Saturday, December 14, 2013

Jeju Island, Part 1

Day 5 – Hallasan Mountain and Teddy Bear Museum
Tue 19/11/13

Early rise for breakfast at 7am. We saw many hikers today being briefed by Mr Kim at the guesthouse lobby but it was in Korean and all the hikers were Korean. I wondered what they were saying. We then proceeded to have our breakfast downstairs. A Korean hiker went up to me to offer some help as I looked a bit confused on where to get the plates and to fry the eggs. Breakfast today was rice, kimchi, spinach, fish and seaweed soup. Very healthy, very delicious and very filling! Yes, we were eating rice in the morning. I loved the sticky rice, similar like the one in Japan. 

basement cafeteria

glorious Korean breakfast

While having breakfast, we had a chat with the Korean hiker – Charles. He told us he was going to hike the Eorimok trail and it was the first day of snowing today. My heartbeat went faster upon hearing snow! I was already excited! Our original plan today was to visit Seopjikoji, Seongsan Ilchulbong and Majanggul lava tube. We heard that it would be raining today (it rained the previous day too on the day of our arrival at Jeju), but at the mountains, it would be snowing! Charles offered us if we would like to follow him, the guesthouse would send us to the bus terminal at 8.30am (free of charge) and we could take the bus to Eorimok.

After breakfast, we quickly convened to decide if we wanted to follow Charles. It was snowing and we were under prepared. We didn't have the right clothing for hiking and snow! But I was feeling too excited to miss the chance of my first snow experience (what if the next day it didn't snow?). So I proposed that we follow Charles and just hike for a short while, then turn back to our starting point and be on our way to the Teddy Bear Museum at Jungmun resort. All was agreed then, so we followed Charles. Hurrah!

At the bus terminal, Charles helped us to buy the tickets (KRW 1500 or RM 4.50) and then we immediately boarded the bus as it was ready to depart at 9am. The bus was packed with hikers, luckily we were just a bit earlier to get seats. As the bus departed towards Halla mountain, we could feel the weather getting colder and it was getting nice to snooze when I suddenly saw the first glimpse of snow! Whoa! As we climbed further we saw the forest covered with snow. It was beautiful.

Jeju bus route

Full of hikers!
We alighted at Eorimok and followed Charles to the Halla Mountain National Park (Unesco Heritage site under Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes) entrance,a further 1km flat terrain walk.

walk to entrance

snow covered trees

Peak of Halla mountain covered by thick clouds

No problems here. At the park office, we went to buy the 'aijen' as Charles called it- the spikes that we had to attach to our shoes for hiking on ice. It only cost KRW 5000 or RM15 a pair. There was no entrance fee into the park and we didn't have to register. Then Charles helped us to fasten it on our shoes. Charles seemed eager for us to follow him, but we told him our pace would be slow as we would stop a lot to take pictures and didn't want to slow him down. So after a bit more chat (he owns a restaurant in downtown Seoul serving traditional Korean food. He asked us what type of food that we could eat,and he said it was a shame we couldn't eat Jeju's specialty – the delicious black pork – according to him). After taking pictures with him, we bade farewell and hoped that we would bump into each other again at the guesthouse. That was his 6th time in Jeju, but first time hiking Halla mountain in winter.

us with Charles
I saw pictures of the Eorimok trail in summer, and it was beautiful. Now in winter, it was more beautiful than ever. Everything was covered in white, so pure, so pristine! We wanted to lie down on the snow and eat it (it was after all similar to shaved ice or ABC back home) – we did this after finishing our trek actually.

ABC anyone?

We started our hike at 10.15am, I was feeling optimistic to finish the trail. I read a blog posting of a non prepared 30 something female who finished the hike in 4 hours, in summer. So I thought by 2pm we would be on our way to Jungmun resort. So it was decided we would finish up the trail. The trail was made up of 3 stages of difficulty – hard, moderate, easy.

EORIMOK TO WITAE OREUM SHELTER - 4.7 km / 2.5 hours round-trip
Difficulty Rating:
2 - Moderate

The Eorimok Trail runs from the ticket booth at 970 m to Witae Oreum Shelter at about 1,700 m. This trail does not continue to the summit. The final 1.3 km stretch has been closed for environmental reasons since 1994. There’s no word on whether it will be opened again in the future.

