Spring in South Korea- Day 6

Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival Day! ^______^

Since we had changed our plan the night before and had decided to go to Jinhae later on in the day, we woke up late (-r than usual, but still early) and decided to order room service and enjoy the view of the mountains from our window. Now, we’d gone the room service for breakfast route in Ramada where I had discovered that boiled eggs are 삶은 계란, but I was surprised when this time they asked my how many minutes I’d like to have the eggs boiled. Umm… I don’t really know because I don’t eat boiled eggs? Luckily my mum was there to give me the right answer and we navigated that phone conversation well enough.

After a filling breakfast we walked to the Busan Seobu Bus Terminal (부산서부버스터미날) right opposite our hotel at around 11am, got confused from where exactly to enter the building (it turns out it was from the exit because we were on the back side) but managed to get our tickets to Jinhae easily enough. The tickets are good to use all day on any bus, so you don’t have to worry about missing your bus because you can always take the next one. The bus terminal connects directly to a shopping area, again filled with clothes. After six days, I have realized that fashion and make-up are way up on the shopper’s priority list in Korea.

We hopped on to the 11 o’clock bus and set off on a long but comfy ride to Jinhae. I can’t even name all the places we passed through, but the view from the bus was great.

Once we reached Jinhae, we weren’t quite sure which direction Yeojwacheon 여좌천 was and my maps were behaving oddly, so we stopped at a 7/11, got directions and headed off. As we walked, we came across a large tent-filled area, full of food and random shopping. My mum was only interested in getting a typical 아줌마 hat (she didn’t in the end) and my brother was busy photographing Jinhae’s famous roasting pigs. Not much was halal though, and things that were, were being sold alongside things that weren’t so we decided to play it safe and skip on the food. Instead we wound our ways through the stalls of 번데기, 옥수수, 왈꼬지 and 돼지 towards the stream.

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Cable car up to the observatory

After a while we realized we weren’t sure which direction we were headed in so we decided a lady at one of the stalls. It turned out she had just explained the directions to a Korean couple so she quickly called them and asked if they could lead us there. It was really sweet of her and probably really awkward for them. ㅋㅋㅋ In any case, we’re more of the strolling type than the power walker (which seems to be the norm in Japan and Korea) and after a few times of  turning to check if we were still behind them, they went on ahead and we eventually made our way to the stream, armed with some yummy cotton candy.

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First glimpse of Yeojwacheon

There were crowds of people at the stream, all armed with that mandatory selfie-stick, busier taking pictures of themselves than their surroundings. I didn’t take many pictures (all through the trip, I realized later, because I was too busy soaking it all in. My favourite moment at the stream was when we sat on a bench by the stream to eat our packed lunch. We were sitting next to a group of 아줌마s dressed in their colourful hiking jackets and desperately waiting for someone to offer to take their picture by the stream. A lovely lady obliged and the next 5 minutes were spent posing adorably for pictures amid reassurances from their photographer that she’d make sure they came out looking pretty. After lunch, we decided to head to Gyeonghwa Station 경화역 but not before mum got her caricature made. ^^

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Red umbrella canopy under a pink cherry blossom canopy

We were hoping to head to the station by bus, but couldn’t get our bearings so we decided to take a taxi instead. The roads were jam packed, with tourists and locals pouring in to enjoy the scenery. The driver dropped us right opposite the entrance to the station and we walked through more food stalls before reaching my mum’s favourite place in the whole trip.

