Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Busan

As today is Buddha's Birthday, I thought it would perfect to post about our trip to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple on our recent trip to Busan. In honor of Buddha's Birthday, we have a national holiday. 

Although we are both now a bit tired of visiting temples and generally find that many of them are the same, we thought we had to visit Haedong Yonggungsa while we were in Busan. This temple is unusual as it is the only seaside temple in Korea. Most temples are in the mountains. This temple was first built in 1376. There is also an underground cave at the temple where you can drink fresh spring water. 

Our visit to the temple was brief but we enjoyed being near the water. We tried to go relatively early to avoid the crowds but it was really crowded when we arrived. The temple was absolutely covered with lanterns to celebrate Buddha's Birthday. I think the reason it was so crowded was because of the upcoming birthday. Despite the crowds, it was a fun visit and I enjoyed taking pictures with all the colour. 

How to get there

Take bus 181 from around the Haeundae area. There is a stop just near exit 7 of Haeundae station. 

Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa Temple is perhaps Korea's most famous temple and it was a must see while we were in Gyeongju. We went there early on a Sunday morning before all the crowds. We timed it well because it started getting really busy as we left just before midday. The spring morning was again really misty but luckily no rain. There were so so many cherry blossom trees, they really were beautiful and I was constantly in awe.

Bulguksa Temple was built in 528 during the Silla dynasty has some interesting history behind it. It was almost destroyed during Japanese invasions but has since been resorted and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can read about the history as you walk around the temple grounds. Entrance to the temple complex is 4000won. It's definitely recommended to go early because it is Korea's most visited temple and is bound to be crowded. I think Bulguksa is one of the nicest temples I've visited especially because the surrounding grounds are so pretty. I would recommend a visit.

Outside the main entrance, towards the back, there is a path that heads up the mountain. Some ladies at the information booth told us the trail was about 2km and would lead up to the Seokgurum Grotto. We walked the trail, which is a nice gradual walk up. It was so peaceful and we hardly saw anyone else walking. I'm sure the views would have been lovely if there wasn't such thick mist. We were a bit surprised when we got to the top as we reached a busy car park. To enter the Seokguram Grotto, you have to pay 4000won and walk for about 500m from the car park. This path was lined with Buddhist lanterns and quite crowded. The grotto is also a UNESCO site and there is a Buddha set in the grotto. It is protected by a glass window and no photographs are allowed. The grotto was a bit disappointing, perhaps because of the crowds. Perhaps it would be better on a sunny day when you can apparently see the sea. Afterwards we walked back down to the temple because the buses down the mountain only come on the hour.

How to get there

There are a few ways to get to Bulguksa Temple. There are a few local buses which take about 40 minutes. If you time it right, you can catch a train to the town of Bulguksa from the Gyeongju Station. We caught the train there (8:13am). This only takes 10 minutes and then you can catch a bus up to the temple. Buses 10, 11 and 700 run between  Gyeongju and Bulguksa. We caught a bus home which took ages because of the traffic jams, it was rather unpleasant but at least we had a seat because the bus got fuller and fuller the closer we came to Gyeongju.

Beautiful Gyeongju

While cherry blossom season was in its prime, we visited the old city of Gyeongju. Visiting Gyeongju has long been on my bucket list because it is the ancient city of Korea. It was once the capital during the Silla dynasty (57BC-935AD) and is filled with ancient sites. It is also a really popular tourist destination as it is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Gyeongju is really far from Jeonju so our time there was limited. We caught a bus via Daegu which made the trip about 4 hours. 

We went to Gyeongju during the first week of April and the amount of cherry blossom trees constantly blew my mind. My mum was visiting us in Korea for the second time and she timed her trip well to see the beautiful spring flowers. They were in full bloom everywhere but unfortunately the weather was rather miserable. The actual city of Gyeongju is a bit of a dump with the attractions scattered around the outside. It's really easy to find your way around because there aren't any skyscrapers blocking your views and things are well signposted. After we arrived in the afternoon we wondered to the area of the Daereungwon Royal Tombs. On the way we passed beautiful streets lines with blossoming trees.

