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Monday, December 5, 2011

Jeju is for Lovers

In my attempt to cram in every possible experience in my last few weeks here in Korea, I ventured on a trip to Jeju Island, a volcanic island off the Southern coast of Korea. Because it's an island, the culture of Jeju is distinct and somewhat unique from the rest of Korea. For example, Bangsatap, a spiritual tradition of piling rocks while saying a prayer in order to ward of evil. The island is covered with tall towers of rocks, a reminder of Jeju's rich tradition of folklore and traditional stories.

bangsatap



 In recent years, it has become a popular vacation and honeymoon destination for both Korean citizens and foreigners. For those visiting Korea, it's definitely a must-see. While tourism is popular here, you will nevertheless feel like you are on a tropical island far from the hustle and bustle of Seoul's streets. Because Jeju is a honeymoon destination, you are likely to find a myriad of quirky museums and theme parks such as Loveland, the Teddy Bear Museum, Mini Land, and many more. The nice thing about these museums is that they are located within a close proximity of each other, making it easy to hit a bunch in a couple hours of a day. On the other hand, don't go in these museums expecting a lot...they are mediocre excuses to draw in tourists, but still fun for a quick look-around. On the subject of proximity, the only way to get around Jeju is to drive. So, look into renting a car for a couple days and follow the Olle Trail, which will take you around the coastline of the island as you hit all the major destinations along the way. So you're not interested in kitschy sculptures and stuffed animals? Opt for the nature route- there's more than enough to go around in Jeju! Here's some of the highlights:







Jeonbang Waterfall

Sangumburi Crater
from the bottom of Sangumburi Volcanic Crater

 
coastline scenery



Manjanggul Caves & Lava Tubes- the longest in the world!

Also the largest lava stalactite in the world
 Manjanggul Caves & Lava Tubes have been named one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, as well as a UNESCO heritage site, so it is definitely a must see while in Jeju. 

In warmer weather, Jeju is a great location for scuba, but since it was only about 10C on our trip, we opted for horseback riding instead. There is a saying in Korea: "People should go to Seoul, and horses should go to Jeju" and in this case, the horses have in fact brought the people! It's easy to find places that offer horseback riding, and it's a really great experience as well as a good opportunity to see the landscape

Another spot we decided not to miss were the green tea farms of Jeju. Okay, so it's not the most exciting trip, but I think it's a trip worth taking nonetheless, if only for the endless supply of green tea. Literally, you can drink all the green tea you want.. (A decision my bladder was regretting on the car ride to the airport!) Aside from this, the farms are actually quite beautiful, and they offer a view you won't forget...

beautiful!

look at all that yummy green tea... I'm a big fan of green tea normally, but this was out of this world green tea, the flavor was so intense, you knew it was fresh. 

we couldn't resist some green tea ice cream...yum! :)

this particular farm offered a green tea maze....more difficult than it seems, we couldn't find our way out!

While you're picking up some yummy green tea in Jeju, don't forget to get some chocolate as well! Jeju is famous for it:

this particular flavor is tangerine, the most popular choice for tourists and locals alike
Jeju is also famous for its Gamgyul, super sweet and delicious tangerines grown in on Jeju's warm island. Driving around Jeju, you'll see orchards everywhere... who couldn't resist picking up a few to snack on during the car ride? 

ripe for the picking...








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