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Walking the tracks at Gyeonghwa Station

Unlike Yeojwacheon, which was teeming with tourists, Gyeonghwa Station, being more spacious, didn’t feel as crowded, so it made for a leisurely walk along the tracks all the way up to the train. The tracks, while the shot doesn’t capture it, was filled with couples and their tripods, all hoping to get the perfect shot. It was sweet, but also sad- especially when we came across one couple who despite all their best efforts just couldn’t come up with something to make them happy. My brother pointed them out and said it was going to be a do or die day for the young guy, who was apparently in charge of setting up the camera. ㅋㅋㅋ

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A medley of greens and pinks

What I loved most about the station was the number of families that had come out even on a weekday. Unlike Japan, the crowds were filled with toddlers, teenagers and doting parents and grandparents. Mum was willing to spend the whole day sitting there, and my brother was willing to sample all the food there. He managed to find halal shawarmas and then there was sugar cane juice which my mum and my bro had (I avoided it thanks to another crazy incident in the past). Past the food stalls came the train, and all the people clambering to get on or in front to take a shot. We walked past the train and sat down to take a breath, have some strawberries, and enjoy the great atmosphere. We took another detour, past magnolia flowers amid the blossoms and after a good couple of hours decided it was time to head back to Yeojwacheon to see if we could get some seats to watch the opening celebration for the cherry  blossom festival.

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Pink train in a pink flurry of blossoms

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Pinks turning white

We took a bathroom break before catching a cab, and at this point I was truly missing the electric toilets from the hotel. Why aren’t these the standard everywhere. sigh It took a rather long time to hail a cab from where we were standing so we decided to cross the street. We managed to get a cab eventually in all the rush and headed straight back to the stream.

 

 

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Photographing a photographer

It turned out to be a great time to return as there were still plenty of seats in front of the stage for the opening ceremony, so we decided to get some good seats and rest our legs for a while. My mum was the most popular member of the audience because the people giving out balloons decided we didn’t need any but mum needed 3 ^^ Armed with our balloons, we decided it was time to snack on our Click, some mixed nuts and of course our trusty KitKat which had been by far the best purchase we’d made at Dubai Duty Free. ㅋㅋㅋ Mum was feeling a bit under the weather because she hadn’t had a proper lunch and far too much walking, so it was a good thing we took some rest. As we sat, we watched the performers line in one after the other to rehearse and finally the event was underway. The event kicked off with lots of dancers representing different areas coming in and performing. The response was lukewarm and only a couple of people right in the front could be enticed to get up and dance with them. ^^ After the many performances, the on stage performances came in the form of the naval band, the children’s choir and the adult’s choir. The naval band though didn’t get much of a response surprisingly, despite being realllllly good (especially the sax), and we attributed it to the fact that they were singing really old American songs to a really old Korean crowd. I liked the adult choir’s Arirang performance best of all- the women looking elegant in their maroon and white dresses and the men in their suits.

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All those empty seats in front were reserved for VIPs who didn’t show up ㅜㅜ

We left after the performances and headed on down to the stream to catch the night view. It was already dark, but the lights were not on yet which made us wonder if we had the right time. We did, of course, and the scores of teenage couples waiting impatiently meant we were at the right place. There was a countdown, a release of balloons and on the lights went. It looked lovely, especially the area with the umbrella canopy, but the crowd meant it was not exactly a place to relax.

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Night view at Yeojwacheon

We lingered for a while before decided it was the right time to head back to the bus station 진해시외버스터미날. That turned out to be an adventure in itself. We made out way back to the stage area easily enough, after double checking directions from one of the policemen (who maintained that he wasn’t sure but it was probably in that general direction), but finding our way back to the station at night proved more difficult. We had completely lost our bearings and everything looked so different in the dark- even catching a taxi was proving difficult. There were plenty of police officers there, though, doing crowd control and traffic control, so we decided to ask them for directions. They all proved even less helpful than the first one, since most of them are not even residents of Jinhae- they had all been brought in from other places just for the event. -____-

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Tired and lost, but still with a sense of humour ^^

Naver maps had picked a great day to misbehave and Google Maps in Korea are rather useless, so we just kept heading in the same direction until we managed to flag down a lone taxi driver at the roundabout. He told us that we were really close to the station, we just had to walk thataway, but seeing that we were pretty exhausted he was awesome enough to stop and take us there anyway to make sure we didn’t miss the bus. Yayyyyyy! We were right on time and by 8pm we were on the bus back to Busan. It had been pretty warm the whole day (no jackets! Woohoo!) and had only become really chilly after 4pm, enough to get our jackets back on. The bus though was super cozy, with the heaters turned on and the windows white with condensation. By the time we got back, we were all too tired to take up the restaurant owner on his dinner invitation, so my  brother went on ahead to get our dinner  as take-out while we got changed. We called it a night and made sure we were packed and ready to head to Seoul on Day 7 via KTX.

