A weekend in Jeju (제주도)
Last weekend, The Two Crabs took a quick jaunt to Jeju for a bit of R&R. Located 50 miles south of the Korean peninsula, Jeju is often called "the Hawaii of Korea" - which is quite an exaggeration. Still, it has a few similiaries. It's a honeymoon destination, but now more for Chinese tourists than Koreans. And it does have palm trees and a semi-tropical environment, complete with extinct volcanoes dotting the island. It was Mrs. Crab's first trip to Jeju. But Mr. Crab was here back in 2009 when I was researching the 2010 Lonely Planet Korea guidebook.
Jeju is a short 50-minute flight from Seoul's Gimpo airport. Many low-cost airlines fly to Jeju including Jeju Air, Eastar, Jin Air and others, many for less than $100 roundtrip if you book far enough in advance. We flew Eastar, which was the pleasant staff and service for a no-frills airline, and no extra charge for checked baggage.
Before arriving in Jeju, we rented a car from Hertz via Expedia. But when we arrived at the airport, we could not find a Hertz rental desk anywhere. After questioning several employees, we finally learned that Hertz rentals are actually fulfilled by KT Rental Car; you must take a shuttle bus from Jeju airport door 6 to reach the KT Rental Car station. For only $35 a day, we got a small Kia with GPS (in Korean only).
After picking up our car, we headed off to Seogwipo, the main city on the south end of the island, about 45 minute drive from Jeju airport. We went straight to our AWESOME little hotel - Jeju Jungmun Log Pension & Resort. If you're seeking luxury accomodations, look elsewhere. This is basically glamping (glamorous camping). The cabins were cozy but roomy, with a real bed in the upstairs loft area, and a bathroom, kitchenette and living area with TV in the ground floor, plus a patio and upstairs balcony. The resort is located on a hilltop in a working mandarin orange farm with views of the ocean. We didn't arrive at our hotel until almost 9:30pm, but with the help of the English-speaking staff we ordered a pizza and beer at enjoyed the stars and cool views from our balcony.
On Saturday morning, we hit the road to Seongsan Ilchulbong, a crown-shaped volcano crater rising from the sea. We had a great spot of lunch at Saesom Galbi, which I fondly remembered from my 2009 visit, dining on Jeju's famous black pig. Later that afternoon, we headed to Jungmun Resort, which is the main "high-roller" breach resort area of Jeju with several 5-star hotels, most with casinos. I managed to win $15 from the Lotte Casino! We were oddly in the mood for a good American burger, so we tracked down Gecko Bar & Grill about a mile outside of the resort.
One of the most curious aspects of Jeju is the fact that there are not one, not two but THREE "sex" museums, which is very interesting when you consider the fact that pornography is illegal in Korea. We checked out Jeju Loveland, which is a sort of naughty themepark with artwork and sculptures created by art students. Most of the artwork is more laughable and unintentionally funny than erotic.
We were originally hoping to hike to the top of Hallasan, the tallest mountain in all of South Korea. Unfortunately Mrs. Crab was just getting over a cold so we decided to postpone the big hike until next spring. Although it's not Hawaii, Jeju has plenty of activities to keep anyone busy. There are dozens of beaches and museums to explore, plus even smaller islands that are worth a short excursion trip.
A few scenes from Jeju: