Jejudo. M. and I had visions of a small, sun kissed ‘island’ where we could relax, kick back and enjoy – after all it’s South Korea’s number one honeymoon spot.
After reading about the various marvels of nature on this volcanic island, I romanticised about exploring them on foot during the day while spending the evening on a beach (Margarita in hand…) listening to the waves lapping up against Jejudo’s shores. If Jejudo was like Fogo – the Cape Verdian volcanic island whose wild beauty will draw in even the most cynical of tourists – then we were in for a treat.
So it came as a surprise to find that Jejudo, in terms of surface area, is larger than some cantons in Switzerland and has a thriving, bustling city centre. The next day we headed out to see why the island has been put on the list of 1001 Marvels of Nature You Must See in Your Lifetime.
Yongdu Am or the Dragon Head’s rock.
The Jusangjeolli cliffs with its vertical lava rock columns.
Hallasan National Park
The ‘Sunrise Peak’
The Lava caves
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, this trip was a great lesson in leaving your preconceptions (and your ready made bucket list) in a box under your bed. I imagined spending three days surrounded by wild, untamed, natural beauty. And at first I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed when I saw these natural wonders in their perfectly manicured surroundings.
I have to say that despite my initial reaction I did enjoy my time on Jejudo. And it’s not difficult to see why it’s been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I do hope that this post and previous ones on Jejudo’s Love Land and The Mysterious Road will convince you to visit if you’re in South Korea. But it’s not for these aspects of the island that I will always remember Jejudo.
What is etched in my mind is M. creating a stir as he effortlessly climbed up the “stairs” of Mount Hallsan with his beach sandals. For this bona fide Swiss, the climb up the mountain was child’s play and he found it funny that most people were equipped with hiking boots and other elaborate climbing gear.
I will also remember that we tried to hire a scooter, with no success, because we didn’t have an international driver’s license, even though we were told we didn’t need one by the hotel staff. In the end, this turned out to be a good thing because we got to spend the day driving around with Dexter.
This is M. with Dexter, so called because he was a “dextrous” driver.
It became very clear that communication would be difficult, even with the last four pages of the Lonely Planet. It was a pity, because he seemed a lovely, gentle man. But every time we had a question, or he wanted to tell us something, Dexter would make a long distance call to Seoul where one of his sons would translate for us!
Dexter, we found, was also an aspiring photographer. Everywhere we stopped during the day, Dexter would whip off the camera from around M.’s neck, make us pose (he had us pointing to the sky at one point…) and then take our picture. The catchphrase for that day was, “Jejudo is number one!”
If there was any doubt that I’m a dog traveller, I think Jejudo cleared it up once and for all!