Spring in South Korea – Day 3

Day 3 – also known as The Day I Nearly Inadvertently Killed My Mum or more positively as The Day We Conquered Seongsan Ilchulbong.

We woke up at an unearthly early hour for a holiday to get ready for the hour long drive to Seongsan Ilchulbong where we were going to see the sunrise at 6.30am. Mr. Song arrived right on schedule and we ended up falling asleep in the car. That’s not to say we missed the entire night drive… I was awake enough to enjoy the sight of the silver moon in a pitch black sky untainted by light pollution and long enough to appreciate the comfort of a car heater on a freezing morning. We reached at about quarter to 6 and since it takes about half an hour to climb up, we decided to head out since we didn’t want to rush. We were bundled up pretty warmly but nothing could have prepared us for just how cold that morning was going to turn out to be.

We followed the many sunrise-hopefuls towards the entrance where we were expecting to pay for the tickets, but as luck would have it, there was no one manning the darkened booth and soon enough they started to let us all in free of charge to make sure we wouldn’t miss the sunrise. And so we climbed… and climbed up the steep, slippery, uneven, rocky pavement. The first part of the climb proved too much for my mum, so we decided to stop and watch from a lower area while my brother went on ahead. But after a while, my mum decided to venture up a bit higher… how much higher, we weren’t sure, so we just started to climb again and luckily we realized the rest of the way was in the form of wooden steps instead of rocks which made the climb much easier. I say ‘easier’ with much caution, because the climb is rather steep and for people who don’t get much exercise, it may prove to be a whole lot of panting and resting and looking up to see when the seemingly endless stairs will relent. There was a lot of encouragement in the form of a lot of senior citizens and even a lady with her newborn on her back who were also making their way up, which meant if they could do it, so could we! There were also lots and lots of couples making their way up to watch the sunrise together. Not only was the climb physically exerting, but the cold- the cold was biting, seeping through our gloves and freezing our fingers so much so that I ventured to take just a single photo on the way up, as the sky began to lighten into a pale blue. The rest of the way was spent wiping our noses, silently joining the chorus of 아이구s by middle aged 아줌마s and praying the next 거의 다 왔어 didn’t refer to the landing before the next staircase.

We made it eventually, and just in time to catch a seat for the sun, which was beginning to silently peek out from its blanket of morning mist and rise over the ocean’s blue.

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The first glimpse

It was a splendid sight and the half an hour trudge up was beginning to be worth those 3 minutes of a glorious sunrise.

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The sun in all its glory

It was here though that we truly came face to face with the 셀카봉phenomenon. It was a pity, to be honest, to see people more focused on themselves than enjoying the majestic sunrise, or even enjoying the company of the people they came up with. For most couples, it was just another photo op, so I can honestly say that most of them didn’t even see the sunrise, their backs having being turned so they could get a good shot of it in their selfies. And then it became about having the perfect shot, so off went the jackets in the freezing cold, because jackets just don’t look so fab. At one point, we saw one half of a couple so obsessed with taking her own picture that her boyfriend eventually had to remind her of his presence and convince her to stop so they could go back down.

We started the descent hoping it wouldn’t be as tiring as the climb up and it wasn’t. The steps on the way down are much better than the ones on the way up, which made it much easier to climb down and there were also lots of places where you could stop to admire the view, of both the city, the sea and Jeju’s famous horses (which you can ride too).

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The sun shining down on the sea

 

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Real stairs!

