Jeju Island, also known as the "Island of the Gods, is well known for natural wonders, including waterfalls, white sand beaches and a...

Jeju Island, also known as the "Island of the Gods, is well known for natural wonders, including waterfalls, white sand beaches and a dormant volcano, Hallasan (South Korea's highest mountain), at the center of the island. It is a hot tourist spot and also remains the top honeymoon destination for Korean newlyweds. The island offers visitors a wide range of activities: from hiking on Halla-san, catching sunrises and sunsets over the ocean, touring all the locales from your favorite television K-dramas like All in, Secret Garden & Dae Jang Geum, or keeping an eye out for 'haenyeo' - female divers gathering fresh seafood, and the iconic 'Dol Hareubang' - Old Grandfather stone statues. 

The flight from Seoul to Jeju took about an hour. We booked 2 different lodgings here; a 2 bedrooms apartment at Happy House Pension for the first night (to cover the southern part of the island),  and EJ Hotel for the second night, which is situated in the city (northern part of the island). We took the Airport Limousine Bus (#600) from the airport to Seogwipo and got off at Jungmun Tourist Complex. From there, we made a call to the owner of Happy House Pension, who then came to pick us up. 

Only about a 5 minutes' drive away, the apartment had a good size living room, a fully equipped kitchen, free WiFi, a balcony that overlooks the surrounding greenery and on top of that, breakfast was included - simple sandwich and toast with jam, coffee and milk. The owner was very friendly and after knowing we were interested to try some black pork (one of Jeju's famous food), he took us to a nearby small dining place. He explained that there are some restaurants out there that claimed they serve the authentic black pork when they were not. I have no idea what was the name of the place. It didn't really look like a restaurant to me, more like a small canteen for some nearby workers with only 4 to 5 tables. The owner showed us the menu and did the ordering for us as the staffs there spoke very little English. We ordered the BBQ black pork and ginseng chicken soup. Before leaving, the owner told us to give him a call when we are done so he could come get us as this place was quite out of the way and it would be hard for us to get a cab.

This was GOOD! Tender,  juicy and had quite a distinct unique taste even without marination, unlike regular pork which is somewhat chewier 

This wasn't as good as the one we had in Tosokchon.
It was already almost 5 p.m. after our late lunch. The owner came to pick us up and asked if there was anywhere we wanted to visit so he could drop us there. He suggested we could go to the Teddy Bear Museum, Ripley's Believe It or Not or the Alive Museum, all nearby. Since we weren't teddy bear or bizarre item fans, we decided to visit the Alive Museum - the bigger and more interesting one out of the two trick art museums on this island. 

The museum has five categories of art : trick art, digital art, object art, sculpture, and Provence art. This is one place that is definitely worth visiting. Be prepared to spend at least 2.5 - 3 hours here. Lots of interesting 3D arts, we had a lot of fun laughing at each other's 'impressive' poses and took silly pictures. We were so engrossed that we lost track of the time until they announced they were closing soon!

Some interesting paintings.
Some interesting paintings.
The Angel emoticon and  Devil emoticon wings 
The last section, Provence art - a pastel-colored fairy tale village in which large bear dolls don various period costumes.

I would recommended to visit during the day as there is an outdoor area. It was already dark and they were closing, so we didn't get to take photo there. From here, we took a walk to the main road, dropped by a convenience store to get some food stuff before grabbing a taxi back to the apartment.

We booked for a 9-hour private tour the next day. The tour guide cum driver picked us up at 8 a.m. Our first stop was Jeongbang Waterfall, one of the famous waterfalls here in Jeju. Situated very close to the sea, some say it is the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the ocean. 

Jeongbang Falls
Though some may argue that its water falls into a sheltered cove rather than straight into the ocean.
Next, we headed to Seopjikoji - a filming location for several Korean dramas such as All in, My Girl and also the variety show Running Man! On the way there, the guide stopped by at an area with some houses and facilities which resembled a village in the olden days, aka a mini 'copy' of the Jeju Folk Village. We were a little puzzled at first because this place wasn't on our list for the tour, but the guide said we could go down to take some photos. As soon as we got off the car, a lady approached us and offered to show us around, explaining to us the customs of the old days. By the end of it, we knew exactly what was going on. She was trying to sell us the Omijacha - a Korean herbal tea made from the berries of Schisandra chinensis, or commonly known as the 'five-flavor berry'. It seemed like the people here were in cahoots with the tour guides/drivers. Guess this kind of thing happens everywhere -_-. Only thing good was, she still smiled and walked us to the van after we told her we weren't interested to buy, unlike in China, where the salespeople literally showed us face when we rejected them. Pfft! 