The park service estimates this hike at 2 hours one-way, but it’s possible to hike up and down again in that time (not including time at the top). It begins with a series of steep, stone steps, but then evens out near the end on a length of wooden boardwalks. There’s a freshwater spring for drinking 2.4 km from the trailhead near Sajebi Hill. This route is famous for the Japanese oaks found in the Eorimok Valley and for the Sajebi grasslands.

freshwater still flowing!

At the start of the trail, we had to climb quite steep steps, but it was really calm and peaceful, we were really enjoying the scenery, ignoring all the ahujmmas and ahjussis passing us at a faster pace. We were surrounded by the snow covered trees in the mountains. But we couldn't stop too long as it would become too cold and we would get frost bites so we should just keep on hiking.

mini snowman!

Once we reached the flat terrain at the snow covered wooden boardwalks, it started to snow really heavy, and there was no protection from the trees, it was an open area. But we trudged on, determined to reach Yeongsil trail and make our way down from there. No sign of Charles, he must have reached the bottom at the other side. We saw a stream where the water was flowing at freezing temperature. 

open area at boardwalk. all white up ahead, can't see anything. unfortuntately, this was the only pix at the open area (snow too heavy, couldn't snap more)

We didn't reach Witae Oreum shelter as the snowfall was getting heavier, the wind stronger and visibility was very low. We couldn't even see what lied ahead, only white clouds. Plus the heavy snow fall were piercing our faces (we didn't have face masks / sunglasses to protect our faces), so we had to turn back. We bumped into a young man hiking from the opposite side, and he said that Yeongsil trail was a further 30 minutes. In good weather, it was OK to proceed and would be faster to reach. The oppa was very concerned with us, he even turned back around to ask us if we were OK? So sweet of him!

heavy snowfall

We finally reached back at the bottom (under bad weather, heavy snowfall) at 2.45pm (4.5 hours later). Then we lied down on the snow in victory of partly conquering Hallasan. Better than nothing right? We heated ourselves at the waiting place where we saw some hikers eating hot spicy cup noodles and were wishing we could have some. I didn't do research on halal Korean cup noodles as some were already available on the market back home. We then proceeded to the bus stop to catch the 3.34pm bus to Jungmun resort (KRW 2000 or RM6). It arrived on time alright! So there was no time wasting this time.We would be reaching Jungmun around 4.15pm so we could get a bit of rest and heat in the bus. 

Yeongsil entrance seen from the bus

The Jungmun bus stop was not in Jungmun Resort itself, so we had to hail a taxi to go to the Teddy Bear Museum (KRW 3700 or RM12), but it was not that far away, and we were tired from the hiking too. We went to the Angel in Us coffee shop for a short break and prayers outside at the verandah. 

coffee shops in Korea have this gadget which will buzz once you're coffee is ready
Then we proceeded to the Teddy Bear Museum (entrance fee KRW 8000 or RM 24). All sorts of teddy bears were on the display, from icons such as Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles and Mona Lisa to teddy bears in the days of yore from the 1900s. The old teddy bears looked quite scary as there were holes and tears. Most were from Germany. There were also teddy statues outdoor where you could take pictures. We didn't buy any teddy bears here as they were very expensive. 

Teddy Bear Museum!
After that, we went for a 1 hour foot massage at the nearby spa centre (KRW30000 or RM90). No wifi at the spa centre. I was trying to search for Bagdad Restaurant address in Korean as I had left the printed one at the guesthouse. We were already hungry and wanted to have dinner. We then tried to get wifi at Starbucks but it wasn't available too. Hungry and tired, we decided to make the long way back to our gueshouse by taxi which cost us the most by far at KRW34300 or RM 105!! (about RM 35 per person). It was very far and took us about 1 hour. Since it was already almost 9pm, we weren't sure if Bagdad's kitchen would still take orders so we decided to ask the guesthouse if we could cook some eggs and rice and we would pay for them. Unfortunately, we were told the materials for cooking were not available until the next morning. So again we had biscuits, breads and oranges for dinner. Later we checked that Bagdad was opened until 11pm so we'd go tomorrow for our final dinner in Jeju and Korea (at least for this edition).


