Saturday, October 18, 2014

Jeju Island Road trip in 6 days (June 2014)

Sun, Sea, sand and more, that's what the so-called island of God's that is Jeju Island has in store. With wide range of activities and attractions, one couldn't possibly get enough of this beautiful volcanic island. Although there are trains and buses bringing people around Jeju island, it's relatively small size (about 73kms east to west and 25kms north to south) gave us an idea to have a week-long  family road trip. We have always enjoyed driving around unfamiliar (but relatively safe) places specially when it offers amazing natural scenery.


Although some tour packages allot only a few days in Jeju, based on the numerous attractions I've read about I thought we could spend a week exploring the island. I didn't want us to rush from one place to another but to enjoy a more leisurely drive to the different interesting places I've shortlisted. With only six days for this leg of our South Korean trip, I had to plan a balanced mix of attractions and activities - beaches, natural landscapes, museums, people and food.

Here's our 6-day Jeju Island road trip itinerary:
our 6-day, color-coded, road trip map


DAY 1

GIMNYEONG (KIMNYOUNG) MAZE PARK
What best way to start our island road trip than a visit to this maze park which incorporates the 7 symbols of Jeju - its coastline, the pony head (arrival of the Mongol military), the snake, the dolmen, the ship, the yin/yang symbol, axis representing the east/west declination of the island. That's history and adventure all rolled into one. There's even a bonus - a lovely garden you can walk into either before or after you get past the maze. Now that's a few hours (or a whole morning, depending on how long you can finish the maze) of family fun.

MANJANGGUL CAVE
Just a few hundred meters from the Maze Park is UNESCO's World Natural Heritage sight Mangjanggul Lava Tube. Of the several lava tubes in the area, this is the largest and the only one that is open to the public. An unexpectedly easy underground cave exploration, this was a first for our family. It was a "bone-chilling" experience. Another must-try for family adventurers.

GIMNYEONG SEONSEGI BEACH
Jeju Island road trip wouldn't be complete without visiting its beaches. This one was first on our list as it was on the way back to our hotel. White fine sand beach with a bit of a rocky coast. Ira couldn't have been more excited to be closer to a body of water. 

HAMDEOK SEOUBONG BEACH
A short drive from Gimnyeong Seonsegi Beach is Hamdeok Beach. A relaxing afternoon stroll along the beach overlooking the horizon as the sun sets in. Now that's what I call a perfect way to end our first day of road trip in the island.

DAY 2

MYSTERIOUS ROAD (DOKKAEBI ROAD)
On our drive south to Seogwipo we stopped by Dokkaebi Road to see with our own eyes what mystery this road holds. Would you believe that we didn't have to step on the gas to make the car move on an uphill road? Although this mystery may not be endemic to Jeju (this wasn't our first mysterious road encounter), I think every mysterious road has its own appeal. Go see for yourselves.

5.16 ROAD FOREST TUNNEL
How do you know when you're already there? Although it's quite obvious that there is a forest tunnel along the road, what gives the place up are the number of vehicles parked along the road. They are a sight to behold - both the forest tunnel and the line of vehicles on both sides of the road. 

SANGAMBURI CRATER
One of the Natural Monuments in Jeju, this 2km flat crater would have been a good place for a stroll for our young naturalist if not for the rain that started to fall. We were walking from the carpark on our way to the main gate when we observed dark clouds looming above. When unforeseen events like this happen it somehow dampens our spirits specially since we were all looking forward to a cozy afternoon nature walk.

ECOLAND THEME PARK
A theme park like no other. One that brought the smile back to the face of our young naturalist after the Sangamburi Crater letdown. A Baldwin locomotive brought us around the theme park that was built in Gotjawal primeval forest. Several different stations that let visitors explore a magical forest, an ecosystem, picnic gardens and a kids town. A whole afternoon of fun and relaxation for the family.

DAY 3
For those who are big fans of Korean drama series, the island has several attractions which were also filming locations of these shows which took the world by storm.

OEDOLGAE ROCK
The rock itself would not have been as appealing if not for its beautiful backdrop - the cliffs, the coast and the islands nearby. Walking along the pathway gives visitors a different view of the rock and its surroundings. Highly recommended for a morning walk or awaiting the sunset.

CHEONJIYEON FALLS
First of the many waterfalls we've visited in the island. This "God's pond" is quite a long walk from the main gate but with luscious greenery, colorful blooms and several harubangs along the way, we didn't mind the walk at all. 

JEONGBANG FALLS
Wouldn't you be thrilled to see the only water fall in Asia that falls directly into the ocean? We sure were! And we didn't only drive there for the view but to go for a dip, too (our feet only, that is). The water was so refreshing and our water-loving kids loved it there.

SAESEOM ISLET and SAEYEONGYO PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE
I'd say you can't have one without the other. The Saeyeongyo Bridge is the longest pedestrian overpass built in the southernmost part of the country, linking the Saeseom Islet to the island. This enabled easier access for visitors to explore the islet which is a forest conservation zone. There were also a few surprises as we crossed the bridge to get to the island.

SEOPJIKOJI
We drove all the way from the southern part of the island to the east coast to visit Seopjikoji, which was a filming location for yet another popular Korean TV drama. It wasn't the show though that brought us here but the stunning vista. There's also a small lighthouse at the edge of the stonewall. 