The entrance to the tombs is 2000won. Under these mounds there are kings and queens buried. The park was peaceful with not too many people around.

At the back end of the park you can walk out to the Wolseong Forest and the Cheomseongdae Observatory. This area was really beautiful and the blossom trees were huge. You can rent bikes to ride around but we opted to walk. Just as we were at the other end of the forest, it started to absolutely pour with rain and there was thunder and lightening too! With no umbrellas, we had to sprint (along with many others), to find shelter. The rain didn't stop for ages and we were completely drenched. We had wanted to visited some other sites around like Anapji pond in the evening, but we were soaked and cold so we went back to our hostel for an early night instead. Although I was disappointed not to be able to see everything I had wanted, I still enjoyed the seeing the tombs and all the blossoms.

A must thing to do while in Gyeongju is visit Bulguksa Temple, which we did the next day (post coming soon). 

Philippines in pictures

I must admit that it has taken me quite a while to do a post about our trip to the Philippines. Our visit to the Philippines was definitely not the most successful holiday and was rather brief. In fact, it was a holiday where everything seemed to go wrong. We had a well-planned trip organized and intended to visit Moalboal and Bohol in Cebu. Things started to go wrong from the start where our flight (Air Asia), was delayed by 12 hours. As we only had 5 days for our trip, this was a big deal. This meant we only spent 2 nights in Moalboal.  The next thing that happened was the Philippines was hit by a typhoon. Ferries were suspended for a few days to the island of Bohol meaning that this part of our trip had to be cancelled. We ended up changing our flight and coming home early. Dean and I were really sad and were so let down. I guess sometime things just happen that you can't control. From what we experienced during our short time in the Philippines, I must say it is an amazing country. The highlight of our trip was Kawasan Falls with its amazing colour water and massaging waterfall. We also enjoyed delicious food and fresh fruit, very different from Korea. The Philippines is definitely high on my list to return to, and I can't wait. Here is a look into our short time in the Philippines, mainly in Moalboal.

Skiing in Muju

We finally got around to going skiing on the last weekend of January. We went to Muju resort and I must say I was really impressed. Dean and I really love skiing and had wanted to go for a while. We were a bit weary about skiing in Korea compared to skiing in the Alps and we were worried we would be dissapointed.  But actually we had a great time. It's a good thing we waited so long in the season to go as I'm sure if we had gone earlier we would have spent all our money on skiing weekends. Skiing in Korea was really interesting and a completely different skiing culture to that of France. The slopes were decent and the snow was good too. Although there wasn't much snow around, the slopes were well kept. It was really crowded at the bottom of the slopes. The lines to get the lift up the mountain were really long but once up the mountain the slopes were empty and the views are beautiful. We look forward to a couple more trips before the season ends. These are just a few snaps from our iphones. We were way too busy skiing and making the most of our short time to focus on taking photos.

To get to the resort was really easy. We took a bus to Muju town, about 9000won and 2 hours from Jeonju, and then a free shuttle bus to the resort, about 45 minutes. The ski rental and passes are also well priced and easy to organize. You even get a great discount with your Korean bankcards (nh and kb cards). 

Gochangeupseong Fortress

Now that we are in the heart of winter, it is often difficult to get motivated to leave the house to explore new places. But, we are always looking for easy day trips from Jeonju and so we started off the new year with a trip to the small town of Gochang. We were eager to check out the Gochangeupseong Fortress. Gochang is about an 80 minute bus ride from Jeonju. 

Dean and I both love being outdoors and in nature so Gochang has definitely been one of our favourite outings. It is not often in Korea that you can escape the thousands of people, but the Gochang fortress was surprisingly quiet and peaceful. There were only a few families around having fun in the snow.

We arrived in Gochang to thick snow which made the fortress look particularly beautiful and gave it a different feel to what typical pictures showed. We were dressed really warmly (Nowadays I wear 2 jackets!!) but there were blue skies, the sun was out and the weather was actually rather pleasant.

 The entrance fee to the fortress is 1000won. 

The fortress is just behind the town and was built in 1453. It was used to defend against Japanese invasions. You can walk along the wall which is 1.6km. We walked around the whole fortress and didn't see anybody, it was great!

