Monday, May 11, 2009

Jeju: Day 1

Bern, Florence, Kayla and I went to Jeju Island for the weekend! Jeju, a special self-governing province, is Korea's largest island (73km wide & 43km long) - about a 1 hour flight south of Seoul. It's known as the 'Hawaii of Korea' as it has a tropical climate and is a volcanic island (created entirely from volcanic eruptions). It is home to the highest mountain in Korea - Halla-san (Halla Mountain). Jeju came into existence around 700-1,200 years ago.

@ Gimpo + Jeju International Airport.
In the taxi!I was very lucky and fortunate to have my friend (a local from my Marketing class) to pretty much book the whole trip for us. He found us cheap flights from a Korean website, gave me a site (again, all in Korean) to pick a hotel, and even found an excellent scuba diving program for us! All of those three things cost us 300,000won for those who are wondering (a very reasonable price), scuba diving being 90,000. When we got there, we didn't have to lift a finger. We hopped into a taxi to take us to our hotel and when we got to our hotel (which we were extremely pleased with, especially for the price we paid), we were bowed at and given the key without having to deal with any paperwork. On Friday morning, we were called in the morning to let us know that the scuba diving instructors were here to pick us up.
The guys at the front desk did not know or speak any English.haha.. table filled with beauty products... such girls.Floor to ceiling windows on 2 sides!
2 of us slept on the bed while the other 2 slept on the floor. We actually all wanted to sleep on the heated floor Korean style but there were only 2 sets of floor bedding.My new friend I named Billow (after our hotel -- Billy for short). Actually, I think it's a she. She lived at the hotel.
Our hotel was right across from Gwak-Ji Beach.
An unkept bathhouse
The women's side:
Our first taxi driver (who was a bit odd but had good intentions) took us on a scenic route and made us take a picture with this statue. It's a statue of a women diver.
They're amazing!
What's interesting about Jeju is the matriarchal family structure. When you drive along the coast, you can see these fluorescent jugs floating on the water and women in black scuba suits bobbing up and down. These women are the heads of their families (perhaps because they control the income). They earn money by free diving (with no scuba gear) all year round, to harvest abalone + other marine beings! They are so skilled, they can dive 20 meters and hold their breaths for 2 minutes!!
So yea -- the men are the ones who take care of the children and go shopping while the women work and bring home money. I think this is amazing especially since Korea is known to live according to a Confucian culture where women are considered inferiors and lag behind men in every aspect. The number of women divers are decreasing though -- from 30,000 in 1940 to only 5,650 in 2005. This is partly because of all the money they earn -- they are able to send their daughters to university!

I'm standing next to a small version of the dolharubang ("stone grandfather") 돌 하르방that's carved from lava (basalt) rock. They sort of look like mushrooms. They are the symbol of Jeju (for both protection and fertility) and were produced from 1763-1765. You see his hands resting on his stomach? Some versions have the right hand higher than the left (like the one in the picture) and vice versa. When the RH is higher than the LH, that means he's learned haha. When the LH is higher, it means he's unlearned. It was windy and I almost lost my ajumma hat!
Our first meal - mackerel.
Here we are, walking to the airport after our meal. Although I was reminded via text by my friend to pick up the scuba diving ticket from the airport right after we collected our luggage, I had completely forgotten (mhmm... somewhat typical me)... and because we were in a remote area where taxis don't frequent and because we didn't want to call that odd taxi driver, we decided to walk from the restaurant. We had no idea how far or long it would take -- we ended up walking around pretty much the whole airport. It ended up taking around 2 hours, I think!
We had fun nonetheless.
The sidewalks are all made out of lava rock! As are the curbs!KU Tigers! Grarrrrr lollll
My porous rock I picked up as a souvenir of our walk + view from hotel balcony:
After, we ate dinner (or so I thought) at the airport. This is some cold fish (I forgot which type of fish) soup. Very refreshing on such a warm day.
Then we tried to rent scooters at Mr. Lee's (an English speaking scooter rental place) but we found out we weren't allowed to because we didn't have any motorcycle/scooter experience. My license is expired anyway.
So, we went downtown and shopped at the underground shopping mall. It was pretty decently sized, I thought. They had a lot of similar clothes you could find in Seoul for about the same prices too. I found a couple of versatile additions to my wardrobe but was good enough not to buy them. We all bought some face masks at Skin Food to pamper ourselves back at the hotel that night.

F + K bought something from Etude House (a cosmetics store) and were given Gu Jun Pyo folders. Oh my...
We ate cheesy bites pizza @ Pizza Hut. How come Pizza Hut in Asia is 100x better than at home?!
Day 1 was pretty uneventful compared to the rest of the trip because by the time we left the airport, most of the museums and such were closed! We all went through waves of hyperness. F and I only got 2 hours of sleep the night before and Kayla was running on zero lol
Jeju Day 2 tomorrow!


  1. love ur hat! and omg lee min ho folders! how cute!!!

    PS: i feel like such a stalker, commenting on so many ur posts! HAHAHA!

  2. i'm speaking out of feeling of safety and relief for YOU and all of korea that when i say this: thank god you didn't rent those scooters!!!