SEONGSAN ILCHULBONG
A short drive from Seopjikoji is the famous Sunrise Peak. We initially wanted to drive here on our first morning in Jeju but because of bad weather we rescheduled for a later day. We may not have seen sunrise at this peak but driving close to it was an experience in itself. Now climbing to the top is another feat. We reserved that for the next trip. We're definitely coming back.

PYOSEON BEACH
What we loved about our Jeju Island road trip were the stopovers at beaches on our way back to our hotels after a full day of activities. It's our time to wind down, just watching the kids play with sand or get themselves wet in the freezing cold seawater. It may not have been the beach season in South Korea yet but you can't stop beach-lovers like us frolicking in the sand.

DAY 4

JUSANGJEOLLI CLIFF
These are stone pillars along the coast formed when lava from the Mt Hallasan erupted into the sea of Jungmun. Because of the almost similar hexagonal shapes one would think these were actually hand carved or even mechanically done. One of the many wonders of mother nature's power of creation (and destruction).

ICC JEJU JTO DUTY FREE SHOP
A short break from nature to fuel the interest of the only woman in the family. I did a quick walk over and checked out shops that were of interest to me. Their Kipling bags were really cheap! 

JUNGMUN RESORT COMPLEX
Said to be the largest resort in Korea, this tourism complex piqued the interest of the tourism graduate in me. I remembered my professor discussed in class about how Bali was the perfect example of a tourism complex. I haven't been to Bali (it's in my bucket list) so I couldn't compare. But I was curious to see what Jungmun Resort Complex had to offer. Here were some of the places we visited within the resort:
  • CHEONJEYEON FALLS - not to be mistaken with Cheonjiyeon Falls, this water falls ("the pond of God") has 3 parts - the first overflowing to the second then to the third and out to sea. Wooden walkways bring visitors to the different levels to have a view of the water falls. There is also a famous Seonimgyo bridge which can be seen from the first water falls area.
  • LOTTE HOTEL DUTY FREE - another shopping opportunity. Although this one is not as big as one would have wanted it to be, last minute shoppers can opt to stop by to grab something before flying out. Didn't have luck in this shop again. I was beginning to think I would never have any luck at all.
  • RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT - fancy ogling ancient tribal artifacts? How about comparing heights with the tallest man in the world? Ripley's Believe It or Not features several one-of-a-kind items collected by creator Robert Ripley from countries he travelled to for 35 years. We had a lot of ooh and aah moments going through all of the exhibits. There were even interactive ones. The kids had hours of fun at Ripley's.
  • ALIVE MUSEUM - not far away from Ripley's is yet another place of amusement for the family. An optical illusion theme park, Alive Museum has five varieties of experiences - trick art, Provence art, sculpture art, digital art and objet art. It's one mind boggling illusion after another. It kept us entertained (wondering while wandering) for the rest of the night.
DAY 5 
This day we drove from south to north, passing by several beaches and views of the coast. We started and ended our day at the beach.

HWASUN GEUMMORAE BEACH - the first beach pit stop for the day. A late morning playtime for the kids by the beach. Again, because it wasn't their beach season yet, we were the only people there. More space for the kids to run around. The beach was ours for hours.

MT SANBANGSAN and YEONGMEORI COAST - we stopped by the main road (thanks to designated parking spaces) at the mid level of the mountain with Mt Sanbangsan in the backdrop and overlooking the Yeongmeori Coast. If you have an hour or two to spare, you can go down closer to the coast for a stroll or to buy some souvenirs (food items) from the shops below.

CHOCOLATE MUSEUM - would you believe that one of the largest chocolate museum in the world is in Jeju Island? There's much to see and learn at this museum for chocolate lovers. There's even a free cup of coffee given at the ticket counter giving you a taste of cacao before you even set foot in the museum doors.

GEUMNEY EU HEUMON BEACH / HEOPJAE BEACH - these beaches are close to each other and near Hallim Park. We opted to visit both (beach-hoppers that we are) and let the boys have an afternoon fun under the sun. Heopjae Beach overlooking the small island of Biyangdo is perfect for photo op. 

IHO TAEWO BEACH - the closest beach to Jeju City and the last we've visited for the day. There were also 2 horse-shaped lighthouses near this beach. Something unusual that we just had to see.

DAY 6 
For our last day in Jeju Island, we drove around for the last glimpse of its coast, to see the last of the harubangs and also the Yongduam Rock. We still had a few hours before our flight to Busan.

In our six days exploring the island we've experienced its roaring winds, seen the magnificent rocks/rock formations and admired its women (haenyo). Breathtaking views of the coast we will always remember. Jeju Island has been the top honeymoon island for newly wed Koreans for a reason. And I have to say it's not only for honeymooners but also for families like us. Endless activities to choose from. A variety of attractions to keep us entertained and awed. A week is definitely not enough to see everything this island has to offer. We've got to visit it in different seasons, too. With that said, we will definitely go back to this lovely island.


Travel Tip of the Day:

If you are driving in Jeju Island it is important to have the 7-digit telephone numbers of the tourist attractions you want to visit. These can be used to input in the car's GPS for easier navigation. Be sure to have the updated numbers though. When I did my online research different numbers were provided by different sources. 

When we arrived in Jeju Island I made sure that I got hold of brochures and maps which had the supposedly updated numbers we needed. I compared and replaced the old ones I had written in our itinerary. But I also had to rely on our map to make sure that we were going on the right direction (of course, I had to make sure I knew roughly where the destination was on the map).

I will be including a list of those numbers later on in my blog. Watch out for it!







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