Inside the fortress there are many different paths and there is a bamboo forest which is an interesting contrast to the surrounding pine trees.

I would definitely recommend a visit to Gochang fortress. It was nice to have a change from some of the typical Korean sites, especially since it was so quiet.

Directions

The available directions online were a bit vague but the fortress is actually easy to get to. When you leave the Gochang bus terminal, walk left at the main road. After about 500m, turn right at an intersection just before a school. Walk for about 150m, cross a bridge. and the fortress entrance is straight ahead. 

Colours of fall in Korea: Naejangsan National Park

On the first week of November we took a trip to Naejangsan National Park to see the bright colourful leaves on the trees. Coming from South Africa, where we don’t see too much of a dramatic change in autumn, I was really excited. My Korean rough guide book had also rated an autumn trip to Naejangsan as one of the top 25 things to do in Korea, and luckily it is relatively close to Jeonju. Unfortunately the weekend we planned to go was miserable, rainy and foggy, but we still decided to go as we thought the crowds would less (not true by the way). The temperatures have dropped a lot here already in Korea and it has been rather chilly.

To get there we had to catch a bus to Jeongeup which takes about an hour and then a 40 minute city bus to the National Park.  Luckily we managed to squeeze ourselves onto the bus as it was absolutely packed and definitely not the most pleasant trip standing on top of people the whole way. We had an eventful trip there as when we got to Jeongeup and were waiting for the next bus, we spotted a small little puppy running in the road and avoiding cars. Of course we rushed to pick him up while everyone watched and did nothing. The puppy, a Jindo, must have been about 10 weeks and was cold and lost. We spent the next hour trying to find his home with no one being interested in helping us except for some people who wanted to try claim him. One thing that always breaks my heart in Korea, is the treatment of animals and Dean and I would have taken him home in a flash if it were not for the exorbitant cost to send him to South Africa. Luckily we eventually found his home, where we spotted some more puppies and he must have wondered off through the open gate.  No one even noticed. 

Once we got to the park we had to wind our way up to the actual entrance past the colourful stalls selling some strange things, blaring music and dancing ajummas. I don’t think we were quite prepared for the chaos and thousands of people. Literally there were thousands and thousands of people. I guess like all outdoor or “natural” activities, we should have expected it. The entrance cost to the park is 3000won. From there we walked up through the park to a lake and a temple, taking in the amazing colours. They really were beautiful and impressive. There is an option to catch a cable car to the top of one of the peaks, but there was a really long line and because of the mist we didn’t think it would be worth it. 

Despite the hordes of people, a trip to Naejangsan was definitely worth it. The colours and sites were breath taking and unlike anything I have ever seen. Although the sky wasn’t blue, the mistiness gave a somewhat magical feel and I am glad we decided to go.

Nami Island

During our Chueseok in Seoul, we took a day trip to Namiseom, or Nami Island. The island is an easy train ride from Seoul, we got there using the metro which was great and cheap too. The island is half-mooned shaped in the Han River just outside the town of Gapyeong. The whole situation surrounding the island is a bit confusing to me because from what I have read, Nami Island is actually called Naminara Republic and is an imaginary country which requires a visa. You can catch a quick 5 minute ferry or zipline to the island-the option that Dean and I took. Ziplining was good fun and definitely my recommended choice of arriving on the island. 
Going through immigration and getting "visas". 
The more conventional way to arrive of the island and return to the mainland.
Nami Island is a beautiful place just to wonder around and it is really photogenic. There are paths leading everywhere and I never felt like it was too touristy or crowded. 


There were quite a lot of other Asian tourists around as Nami has been host to popular Korean drama scenes and the spots around the island are famous. We opted to walk around Nami but there are the options of renting bicycles too. We just loved and appreciated the coolness of being under the trees. There are lots of things to do around Nami from water activities to crafts, as well as just simply having a picnic.





 Being on Nami Island was a really great escape from the usual city life in Korea and it was definitely our highlight during our Chuseok break.

