I'm sure I'll say this about 45 more times before the year is over, but time is FLYING. Winter has been really rough, I'll be honest. I've never been so homesick than around Christmas and New Years. But if you're gonna be away from home, Jeju is not a bad place to do it.
Jeju was incredible, and I got to spend it with awesome people, luckily, and have met some awesome people through the OTHER awesome people I've come to know. Met this girl who begins traveling for 5 months at the end of this month, and got so much info from her about traveling and whatnot, when I met my friend out in a bar to pick up some peanut makgeolli (rice wine) that they make only on Jeju. He luckily has connections, so he ordered it in, and we met out in a bar in Seoul for me to get it from him.
Jeju was incredible. Oh wait did I say that already?? It has been recently named one of the seven natural wonders of the world, as it is created completely by volcanic eruptions. We saw four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which are essentially sites unique to the world, and while there are over 200 worldwide, to have NINE on this island alone is pretty incredible.
Gonna copy and paste from my go-to English in Korea site (http://english.visitkorea.or.kr):
The first one I saw was Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak. It's 182 meters high, and rose from the sea in a series of volcanic eruptions beginning over 100,000 years ago. The site resembles an old fortress on a coastal cliff and was originally a volcanic island but was later connected as sand and gravel accumulated in between. The sunrise seen from the peak is considered one of the most fascinating scenic views in Jeju.
The second one I saw was Manjanggul Cave. It is the longest lava tube in the world. It is 5 meters wide, between 5 to 10 meters high and is over 13 km long. The lava tube, which formed about 2.5 million years ago, has been well preserved. Only one kilometer of its total length is open to tourists. We walked down the entire length of it, and it reminded me a lot of Rangitoto Island in New Zealand. At one point, there is a huge section that fell down from the ceiling, and I say ceiling, but its a tube that's been carved away by lava. So we saw completely, untouched by human hands, Earth Crust. Pretty wild.
The third one I saw were the Jusangjeolli Cliffs. These are a set of blackish, rock pillars of rectangular or hexagonal shapes on the east coast. The formations are created via sudden cooling of lava that shrinks in mass. The sight of waves crashing against the columns is both serene and beautiful. On days with rough weather, waves can rise as high as 20 meters.
The last one we saw was Cheonjiyeon Falls, which literally means 'pond where sky meets land.' It was beautiful.
We also personally met these women divers. we went into this ajumma's restaurant, and struck up conversation. Well, our guide did, as he speaks fairly fluent korean. He and an Indonesian girl helped to translate. There's this thing in Korea - a dying tradition, where these women dive down without oxygen all year long into the ocean to get fresh seafood for their restaurants. It's been going on for thousands (i think) of years. Passed down through the generations. and now, since it has become so popular and the trade has been doing so well, theyve had money to send their daughters to university. AND NOW - no one is carrying on the tradition. So this woman is one of the youngest who still dives and shes 50 YEARS OLD. Her grandmother, 90 years younggg - still does this. They were going out diving the next day (30 degree weather) to do some diving. CRAZY! Sad though - because once they retire from it, it'll be gone forever. Piece of history we got to witness here!
I went with a small group in Jeju, about 17 people, and got to ring in the New Years here. We stayed out until about 615 am, met tons of locals and awesome foreigners who have made the island home. We had to catch a ferry at 8am on about an hour nap. Soooo... needless to say it was a long ride home. Not to mention the fact that 98% of the people threw up. They were handing out puke bags as you entered, so they... knew. A choppy 'fast' ferry ride that you cant go outside on the deck can be ... torturous. This was followed by an 11 hour bus ride back to Seoul. The things we do to save money. Overall, it was an incredible weekend, though I may opt for the slow ferry in the future. Or ya know, an airplane.