“Are we not heading in the opposite direction?”
Asks B who checked the GPS on his mobile phone, some 30 minutes after we got on the taxi.
When I wrote about my Jeju trip in early autumn, I never expected myself to return to Jeju in spring on a work trip. And never did I expect to witness a scene like that.
“Why are you snapping at me?”
The argument heats up as B feels increasingly indignant at the driver raising his voice at him.
“And what do we do about the fare?”
The driver looks at the meter for a second and looks back up to the street. Back at the meter again and lingers for a second longer this time round, before looking up again and turning off the meter reluctantly with his left hand still on the steering wheel.
Stepping out of the taxi with an extra hour spent on the road heading in the wrong direction and turning back, we promptly decide to fill our stomachs up with tonkatsu at a restaurant somewhere just around the corner, before chilling by the seaside and getting our hair blown messy from the strong sea breeze.
“Koreans don’t apologise,” laments B, a Korean himself, reminding me of an article I’ve read in school. Why is that so? I wonder.
A kind of cosy disorientation that feeds our wanderlust; the warm and cosy feeling you get when meeting like-minded strangers whose company you enjoy when you stay in a guesthouse, all while being disoriented in an foreign place.
That’s what I like about backpacking and staying in clean and themed guesthouses. Everyone is more open to making friends and being lost in that same cosy disorientation unites everyone.
We briefly introduce ourselves to our new friends for the night and spend the evening playing board games.
Lights out at eleven and early sunrise meant everyone woke up on time for breakfast.
“What a writer’s thing to do,” B commented, as I took my camera out to shoot in the rain.
Is it only a writer’s thing to think that rain makes any scene more poetic?
Watching the rain and time pass us by as we drink our hallabong (a type of tangerine) juice available only in Jeju, was the only thing we could think of doing, with the cafe culture in South Korea going strong even on this island.
Many people opt to drive around Jeju, but I personally think that Jeju is best seen on foot and public transport, especially if you have the luxury of time. It may be time-saving to travel on wheels, but I believe in taking it slow.
While Jungmun Saekdal Beach (중문·색달 해변) is great for surfing and other water sports, we were here to leave our names and footprints on the sand that’s a beautiful mixture of black, red, and grey—something I’ve never seen before.
What bewilders me more is how the surfers take the cold, for it’s still spring after all.
We find ourselves at Cheonjiyeon Falls, suggested by today’s friendly taxi driver, as we still had time before the night falls. There are many famous waterfalls on Jeju Island and this is my first. I’m not a fan of crowded places, but apart from the clusters of people waiting to get their photographs taken by the waterfall, the pathways were wide enough for everyone. The surrounding greenery, which includes a variety of rare plants, and reflections on the clear water also made for a calming walk.
For dinner, we had black pork that Jeju is famous for. I have said that I didn’t enjoy on it my first trip and it still fails to excite my taste buds, making me wonder if perhaps expensive food isn’t to my liking.
“I’ve been here 5 times, but I’ve never been able to see the sunrise!” K exclaimed.
We thought we weren’t going to see the sunrise, but my experience at Jeongdongjin Beach told me that we should wait it out. After all, I’ve had my fair share of good luck when it comes to good weather during my travels and I believe that it would overcome K’s streak of bad luck.
When B asked where we wanted to visit on our final day here, Udo Island (우도)—the island that resembles a lying cow—was the unanimous answer, even though we’ve all been there before.
I told myself to enjoy the moment and focus on riding my bicycle instead of breaking the momentum and stopping too often to document the beauty around me, the last time I was here. There are many ways to explore this island and thankfully, we went around by foot this time around, making it easier for me to photograph to my heart’s content.
Early lunch was at a restaurant we found on the way to nowhere, and it’s not everyday that you get to enjoy a simple meal with a sky and sea of blueness in front of you.
No one comes to Udo Island without having peanut ice cream, but I found something better: hallabong ice cream. Even better, peanut ice cream elaborately decorated by a flamboyant ice cream seller grooving to Kpop.
Haenyeos, literally sea women, are Korean female divers who are protective of their independence and display strong will and determination. I’m not certain, but part of the reason why they exist seems to be because there are more women than men on the island, which also resulted in a semi-matriarchal society. This lady caught my attention as she sat alone by the sea sorting out seaweed.
I find myself enthralled by the wispy reeds dancing to the wind and by the cows and horses just doing their own thing in the fields. Udo Island must be one of the few places in South Korea where human beings and nature exist in perfect harmony, and it leaves me wanting for more despite its small size.
You bet I’ll be back again in no time.