** Thanks again to Sue for letting me use some of her photos

A bit of Chuseok in Seoul

Chuseok is the main holiday in Korea, similar to American Thanksgiving, and it gave us a 5 day weekend. After umming and arring about what to do over this break, we decided to go to Seoul.  We had not done many touristy things around the city and as most Koreans head to their hometowns, going to Seoul would be against the traffic and less crowded.  Dean’s mom, Sue, had timed her visit perfectly and we were lucky to spend our Chuseok in Seoul with her. We stayed in Dongdaemun which was convenient for most of the places we visited as well as some good shopping! I can’t wait to go back to the Dongdaemun fabric market as well as the baking market nearby as unfortunately these were closed over the long weekend. 

Outside our hotel in Dongdaemun. We started our trip with a visit to one of my favorite areas in Seoul, Insadong. I love the atmosphere in Insadong and all the shops selling such cute things too. This time, we went to a tea house which I have kept meaning to do. We went to Chatjip Teahouse because in my tour books it was said to have finches flying around but unfortunately they got rid of their birds. The tea was still great though!

The men in Insadong performing their song and making one of my favorite Korean treats- Sweet Yong Su Yeom

We paid a visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace, one of Seoul’s 5 Grand Palaces, and which is just around the corner from Insadong.  I won’t go into the history about this palace but the grounds are massive and really beautiful. It was much grander and different to the other smaller temples I have visited.  The palace area is relaxing place to stroll around and I loved that there are lakes around the grounds. It is also is very photogenic and makes for lovely picture taking.

Many places were closed on the actual Chuseok day, so we went to Ihwa Mural Village (full blog post to come later) and also the Alive Museum. 

3 of the hundreds of photos we took at the Alive Museum. We had good fun posing for all the funny pictures.

** Thanks to Sue for letting me use some of her lovely pictures. 

A long weekend in Yeosu

For our first long weekend in Korea, we headed to the coastal town of Yeosu. Our director had recommended we go to Yeosu over Mokpo, so we took her advice. We caught the train from Jeonju and it was really quick and efficient. Living in a country with easy public transport is just the best.

Only in Korea...

Yeosu is a city that hosted the World Expo in 2012 and it still seems a little obsessed with it. The Expo advertising is very prominent and it is everywhere! I’ve never heard of a World Expo but apparently it is quite a big deal. There are many contrasts in the city from the futuristic expo site, to the traditional fish markets and the hundreds of islands scattered around the coast. Before we arrived we hadn’t done much research and so we relied on the tourist office outside the train station when we arrived. The lady at the office gave us maps and some general information but we had hoped to go on an island cruise and she wasn’t sure how to help us so we ended up giving that a miss. 

We stayed at a motel (Silla motel-very good value for money) in the older area of the city and away from the expo site. We were able to use the bus system well so it wasn’t a problem at all. 

On our first afternoon we went to the small island of Odongdo. You can walk to Odongdo across a 700m bridge near the expo area. The island is a sort of botanical garden, with wooden boardwalks all over it. The unique feature of the island is that it is covered with bamboo, pine trees and camellia trees, a unique combination. 

Walking to Odongo.

After Odongdo we headed to Manseongi Beach. After waiting for a bus for over an hour we caught a taxi there (a very expensive trip mind you) as it is just out of town. The beach is the only black sand beach on Korea mainland but it was actually rather dull and uninteresting. Once again we were frustrated by the lack of swimming and so we settled for just relaxing on the beach and enjoying the warm evening. 

Early the next morning we went to Yeosu Aqua Planet, the aquarium. We had seen the queues the previous day (literally hundreds of people) and wanted to avoid them (well we managed slightly). Aqua Planet is the largest aquarium in Korea. The most impressive thing was the Beluga Whales. I had never seen Beluga Whales and the 2 at the aquarium were beautiful and I loved watching them play with balls in their huge tank. After an hour and a half of wondering around the aquarium we enjoyed a western lunch at the aquarium restaurant. 

