Places to See in Jeju: Travel Diary from a Trip Abroad
On July 13th, my school went to Gimpo Airport and took a one hour flight to the beautiful Jeju Island. Jeju has a population of 604,771. It is also known as the couple's honeymoon spot, and is referred to as the Hawaiʻi of Korea. On the trip we had four days of leading and exploring the island and its beauty, giving us plenty of time to see the most beautiful and important sights. Below are a few of my favorite places to see in Jeju.
Cheonjiyeon Falls and Yakcheonsa Da-do
We landed in the afternoon and were treated to a buffet full of all types of delicious foods by the oceanic Jungmun Hotel. After we were full to our hearts content, we moved to the Cheonjiyeon Valley to see a small beautiful waterfall called Cheonjiyeon Falls, which means the “sky connected to the land.” The falls are 22 meters tall and 12 meters wide, surrounded by trees and stunningly beautiful.
Nearby is the huge Buddhist temple of Yakcheonsa Da-do. Here, we learned about the religion and temples. This temple is from the Joseon Dynasty and has three, five meter tall statues. Our guide informed us that usually one bows three times to every Buddha. The temple and Buddhas were both made of wood, but the Buddhas were further wrapped in a beautiful gold. Donations, like more small Buddhas, were scattered through the building that was already covered in lanterns. The place was stunning. Later we learned stories of the artworks within the walls and went to a fountain that’s water is supposed to cure ailments. As the day came to an end, we had traditional Bulgogi Hot pot, which tasted amazing. So many vegetables were in this dish, and they all mixed together so well.
The Aquarium and Haenyeo
On our second day, we had breakfast in the hotel lobby and then headed out for a day of adventure. First, we went towards Seopjikoji which had stunning views of the ocean and a candy house that look like a huge ginger bread house on top. It was covered in gum drops, icing, and glitter. We never got to find out what exactly it was but I would assume a candy store or resort.
After, we went to an aquarium which had more than 5,000 sea creatures inside. Aqua planets were full tanks of land and sea creatures. I enjoy aquariums, and most of this was informative and beautiful. However, I was very disappointed in how the tanks that had sea mammals were so small. In addition, the aquarium advertised a whale shark throughout the building, but didn’t actually have one.
Then we went to Seongsan Ilchulbong to see Haenyeo (해녀). These are the "women of the sea" in Jeju. These women dive as deep at 10 meters and from one to three minutes without oxygen to gather different shellfish. Many of these women are 60 and older and seeing them work was incredible.
Hiking in Jeju
On day three, we got another buffet breakfast and started our relaxing day. The first stop was a hike by the rock coastline of Jeju island. It was beautiful to see the forest meet the sea and see the small inhabitable island called the “Grandfather”. Our tour guide told us there are two cliffs, one that looks like a man and one that resembles a woman. This personification is based off of a story of a husband lost at sea and the wife gave herself to the sea by jumping in since she loved him. During the hike, we were given the chance to see them it and it looked like he was laying in the water and she was stand near by. I really enjoyed this story, because we have similar legends like this in the Hawaiian Islands, like the Pali legend.
Throughout the day, the ocean was beautiful. Even if it was a bit cloudy, we later enjoyed the cold water and swam. After touring so many of the different places to see in Jeju and cramming so much in, it was nice to have a really relaxing day where we all got to spend time together in nature.
Our final day, we woke up, had breakfast and checked out of our hotel rooms. We all loaded onto the buses and head to the lava tubes. Although Hawaii is a volcanic island, my island of Oahu does not have these, so I was super excited to see them. The tubes and Manjanggul caves is one of the best in the world, on one side you can see the caves that have collapsed and the other side you can go down and explore. Instantly, you are greeted with arctic air and 13,422 meters of tunnel. The ceiling may drop water on you, and the caves still house bats, but it was beautiful nevertheless. At the end of the tunnel, you can even see other lava tides heading vertically up.
The statues on the island are Dol Hareubang, known as the old grandfather of the island. You can find 48 original ones throughout this island which attracts tourists and give the island its true character. The statues also stand for peace and will forever be a memory of mine. Overall, Jeju was a blast and it was really beautiful. The island was my favorite part of my Korea trip and I will miss the statues the most. Which part of Jeju do you want to see? Leave us a comment below!