Friday, December 28, 2012

Jeju: Where to Stay and Visiting in the Winter

Jeju is feeling more like a dream with each passing day, now that we're back here in freezing Seoul -.-. Before all the details completely elude me, I wanted to post a few things we experienced there for future Jeju visitors.

One of the questions I had before visiting was whether Jeju would be worth a winter visit.  While it is a good deal further south, it isn't a tropical island. Jackets were necessary (no beach lounging this time of year) but we were pleasantly surprised that the weather was so agreeable.  We had sunshine Monday and Wednesday while we were roaming around the other parts of the island, and Tuesday, at Hallasan, it was covered in snow, which was a pretty nice setting for our Christmas Day hike.  And a plus, there were no crowds anywhere (which is a pretty huge plus when you're talking about visiting anywhere in Korea).

We stayed two nights in  Jeju-si and it worked out for us well.  We used buses to get around for long distance and taxis to get us in between to locations that were out of the way or a hassle to get to with public transport.  

We were really pleased with our hotel/parktel, the Goodstay Nulsong Parktel.  It was superbly clean and the staff super nice.  We arrived around 9am and they allowed us to check in already, which was great so we didn't have to lug around our bags.  The two nights there cost us $100, so $50 bucks a night, not bad.  It's just off the main street with an E-mart/Lotte Mart/McD's nearby for budget eating, for those who don't want to eat all your meals out at restaurants.

First day, we hit up the East side of the island visiting Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak) and Seopjikoji.  We used public transportation to get there.  It cost 3,000 KRW o/w--but the ride is a bit long (about 1.5 hours).  We didn't mind it too much though, as it was nice to look out the window and also to catch up on some sleep^^.  I want to recommend printing out this blog post on The Lost Wanderer.  The writer took great care in explaining public transport on the island and we found it really helpful. We didn't have enough time for Udo Island and we skipped the caves because 1) it's winter and we didn't want to go down into colder temperatures and 2) we've both seen caves before.  Day 1 was my favorite day to be honest.  I loved the blue skies, the sunshine and the vast and beautiful sea crashing against the coastline. The Sunrise Peak was beautiful and it was really interesting to watch the women divers.

Day 2 was meant to be our hike up Hallasan.  It was easy to get to from Jeju-si, only about a 35 minute ride, but we got there around 9:30am, which didn't give us enough time to get to the peak.  We only made it about half way up, which was a bit disappointing.  They close access to the peak from 12:00 in the Winter to give hikers enough time to get back before dark.  However, we did manage to reach one of the two craters on the mountain.  The thing is, the weather was so snowy, that you couldn't see anything, which makes me think, even if we got to the top, the view would have been similar.  The wintery scenery was beautiful though.

What we were supposed to see.

What we saw.  If it wasn't for the sign, I would have had no clue what we were looking at.
So, we didn't make it to the top, but Christmas Day was still enjoyable.  We had a nice meal and hit up a cafe and played some card games and ended the night with a movie on our huge TV in the hotel room.

Day 3, our last day, we checked out of the hotel and took a taxi to the airport.  We dropped off our stuff at the luggage holding area (it cost us 7,000 KRW for 12 hours) and then we took the airport shuttle 600 to the south side of the island to Seogwipo.  It was a super comfy, convenient ride.  It cost 3,000 KRW to take us to the Convention Center, which is where we could see the Jungsangjeolli Cliffs.  The south side of the island definitely has a more tropical feel to it, with clementine trees everywhere and warmer temperatures than Jeju-si, but to be honest, the three waterfalls that they advertise in the area are overrated.  I've seen much better ones in other places.  I'd skip them my second time around and just enjoy time walking along the coastline.

We took the airport shuttle back to Jeju-si, had some lunch and still had time to check out the much talked about Loveland, the erotic theme park.  For those who are curious what it is, here's a more detailed post by another blogger.  Personally, we found it disappointing.  For 9,000 KRW per person, it wasn't worth the money or time.  What I found more curious than the exhibits themselves, were the other people visiting.  I expected to see young people and/or couples, but there were whole families visiting with grandma and grandpa in tow, not to mention a group of six older Ajusshis in their 60s hanging out there together. 

After that we took a taxi back to the city and had a cup of coffee in a cafe before heading to the airport.  

There are loads of touristy things to do on Jeju, we chose to focus more on nature and taking it easy.  We had a great time and would love to go back again and hike some more of their Olle Trails and experience Jeju in the spring or summer.  You can find cheap tickets on budget airlines such as Air Busan, Jeju Airlines & East Star Jet, especially if you book in advance and during the week, so your trip doesn't have to be costly if you don't want it to be.  Actually, we budgeted for a lot more than we actually spent.  For the two of us, we spent around 250,000 KRW for food, transport, entrance fees and whatever else we bought for the three days, add to that our 100,000 KRW for our hotel, and around 150,000 for our tickets and we had a three day vacation on Jeju Island for around 500,000 KRW. 

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