Wind, Rocks and WomanOctober 6, 2013
“Wind, Rocks and Woman. But no beggars, thieves or locked gates.”
That’s how Jeju island, off the south point of Korea, is described by its locals.
I would add “water” to that list. Not only is it -obviously- surrounded by water. Also there’s a fair amount of water falling both from rocks and sky.
But my first introduction to Korea were the bright lights of Busan.
A big city where it took me a little while to figure out how to cross a road,
and where I spent a couple of days taking in the sights and getting used to Korea,
and the food.
It is excellent!
After the first shock of having my meal still moving on the hot plate at a small restaurant near the fish market. Where the ladies rather forcefully made sure I got inside and eat.
It was eel, and they skin and cut them up in pieces right before your eyes so they must be dead, but still keep moving until they’re well cooked.
In other places you might go in for a feed, order a meal (usually around 6 or 7 dollars) and receive anything from 4 to 12 side dishes! With pumpkin, kimchi (fermented cabbage, tastes better than it sounds!), little fish, soup, seaweed, tofu, bean sprouts, spinach, etc.
The wonderful thing about these is they keep refilling them until you’re full!
One funny difference I noticed with Japan is where in Japan everybody first asked if I was American, here the assumption is I’m Russian! I guess that’s one improvement
I also noticed that phones seem to be an extension of the body. If you take the metro everybody is plugged in!
It might be like this in other places too, but I never noticed it like here. My phone doesn’t work. So I am forced to look around instead
After a few days I jumped on a ferry and headed towards Jeju Island.
Where the pace of life is a bit slower.
Slightly more expensive too.
Just after arriving my mouth decided to fall to pieces.
Maybe due to the fact I haven’t seen a dentist in about 10-odd years?
The lesson I learned?
Go to the dentist in Korea! At about a third of the price in the Netherlands it saves you a heap! And now I can smile again.
Lucky I had a great place to stay while in town.
I camped on the roof of the Forest Hostel. Definitely the best place in town!
After a week in Jeju city I was very keen to explore the rest of this island.
So I climbed on my bike and started to pedal, direction tail-wind.
Ignoring the fact I would have to go against that wind the next few days.
That’s just the way it is when you ride around an island.
“Dol Hareubang”, or grandfather-statues, are a symbol of Jeju. Stone statues with a mushroom-shaped hat that can be seen as a phallic symbol. They offer both protection and fertility. Maybe not the best place to park my bicycle then…
There’s a few phallic symbol’s around. Some subtle,
some not so.
Like this door-knob at Jeju’s “Love land” A sex-based theme park that leaves very little to imagination, but is good for a giggle. Apparently it’s for over 20′s only so I was a little surprised to see people pushing prams around and make it a fun family day out…
Slightly odd to come across a place like that in Korea.
I just kept on riding my bicycle.
This guy, looking at his expression, didn’t like my singing.
I enjoyed riding along the coast seeing all the people get on with their daily business,
and marvelling at the squid boats.
There is a lot of them.
And at night they light up the sea and the sky when they’re out catching squid.
You see hanging around the island the next day.
I was lucky when, on the first night I found a beautiful beach to camp at. And Kim, Kim & Tho, who happened to camp at the same beach
And tried teaching me some Korean.
I had a few lovely days,
I saw the amazing lava rock formations.
Sadly the weather turned to crap.
The good thing is there’s lot’s of little shelters to pitch your tent in case of downpour.
And it sure did rain! Not just a drizzle either.
Cycling around the island is a popular activity. And I found Simone, an Austrian girl who accompanied me for half a day.
We leisurely rode from temple to waterfall,
enjoying coffee’s and waffles along the way.
Just when we parted ways Seungjoo Choi overtook me.
With only a small backpack he could have easily gone a lot faster, but chatting away and riding in a severe downpour ’till way after dark we suddenly stumbled upon a remote, interesting Guesthouse.
Where I happened to be the 2nd foreign visitor. Ever!
Somehow I ended up learning how to play a djembee… Sort of.
And drink ‘Soju’, a typical and very popular drink in South Korea.
Instead I went along on a mission to catch some of this glorious food myself.
An almost succesful operation, as the urchin wedged itself firmly under my fingernail…
(I eat it)
It was the most wonderful morning! Not only did we see a whole lot of dolphins,
We encountered some of the last Haenyo’s,
These are the amazing ladies of the underwater world.
Or the “free-diving grannies of Jeju“, as their ages now varies between 50 and 75.
I’ve seen all the statues,
dedicated to them while riding around.
These ladies have been making a living from diving for abalone, octopus and urchins since the nineteenth century, when it became unprofitable for men to dive because of high taxes. Woman didn’t need to pay taxes so the diving has been a woman’s job eversince.
And this all without snorkel or tank.
They are able to hold their breath up to 3 minutes and dive down to 20 meters!
It’s wonderful to see these ladies at work.
They even shared some of their catch with us.
But it’s not a very attractive job, with most girls now choosing carreers in the city or tourism. It’s unlikely the Haenyo’s of Jeju island will survive.
I nearly got around the island when the weather cleared up for a day,
One of the must do’s, apparently, is walk up the big hill.
Mount Hallasan stands with 1950m in the middle of the island. It also happens to be the highest mountain in Korea.
And if you get up there on a clear day, as I did, you get some nice views of the whole of Jeju.
As long as you don’t expect to be by yourself. Instead you walk the easy and almost completely paved 9km up the hill surrounded by people listening to really loud music on their phones, wearing really loud outfits.
A colourful experience indeed.
The track down was a lot prettier and more quiet. Only after I walked down I realised that’s probably because there’s no transport to, or from, that point.
So I hitched a ride back to my bike and rode the last few km’s back to Jeju city.
Not missing the lovely sunset on the way in.