Jeju Island, Part 2

Day 6 – Seopjikoji, Seongsan Ilchulbong and Manjanggul lava tube
Wed 20/11/13
Breakfast as usual at 7am, then Mr Kim sent us to the bus stop (free of charge) to take the bus to Seopjikoji (KRW 3000 or RM9). There was no direct stop to Seopjikoji, but we have to alight at Seongsan-eup Goseong-ri stop, then take a taxi for about 5 mins (KRW 4200 or RM13). The bus ride was very long, more than an hour and the bus was full of school students so we couldn't get seats. Only after ¾ of the journey that we managed to get seats when the students alighted. Our bus driver helpfully signalled to us when it was time to alight and then helped us to get a taxi and made sure we arrived at Seopjikoji. So sweet of the ahjussi.

When we arrived at Seopjikoji, there were already many tourists, the majority of them from China, by the busloads. You could instantly identify them ;) Seopjikoji was where the shooting of the Korean series All In took place. It was a beautiful green patch of land on a promontory by the sea. There was no entrance fee. We enjoyed some freshly made potato chips and grilled squid accompanied by the sea breeze. 

Pretty Seopjikoji! Hard to believe it was snowing yesterday at Hallasan Mt and sunny today down below

grilled squid

We then hailed a taxi (no problems to get a taxi, there were many tourists around) to Seongsan Ilchulbong (KRW 6200 or RM 19), about 10 minutes away. Again we got a very sweet ahjussi who stopped by at a beach for us take pictures with Seongsan Ilchulbong as the background. He even volunteered to take a picture of the 3 of us together, then brought us to Seongsan with no additional charge (he used the meter. Fortunately so far, all the taxi drivers used their meters)

view of Seongsan Ilchulbong from beach

We were yet again mesmerized by the beauty of Jeju – this time in the shape of the volcanic crater that is Seongsan Ilchulbong or Sunrise Peak. Entrance fee was only KRW 2000 or RM6 and it was totally worth it. You had to be there to believe it. It was also a Unesco Heritage Site under Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes

A bit more climbing (very little in fact) were required to go to the peak where you could see the crater – now filled with grass. We thought the volcano must have been dormant now, compared to the ones we saw in Indonesia which were still active and spewing ash and smoke, and you could smell sulphur. See here, Seongsan Ilchulbong is a typical tuff cone, with a small diameter, relative to its height and with steeply dipping rim deposits. About 5000 years ago, an ascending magma interacted with the groundwater within the lavas, resulting in powerful hydroeruption.

view from top

Seongsan Ilchulbong crater

Then we made our way down to catch the Jeju women diver ( haenyo) performance at 1.30pm where 5 elderly women (ahjummas) sang a folk song before making the plunge using the traditional gear of the net and float and wearing black rubber suits with the weight belts – similar to Scuba diving – but minus the air tank. They could dive for a few minutes without breathing and caught the octopus which they proudly waved to their appreciative audiences.

let's go diving!

ahjummas getting ready, singing folk song
splash! ahjummas with their white floats
here's their catch!

At the exit, we saw some souvenir shops so we did some shopping here before catching the bus to Manjanggul caves (KRW 1000 or RM3). We saw 2 Malaysian ladies at Seogsan whom we saw again on the bus to Majanggul. The bus did not go further into Manjanggul which was about another 1km from the main road, so we had to catch a taxi to reach there. We alighted on the opposite side of the junction into Manjanggul so we just missed the bus that would pass right in front of Manjanggul which came just as we exited our bus. A few taxis that passed by didn't want to take us in there (perhaps it was too near) until an ahjussi finally agreed to. He took the 5 of us into taxi and only paid KRW 2200 or RM7.

It was getting darker (dusk was at 5.15pm) and getting colder so we quickly made our way into the caves after prayers at an open area near to the washroom. Entrance fee was KRW 2000 or RM6. The caves were actually tunnels made by lava that flowed millions of years ago. This was also one of the Unesco Heritage sites under Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes. Most of people who didn't appreciate geography / geology might find Manjanggul a bit of disappointment (imagine dark caves with stalagmites and stalagtites – but made by lava flow – and bat guano). I thought it was an important site to visit - a 13.4km long cave made up of lava tunnels -but could be done quickly as it didn't give very impressive pictures. But then again, mine was only a compact camera, so perhaps a DSLR camera would do justice. 

