The Island of Jeju

We groggily and warily climbed into the car around three forty-five. Part of the wariness was the early morning hour, part of it was the reservation that I made for our family and our car on a Korean ferry. Making the reservation required at least ¬†twenty translated screenshots, including the translation of our Ford Explorer into Korean, having a Korean credit card and really just a bit of gumption. We were headed to Jeju, we hoped…

The drive was about three and a half hours to the port, and it went smoothly thanks to the High Pass (automatic toll pass) that we had for the car. We arrived over an hour before departure and it took just one kind man to point to the direction that our car needed to go. With our boarding passes, packed lunches and snacks we walked onto the boat.

When I booked the ferry tickets, in addition to booking the vehicle, each person had to book a room. That was essentially your ticket on the boat. The options ranged from a suite to a family room to an economy room; they even have pet rooms. I booked the cheapest option for our family – the economy room. From the picture and a little research I was able to find out that the ticket meant we were assigned to an actual room where we could sit. A room that could potentially hold anywhere from 20-50 people, depending on the size of the room. It’s still new to me the norms that I come across, especially in travel.

When we boarded, instead of sitting down in our windowless room, we took over some tables by the 7eleven on board and spent the whole four and a half hours on the ferry there. It really was an enjoyable way to travel – if you stayed out of your assigned room! There was a full Korean snack shop onboard, a 7eleven and a Paris Baguette. We saw the giant pitchers of beer being served and thought ‘When in Korea’. We also found out that grape soda has actual grapes in the soda…

It took about an hour to deboard the ferry, and we drove straight to the Manjanggul Lava Tube since we were on that side of the island. Being one of the largest lava tubes in the world (around 7km) and one of the three UNESCO sites on Jeju, we planned on cooling off with a walk through the lava tube. The tourist portion is about 1km long, ended at the highest lava column in the world. It was pretty surreal to be surrounded by hardened lava, and it was cool and wet all the way through the tube.

Since we were traveling with another family, we opted for an Airbnb! Our first in Korea, and it was part of the experience discovering the unique things that come with a Korean house. We knew the kids would have mats to sleep on – which they loved and had no issues with. There were two area with two actual beds for the adults, but the bedding had no sheets – just a duvet. The house came with a pool, which we knew meant a more shallow tile tub than a pool. Literally perfect for the kids to splay around in!

One of the other things that makes Jeju unique is Hallasan Mountain – a volcano that is believed to have erupted ¬†25,000 years ago. Hallasan is Korea’s tallest mountain with the height of 1,950m above sea level, and we decided to make sure we did a hike in this mountain. Basically, we climbed straight up the mountain on railroad ties. Hah! We climbed enough to be starving for our packed lunches, and then headed back down the mountain to search for a waterfall.

Driving to Jeongbang Fall, I started to see all the Hallabong stands – little huts filled with boxes of the most delicious tangerines and oranges. Before we walked down to the falls, we grabbed frozen tangerine juices and I don’t know that I’ve ever tasted anything so good. We also had tangerine ice cream and it might have been the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten.

Jeongbang Fall is one of three notable falls on Jeju, and the only one where fresh water falls into the sea. The black rocks, the sea, and the spray from the falls all combined into a enthralling view.

 

We left the falls in search of seafood, what we found was an experience.

Parking is not really a thing in Korea. There are some parking garages, but the vibes is park where you want and leave your phone number in case your car needs moved. I share this to say that we found a parking lot and then walked about 5-600 meters to a street where we heard had seafood. It took one metal staircase to get us down the street and in front of the restaurant that had been searched. If you’ve envisioned quaint, sea-front restaurants with views, that is not what this area offered. Just plain, slightly unappealing restaurant with tanks out front with the current catch.

After looking at the few restaurants on the street, we walked our party of nine into one and sat down. Even with translating the menu, we still weren’t completely sure what food to order. After a little deliberation, we threw up our hands and said bring food – not so spicy for the kids.

If we look exhausted, we were! And we were trying abalones!

I loved the fish sashimi and feel like I ate about a whole fish! I tried the live octopus and spit it right back out… I just couldn’t. The abalones weren’t bad, as long as I didn’t look at them before I ate it. The spicy fish soup was also good – you just had to watch out for all the small fish bones. The kids ate the fish sashimi, Korean corn and pancakes, rice, a fried pork cutlet and washed it all down with a Fanta. Truthfully it felt like the food kept coming! We were stuffed by the time that we left, even if there was something on the table that at least one person did not want to eat. Seafood be like that sometimes…

 

We arrived at the Seongsan Ilchulbong Tuff Cone and realized that we showed up on the one day that the hike to the summit was closed. So we walked around what was open, and down on the black sand beach! It wasn’t the view of the large crater which was formed by the hot lava mixing with cold ocean water, located at the top of Seongsan Ilchulbong Tuff Cone, but the view were still pretty good.

Then we headed to the beach! We had promised the kiddos some beach time, and this one did not disappoint. How blue is that water?!?!

In search of a ‘more traditional seafood’ we ended up at a restaurant near our Airbnb. There were views for days, and we ordered a spicy boil for the adults and a not-spicy boil for the kids. They were both spicy, but the actual spicy was like fire in your mouth! One day we will learn that Korean spicy is legitimately fire.

Right as we were eating our seafood, so-spicy-your-mouth-hurts boil, we looked up and saw Ajax throwing up in the bushes! He said he swallowed a bunch of beach water earlier that day and had spent the whole day in the sun. He drank a Sprite and after sleeping that night, was good to go the next day.

Then it was back to the Jeju port to put our car back on the ferry to head back to the mainland. We were on a different boat this time, and would definitely pick the Queen Jenuvia over the Queen Mary if given the choice! We spent the time in one of the lounges in comfy chairs by a window, watching the water go by. It really was such a relaxing way to travel! The kids loved it and played their electronics most of the time, with the exception of when we made them go up on the deck and run out some energy.

The ferry closed out our Jeju trip and I don’t have any complaints about it. We also brought home about three boxes of Jeju hallabong (tangerines) and I can’t stop eating them! A sweet memory for a sweet trip.