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

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Flag of Korea Rep.  , Jeju Island,
Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Okay, time for Jeju. First step: prioritizing. Since I was down to only two full days, I had to decide what to cut from my todo list. I regretfully decided I would skip Halla-san as a trip up and down the mountain would fill an entire day. It's okay, though. This will probably not be my only trip to Jeju. At any rate, I read somewhere that you should always travel like you may return in the future. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I think it applies in this case, otherwise I'd either be wasting my time fretting about what I won't see or driving myself into the ground trying to jam too much into each day.

Since I had two days, I decided to split my trip into a "left side" day and a "right side" day. Today I was off to see western side of the island. My first target was Hallim Park (한림공원). I choose Hallim Park because it advertised a little bit of everything: tropical gardens, lava tubes, and even a small folk village. But first, I had to negotiate the bus system from Jeju City to the park...

The defining theme of today's trip was bus miscues. I took a taxi from my hotel to the Jeju City bus terminal and bought a ticket to the Hallim Park stop without too much trouble. I even boarded the proper bus. That was about the only thing I did right bus-wise for the entire day.

Because the stop was named Hallim Park, it should have been easy enough. However, there were about 30 stops between the station and the park. Shortly after the bus got to the town of Hallim, I began to be very confused about where we were in relation to the park. I had a list of names of the stops leading up to the Hallim Park stop, but they didn't match the names of the stops the bus was passing. I later realized the problem was that the list I had was for coming from the other direction. Also, not all of the bus stops were listed on the map posted in the bus terminal, which added to my confusion.

So I got off the bus when I first heard a stop on my list. Since the list was backwards, this meant I got off too early. Since I was still in the town of Hallim and the park was just beyond it, I decided to get on the next bus and continue in the direction I had been going in. So I did that, but again I was hearing stop names that I though were beyond the park, so I got off the second bus early as well. This time, I flagged down a cab, which took a bit of persistence because there weren't many cabs around. He drove me to the park, which turned out to be only about a minute away at that point.

The cab driver also over-charged me. When I got in, he said the park was close and didn't start the meter running. When we arrived seemingly seconds later, he charged me 3000won. I knew we didn't go far enough to run over the base fare, but I hadn't taken a lot of cabs on Jeju, so I didn't know actually what the base fare was. That was the only time I've ever been ripped-off by a cab driver in Korea. True it was only for about 50 cents, but it's the principle of the matter that gives me permission to feel outraged, or at least seriously miffed. So anyway, after stopping short several times, I was at the park just a bit after it opened and ready to check out some shrubbery.

The gardens were decent, but not spectacular. I felt like they couldn't quite decide if they wanted to be Longwood Gardens or if they wanted to be Rock City. Since the only people reading this who will understand that comparison are probably in my family, I'll translate. Hallim Park was somewhere between a serious botanical garden and a whimsical tourist trap. The lava caves were interesting, and pleasantly cool for the summer, but not a must see. The vegetation was nothing special. The caged animals were sad, I think I saw a dead bird or maybe it was just sleeping really awkwardly. I did legitimately enjoy the sculptures and plants in the Stone and Bonsai Garden, though. So it wasn't a waste of time or money, but it also didn't blow me away despite my guidebook proclaiming it a must-see.

For my next stop, I headed to Sanbang-sa Temple (산방사) on the Yongmeori Coast (용머리해안). I had a bit of good luck with this bus. The driver let me on in front of the park even though I didn't have time to make it all the way back to the actual bus stop before he came. The bus didn't make any stop announcements, but I knew I was looking for a temple on a hill, and it was easy to spot well ahead of the time I needed to exit.

Sanbang-sa Temple was a smallish temple running up the side of a small mountain. The main point of interest was a large but shallow grotto housing a small Buddha statue. The temple was the first thing I saw today on Jeju that really impressed me. It was primarily because of the gorgeous views of the coast, but I also enjoyed the typically colorful Korean temple artwork.

From the parking lot next to the bus stop, a trail lead down the hill to the beach and then continued on around the island. It was part a pretty cool walking circuit called the Jeju Olle Trail. However, I didn't have nearly enough water with me given the heat to go very far. I basically just climbed down to the beach then back up. Unfortunately, the beach was pretty dirty. There wasn't even anyone lounging about, so I'm not sure it was officially open. Other than mildly interesting rocks formed by volcanic sand, the beach didn't have anything to offer.