lava tunnel

the entrance to the cave tunnel
the tunnel

the wall
the floor

lava raft shaped like a turtle

lava column: lava pours down from ceiling to floor

Unesco heritage site

The cold weather and cold wind made us hungrier faster. So it was a no brainer to decide that the next activity would be dinner – at Bagdad Restaurant again. This was our final night in Jeju / Korea so we were planning for a feast. To get back to the main road, we had to take a taxi. But since it was closing time at 5.30pm, there were very few taxis around. The only taxi that we saw demanded KRW 4000 or RM 12 to take us just to the main road (it was getting darker and colder for us to walk). So we had no choice but to take the taxi. Grrrr this was the first time we encountered an errant taxi driver who wouldn't use the meter and he was younger (not that young, but not ahjussi old). At the main road, we had to wait for the bus back to Jeju bus terminal. We missed the first bus that passed us by as our bus stop were not lighted up so probably the bus driver didn't see us and just sped past. Ahhh and it was getting really cold now. Luckily about 15 minutes later, another bus passed by and we managed to stop it. The bus fare back to Jeju bus terminal was KRW 1500 or RM4.50, and took about 30 minutes. On the way to the bus terminal, we saw the bus passing by our guesthouse, but there was no bus stop nearby. The next bus stop was a bit further away. So we decided to continue to the bus terminal.

At the bus terminal, we alighted and took another bus to City Hall (KRW 1000 or RM3). From City Hall, we walked to Bagdad, but not before dropping by at Paris Baguette to pack some breads and our favourite milk as lunch at the airport tomorrow. We asked for directions from a few shops but none were speaking English until we went to Rotiboy. Thank you Rotiboy. It was just a short walk from there to Bagdad. For our feast tonite we ordered white rice, lamb curry, chicken curry, naan bread and chicken tandoori. There were a few other Malaysians also there. We didn't finish our tandoori, so we packed it for lunch the next day. Our feast cost us KRW 70000 or RM 215. From Bagdad, we then took the taxi back to our lovely Green Guesthouse to pack our bags and rest before leaving tomorrow. 

chicken tandoori

Bye bye Green guesthouse

Day 7 – Goodbye Jeju, goodbye Korea
Thurs 21/11/13

As our usual routine, we had our breakfast of Korean rice with vege, fish and seaweed soup with self fried eggs before saying our goodbyes to Mr Kim. He sent us to the airport at 8.30am (free of charge) for us to catch our flight back to Busan at 10.35am, this time via another budget airline – Air Busan which cost us KRW 45000 or RM 136 one way. As per Jeju air, we were allowed to check in our luggages without additional fees, do online check in and choose our own seats also without any addiitonal fees. The online check in was done before coming to Korea so we already had our boarding passes. So we only had to deposit our luggages at the airport counter. For the 1 hour return flight to Busan we were also served juice drinks, free of charge. I love this type of budget airline. No hidden costs. 

Mr Kim driving us off to the airport

Bye bye Jeju

Think that is Mt Hallasan

Air Busan orange juice, FOC!

We arrived at Busan airport's domestic terminal at 11.30am, took our luggages then proceeded to the international terminal just next door, by walking. We had our packed lunch at the airport departure lounge, did some last minute shopping to finish off the Korean won and had another round of Holly's coffee before proceeding for counter check in at 2pm. We had already done online check in but still had to go to the counter, plus we paid for a 20kg check in luggage. We weighed our luggages, and after a bit of re-arranging – voila it was 20kg. We managed to check in 2 luggages with combined weight of 20kg. 

Hello again Busan, for a bit

Holly's coffee

Some more time to kill before our flight back to KL at 5pm. We went to the nursing room where there was a sink, so it was convenient to perform our prayers there – luckily there weren't any nursing mothers at that time.

Finally after a 4.5 hour wait, we finally boarded the plane bound for KL. We didn't pre order any meals going to Busan, but ordered 1 meal flying back. To our shock, the price of pre-order was more expensive than buying in flight itself. But if you bought the meal in flight, you won't be guaranteed of your meal of choice availability. I still had KRW 6000, so I finished it off by buying a Korean cup noodle – arghhh there was halal Korean cup noodle after all! - and Lipton lemon green tea. We didn't go through the meal card on our incoming flight so we missed out on the halal cup noodle – or we could have bought it in Korea! Lesson learnt the hard way again. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the cup noodle – it was quite spicy, but nice. 

remember this - Nong Shim shin cup noodle

Thank you Busan, Gyeongju and Jeju for the truly awesome experience! See you again.