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Journals from South Korea, Yonsei University

2009-08-31 spring 2009: Jeju-do: The Hawaii of Korea

This past weekend was a lot of fun! A group of school friends and I decided that we would take our weekend explorations out of Seoul, and to one of the most talked about places in Korea: Jeju Island. Jeju Island is known as the Hawaii of Korea and most Koreans aim to travel there at least once in their lives to climb Halla-san (Halla Mountain). We decided to stay for three days, as all of us happened to only have one Monday class that we could afford to miss for this opportunity. We arrived to the island on a beautiful Saturday morning, and boy, I could tell we were out of Seoul before we even got out of the airport. The air, for one, was extremely fresh and easy to breathe: I had gotten used to the polluted city air of Seoul. The plant life and city was also a drastic change from the big city. There were lots of flowers and palm trees, and the buildings werent nearly as tall or as close together as in Seoul. All in all, it was a nice physical change for me, especially as I had been missing the greenery of Oregon. The first day we stayed in Jeju, my friends and I decided to tour the beach and just relax. Our second set of exams had just finished that Friday, so we were ready for a mental break. The beaches didnt have any people on them (it was only May, and tourist season begins in June and July) and the water was still really fun to play in"it was actually quite nice to have the beach to ourselves, because we didnt have to worry about our things getting taken. For our lunch that day, we decided to partake in some Jeju fare: raw octopus, shells, and clams! Im not a huge fan of raw fish, but this food was amazing! There are these old, female divers who catch the seafood throughout the day, so all the food that we ate had just been caught. Id definitely recommend trying this out if you ever happen to be anywhere you can eat freshly caught seafood. Its the only way to go! On the second day, more fellow students from the I-House (International House) arrived to Jeju. This was the day we all decided to hike up the fabled Halla-san, one of the tallest mountains in Korea! It was a looooong day. The hike itself was essentially a long set of stairs (since we took the challenge route) and there were no areas where the ground leveled off. Instead, it was a six hour walk (round trip), and the way up was completely uphill. Once we reached the top, though, I realized the grueling hike was worth it: the view was beautiful. We could see the entire island from where we were standing, as well as the crater in the middle of Halla-san"apparently long ago, it was an active volcano! Since the climb up Halla-san was so strenuous, we decided on the third day to do more easy-going sightseeing of the island. Because Jeju is so tiny, there isnt very much public transportation"instead, tourists must rent cars or scooters to travel around. We decided to use this method of transportation and just tour the island. It was pretty nice, because we got to see lots of different types of caves and waterfalls, as well as some very nice beaches. It was good to also get off of the tourist path and explore the whole island, rather than just the special attractions that tourists normally go to. For example, we found a delicious hole in the wall restaurant with very nice owners who gave us directions to a beach that the locals go to for fishing. We went there, and in addition to seeing the local Jeju citizens fishing, we got to see the various ways that they preserve the fish after catching them. All in all, it was a wonderful weekend. Very relaxing, and especially after exams, it was what I needed! While I miss Jeju very much though, I found it was nice to come back to Seoul"and what surprised me was how much I missed the city. Im definitely making a home away from home here. Until next time, Jenny

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