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Horses and 유채꽃 fields in the distance

The first thing we noticed when we finally made it all the way down, was a large sign on the ticket booth saying that people with blood pressure, heart disease etc were not allowed to climb up… Had this sign been lit when we arrived, we would never have made the climb up with my mum.  We headed straight for Caffebene for a cup of hot tea (I say cup, but tea sizes in Korea are as big as coffee which we found quite odd) and a seat around the heater. We were hoping to have breakfast at a Korean restaurant, but it turned out they were closed for breakfast, so we headed to Paris Baguette instead. You would think that most bread products would be halal, but they weren’t which meant a lot of label reading and cross-checking with the lady there to make sure we were picking the right things. As we headed upstairs to eat, I overheard the teller telling one of the other staff that it was about time they had more vegetarian options to cater to the large vegetarian and Muslim crowd of tourists, even it meant just serving rice cakes 떡.

After having a yummy breakfast of 마늘빵 and tea, we headed out to our next destination just as the crowds of Chinese tourist buses were pulling in. On the way to Seopjikoji, we passed a beautiful field of 유채꽃and so we stopped there first to enjoy the  sea of yellow and then Mr. Song tempted us to cross the highway to enjoy another pristine beach with a view of the peak we had just climbed. The beach was lovely- cold clear water, black sands complete with hoofprints of horses galloping across the sands.

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Fields of sunshine

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View of the peak we had conquered

 

At Seopjikoji, we were in for another long walk, and climb around the coast. The good news was that the weather was not as cold as before, with the sun making its way up the sky and the climb was not so steep either which made for a leisurely walk with beautiful views of the black rocks framing the dark blue sea on one side and grassy plains sprinkled with yellow flowers on the other.

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My mum and I decided those rocks would make a good place to live

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Up to the lighthouse

We stopped at the famous Glass House which houses a Zippo lighter museum on the ground floor and a restaurant on the first. We ventured into the museum, but on finding that it was completely devoid of staff or visitors, decide to make an early exit and enjoy the surrounding views instead.

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Stunning architecture with great landscaping

My brother headed on to climb upto the lighthouse while we waited below because mum couldn’t stand the thought of more stairs. (My friend was right… vacations  with lots of climbing involved are less of a vacation and more of 훈련). As we made our way back down, past hordes of oncoming tourists (our timing for the whole trip was really spot-on as we were managing to avoid all the major rush), we realized it was rather early to have lunch as we had initially planned, so decided to skip an early lunch and instead head on down to the Everyday Market near our hotel.

Being at the market reminded me of being in Japan, except there were more fish here ^^ From fruits and vegetables (we couldn’t resist getting some more 한라봉 oranges), to dried and live fish and all manner of unidentifiable seafood, the market had it all. The most rush, we found, was in front of a 떡집 but we didn’t stop to try any. Instead we wandered around, stopping occasionally in interesting stores like the one with a picture of 대한, 민국 and 만새 wearing traditional 감옷.

We took our things from the car, sent off Mr. Song who had had a long day, and decided to walk back to the hotel through the food street. Now Jeju is famous for all sorts of food, notably black pig, most of which is not halal. Nevertheless, we wandered through the food street, past murals painted on walls and past an 어린이집 where the cutest kid started waving to us much to the surprise of his teacher who was busy on her phone.

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Why can’t offices be this colourful?

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Murals on walls

We stopped at the supermarket and managed to get some bread sticks (explain to me why loaves of bread are so uncommon in Korea) which we ended up having with our duty free cheese, oranges and random assortment of other food for lunch and dinner. We still had not managed to eat our apples which we had bought the day before since, strangely enough, there were no knives to be found anywhere – not in the grocery stores, nor at the hotel. We called it a day early and even messaged Mr. Song to let him know that we had decided to scratch the short climb on Mt. Halla the next morning from our itinerary and instead rest our weary legs which had, by the estimation of our S health trackers, made it to our personal best for two consecutive days.

Spring in South Korea – Day 2

After the hectic rush of Day 1, we somehow managed to get a good night’s sleep and were up bright and early on Day 2- finally ready to start our tour of Jeju. After breakfast, that is. Breakfast was tea from Caffe Pascucci, bananas and some duty free goodies and by 10am we were meeting Mr. Song, who’d be driving us around for the day. The plan was to start of at Cheonjiyeon Falls which is hardly 5 minutes from the hotel, then make our way to Jusangjeolli Cliffs, Cheonjeyeon Falls and wrap up with a trip to the Joreunmosal Beach.

