Jeju, the Island of Gods D1

[31 Oct 2016]

How is it even possible that after at least 10 visits to South Korea, that the mister has never been to Jeju 제주도? Oh my, that’s like a blasphemy to some degree. 😳

So this trip, we were determined to right this. Planning the itinerary was a tad tough since I’d just made a trip to the island in March with my bffs. The mister very gallantly told me not to repeat visiting the same places again. By a stroke of luck, my previous trip wasn’t very extensive – we didn’t manage to cover much of the largest island of South Korea anyway. Hence I was still able to draw up a decent plan with only one repeat location. Tells you how big Jeju island really is.

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That afternoon we landed on Jeju Island in less than ideal weather. It was overcast, gloomy and drizzling. The kind of weather I truly hate to the core. I was already feeling a little uneasy about being the sole driver of our short stay in Jeju and now, even the weather was not being cooperative. Well, at least the flight was rather smooth; I had some shuteye knowing it was going to be a long drive from the airport all the way down south to Seogwipo 서귀포, where our hotel is located.

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Given my previous experience with the cheapest car rental company in town (we were at the office over an hour before we finally got our car), I went for the most reputable and convenient rental company Lotte Rent a Car – the one that ties up with Singapore Air so I can earn some Krisflyer miles too. Now, I drive an SUV on the roads in Singapore and we most certainly could have gone with a bigger car in Jeju but I decided against it since it was 1) just the 2 of us with our luggage and 2) there are quite a bit of very narrow roads to manoeuvre on Jeju island. This Kia Morning was so low capacity I had to frequently change gears when we were climbing slopes. Those were the times when I regretted my choice. Other than that, I really loved how easy it was to manage this tiny car.

Gimnyeong Beach  김녕 성세기 해변

Our first stop after picking up the car was to head straight for Gimnyeong Beach 김녕 성세기 해변, along the coastal road. I was visualising a cool, windy drive with an awesome view of the sea. On the contrary, I could hardly see the sea at all. The coastal road was dotted with houses and shops on both sides. Bummer. In any case, since both the mister and I were still getting used to the car and driving on the right side of the road, we really weren’t in much of a mood to enjoy the scenery.

Gimnyeong Beach is one of the numerous beaches Jeju has, and due to its location between two popular beaches, it tends to be more quiet. Located on the northern edge of the island, it is a short 30km away from the airport. But oh my, it was so windy when we finally arrived at the beach during mid-afternoon.

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It happened that a couple were having their wedding shots taken. In the picture above, the photographer and his assistant were doing their utmost to arrange the bride-to-be’s gown train for an artistic shot in the wind. And didn’t I mention earlier that it was windy? And therefore cold? I really pitied the bride-to-be. She must be trembling with cold. The sacrifices brides-to-be make just to look pretty/have pretty wedding photographs. Been there, done that. I hope she didn’t catch a cold after the photoshoot.

Wished I could take a peek at how the pictures turned out. I’m certain they are going to look good!

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The black rocks found on Gimnyeong Beach are black lava rocks very commonly seen all over the island. Jeju is a volcanic island, and these black lava rocks were distributed when Mt. Hallasan 한라산 erupted in Year 1007. Safe to say that the dormant volcano should not erupt again, I hope.

In spite of the thick cloud cover, the clear emerald blue sea juxtaposed against the black lava rocks still made for a picturesque sight. It was near sunset hence we could see a slight portion of the orange tinted sky to the left. Added some interesting colour element to the picture. Gimnyeong is a nice beach with white sand (as opposed to some other beaches with black sand) but when we visited the beach was rather deserted and full of litter brought up by the tide. Not a pretty sight.

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Nearby, to the left of the beach are some wind turbines. If you have a good eye and is a fan of the same Korean Pop group that I like, then you might have recognised that this is the place where an MV for Jeju Samdasoo Water was recently filmed. Heh. I wouldn’t have learnt of this place if not for the MV. Didn’t mention any of this to the mister, and since the itinerary planning was left entirely to me, I thought he was clueless as to why I wanted to visit this beach. Yet, when we met a lone female traveller taking many selfies on the rocks, he immediately pointed to her and said, ‘Eh, your friend’, indicating that she must also be a fellow fan. 😆

Now, for some comparison exercise. Standing at about the same spot, I took a picture of the wind turbines with both my iPhone 7 Plus (above picture) and my Canon 10-22mm wide-angle lens (below). Without considering the picture below, I would say that the iPhone 7 Plus took a great picture.

Now look below. The landscape looked so much more dramatic, a distinct feature of wide-angle lenses. I much prefer the effect here. Much to his chagrin, it looks like I won’t be abandoning my DSLR for the iPhone anytime soon.

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I was busy; so was the mister. He was busy playing with the selfie stick. And took a rather interesting picture of us (I was on my DSLR at that moment).

We underestimated the distance between north and south of Jeju. It took us close to two hours of driving through winding, hilly road in the dark to drive from Gimnyeong Beach down to Seogwipo. Worst part of it, I was the only driver in the direction I was headed for, with an occasional car or two joining me for a spell before turning out; it would have been much easier for me if I was following another car. Harrowing experience. 😯

I was having a backache, headache and shoulder ache from being tense throughout the driving. It wasn’t that easy for the mister either, not to be in control. While I planned for us to check into our boutique hotel first before backtracking a bit for dinner, he preferred us eating first. Just as well, I was stiff from all the driving and the sooner I could get out of the car to relax, the better.

Dongbaek Jongwon  동백정원  [GPS: 738-4592]

The mister had a simple request when I was doing up the itinerary – that he wanted to try Jeju’s famous black pork bbq 흣돼지. That wasn’t a tall order, but with so many choices I had to pick that wouldn’t be a waste of our calorie intake. I found Dongbaek Jongwon 동백정원, a local restaurant rather popular with the locals.

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It was only then that we realised we haven’t had a proper meal the entire day. Little wonder we were famished by then. The simple husband-wife eatery setup had even simpler menu, which made ordering very straight forward. While the mister made a visit to the restroom, I ordered two portions of the grilled black pork belly.

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We helped ourselves to the generous portions of the delicious banchan 반찬 served to us while grilling the pork belly. The banchan offered here was rather different to the ones we’ve seen at other eateries. Less of spicy items. Much closer to our taste, in fact.

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Looks good, doesn’t it? Tasted very good too. In fact, we had black pork bbq a couple more times the next few days but the mister rated this place’s meat quality to be the best. We would highly recommend Dongbaek Jongwon to any friend who asks us for recommendations from now on.

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The eatery owners have two shiba inu lingering outside the eatery (probably trained them not to enter the eatery). One of them in particular is very attached to the owners. He kept sitting at the door to watch them. So adorable!

We would have driven all the way in to have dinner here again if it weren’t so difficult to reach (have to drive along a very narrow road). The next time we visit Jeju I’m sure we will make time to have a meal there again.

Nine Boutique Hotel  제주 나인부띠끄  [GPS: 762-0045]

It was finally time to head for our hotel. I was having such a stiff back I couldn’t wait to lie down in bed. I’ll admit I didn’t do much research when it came to our accommodation. Since my friends and I stayed at the penthouse of the same building in Mar 2016, I thought to just stick with the same place since I know my way around there. Sometimes I’m lazy like that.

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The hotel room had all the basic facilities; we have nothing much to complain about except for the shower cubicle. It would be nice if the screen extended out a little more, or if they had boxed it up with a door for access. Both the mister and I don’t like to get the whole bathroom wet when showering but with this setup, it was inevitable.

That said, I might choose the same hotel the next round we visit Jeju. 😀

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