* This post is written by Gisela Verdin, one of the Korea Blog’s Worldwide Korea Bloggers. (With the contributions of Tom Stockwell.)
Jeju island is known as the “Hawaii of Korea”. Tucked down in the south of the country, the island has a climate very different from mainland Korea and the volcanic landscape renders it unrecognisable as part of the peninsula.
Jeju’s flora has evolved differently from the rest of the country thanks to the climate, and ditto the accent. Many people who live on mainland Korea often say that when people from Jeju island talk, they simply can’t understand what is being said due to the difficulty of the dialect and the different words used.
It’s not easy to sum up the island in just a few sentences, so here are a few photos with some short descriptions that display the incredible diversity that Korea’s most beloved island has to offer.
1. Walking Trails
Jeju has walking trails all around the island and these colourful trinkets can be seen dotted along them helping you to find your way.
The variety of plants and flowers on Jeju is truly magnificent and you’ll encounter their beauty wherever you stroll, whether it be through the hiking trails or the island’s gardens.
The seas around the island can become rough and produce some dramatic effects against the black volcanic rock which make for mesmerising views and stunning photos.
4. Black Pork
Jeju is well renowned for its black pork, rightly considered a specialty and served as Korean barbecue. It’s eaten wrapped in a cabbage leaf with soybean sauce and garlic.
A spicy fish stew choc full of vegetables, galchijorim is full of flavour and another dish that the island is famous for. Avoid the tourist restaurants and go for somewhere that may look less glamorous but will offer more hearty, homemade fare.
6. Strange Seafood
As well as the more traditional fare, strange creatures from the sea are sold around Jeju as food. I have no idea what any of these are.
7. Theme Park
This theme park consisted of just a Viking boat and precisely zero people when I passed it on a rainy July day.
8. Dutch Hero
Korea has a rather close affinity with the Netherlands, most specifically football coach Guus Hiddink who led the national team to the finals of the 2002 World Cup. This patch of Holland in Jeju is located around an area dedicated to Dutch explorer, Hendrick Hammel.
9. Halla Mountain
On the top of Halla Mountain, the highest in South Korea, lies a crater filled with a lake. The top can get extremely windy, so proceed with caution if you decide to venture up there.
10. The Descent
The steps leading down from Halla Mountain will make you pause to admire the view ahead of you. The weather at the top is often drastically different from that at the bottom. I didn’t expect the rain and sleet.
There are cacti all over the island, which surprised me but made for some great photos. Chocolate made from the plants is produced and sold on Jeju.
12. Stone Men
These little stone men are dotted all over Jeju island. I’m not quite sure what they represent, but the quirky characters and individual expressions make for interesting viewing and story making.
13. Sunrise Peak
The view from my pension room over the sea with Sunrise Peak in the background. We didn’t go as it was clogged with tourists when we drove past it, unfortunately.
14. Puppy Love
OK so this one might be cheating. This puppy was chilling out in the port town of Jangheung, where I caught the ferry over to Jeju.
15. Volcanic Beach
The beaches on Jeju consist of a special kind of volcanic sand and are by no means your white sand paradise like the islands of Thailand and Indonesia. Crowded in summer, your best bet of having a bit of beach to yourself is if you go in June or September, before and after the main tourist season but while the weather’s still nice.
If you visit just one museum in Jeju, make sure you go to the Believe It Or Not! Museum. Thoroughly cheesy but thoroughly entertaining, there are plenty of wacky and interactive exhibits inside to keep everyone amused.
17. You’re Not in Korea
It’s moments like driving down a motorway and seeing a horse just ambling down the lane that make you realise you’re not in Seoul anymore. Jeju can, at times, seem like a completely different country.
Tom always had his nose stuck in an atlas as a child, and pretended that the stairs in his home were a magic carpet whisking him away to some faraway country that he’d seen on the map. Now, he’s travelling the world and has taught in Korea, explored snow covered beaches in Poland, partied at Sydney Mardi Gras and almost thrown up from trying durian in Kuala Lumpur. You can keep up with Tom’s adventures through his blog, Waegook Tom, via Facebook, and by following @waegook_tom on Twitter, too.