Blimey, Steerage!

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

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Flag of Korea Rep.  , Jeju Island,
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Today, I left Yeosu behind to head to Korea's vacation destination: Jeju Island (제주도). Located off the southern coast of Korea, Jeju was where Koreans went when they wanted to get away from it all, but not too far away. Sporting dormant volcanoes on top of that, it was something like Korea's version of Hawaii. That's a bit of an exaggeration, though. It was really more like Korea's version of Okinawa. Isolated from the mainland, the island was its own kingdom until about 900AD, although even after that the island was mostly left alone, and the natives continued to maintain their own distinctive dialect and way of life.

But first, I had to get to Jeju. The island could be reached by airplane or ferry. Leaving from Yeosu, ferry was the more convenient of the two due to only a tiny number of flights leaving each week from the Yeosu airport. From Seoul, with many flights a day to the island, airplane might be the better way to go.

Although Yeosu was relatively close to Jeju, it was connected by only one, slow ferry. I bought a 3rd class ticket for the six hour ferry ride. It was my third time on an ocean ferry, so I thought I had some idea what to expect. However, when I located my section, I was totally unprepared to find a large, but completely empty room.

I had seen accurate pictures of the room on-line, but somehow the fact that there were no chairs for a 6-hour ferry trip had refused to penetrate my skull. I remember the picture had no chairs, and I also remember thinking, "Huh, that's weird. I wonder where the chairs are...", but it didn't occur to me I'd actually be sitting on the floor.

I was the third person into the room and two Korean guys alerted me that I needed to remove my shoes. I also followed their example and grabbed a little, rectangular, leather pillow before claiming a good leaning spot against a pillar. Luckily there was still plenty of room to sit and even lie down once everyone was aboard. However, good leaning spots were scarce, so I was happy that I got there early.

Even for six hours, the room wasn't so bad. Although I was a little put-out at first with sitting on the floor, and the A/C didn't seem to be working properly, if I live my life right I will someday be packed into a similar room on a ferry in a developing country and the Korean ferry will seem luxurious. Most people stretched out on the (very clean) floor and went to sleep. There was also the option of going up to the cafe to sit in a real seat or wandering around the boat. I never found it, but I even saw signs pointing to a norebang.

Somehow I managed to do a little sleeping myself. Although the hard floor wasn't particularly comfortable, I hadn't gotten a lot of sleep the past few days. It was my first time staying in a dorm at a hostel (that wasn't filled with my friends). For some reason, every morning at 6am, one or more of my three roommates would get up at 6am and spend at least an hour applying make-up.

I'm not sure how they managed to be so noisy about it, but after their alarm went off, all of the clacking and wiping and opening and closing of various tiny bottles and containers prevented me from going back to sleep. I had a different set of roommates each of the four nights, but every morning was the same thing. I don't know if an hour of primping in the room at dawn is the usual hostel standard, but it made me glad I had sprung for my own room on Jeju.

When the boat arrived in Jeju City, we were dropped off on a loading dock filled with cargo. It wasn't obvious where the ferry terminal was, but I wandered in the same direction as some of the other passengers and found it.

I had to go to the ferry terminal before my hotel because I wanted to go ahead and buy my return ticket. Although I had no problems getting a ticket to the island, summer was a busy time on Jeju, and I wanted the peace of mind of knowing I had a ticket back. Several cities on the mainland were reachable by ferry, but the only one with a convenient train connection was Mokpo. (The Yeosu train station was easy to get to, but the ferry made it back too late to get a decent train.)

I located the office of the ferry company going to Mokpo, went in to book my ticket, and was told there were no spaces left for a Sunday return, or a Saturday return. I couldn't stay beyond Sunday because of work, so I had to reserve a ticket to go back Friday. That meant just two full days on Jeju instead of the four I was hoping for. It also meant I had to cancel part of my hotel reservation and would likely lose some of that money, but there was really no other option for me getting back apart from the Mokpo ferry. Although, I did briefly consider going back to Yeosu on Saturday and sleeping on a bench outside of the Expo until I could get a morning train.

So with the floor-sitting ferry and Friday ticket back, I haven't gotten off to a great start in Jeju. Today was just a travel day anyway since the ferry ride was so long. Tomorrow should pick-up when I start to do some actual exploring.
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