture doesn't give scope on exactly what we are doing... here's a helicopter shot (that someone else took).

As you can guess... yup, this used to be a volcano.  About 5000 years ago, lava erupted from the sea and it eventually ended up making this 182 metre cone.  At the top, there is lots of grass and trees.  It's surprising how green it is.  To think this just used to be black rock and somehow plants thrive here.  There are actually rare plants on this volcano that are only found here.  It is a UNESCO heritage site.

So naturally, I'm going to climb this sucker (Sohee and Hannah only made it halfway).  It's not a super long hike, maybe 30-40 minutes, but I'm in flip flops naturally.  This is the Metzler style.  Hiking boots are for pansies.  Anyways... I finally get there... Before I look into the cone, I turn around, and I see something astonishing.  Not only is it a spectacular view.  This part of the island is where this mini volcano over flowed, creating some interesting land shapes:

Don't jump.
 Inside the cone, the camera doesn't quite capture how rad this was in real life.  Firstly, it doesn't all fit in the lens.  Also, the grass seems to be cut, but it is untouched.  The shape is concave, almost like a valley. There is also a nice cool breeze, which I needed because it's very hot and humid (perfect hiking weather *sarcasm*).

Timing is everything.  If this was 5000 years ago, I'd be lava.
Now, I gotta hike down. I see a few people with water and cold green tea, reminding me that I don't need such luxury items. Just flip flops and the clothes I wore yesterday.  It's a long hike down, but going down is easier than going up.  It'd be super fun to toboggan (to your death).

Sup?  Come here often?
On the way down, I meet Sohee and Hannah halfway and we hike down a little further to the bay that is located on the side of the volcano.  Here, there are famous women divers of jeju putting on a show.  They don't use scuba gear (other than a mask).  They are able to hold their breath for 3 minutes (or more) while collecting shellfish and seaweed.  They train from the age of 12.

Unfortunately, this practice is dying out because there isn't much interest from the younger generation.

Just to give some reference on the bay, it's actually pretty beautiful:

After this, we hop in our tini car and head to Pheonix island. This is basically a resort but there is a really nice park attached with some nice walkways and a great view of the ocean.  Near the entrance, there is this stone henge like rock thing that they built.  It doesn't have any real significance, it's just for show:
An earthquake would really suck right about now.
There is also this really nice pond with fountains and lily pads n' stuff.

No Frogs.
Now, there are two ways to go, one is a dirt path nature trail, and the other is a smooth man made brick pathway. Most would choose the nature trail, as we did, but with a stroller, it sucked.  It kept getting stuck and we had to end up carrying the stroller and the baby until it met up with the brick path again.

Also, this was the only interesting shot:

I don't know what I'm doing.

After finally getting to the main pathway, we make our way to the ocean pathway, which has some amazing views of the ocean:

Also, there are some horses.  They are tied up so they will not go wild and jump off the cliff or attack the people.
Vicious horse with her foal.
The trail goes really far, as you can see on the left here.  There are also a ton of people so we decided to only go halfway and then check out some other things.

I'm super glad we decided to keep going for a bit, we suddenly spotted a huge pod (not sure if that's the right word) of dolphins.  It's really hard to tell from this picture, but there must have been at least 50 of them.  It was really awesome:

DOLPHIN!!! (Sohee says loudly)
They were jumping in the air and playing with each other, but of course we could never time it right with the camera.  Just close your eyes and imagine it. Dolphins everywhere.  Anyways, the point is dolphins are cool.

I should wrap up Part 1 here as the laptop is burning my legs.  I'll leave you with another family photo as we leave Phoenix Island:

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