Jejudo is a truly gorgeous island off of Korea’s southern coast. With green rolling hills and breathtaking ocean views, Jeju has earned its reputation as a must-see beauty. Stunning beaches and breezy cliffs have made this little island a highly popular honeymoon destination for decades. It became an especially popular for newlyweds following the Korean War. As many of the couples who vacationed there were in arranged marriages, many hotel staff would take “ice-breaker” roles, offering activites for couples that were erotic in nature. Jeju continues to have a reputation as a romantic Korean escape.
The island was first incorporated into the Goryeo kingdom in 938, when the dynasty took political ownership of the existing Tamna kingdom. Jeju has many distinct features that set it apart from any other place in Korea. For example, Jeju Island is known for its unique breed of wild horses.
The Jeju horse(제주마, Jejuma) comes in many varieties, identified by their colors and markings. They are hardy, handling harsh conditions well, and therefore can be conveniently pastured without stables. Another unique creature of the island is the Jeju Black Pig (제주흑돼지), which provides one of jeju’s most prized dishes: black pork.We ate at a restaurant renowned for its black pork bulgogi, and the hour wait was completely worth it. The pork was moist and delicious. At many restaurants, such as this one, bulgogi is brought out uncooked accompanied by bowls of lettuce and white rice. You then cook the meet on a metal skillet, rounded dish, or in oil, depending on the restaurant, and once the meat is done, you wrap it in a lettuce leaf with the rice and enjoy! Completing this task with chopsticks can be difficult for those still learning to manage them, and if this is the case, it is usually acceptable to hold the lettuce in your hands, then fill it with ingredients and enjoy it like a taco.
Jeju has been historically been called the island of triple abundance: wind, stones, and women. Later, it was additionally known for its lack of thieves, beggars, and locked gates. We saw some of these famous strong women soon after arriving on the coast.
After enjoying the ocean views from the rocky cliffs, we climbed down to explore the tide pools. Down on the beach, women were collecting various shellfish and preparing them right there on the beach. These haenyo, strong and independent sea-women, dive without breathing equipment to collect clams, seaweed, abalone, and other sea creatures. Today, the average haenyo is sixty-five years old. The ancient tradition of these powerful women began as Jeju men would often be fishing out at sea, allowing the Jeju people to develop a far more matriarchal structure than other Korean areas. Jeju continues to be renowned for its strong women.
I was a bit nervous about eating the sea cucumber…and honestly, it was probably the only food I tried in Korea that I wouldn’t go back for seconds. It was intensly salty, with the strangest combination of squishy and crunchy I have ever experienced. I have since tried cooked sea cucumber, which is far more mild than fresh and raw.
A ferry can be taken to the island of Udo, which is famous for clear seas and Someori Oreum, or Udobong Peak (쇠머리오름(우도봉), the rock which resembles a face.
It was on this small island where I was first introduced to hallabong (한라봉). Called ‘dekopan’ in Japan, these fruits earned their Korean name from Hallasan, the highest mountain in Jeju and all of South Korea, where it is grown. Hallabong treats can be purchased all over the island; peanut desserts and snacks are very popular here as well. Tourists can rent mopeds and golf carts, which are fun to ride to the gorgeous blue beaches.
Hallasan is the highest mountain in South Korea, with a height of 1,950 m (6,400 ft). There is a phrase that describes how integral this mountain is to the character of the island: “Jeju Island is Hallasan, and Hallasan is Jeju.” It has been known by many other names, including Mt. Yeongjusan, meaning “mountain high enough to pull the galaxy,”. Along with Jirisan and Seoraksan, Hallasan is believed to be a mountain of the gods.
On the top of Hallasan rests the lake Baengnokdam (백록담), meaning “white deer lake.” Legend states that spirits once descended to the crater to play with and ride white deer, making this a sacred place.
There are over 360 small mountains surrounding Hallasan, known as “Oreum”, as well as numerous bangsatap. Bangsatap are round towers made of many stones, intended to ward off bad luck. They can be found throughout the countryside.
Another fascinating Jeju attraction is the Troll Road. Standing at the end of the road, it appears to incline upwards; however, when a bottle is placed directly in front of you, it will roll forward, seemingly up the hill. This place also features many stone statues, for which Jeju is famous.
The Glass Castle features extensive displays of blown glass, including a path leading through a glass garden, a hallabong tree, and glass replicas of Jeju’s stone statues. Visitors can pay to make their own blown glass creation. Attempting this difficult task gives you a whole new appreciation for the delicacy of the exhibits throughout the exhibition.
Jeju has numerous attractions besides its natural beauties. I absolutely loved this peaceful and enchanting island, and I can’t wait to return someday.
XOXO, Seoulmate ♥