Exploring The Island of Natural Wonder, Jeju, South Korea (Part 1)

Jeju Island is blessed by a plethora of natural wonders. During good weather, it’s definitely a true paradise for those who simply just want to get lost and have an adventure. It was our first time to Jeju, so naturally we’d listed down a number of must-see places that might be touristy as well. We just didn’t care about the crowds one bit because, hey, it was spring! Spring was the perfect time to have an outdoor vacation together with others – it was about springy mood and great ambience with more people around.

Our first day in Jeju, our taxi driver brought us to our first destination, Manjanggul Lava Cave.

Aside of travellers, this nature-made lava cave apparently is also a popular destination choice for Korean school’s study tours. During our visit, this place was flocked by both local and overseas tourists, middle and high school student groups, and of course families, who brought along their tiny kids with them.

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Photo Credit to Expedia

It is such a breathtaking lava tube cave. In the past, the lava poured down from the ceiling and made its way through this tunnel; the natural process left some notable marks on the cave’s wall and visible on the rough, slippery floor. You could see the dents of lava flow lines clearly on the wall, lava stalactites and stalagmites emerging around the length of the cave, giant stone boulders from such a close distance, congealed and solidified lava in the nooks and crevices of the cave, and one of the most magnificent natural structures, the lava column, which is situated at the end of the 1-km tunnel.

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Photo Credit to Visit Korea

The 7.6m height means it is the highest lava column in the world.

I would say this lava cave has a difficult, rough terrain for little kids to traverse. The lightning is dim. The path is rocky and uneven, and water’s always dripping from the cave’s ceiling, making the floor slippery. But the parents (at least those we happened to observe at that time) didn’t piggyback their kids; they kept encouraging their children to walk and trek the lava tube together, hand in hand, until the end of the trail.

I now kinda understand why most Koreans love trekking or hiking so much; it is planted so early in their childhood ^^

By the way, since I was only equipped with a phone and digital camera, all of my Manjanggul Cave pictures didn’t turn out as nicely as I hoped. So yeah.

Our next destination was Woljeongri Beach, so our driver chose to drive us along Jeju’s coastal road.

And this drive cemented my first impression on Jeju.

Uncrowded broad lanes, occasional farms and greenhouses, a cluster of residential complex and sometimes high-rise buildings, fields of canola flowers, and of course, the endless open sky. When we came close enough to the coast, a glimpse of unmistakably bright azure blue of the ocean would appear in between the houses, and then a giant windmill would rise from the distance, seemingly getting bigger but never quite close.

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I don’t know what kind of charm Jeju usually shows in Summer, Autumn, or Winter. But Jeju in Spring is such a peaceful, tranquil island, where time seems to go slowly as if you were watching the hypnotising movements of rolling ocean waves from a far. That kind of place which probably goes by a different magic clock in a different zone, where you could do anything from hiking to the lip of a volcano crater, trekking through the nature routes, driving around by car, having a picnic, or just doing nothing while sitting in front of the ocean, and time would just be ticking by in a very unhurried manner.

Does it make sense?

A more logical explanation might be because of Jeju’s very own atmospheric air. It simply relaxes you and your jittery nerves, taking an immediate effect starting from when you step out of the airport.

Maybe the wind does that. Or the windmills? Because they definitely add up to create that somewhat melancholic impression.

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Woljeongri Beach

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Easily one of the best lunches we ever had in South Korea: An array of banchan, seafood pajeon, abalone porridge, and abalone jiggae (Oops, forgot to take the picture of the soup!) Abalone tasted like heaven, by the way >.<

Then we eventually arrive at our highlight destination of the day: Seongsan Ilchulbong.

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This place. is. so. breathtakingly. beautiful.

The peak, as you can see from the picture above, is actually a crater of what used to be an active volcano. It rose from the ocean due to volcanic eruption that happened hundreds of thousands years ago. It’s now sitting majestically in the eastern part of Jeju-do, looking a lot like a crown if seen from aerial point of view.

It was cold and windy at that time, but the sun was so bright that it made all things blue and green become vividly alive, HDR-like prettier. The hike to the lip of the crater though, requires visitors to take a numerous flights of stairs, probably more than a hundred sets? to the top. It felt quite intimidating in the first glance, seeing those stairs stacked together so high they seemed endless, but we easily came to a decision to go all the way to the summit anyway, to make it count. I was really conflicted whether to take off my jacket or not – the wind was real fierce yet we got slightly sweaty from the hike. Well, we did stop often at some points, as others did, to snap pictures here and there as an excuse to catch a breath.

Besides, the scenery healed us so quick.

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And we couldn’t contain our grin when we stepped up the last ascending stair, to find this scenery:

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Seongsan Ilchulbong’s famous crown-like crater. That one you would see a lot in Jeju’s travel brochures/pamphlets/articles/magazine features or anything related to Jeju.

We enjoyed the sight; and after taking photos I specifically found somewhere to sit down and do nothing except absorbing vitamin green and vitamin blue in front of me. Admiring. Enjoying.

To descend from the summit deck, you can use a different route which also involves numerous flights of stairs. And the view under your nose, wow, is deeply touching and amazing.

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Seriously. No words.

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The walk among the grassy, flower fields along the slope connecting Seongsan Ilchulbong back to the entrance would offer you an unforgettable experience. The picturesque backdrop is a nourishment to the soul.

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Suffice to say, we spent more than three hours here. It was alright for me. This even allowed me to fully enjoy and appreciate Jeju’s nature wonder more than ever. During holiday, some people go to as many places as they could cram in within a day just to make it count, but it’s strictly a big no in my dictionary. Tour packages typically have that kind of tight schedule to follow, and I seriously think it’s not a holiday.

So… we, in our leisurely pace, just strolled around the base of Seongsan Ilchulbong to take a look at some souvenir shops and street food stalls, and eventually sat down at Starbucks to wind down a little.

It was around 4 or 5 p.m., but Jeju’s sun was still shining brightly at that time. We went to one more beautiful location: Seopjikoji Hill

This place is one of the famous filming sites in Jeju (All In, Warm and Cozy), and it’s only a 10-minute drive away from Seongsan Ilchulbong.

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Seopjikoji boasts a scenic nature landscape that will simply please your eyes. Despite the crowds, we could still enjoy the view undisturbed and just sigh with content. What a dreamy landscape. Who doesn’t fall in love?

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I don’t know, this building, the All In house, was constructed as a chapel before, right? I saw it at Visit Korea’s website. But it now becomes a gingerbread/sweets house… and I dunno 😐

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We visited all these sites in late April 2017. We got so lucky though, because all of the entrances to Manjanggul Cave, Seongsan Ilchulbong, and Seopjikoji were free! Our driver said it was actually a temporary tourism event issued by the government of Jeju, as a way to welcome Spring 😀

So… do visit Jeju in Spring! I can attest that Jeju’s weather in late April and early May was actually nice and great for outdoor activities. Maybe Jeju in Autumn would be equally nice; but my ex-co-workers said that they got unlucky when they visited Jeju in November – it was so so so cold and the weather was kinda unpredictable and scary. Maybe they visited in late November? I dunno. But I watched how ferocious Jeju’s weather could be in 2 Days 1 Night, and it’s really no joke.

Have you ever thought of visiting South Korea? Maybe visiting Jeju can be a great summer plan!

Ah… Jeju is so beautiful and I want to go back to there again already >.<

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