We had originally planned to climb up the shortest trail on Mt. Halla on Day 4, but the climb up Seongsan Ilchulbong the day before had us completely spent. That and the dearth of halal food which meant we weren’t having proper meals every day. Mr. Song was nice enough to pick us up a bit late as we checked out of our hotel and decided to drive up to Mt. Halla so we could at least enjoy the view. The drive was great and by the time we reached the top of Mt. Halla we were glad that we had changed our mind and decided not to hike up. It was freezing cold with even colder winds. We looked around for a while and watched hikers form their groups, get their instructions and set off.
We drove down the mountain, past golf courses, university campuses and the mysterious road until we finally reached Jeju where the city was in full cherry blossom bloom, ready for the Cherry Blossom Festival. Every street was lined with blossoms and the city looked as though pinkish white clouds had settled over it.
We strolled through the blossom lined paths near the Jeju Stadium and came across a lovely couple and their friend who stopped to ask us where we were from, said my mum looked very pretty and wished us a great holiday. I’ve realized that most Koreans are under the impression that everyone who lives in Dubai is a 부자. I don’t know where they get that from, probably the media, but I feel compelled to set the record straight…being the farthest thing from a 부자.
From there, we headed for some shopping. We passed the construction site of Mr. Song’s new house before we reached our first stop- the Shilla Duty Free. We realized duty frees are really only for branded products which isn’t exactly what you look for on holiday, especially when you live in Dubai so we left Shilla and wandered the streets instead, picking up some souvenirs, wandering around sportswear stores, of which there were plenty, which probably explains why winter wear here translates into colourful lightweight hiking jackets. We stopped at Paris Baguette for a bite to eat and a bit of people watching and mum was happy to pick out the 동네 오빠 type in the crowd.
After a bit of light shopping, we headed to the Dragon Head Rock 용두암 where scores of high-school students had come for a class trip. The girls were loth to pass up such a great opportunity for a photo and so off came the jackets, a pose that lasted a few seconds followed by squeals of how cold it was and a rush to wear their jackets again. ^^ I miss high school. The airport is quite close to Dragon Rock which meant we were able to see planes coming in after every few minutes which gave us an insight into just how popular Jeju is as a tourist destination for both locals and foreigners.
A prerequisite souvenir later, we headed for… wait for it… a halal lunch at Bagdad, which Mr. Song was able to locate easily on his GPS. At this point I was truly beginning to love the GPS in Korea- have they missed nothing on their map? Bagdad is a halal certified Indian restaurant which meant one thing… butter chicken, dal, naan and mango lassi. How very reminiscent of our Japan trip. The food was great, possibly made even more so by the lack of a decent meal for 2 days, and we ate till we were super-full. It was interesting to note that it was an Indian restaurant with a Nepali waiter waiting on Pakistani customers… a truly international experience.
We weren’t sure where to head after lunch so Mr. Song decided it was time we do some shopping and dropped us off at Chilsungro Shopping Town and told us that if we kept going we’d come across the famous underground shopping market, Jungang Underground Shopping Mall. I loved walking around in the cold and wished there were more outdoor shopping areas back home, which is of course completely impractical given 9 months of the year is a sweltering summer. :( My brother found his favourite ABC mart, while I found one of my favourite stores in the whole trip –Artbox – with Gundams and hobby items in the basement and all things cute and cuddly on the first and second floors. This is where I found the only thing I was really looking to buy for myself this trip – Lago’s Scratch Night View.
As the wind picked up, we started to look for the underground market to escape and were glad to find that it was nice and toasty there. There were loads and loads of shops, tax-free, mostly selling clothes but we were surprised to find that even the underground market was rather expensive and prices are mostly fixed. We later learnt that the large influx of Chinese tourists has meant that prices of almost everything on the island have gone up. In any case, we walked around, surprised to find a Hang Ten in the underground, and finally surfaced at Exit 7. At this point, we had lost our bearings and decided instead to call Mr. Song with his trusty GPS to locate us rather than search for him on foot.
He was happy to find us and then take us to our next hotel – Ramada Plaza Jeju Ocean Front. He seemed sad that we weren’t staying out longer so he was awesome enough to recommend some great places to go that were within walking distance of our hotel- like the art gallery and of course E-Mart if we were looking to find any souvenirs or any groceries.
We were sad to see Mr. Song go as he had been great in taking us around everywhere, mum loved his driving and he had recommended some great places to go that hadn’t been on our itinerary. With lots of promises to meet again, we checked in and decided to enjoy the ocean view from the hotel for a while before walking to E-Mart. It was super windy as we left the hotel, so we all linked arms to make sure we didn’t fly away – or mostly I didn’t fly away -__-. When we got to E-Mart, we explored the supermarket and then decided to head upstairs where there supposedly souvenirs. The escalator wasn’t working so we walked up instead but that meant mum started to feel rather unwell, still not having recovered from her trek up Seongsan Ilchulbong. We quickly grabbed a few things and headed back to the hotel, this time being smart enough to use the elevator.
We spent the night packing for our flight to Busan the next day and realized that we still hadn’t managed to secure a knife to cut our apples, which we would end up leaving behind in Jeju.