Next it was on to Cheonjeyeon Falls (천제연폭포), with more bus hijinks awaiting me. This bus had announcements, but they ended shortly before my stop. When the bus left the town of Jungmun, I knew that this time I'd gone too far. I confirmed it with the bus driver and flagged down a cab while waiting for a bus back in the other direction. The cab dropped me off at the entrance to Cheonjeyeon waterfall. I bought a delicious slice of fresh pineapple from an old woman selling them in the parking lot and descended the stairs to check out the falls.

Cheonjeyeon was actually a series of three falls. The first, uppermost falls was currently dry. Jeju's volcanic rock does not retain water well, so it apparently has to have just rained for the first fall to be going. I still found it worth a visit due to the interesting rectangular geometry of the rocks. The lower falls had plenty of water, so I was able to get my fill of falls. There were also decent views of the coast and Halla-san from a pedestrian bridge connecting the falls parking lot to the Jungmun Tourist Complex on the other side of the river. And of course there was pineapple, delicious pineapple, although the lady had run out by the time I left the falls.

Since there was still plenty of daylight left, I decided to head over to Segwipo to check out a second of the three waterfalls Jeju's southern coast was known for, Cheonjiyeon Falls (천지연폭포). No, I didn't just accidentally type the name of the same waterfall twice, one has an 'e' and one has an 'i'. It's completely different, although actually pretty confusing for taxi and bus drivers trying to understand my horrible foreign accent. Luckily the falls were in two different towns.

But anyway, before I could see the falls, I had to get on a bus to Segwipo. I went and stood at the Cheonjeyeon Falls bus stop, and the first island bus drove by without stopping, even though I was waving to flag it down. I gave up on that bus stop and walked a couple of blocks to the next one. There I was able to catch a local bus towards Seogwipo and again got off when I spotted my destination.

Cheonjiyeon Falls was a long walk down a hill from central Segwipo to the mouth of the river, and then along the river heading back in the direction of town. It was also a single waterfall rather than a series of falls, although there were some short drops in the river along the way I suppose you could call waterfalls if you really wanted to.

Cheonjiyeon didn't make the list of top 10 waterfalls I've seen in my life, but it wasn't bad. It might be top 20. The fall's most memorable feature was the endless stream of tourists waiting to get their pictures taken in front of it. Although I personally found Cheonjeyeon more interesting, Cheonjiyeon was far more crowded, possibly because it was right next to downtown Segwipo.

Since it was a long walk uphill from the falls to the center of town, and I'd had a long day, I took a cab to the bus station. On the way, I thought the cab missed the turn, and I was suspicious that maybe Jeju cab drivers in general were dishonest, but it turned out I was wrong and he took me there without any problems or "shortcuts". Apparently I now have trust issues with Jeju taxi drivers after this morning's over-charge.

So after visiting the Cheonjiyeon waterfall, with the sun finally starting to fade, I left Seogwipo. Since my trip has been cut-short, I won't get a chance to find out what was specifically special about Seogwipo. Maybe next time, or maybe I could just translate the brochure.

At the Seogwipo bus station, I bought a ticket back to Jeju City, and the man selling the tickets pointed at a bus. I went and sat on the bus for a minute before I decided I should confirm it was actually the "5.16" bus to Jeju. It wasn't. (5.16 was the name of the road the bus went on, not the time it left the station.) I went and got on the 5.16 bus instead and spent around ten minutes being angry at the ticket man before I realized he'd probably just put me on one of the buses that took the long route along the coast back to Jeju City. The 5.16 bus cut through the middle of the island, but since it left after the bus I was originally on, it may or may not have been faster in the end.

And back in Jeju City, today's final bus was also my final bus error. Instead of a cab, I took one of the city buses from the terminal back to my hotel. On the naver map, it looked like the bus had a stop in front of my hotel, but when it got to the road where my hotel was, it turned in the opposite direction. So it was one more cab ride to correct my bus navigation error and then off to bed. I did a lot today, hopefully I'll be able to squeeze in quite a bit tomorrow as well.

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