I watched the towns go by on my hour and a half ride to Seongsan Ilchulbong 성산 일출봉. In my head, I had dent connected to the seemingly unreal futures that I had seen of a Tuff cone on Jeju, but as soon as I saw it off in the distance, I knew I was in for a treat. After paying 5,000 won my two friends, who had also come on holiday, and I headed up the winding stairs towards the peak, snapping pictures of the surrounding area, Udo Island 우도, and the towering rocks that house spirits of the island. Dripping wet from the heat and humidity, we made our way to the top and looked out across the vast ocean. It was one of those places that you hear and read about, you may even have seen pictures of, but once you get there, it feels impossible that something as beautiful as this is in exists. It’s probably why it’s a UNESCO world heritage site. We made our way back down after recording the moment to never lose the memory of this place. We ended up at an ice cream place drinking Jeju green citrus juice and Udo peanut ice cream.
Satisfied and refreshed, we made our way to a black sand beach alongside Seongsan Ilchulbong, which is more romantic looking than the feel of the coarse sand makes it feel. However, there is something about walking on a Gwangchigi Haebyeon Beach 광치기해변 looking at the sea life in the tide pools and floating around in the water that gives you a sense of peace. Several hours and sunburns later, we made our way back towards the town to try some of the black pig that Jeju is known for. The Pork did not disappoint tender and juicy the quality of the meat was fantastic and welt with our bellies full with an ice cream in our hands, hopping on the bus back to our hotels watching the sunset in the distance.
I was up again early the next day, my last full day on Jeju, and made my way three hours toward the Lava tubes via bus. Jeju is home to the longest lava tube in the world. A UNESCO world heritage site Manjanggul Cave 만장굴 is one of the longest lava tubes in the world that contains the largest lava column reaching a height of 7.6 m. Although a popular tourist site, this place truly takes your breath away. The tunnels transport you back 220,000 years ago when Jeju was forming, and lava flowed through the tunnels melting the rock around trying to push its way towards the surface. The ceiling and walls are covered in smooth melted rock giving the walls a shine. This allows you to see the different levels of lava that ran through the years, leaving marks on the wall like rings on a tree till eventually, it all dried up on the floor beneath your feet, leaving curves and cracks on the tunnel floor from the cooling lava. At the end of the entrance, you see a color of hardened rock falling from another tube above. Frozen in time as if the world froze in an instant as the love was falling to the floor.
Places like this fill me with wonder and awe. Awe, for the power and beauty of mother water and curiosity for what more our planet has to offer.
After the caves, we hailed a taxi to take us to Seonguep 성읍민속마을, a historical folk village. After visiting Naganeupseong 순천 낙안읍성, I assumed that this village would have a similar tourist feel. Maybe because of covid or the heat, the town was empty of vendors and tourists alike, but perhaps this lived-in village is tucked far enough from the populated areas of Jeju that the residents can live in peace.
Seonguep 성읍민속마을 is a place of peace and resistance. Hundreds of years ago the town was moved because the residents simply didn’t like the new governor. In the same spirit of resistance to rule the towns people did not make it easy for the Japaneese governer during the colonal period. Today the residents live at peace changing the town with the times. Some homes are updated with airconditioning and new windows. While others are left empty, being reclaimed by the unkempt vines of squash that the inhabitants use to grow. This town still has an active Confucian School that celebrates traditions that go past living memory. Although there is not much to see, Seonguep 성읍민속마을 is a place off the beaten path that leaves you with the feeling of calm.
From the historical folk village, we hopped back on the bus toward Seogwipo 서귀포시 and wandered the artisan streets where cute tourist shops sat next to local artisans cafes and scream shops. The shop owners are invested in their art and the art they carry, telling stories of the local artisans who have pieces in the shop in broken English. It’s really the perfect mix of tourism and locals living their dreams.
With souvenirs and an ice cream treat for ourselves in hand, we wandered towards the port to watch the sunset before we headed to a local spot with picnic tables that served more Korean Barbecue and the best spicy pepper jelly I’ve ever had.
The next day was bitter-sweet walking around a local market before I caught the bus and headed home. This vacation was more than I could ask for. Challenging, breathtaking. What more could I ask for.
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