The walk from the parking lot to the Cheonjiyeon falls was simply beautiful. Having grown up in a country where deciduous trees are something of a rarity and summer all year round means the trees are always green and flowers forever in bloom, this was my first glimpse of a barren winter starting to be covered with the first colourful blossoms of spring. Evergreen boughs interlaced with barren branches and the first red, yellow and pink children of the spring.  It was breathtaking and probably even more so for those people who had weathered the long white winter.

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Cheonjiyeon Waterfall from afar | 천지연폭포

The sound of the falls was so soothing that if I hadn’t been on a schedule, I would have been pretty happy to spend the day sitting by the water, feeding the passing ducks. As it were, we were on a schedule, and unfortunately huge numbers of tourist buses had begun to arrive which signaled the arrival of lots of noisy tourists armed with selfie-sticks, which meant it was time for us to move on.

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Cheonjiyeon Waterfall up close | 천지연폭포

We headed next to the cliffs, a little over half an hour away. By the time we reached there, I was truly beginning to understand why Jeju is also known as 삼다도… being famous for having lots of wind, stones and women 바람. 돌. 여자. The wind was biting cold as we made our way to the viewing platform for a sight of the stunning hexagonal stone columns left by cooling lava from the last volcanic eruption.

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Cooled lava of Jusanjeolli Cliffs | 주상절리

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Jusangjeolli Cliffs | 주상절리

We spent some time walking in the area but as the wind picked up, we packed up and headed off for lunch.We had initially thought of stopping at Paris Baguette, but Mr. Song was nice enough to suggest a more picturesque location, past yellow canola fields with a beautiful view of the sea- Cafe 7373. We tried our luck finding something halal and the staff was nice enough to accommodate our requests so we ended up having a lunch of garlic bread, salad, fresh grape juice and a salmon baguette. The view was pretty spectacular and Mr. Song said this was the best place to come to watch the sunset. I can’t disagree.

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Cafe 7373

From Cafe 7373 we headed to Cheonjeyeon Falls which consists of 3 waterfalls. Unfortunately for us, the first waterfall was not in a falling mood, so we moved down to the second and third waterfall viewing areas.

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Silent Cheonjeyeon Waterfall | 천제연폭포

The third waterfall area was probably my favourite- the last fall before which the water flows away into the sea. Cheonjeyeon didn’t just have waterfalls to offer, but also our first taste of Jeju’s famous Hallabong oranges as we rested before climbing up the Seonimgyo Bridge for a stunning aerial view of the area.

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3rd Fall | 천제연폭포

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View from Seonimgyo Bridge | 서님교

Our last stop for the day before heading back to the hotel was Joreunmosal Beach, because one can never have enough water in a day. While this isn’t exactly one of Jeju’s most famous beaches,that is exactly what lends it its charm- peace and some much-needed silence to drink up the sound of the waves lapping the shore.  The beach is tucked away in a corner, reached only by a long spindly stone path lined with flowers and trees on either side, the last steps covered with sand – as the beach meets the forest. We spent a long time there, just breathing in the salty air, filling our shoes with sand and looking for shells.

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Heading down to Joreunmosal Beach

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And still further down

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Say hello to Joreunmosal Beach | 조른모살해수욕장

We were pretty spent and opted to turn in early so we would be able to wake up for the Day 3 adventure which involved going to see the sunrise at the Sunrise Peak. This posed only one major problem… what to have for dinner. Coffee shops don’t exactly have the most elaborate menus and the 7/11 has extremely limited halal  options but we had the foresight to pack the salad from our afternoon lunch and together with microwaved ready-to-eat boiled white rice from GS25 we were all set for dinner. ^^ I don’t think I ever ate as much rice as I did that day in one sitting. 잘 먹었습니다~~

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돌 하르방 씨도 배 불렀나 봐요 ㅎㅎ