We then hopped on a bus to Dolsando Island. Somehow we ended up missing our bus stop and we were on the bus for over an hour, getting further and further away from civilization and into the rural farm villages on the island. We eventually got off the bus in the middle of nowhere and hoped another one would pass soon. Luckily a bus came soon enough and we made our way to our original destination, Admiral Yi’s Turtal Ship Museum. Looking back we should have stayed on that bus to the end of its route because we found out later there is a famous temple there, but oh well. Anyway, Admiral Yi was a famous Korean conqueror and is renowned for the design of his turtle ship, a wooden ship with spikes coming out the top. The Turtle Ship has some interesting history and there are several replicas around Korea. 

Stuck in the middle of nowhere...

Later that afternoon we spent our time relaxing on a little shelly beach under Dolsan bridge and then wondering around one of Yeosu’s many fish markets. The fish markets are just hectic, I can’t believe they can even sell all the fish and how it all gets eaten. It’s not the most enjoyable site seeing all the fish, octopus and crabs crammed into tanks, barely surviving. After being put off eating any fish we luckily managed to find a nice home-made burger restaurant in downtown Yeosu.

This sweet little dog was lying outside a fish shop and keeping cool on the piece of stone. 

We spent 2 nights in Yeosu and I think we could’ve just spent one. While it is a pleasant enough place, there is not too much to do and we ended up catching the train home early

Maisan Provincial Park and Tapsa Temple

One of the last places we took a trip to when my mom was here, was Maisan Provincial Park, or “horse ear mountains”. The name comes from the obvious 2 rock peaks, which from a distance resemble horses ears. The park is

located just near the town of Jinan, a 40 minute bus ride from Jeonju. We were trying to think of a day trip to do from Jeonju, and my Korea Rough Guide book had a short description about Jinan, which gave us this idea. It was a great choice as Tapsa Temple is a truly unique place and unlike any of the other temples in Korea (which all seem to look very similar).

After arriving in the small town of Jinan, we caught a bus from the terminal to the park. I guess the town doesn’t get many foreigners as the old men who seem to spend their days hanging out at the terminal, were very excited to see us and had fun jabbering away at us in Korean. 

After arriving at the park entrance, you wind your way up through a few tourist shops and restaurants. We first reached the smaller, more traditional temple of Unsusa before we got to Tapsa. We arrived early in the morning before most of the crowds, so the walk was rather empty and relaxing. 

Unusa Temple.

After passing the restaurants and little shops, you get to this lake just before the temple. You can even hire a swan paddle boat.

The word “Tapsa” means “Pagoda” and the temple is surrounded by 80 pagodas. What is amazing about this, is that the pagodas were single-handedly constructed by one man over 30 years. Even more amazing, is that these stone towers are not held together by any adhesive and the rocks simply balance on each other. It is still unknown how they “stick” together as the valley experiences strong winds (we can attribute to the very strong winds!). The man behind this magic is Yi Kap-Yong. After the start of his pagoda “project”, Yi Kap-Yong became a monk and so the area is now a Buddhist temple. 

Behind the temple, you can walk up to between the horse-ear mountain. Unfortunately, the rocks are closed for restoration so we couldn't climb them, but the walk to the middle of them is quite a decent walk (I think around 300 stairs if I can remember correctly), and there are many pleasant Buddhist features along the way. 

The flowers are lovely in the summer.

The temple just below the horses ears.

What the horse's ears look like from the distance.

You can bang this giant drum and it sends an eary echo down the valley.

Our trip to Tapsa and Maisan Provincial Park was well worth it and definitely a truly unique place to visit. 

Jeju Island-Day 3 and 4

On our 3rd day (2nd full day) on Jeju Island, we travelled to the south of the island to the Seogwipo and Jungmun beach resort areas. To add to Jeju’s beauty, there are a handful of waterfalls around the island and we visited 2 of them.  The first we visited was Jeongbang Waterfall. We managed to get to the waterfall early in the morning before the crowds. I don’t think I’ve mentioned but millions of people visit Jeju each year and every 5 minutes a flight lands at Jeju International Airport (Literally, we saw this. It’s crazy the amount of airplanes constantly landing.). My point is, there are many tourists and tour buses you need to try avoid these. We didn’t have too much problems with crowds luckily. Back to Jeongbang Waterfall, this 23m high waterfall is unusual in that it runs from the cliffs directly into the sea. It is the only waterfall to do so in Asia.