The houses
The iconic Dol hareubangs. They are considered to be gods offering both protection and fertility, placed outside of gates for protection against demons.
The legendary black-haired pigs - an especially well-known characteristics of Jeju folk culture. Black pork yumzzz!!
Seopjikoji is located at the end of the eastern shore of Jeju. Beautiful coast line, green fields without a single tree spread beyond the cliff, and beautiful landscape all the way up to the lighthouse. Great place to take pictures. Unfortunately, we did not see the brilliant rapeseed flower fields though we were here during April. :( 
The trail all the way up to the lighthouse.
Breathtaking view of the sea.
Stroll leisurely and enjoy the view.
Going up the metal steps of the lighthouse, you can view the whole seashore at a glance.

The chapel in the drama 'All in'. Sadly, this has been closed down and replaced by a candy house.
View of Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak (our next destination) from far. 
After all the walking, it was time to replenish our energy with some carbo, to be exact, porridge at Siheung Haenyeo-jip Sikdang! This is a restaurant managed by a group of haenyeo (female divers, as mentioned above), where they cook their own catch. The ingredients used are fresh and they are pretty well-known in the area. The abalone porridge and shellfish porridge are highly recommended. Their side dishes include a small seafood pancake and fried crabs. Apart from porridge, they also sell seafood soup, turban shell shellfish, octopus and sea cucumber. The portion for the porridge is quite huge, so instead of having a bowl all by yourself, it's better to share.

Abalone porridge
Raw sea cucumber
Raw shellfish
Fried baby crabs
Filled with energy, we were ready to take Seongsan Ilchubong Peak on! Designated as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site, no trip to Jeju island is complete without a hike up to Seongsan Ilchubong (also called Sunrise Peak). The hike up was quite manageable though, especially for someone like me who seldom exercise (Ashamed...). The trail was well maintained, and there were proper steps along the trail, unlike some which are rocky and muddy. 
Halfway through.
There were some unusual boulders or rock formations along the way. Look out for the Deong Gyeong Dol. The rock has a story that is linked to a local folk tale about Grandmother Selmondae, the creator of Jeju Island. It is said that Grandmother Selmondae created Jeju from the dirt she carried in her skirt, and she would place her lamp on this rock and mend her tattered skirt at night. It appears that passersby bow to this rock for good luck and prosperity.
The iconic Deong Gyeong Dol, or Lamp Rock.
Beautiful landscapes on the way.
We finally made it to the peak after about 45 minutes of walking, stopping to rest at a few places and climbing those crazy flights of stairs! Not too bad, huh? Hehe. Well, as the name suggests, this peak is the best place to watch the sunrise over the sea, hence, platform seats were built on one end of the crater. In order to catch that magnificent view of the sunrise, one would need to wake up at around 3.30 - 4 a.m. to get to the venue! Nahhh, not for lazy piggies like me... (Oink!)
The volcanic crater of Seongsan Ilchulbong - formed by hydrovolcanic eruption  about 5,000 years ago.
Because of the remarkable scenery, this place truly deserves this title.
It may not seem like a big deal from here, but this crater is about 600 meters in diameter, lined with 99 rocky spires that resemble a crown. Below is a picture to show how it looks like from the air: 

Picture taken from Wikipedia. Magnificent, isn't it?
Going down was much easier, via a different route though. So if you see something that caught your eye on the way up, capture the picture there and then, unless, of course, you wanna climb the thing all over again :P. There is a spot to witness the haenyeo performance on the way down. One can watch the women prepare, dive into the water to capture seafood in the coastal waters, buy and eat their harvest by the shore after they come back to land. They perform twice a day at 1.30 p.m. and 3 p.m.

