Jeju Island

Jeju Island is located off the southern coast of South Korea, only a 1h flight from Seoul and is a popular vacation spot for Koreans and foreigners. You will also find Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature on Jeju Island which is what attracted us to visit. We decided to book a last minute same day return flight from Seoul to Jeju which allowed us to visit Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak and parts of the eastern end of Jejudo Island. There are many sights to see and if you plan to visit the whole Island thoroughly I would recommend a three day stay.

Jeju is a special Island which boasts a very interesting traditional culture that is different from mainland South Korea and much of Asia; it is matriarchal. I will get into more detail on this subject later as it ties into one of the stops we made at a folk village where we met this lovely villager who shared a ton of information on local traditions and way of life.

We arrived at Jeju airport and decided to hire a taxi tour to take us around. We hired Global Taxi for 8 hours and it cost $150.00USD, worth it if you are trying to fit in as much as you can in a short period. No time to waste!

Jeju Airport

Our first stop was Iho Tewoo Beach, located close to downtown Jeju City, about a 40 minute drive. The beach swimming period for 2016 was from June 27th to August 31st and the new dates should be released soon. You can rent boats, go fishing, explore the lighthouses and enjoy drinks or dine at one of the many restaurants in the area.

Iho Tewoo Beach

We drove along the coast and enjoyed the scenic route on our way to Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak and stopped for lunch at a local Korean Restaurant located at this address: 141 Seongsan-ri, Seongsan-eup, Seogwipo, Jeju-do, South Korea. Can’t tell you the name since it was written in Korean and our driver barely spoke English. The food was delicious, luckily the menu has pictures so you can point at whatever you wish to order since once again nobody speaks English, very authentic Korean food.

Once we arrived at Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak our driver escorted us to the ticket counter, took a few pictures and told us to meet him back at the car when we were done. Off we went! We hiked up to the peak, taking a few breaks to enjoy the view and to catch our breath. Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak is a Unesco World Heritage site and a New 7 Wonder of Nature for the following reasons. Over 100,000 years ago the peak rose from under the sea in a volcanic eruption, there is a huge crater at the top of Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak that looks like a crown due to the 99 sharp rocks surrounding the crater. We missed the sunrise which is said to be spectacular so all you early risers out there make sure not to miss it!

Unesco World Heritage Site & New 7 Wonders of Nature
Crater at the Top

Jeju Island is known for their mandarin oranges, Hallabong oranges, a local specialty. These are some of the sweetest oranges you’ll ever try and they happened to be in season (winter through early spring). I decided to enjoy this delicious fruit by drinking it!

Hallabong Oranges
A Little Vitamin C

At the bottom of the peak you can watch women divers put on a full performance at 13h30 and 15h00 and/or go boating. We did not arrive on time for this performance but learned the history of this practice on our next stop; Seongeup Folk Village.

Haenyeo, are female divers in the Korean province of Jeju. Sea diving became a female-dominated industry by the 18th century. There are a few explanations for this shift;

  1. Many men died at sea during that period due to war and deep sea fishing;
  2. Physiologically, women have a higher shivering threshold than men allowing them to withstand colder waters;
  3. Some documents state that a tax was imposed on ordinary people forcing pregnant women to dive in cold waters.

Because this practice was the primary source of income for so many families the Jeju woman became the head of the household making Jeju a matriarchal society. The sweet villager, whom we’ll call Mr. Jeju since we never got his name, explained how the “Jeju Wife” did everything and typically the men stayed home and drank all day, these are his words not mine! Of course, Mr. Chieff loved this idea and now every time he’s tasked with a household chore he jokes that I should channel my inner “Jeju Wife”.

A great read on the Haenyeo women of Jeju here.

The Oldest Haenyeo at the Moment is 94 Years Old!!! (2017)

As we walked through Mr. Jeju’s property, he told us about the various customs and the unique culture of Jeju Island. Here you can see Mr. Jeju pointing at that clay vase which Jeju women used to carry on their backs for long distances.

The thatched-roof houses are designed for Jeju’s winds, the island is know to have constant and often very strong winds.

Here, Mr. Jeju holds a basket with elevated thin rope where Jeju Women used to lay their babies while they worked. The purpose of the thin elevated rope was so the babies could urinate and defecate without needing to be changed constantly throughout the day, the basket was then emptied out and reused.

This is a traditional Jeju village kitchen which is in a subordinate building.

The black-haired pigs are particular to Jeju and tongsi (pigsty / restroom) are especially well-known characteristics of Jeju folk culture.

The village produces honey, horse fat facial cream and a special drink that is either supposed to taste sweet, sour or salty which indicates the state of your health: digestive issues, fatigue or healthy. I opted for the horse fat facial cream since I’m a sucker for beauty products and we wanted to support the local village and help them make a living.

Honey and Special Dring in Liquid & Powder Form
Mr. Jeju Preparing our Drink

The village produces honey, horse fat facial cream and a special drink that is either supposed to taste sweet, sour or salty which indicates the state of your health: digestive issues, fatigue or healthy. I opted for the horse fat facial cream since I’m a sucker for beauty products and we wanted to support the local village and help them make a living.

As we were leaving, Mr. Jeju explained that the number of sticks placed at the entrance were indicative of how long the owner would be away. If the owner leaves for a long period there will be three sticks up, if at home, the sticks would be down and finally if two sticks are up it means that they will be back that same day.

Dol hareubang, also known as the ‘granfather statues’ are only found on Jeju Island and are believed to offer protection and ward off demons. These stoned statues with firmly closed mouths stand with shoulders raised high and hands gathered at the stomach. One usually has its right hand raised, while the other has its left hand raised. Mr. Jeju explained that one represented strength and the other intelligence but according to Korean literature one represents a civil official, because paintbrushes are held with a right hand and the other a military official, because a bow and spear are held with the left hand.

The Jeju Canola flower signals the start of spring, you will see fields upon fields of this beautiful yellow flower. There is also a very famous festival, the Jeju Canola Flower Festival, which is held from the 1-9 April 2017, with various activities like parades, performances, cooking completions, food booths and much more.

We visited in March and I believe the best time to enjoy this beautiful island is during the summer months when the beaches are open and there is much more activity. As mentioned earlier, we were only there for a short time, six hours to be more precise, and there are so many other sights to see on the southern and western parts of the island. Here is a map with all the attractions available. Jeju_Tour_Map_English

What makes you want to visit Jeju? What are some of the activities that interest you? Would love to hear all about it so go ahead and share in the comments below!

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