Good-Bye, Jeju! (Just Kidding...)

Trip Start Dec 02, 2011
Trip End Dec 02, 2012

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Flag of Korea Rep.  , Jeju Island,
Friday, August 3, 2012

This morning, I packed my bags, checked-out of my hotel, and headed down to the ferry terminal to pick-up my ticket for the ferry and return to the peninsula. I'd been told to pick-up my ticket at 9am, so I waited for the ticket counter to open. It never did. Around 9:05am, I went back to the ferry office and was told the ferries were cancelled for the day.

I was more than a bit surprised. Sure there was a typhoon yesterday, but it was over 24 hours since the storm came through, and it the system itself was almost certainly in the process of breaking-up over China today. Fortunately, there was a good surprise, too. The ferry company suddenly had tickets available for a Saturday return. I wouldn't have to wait until Monday and miss work.

I returned to the hotel I'd just checked-out of because I didn't want to waste time looking for another room, and I'd been happy enough with where I'd been staying. When I asked if they had any rooms, the woman in the office said no. However, the hotel actually also did bookings for a hotel around the corner. It was this second building where I'd been staying. I asked if they had rooms there, since it seemed likely they would have been unable to rebook my room only two days after my initial cancellation, and she said yes and began to check me in.

However, as she was doing this, another clerk walked in and talked with her a bit in Korean, probably wondering why I was back. He told me that she was wrong and there were no rooms in the second building, not even my old room. But I was still okay, because he happened to have a room in the main building free that was only twice the price of my old room. How convenient... He saw that I wasn't happy with the new price and lowered it to $60, which was only $20 more than in the other building. So I decided to go ahead and take the room because I was still not in the mood to go searching for a better deal.

In the end, I'm not sure if the woman was just confused or if the man decided to try to get a little extra money. Maybe the former since the woman didn't think there were any rooms in the main building in the first place. Also, I'm going to be pretty irritated if I get home and don't have at least a partial refund for the two nights I cancelled. I understand keeping money to protect the hotel from last minute cancellations where they can't rebook the room. However, in this case they at least claimed to have rebooked it, so it seems unfair to charge me for two rooms. I suppose that's not the worst outcome, though. The funniest outcome, in the "if you don't laugh you'll cry" sense, would have been if they had given me back my old room, charged me a second time for it (maybe even charged me $60 for it claiming the $40 was a special internet-only rate), and not refunded any of my money for the original cancellation. I guess that thought amuses me enough that I'm not too angry about the situation anymore.

Also, while I'm on the subject of complaining (just one more paragraph if you want to skip to the good stuff): why did the ferry company suddenly have Saturday tickets available? Doesn't it make more sense that after two days of typhoon-induced ferry cancellations that it would be harder to get a Saturday ticket? I would have saved almost $100 on hotel changes and cab rides if they'd just sold me a Saturday ticket in the first place, not to mention losing a morning of sightseeing. Maybe the woman on Tuesday was looking at the wrong schedule when she told me Saturday was full... Oh well, whatcha gonna do?

Well, what I was going to do was take as best advantage of the situation as I could and see a little more of Jeju. One of the two big items I'd missed on my to-do list, a hike around U-do, seemed unlikely to happen since the ferries probably weren't running there either. The other big item I'd missed in my abbreviated two-day trip was hiking Halla-san.

Unfortunately, there were strict time controls on when you had to be at certain checkpoints in order to continue climbing to the top of Halla-san. I wouldn't be able to make it to the start of the trail before 11am, so it was basically impossible for me to reach the final checkpoint in time to be allowed up to the crater. Also, there was a giant storm cloud shrouding basically the entire mountain. Interestingly, the coasts of Jeju were clear and sunny, but on the volcano itself you couldn't see more than maybe 100 yards. This was not the best day for mountain views.

