No bait-and-switch advertisement for this South Korean gem. A cherry on top for visitors to South Korea hoping to kick off their tour with a bang or a final sightseeing spree, the best incentive saved for the last, Jeju Island pays compliment to the South Korean Peninsula no matter how one looks at it. A result and evidence of volcanic eruption as captured in two of the most notable mountains of Hallasan (the highest in the country) and Seongsan Ilchubong, Jeju naturally maintains a soggy subtropical macroclimate, plenty of wetlands and untouched ecosystems. Jeju is where travellers come for an adventure-fix.
Come to think of it, each and every site has its own peak and off-peak season. Those visiting the Cheonjiyeon Falls can splash all the fun they want during the Chilseonyeo Festival in May. The annual Seven Fairies Festival, to take another instance, is yet another May festival. What’s the point in reaching the top of the Seongsan Ilchubong Peak if not to behold the carpet of rapeseed flowers rocking with the wind? They bloom throughout spring and the mid of summer. May through August is then the peak season on the whole for summer fun activities! Lose track of time as Jeju Waterworld offers during July and August not one but two festivals, back to back! The Herb and Mud Festival and its subsidiary: the Mud Korean Wrestling. The fact that water maintains its room temperature as in summer (more or less 24 °C) allows for these activities to be truly fantastic. Winter (December- April) is relatively low season, but then again, the island lights up in festivities during Christmas and New Year holidays. The Manjanggul Cave, full of bats and such scary spookies, is ideal for a Halloween adventure.
No sooner does the Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak comes within eyesight than, like an overexcited trekker, or anyone who is faster, if anyone be; tourists try to make their way up to the top of this volcanic peak. Having reached the topmost of this summit one realizes what it means to experience a crowning moment of one’s life; witnessing the multiplex rock formation (collectively shaping up a crown) striking in front of a casual sunset makes its way into one’s mind and form a memory or two. The UNESCO World Heritage Site gives the first impression of a medieval stronghold for Titans much like its peer, Mount Hallasan. Not everyone can reach the top of its peak on foot and that is where horses and mules come in handy. But even if you finish halfway, know to your satisfaction that you tried your best, and that is what counts the most! The Manjanggul Cave adds another tally mark under the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Jeju, the specialty being in its individuality as the longest lava tube in the world. Found a way in? Those who have will bear witness to a variety of natural erosions, sedimentary rocks, lava stalagmites and the like creases between different ages. Tourists are only permitted to go as far as one kilometre into the tunnel which would definitely not be a short walk if you have been careless enough to make an hour-long march reaching the cave from the bus station. Next up, Cheonjiyeon Falls! Learn to pronounce it well and very well in time if you happen to be helpless with names for this is a must-see! ‘Cheonjiyeon’ is the keyword here. The ancient legend to which the name alludes to recounts the descent of seven nymphs from the clouds above and their act of bathing in the clean water- a counterpart of its Japanese Shinto practice. The thunderous noise, in addition to the presence of Mutae eels and tourist crowds may not be ideal for Misogi practise though it makes an ideal spot for a family picnic outdoors. Those planning to reach early and return late can greet the rising sun with a merry heart from the nearby Seonimgyo Bridge and see it going down without fear. Mount Hallasan is another inactive volcano but smoking hot as a tourist spot; first and foremost as a ‘mountain high enough to pull the galaxy’ (as the name implies) and secondly as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cracks open the seal of your water bottle as you prepare to put your best leg forward in hopes of reaching Baengnokdam- the crater lake on top.
Now the bulk of tourists end up falling into either one of the two camps…those who love teddy bears and those who do not. Should the time come when you need a break from everything clichéd…even if from yourself, consider this place. Those stuffed fellows in the Teddy Bear Museum will be glad to know they have fans. Tourists can see the world’s smallest teddy bear in the miniature section or discover different caricatures in the History Hall. You can keep the ticket receipt as a souvenir from your trip…tucked deep in your pocket. Everyone knows you cannot challenge a rumour. In case of Jeongbang Falls, however, even rumours fall short of the real experience. Having visited this natural wonder, the only cataract in Asia to pour directly into the ocean, our too-honest recommendation is to take the longest possible route back to your car. This way you get to walk down an obstacle-course of rocks and coastal terrains and who knows you might end up agreeing to a serving or two of some raw sea urchin sashimi from the by-standing hawkers.
Down to the two of these- Loveland and Jeju Waterworld- the former holds as much attraction for the adult species as the latter does for the younger lot. Jeju Loveland is an open-air statue park to all intents and purposes focused on sex, sex and once again, sex! The park in question is cluttered with a hundred and forty sculptures of men and women in various positions of lovemaking as if taken directly from the Kama Sutra. Couples on honeymoon may want to try it out. As with any temptation, its presence in close proximity to the airport does not give any reason to visitors to check it out, only an excuse. And an excuse is all your man wants to take you into the park, sit on a bench, place the soft drink next to him, balance you on his knees and revive those intimate passions you probably forgot they ever existed! Those offended may take their sights off of it and instead look at Jeju Waterworld, an overall better form of diversion where you would not have to dump your kids somewhere else! Try the Wave Pool as well as the Water Slides… you will ride for hours if allowed to. And has been mentioned that it happens to house the famous Samda Water Tangerine Spa? Other sites to include in your wish-list are the Jusangjeolli Cliffs, the Yeomiji Botanic Garden, the Jeju Folk Village Museum, the Yakcheonsa Temple and the Yongduam Rock.
Travellers deciding on one-stop flights from London to Jeju on cheaper rates by Korean Air and Asiana Airlines are definitely going to enjoy their trip- all 14(fourteen) hours of it. Both of these airlines offer a layover at Seoul thereby making this connection ideal for those flying solely for the sake of visiting South Korea. Air China and China Eastern also bid for indirect flights to Jeju via Beijing whereas British Airways marks its flight-path from Shanghai.