Strolling around the trails near Jeongbang Waterfall.

After wondering around the coast near Jeongbang Waterfall, we went to Cheonjiyeon Waterfall. This is a beautiful waterfall that runs into a pond. The walk up the river to the waterfall is luscious, calming and very pleasant. 

Walking up to Cheonjiyeon Waterfall.

Cheonjiyeon Waterfall.

We reached the “Lonely Rock” of Oedolgae just as it decided to start pouring. The weird rock formations around the coast of the island are from the volcanic activity. The rain was cooling and we welcomed it. This pinnacle like rock is believed to have scared off the Mongolians and sent them away. 

Oedolgae.

Our next stop was Jungman. This exclusive area is filled with 5 star hotels and quirky museums. We visited the Teddy Bear Museum. After the rains, the weather became extremely hot and humid and so being indoors was perfect. Korean people love Teddy Bears and this museum is dedicated entirely to them. Teddies can be seen portraying famous historical events and are dressed up as famous icons. The museum is definitely worth a visit and although we were a bit sceptical at first, we all enjoyed it.  We popped into Jungman Beach after the museum. It is one of the most famous beaches on Jeju and has the biggest waves. It has even played host to a few surf competitions. It was absolutely BOILING on the beach (like burn your feet on the sand type boiling) and we were desperate to swim. Of course we got told to stay shallow, even though we were in the swimming area, but the water was amazing. 

Dying of heat on Jungman Beach.

In the afternoon, we went to O’Sulloc Tea Plantation. It was disappointing and I was expecting a tea museum but there was only a few small posters about tea and thousands of people trying to cram their way into the green tea café. Having a car really gave us a lot of freedom just to explore the more rural areas of Jeju and just drive around and see whatever. We had lunch at a Paris Bagette in the small town of Daejeong and then tried to visit the Peace Museum. Unfortunately the museum was closed for refurbishment. We really wanted to see the tunnels in the mountains that the Japanese had built during their rule in Korea. The man at the museum was kind enough to show us their entrance. I would have liked to visit this museum the history between Korea and Japan is very sad but interesting.  

O'Sulloc Tea Plantation.

The farms in Jeju are separated by these low walls made from volcanic stone. 

On our last morning before we left Jeju, we had a quick swim at Iho Tewoo beach, the closest beach to Jeju City. We arrived at the beach before anyone had begun setting up for the day (there weren’t even swimming ropes out yet, yay). We thoroughly enjoyed our holiday in Jeju and its natural beauty. Although there is an endless amount of things to do in Jeju, I think stayed for the right amount of time and we were pleased with what we did. The only other thing we would liked to have done, was hike Mt Hallasan (the third UNESCO site on the island). Mt Hallasan is a dormant volcano and dominates most of the island. Perhaps this will call for a return trip. 

A crisp morning on Iho Tewoo Beach.

View of Mt Hallasan in the distance at the airport.

At the airport-only in Korea.

Jeju Island-Day 2

Our day 2 on Jeju Island was jam-packed. We got up early and headed to the town of Seongsan to visit the UNESCO World Natural Heritage site of Ilchulbong or “Sunrise Peak”. Jeju is the first place in the world to receive the UNESCO triple crown. After some dolhareubang chocolates, a quick stop at a black sand beach and breakfast at Starbuck we started our trek up Sunrise Peak. 

Many mandarin oranges grow on the island so there are many orange flavored chocolates and other goods. Oranges weren't in season when we visited but they hang fake oranges on the trees for photo opportunities (of course Korea).

A black sand beach with Sunrise Peak in the background. 

Our neat little car.

Sunrise Peak is a cone type mountain that really looks amazing from aerial views but you can hike up 180m to the crater to look over Seongsan and Udo Island in the distance. 

The busy walk up to the top. 

At the top-looking across the crater.

Looking across to Udo Island. Although a really popular island in Jeju, we didn't manage to visit it. The side of the island looks like a baboon face doesn't it?