The beach where female divers (haenyeo) hold performances for the public.
The last stop for our tour was the Manjanggul Cave, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the longest lava tube in Asia, which snakes underground for about 13.4 kilometers, but only 1km of it is open to the public. 

 Its length ranks amongst the top 10 in the world.
Lava tubes are formed when molten lava below earth’s surface begins to slow and solidify, creating long, tunnel-like caves. Walking down the basalt steps into the cave, I felt like I had been transported into another world. The inside of the tunnel was cool and water constantly dripped from the ceiling. The ceiling and walls were almost perfectly rounded. Along the trail there were signs explaining the various types of lava formations - stalactites, stalagmites, lava columns and lava flowstones. This was the first time I had ever been to a lava tube, so it was a complete new experience for me. 

Inside Manjanggul Cave.
One can see the signs of how the lava once flowed inside.
Mind your steps as the cave is long, dark and slippery.
At the end of the path was the star attraction - a massive lava column, formed when a large amount of lava spilled from the upper level down to the lower level. At 7.6 meters high, it is the tallest lava column on Earth.

Manjanggul Cave's lava column.
Interesting and a wonderful sight to behold, this place is worth visiting, especially for geology lovers. Quite a perfect way to end our tour - appreciating nature in one of the wonders of the world :D 

On the way back, Mr. Tour Guide made a detour to the Mysterious Road (Dokkaebi Road) as a bonus :D He said it will just take a few minutes to experience it, so why not? This road has earned its name as objects and liquid appear to roll and flow up the hill instead of down. Stop the vehicle on the starting line, put it in neutral, take the foot off the brake and rather than moving backwards, we moved forward. While this was a pretty cool experience, there is an explanation for it. We were actually rolling down hill. Because the landscape was skewed, it created an optical illusion and gave the illusion that one is traveling up hill. Though not a mystery anymore as it has been clarified as an optical illusion, the Koreans have done a great job marketing this Mysterious Road into a tourist spot. 

We were famished when we reached EJ Hotel. After checking in and dropping our luggages, we took a cab to Heukdonga Jeju for more black pork!!! This is DEFINITELY THE PLACE (with shouty capitals!) to go for black pork in Jeju! 

Look for the logo with a pig snout :D
Absolutely gorgeous! Check out the marbling!
Amazingly, there is no oily feeling like that of normal pork
 The meat was fresh and was grilled on coal so the flavor was great
Savory and flavorful on the first bite! With meat so tender, it literally melted in my mouth. Everything was delicious to the last bite. Definitely unforgettable!!

The generous portions of sides complemented the meat beautifully.
Due to the fame of Heukdonga’s black pork, there will inevitably be a long queue. One should not become disheartened and attempt to find faster restaurants as this place is undoubtedly worth the wait. 

The next morning, we wandered around the area near our hotel, in search for breakfast. As it was pretty early then, most of the shops were still closed. Finally we found a place that was opened and walked in. Apparently, South Koreans don't do breakfast; a traditional Korean breakfast is like any other meal during the day! Haha. We looked around and saw another table eating Tteokbokki, some soup and Kimbap, so we ordered the same. Kimbap literally means seaweed and rice and it is the twin brother of sushi roll, except that none of the ingredients are raw fish. It is made from steamed white rice and various other ingredients (egg, pickled radish, cooked spinach, processed fish cake etc.), all rolled in seaweed and served in bite-size slices. It is then served with some kimchi and a few crisp slices of yellow pickled radish. So I guess as long as you can buy it in the morning - be it beef stew, rice cakes, blood sausage or noodle soup, in Korea, you can call it breakfast. Lol.

Time to head back to Seoul! Oh ya, here's something interesting. The taxi driver that sent us to Jeju Airport was quite chatty. Of course we were more than happy to engage in a conversation with him, EXCEPT that he couldn't speak English and we couldn't speak Korean. Hah! So, it was like chicken and duck talk. Since he still continued talking after knowing the fact that we didn't understand, my hubby turned on one of those 'Learn Korean' apps and we tried communicating with him with the help of the app. Mannn, he was fascinated by it! When we reached the airport, he even gave us a discount on the fare. Thanks to the app!! Haha!

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