South Korea Day 19: Jeju Island

Usually I’m not a fan of bus tours, but Jeju Island is quite large and it can be tricky to see the different sites using public transport alone. I took the Yeha day tour to the east, which included 2 out of 3 UNESCO sites on Jeju, Seongsan Ilchubong Peak and Manjanggul Lava Cave. Since the island used to be volcanic (it’s dormant now), there’s lots interesting natural sites like mountains, waterfalls and craters.

The first stop was a a horse ranch, it seemed odd, but back in the 14th Century, Mongolia used Jeju as one of the bases for its calvary. So the horses on the island are really short and round, which made it amusing when we went for a ride. It was mostly a photo op, but I wasn’t too interested in getting a photo framed with me sitting on a fat horse.

Next up was Seongeup Folk Village, which has been preserved to reflect life in the 19th Century. We had a guide tell us about his home and the traditions of the village, where they have a policy of no beggars, no thieves and no gates. Although back in the day it was tough being a woman, they were responsible for taking care of the family, fetching water from the mountain, fishing and most of the hard work in general.

The sour fruit tree, not as good as the famous Jeju tangerines

Each year they add a layer of straw and every ten years all the layers get replaced

The jug used to carry water or play music

Posters of the women divers, the TV show set in the village and the Jeju horse

The setting of a different TV show

We took a lunch break and tried black pork, it’s similar to regular pork, but the pigs on the island have black fur instead. After a short drive we arrived at Seongsan Ichubong Peak, where we watched a demonstration by the women divers. Most of the women were in their 70’s, which is quite common since the younger generation hasn’t been as keen to pick up the tradition. It’s quite hard work, they don’t use oxygen tanks so they dive for 2 to 3 minutes at a time, looking for seafood.

 

Climbing the peak took about 40 minutes for a roundtrip, but it was pretty steep. Essentially it’s a giant crater from 3 different underwater eruptions and it’s about 900m above sea level at the top. It’s quite a popular attraction and the views at the top are well worth the effort.

Bird’s eye view of the peak

Our last stop was the Manjunggul Lava Cave, it has one of the longest lava tubes in the world, reaching the ocean 13km away. Only 1km is accessible by the public, but it includes the largest lava column in the world, standing at 7.6m tall. It was pretty cold once we got underground, but is was cool to see the lines along the walls from where the lava flowed and the odd shapes it left behind.

For dinner I tried the seafood hotpot, it was pretty good, but I think abalone might be wasted on me, I still find the texture a bit chewy and strange. Since I was planning on going hiking the next day, I stocked up on some supplies and headed to bed early.

 

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