When we were in Seongsan we were lucky to see some of the famous Jeju diving grannies. These women dive for shellfish and urchins without any breathing equipment for many minutes. The tradition started when men found loopholes in the law that they would not have to pay tax if their wives did the work. So instead the wives would dive for food and the men would look after the children. Some of these women are as old as 70. The tradition of the diving grannies is fading and so we were lucky to see some.

Getting ready to go diving. She wouldn't let us get a proper picture of her. 

We had a most enjoyable visit to the Jeju Maze Park. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a real maze and it was good fun trying to find our way to the centre to ring the bell. The Jeju Maze Park was actually developed by a western man who loves living in Jeju. He must also love cats because the park has a bit of an underlying cat theme and there are about 20 cats hanging around the entrance. 

Styling in raincoats.

Around the corner from the maze is Manjanggul Cave, another UNESCO World Natural Heritage site. The Majanngul Cave is a long (13km but long about 1km is open to the public) underground cave formed by volcanic eruptions. It is a famous example of lava tubes and it is one of the longest in the world and has many lava features. The cave is quite deep underground and it gets pretty cold (poor Dean didn’t have a jersey and was shivering the whole time). You walk 1km to the end of the cave before you turn around and walk back. The cave really is amazing. It’s difficult to capture the experience of the cave on a camera because it is dark and water droplets sometimes mist up your lense. 

At the end of the 1km tunnel walk. 

Umbrellas are useful to avoid the water drops falling from the cave roof.

Our last stop on our second day in Jeju was Yongduam or “Dragon Head Rock”. The rock formation is along the seafront of Jeju-si and is a big tourist attraction. We visited in the evening and it was very busy. I’m not quite sure what the hype is about but it is clearly very popular. 

Walking along the promenade. 

I'm not quite convinced I can see the dragon...

Jeju Island-Day 1

We were lucky to Visit Jeju Island (known as Jeju-do in Korea)after only having spent a month and a half in Korea. As my mom’s visit coincided with our short school vacation, we decided a trip to one of the world’s 7 wonders was ideal.

Jeju is known to be similar to Hawaii and Bali. The island has everything from natural world wonders, beaches and 5 star resorts, to rural villages and “diving grannies”. The whole island is actually one of the 7 wonders of the world, and it’s not surprising.

As we only had 3 nights in Jeju (2 full days), we researched a fair bit how best to spend our time and make the most of it. Jeju has an endless supply of things to do, both natural and kitsch (check out www.jejumandarins.com for everything you need to know) but we ended up thoroughly enjoying our holiday and we pleased with all the places we managed to visit.

Jeju's famous Dolhareubangs are cute grandfather statues that are all over the island. They are made from volcanic rock and the reason for them is not known.

We stayed in a motel in Sinjeju called Monaco Motel. I have learnt that motels in Korea are really decent and great value for money and so far I have had good experiences with them. Our motel was in a good location around the corner from many shops and restaurants. We also hired a car while we were there (Dean has an international drivers and lucky for us, was brave enough to drive-Korea driving on the opposite side of the road and all). Hiring a car was definitely worth it because I think we would have wasted a lot of time using the buses. Luckily one of Dean’s teachers helped us book a car through a Korean rental company because as we visited Jeju during peak season, only very expensive cars were left for hire at most of the rental companies. 

We were lucky enough to organize cheap flights on eastar jet from Gunsan with the help of our director. A rather interesting flight as it involved a giant game of rock/paper/scissors. 

On our first day, after fetching our car and briefly checking into our motel, we drove to Hallim Park. Hallim Park basically gives you a taste of the whole of Jeju in one park. It has caves, stone statues, flower gardens, bonsai gardens and Jeju houses. It's ideal if you don't have much time on the island. It is a relaxing place to visit, with not many crowds and it is lovely to stroll around. 

Entrance to the caves.

Inside the lava caves at Hallim Park.

That's how you grow a bonsai! 

Diving grannies! (More on this later)

Near Hallim Park is Hyeopjae Beach. We stopped here for a quick swim in the evening. Korean beaches are really frustrating as they fence your swimming area. Many Koreans don’t know how to swim and it really irritated us that we couldn’t properly enjoy swimming in the warm water

An island in the distance. Many small islands are scattered around the cost of Jeju.