Good-Bye Jeju! (This time I mean it!)

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

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Flag of Korea Rep.  , Jeju Island,
Saturday, August 4, 2012

Because my new ferry ticket was for an early afternoon ferry, I had time to squeeze in a bit more touring in the morning. I didn't have enough time to leave Jeju City, so I skimmed my guidebook for something in the area that looked relatively interesting. As usual, I wasn't in the mood for a museum, so I decided to check out the Jejumok-Gwana (제주목관아), the heavily restored/reconstructed traditional seat of Jeju government.

I checked out of my hotel (I'll spare you the suspense and tell you that this time it was for real) and boarded the number 500 city bus, which my guidebook said went to the Jejumok-Gwana. My guidebook was correct. The bus did stop there, but the stop name was Gwandoekjeong (관덕정), not Jejumok-Gwana. This was a fact that my guidebook didn't bother to note.

So of course, looking at the route map posted on the bus, I didn't see Jejumok-Gwana. I had the map in my guidebook, so I thought I could estimate where to get off. We were on the right road when I got off the bus too early, out front of the Jeju Confucian Academy. The academy was a group of old-style Korean buildings, so I didn't feel bad about being fooled. Fortunately, there was a second number 500 bus that came not two minutes after my original bus had departed, so I quickly hopped back on.

A few more blocks and the bus came to yet another group of old Korean buildings, because I had been fooled once before, and the stop name wasn't Jejumok-Gwana, I did not get off. One block later, the bus turned off the street I knew my destination was on, so I got off the bus at the very next stop and hopped into a cab.

Today, however, even my tried and true technique of taking a cab to the actual location failed me. I showed the driver the Jejumok-Gwana in my guidebook, including Korean writing, and he said no problem. On the way there, he said Jejumok-Gwana followed by Gwandoekjeong, a centuries-old pavilion, which my guidebook said was on the grounds of the Jejumok-Gwana. (Not so coincidentally, it was also the name of the bus stop I needed, but I didn't recognize it when I saw the stop name on the bus map.) I said, "yes", and he proceeded to repeat the building names and point in two opposite directions. I said, "okay...", and he dropped me off at the Jeju Confucian Academy! I knew this was wrong, but said thanks and paid him anyway. I double-checked that it was not the right place and walked back up the street to where he had pointed when he said Gwandoekjeong. This was the second group of old buildings I'd seen. I was finally in the right place for both the Jejumok-Gwana and the Gwandoekjeong.

The Jejmok-Gwana was a mid-sized cluster of buildings. While the only building surviving from several centuries ago was the aforementioned Gwandoekjeong, the rest of the grounds had been recently reconstructed from historical descriptions and images of the buildings. Although the buildings weren't authentically old, I enjoyed my visit. They gave you a good idea of how things looked during the heyday of the Joseon dynasty, and it was a pleasant place for a stroll.

After lunch at a nearby underground mall, I flagged a taxi to take me to the ferry terminal. Again, I showed my cab driver the name of my desired destination in Korean, and again I ended up at the wrong location. Jeju had two ferry terminals: the domestic terminal and the "international" terminal, although there weren't any actual international ferries leaving from Jeju. My ferry to Mokpo left from the international terminal, which the map I'd gotten from the ferry company clearly said in Korean. Fortunately, from my several trips to the domestic terminal, I knew the driver had stopped at the wrong place and was able to get him to take me on to the international terminal by pointing at the map a second time. It was no big deal, but it was a final reminder of my difficulties with Jeju transportation.

Once inside the international terminal, I discovered that the best place to by souvenir Jeju Island chocolate was at the ferry terminal. I was idly staring at a box of orange chocolates when the owner of the store came over to sell it to me. I asked how much and she said 10,000 won (which was 5,000 cheaper than Chocolate Land) then immediately proceeded to throw in a second box of free cactus chocolates before I'd had a chance to react to the price. Even after I'd given her the money for the boxes, she continued sweeten the already done deal by throwing a couple handfuls of chocolates in my bag. Sweet.

Even with a bag full of chocolate, there must be something about me that makes me look very hungry. I was sitting on the floor (no seats left in the terminal) doing a bit of people watching before I took out my book to read, when yet another Korean randomly offered me an ear of corn. While preferable to yesterday's red-bean ball, I really don't like corn either. I think it's really cool and nice that they keep offering me food, though. I may have to ask a Korean friend why people keep doing it. If it's a really common thing or if they think a person traveling alone is so pathetic they must need a snack to cheer them up. Either way, if it gets me the occasional plum or handful of chocolate mixed in with the corn and beans, I'll take it.

My ticket back to Mokpo, like my ticket from Yeosu, was 3rd class. Only this time there were nice, big, comfy seats. There was a crowd boarding the boat, but for some reason there was a separate superfluous "foreigner" gate, with basically no one going through it. It seemed odd to have the gate since the ferry was domestic, but I was told to use it and had to show my ID to someone pretending to be an immigration officer so he could check my name against some list.

Once on the boat, I didn't do any exploring. Although Mokpo was a bit farther than Yeosu, the Mokpo ferries were much faster and the trip only took three hours. I did notice there were ample empty seats on the ferry. Sure some of those belonged to people wandering the boat, but even accounting for that there was no way seats were sold out. Maybe the woman on Tuesday looked at the wrong day when she told me Saturday was full too. I don't know.

So, Jeju was ... interesting. I'd say in spite of my logistical difficulties, I still had a decent time. I don't think I'd want to go there in the summer again, but I'd love to go back sometime in the spring or fall to hike Halla-san and the Olle Trail.
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