Some of this I knew or guessed when I was making my decision, and some of it I learned while riding the 5.16 bus across the island to Seogwipo. I'd decided to check-out the Jeongbang waterfall (정방폭포) I'd skipped before, hike a bit of the Olle trail, and maybe even visit Chocolate Land in the Jungmun Tourist Complex (중문관광단지).

I arrived in Seogwipo a bit before noon and walked from the bus stop to Jeongbang falls after deciding there was no way to tell which city bus went near it, if any. The falls were close enough to town and all downhill. Today I'd actually brought my guidebook with me, so I even had a decent map.

When I got to the falls, I discovered I'd been foiled by the typhoon yet again. Jeongbang falls were noted for being the only falls on Jeju to go directly into the ocean. In order to view the falls from the base, visitors climbed a staircase down to the beach at the bottom of the cliff. Because the sea levels were supposedly still a bit high from the typhoon, the waterfall was closed. Really, Korea? You closed a waterfall? Really? I suppose they were worried more about people falling into the rough water or something because the water level appeared to be safely below the top of the rocky shoreline to me.

Sigh. I bought a sugary frozen drink to help cool down and strolled along the Olle trail where it met up with the trail to the falls. There were some great views of the coast between Jeongbang falls and Cheonjiyeon falls. At one point, I accidentally went off the trail following a long staircase down to the water's edge (not closed by the typhoon). I ended-up at what seemed to be an abandoned, or at least underutilized, ocean-side spring-fed spa. There were now-dry pools on a deck beside the beach and separate men's and women's rooms with tranquil pools still filled with water, albeit looking a bit more like pond water than swimming pool quality water.

I climbed back up the stairs, followed the Olle trail until it turned back into town, caught a city bus back to the inter-city bus terminal, and bought a ticket for the Jungmun Tourist Complex to check-out Chocolate Land. I was in the mood for a tourist trap and it figured to be air-conditioned. By this time I new the stretch of road through Jungmun pretty well, so there were no snafus, apart from me briefly attempting to pick-up the IC bus in Seogwipo at what was apparently a local-only bus stop.

I didn't know exactly what to expect from Chocolate Land (not to be confused with the chocolate museum on the west side of the island). Would it be an exhibit of chocolate art? Would it have displays on the history of chocolate? Would there be an explanation of the chocolate production process? It turned out to be primarily a place to buy chocolate souvenirs.

Chocolate Land had handful of exhibits of chocolate sculptures, but really the Belgium pavilion at Yeosu Expo had a greater number of exhibits and higher quality works. I think there was one poster about making chocolate, but that was entirely in Korean so I'm not sure. There were chocolate products from around the world on display, but nothing I'd describe as uncommon or in anyway interesting, and there was a perpetual showing of the most recent "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" movie, with Korean subtitles but no sound.

The visit would have been a complete waste of time if not for the "Chocolate School". For 11,000 won, visitors could buy chocolate chips and molds to make their own box of chocolates. The price was reasonable considering most of the professional boxes of chocolate in the museum were 15,000 won and it seemed like fun, so I gave it a try. The instructions were given in Korean, but it wasn't too hard to figure out from watching the people around me, and an English speaking attendant made sure to keep an eye on me.

It was relatively entertaining, but would have been much better if I'd had more than one type of chocolate to play with. The 11,000 won bought either dark or white chocolate chips, but not both. For two colors, you needed to by two sets of supplies, so it wasn't really setup for a single person to do. I basically just filled in the molds and had limited range for artistic expression. I did write the letters of my name on the back of a few pieces by layering the chocolate, but that mostly went away when they proofed the chocolate. Still, I made my own chocolate treats, and we kept the molds so now I can buy all the chips I want at home to play with there. Between chocolate making and cake decorating, I may open a sweets shop soon.

Oh yeah, just to keep the tally honest, I had one more bus problem going back when I attempted to get off the bus in Jeju City a few stops early so I could get dinner, I got off at the wrong stop, then walked in the wrong direction, then had to get back on and try again.
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