Day 43: Jeju Island

When I left LA 44 days ago I thought I would return on October 16 because that was the last day the US Postal Service would hold my mail until they returned everything to sender. I was planning to visit Korea for a few days to see my parents and extended family but after much pleading from my mother I changed my ticket to stay an extra three weeks! I didn’t even think I would make it to Korea but once I decided to extend my trip it became, “what’s a few more days?”

I added Tokyo into the mix by way of an extended layover. While I was in New Zealand falling love with the country I was less interested in spending more time in Australia so when I saw flights to Seoul were connecting through Tokyo I decided to spend a few days in Tokyo since I’ve always wanted to visit Japan. Of course as it worked out I wished I had spent more time in Australia and visited the Gold Coast, but I guess that will have to be another trip. I did enjoy my time in Tokyo loved the food! I’m definitely planning to do a 2-3 week Japan tour and I think it helped that I got a crash course.

So back to Jeju…

I’ve seemed to have fallen into a blogging hole ever since I landed here. I’ve mostly been spending time with family in between touring every single thing there is to see on Jeju island. After spending a week driving around New Zealand’s South Island it’s hard to find anything that compare to it’s natural beauty.

Growing up my mom always used to tell me she grew up on Jeju island, Korea’s very own Hawaii. When I asked if I could visit she said she couldn’t take me to her hometown because it was too rural and I wouldn’t like it. (My dad’s side of the family had already all
moved to America.)

I visited Jeju once about 5 years ago when I was moving back to the US after living in Beijing for 2.5 years. Seoul was only a one hour flight but I still had never visited! I had visited Thailand multiple times but never once had I visited Korea! I asked my mom to come to Korea so I could finally visit her hometown. We spent a few days in Jeju, Busan and Seoul.

I’ve been in Jeju for 8 days now. This is not the Jeju my mom grew up in. As the rest of the country has modernized so has Jeju. But Jeju has it’s particulars that make it different from the mainland.

Dialect

Jeju has a unique dialect all it’s own. I’m not sure what to call it but when I hear it it sounds like gibberish to me. It’s something only the locals speak and understand.

Burial Plots

I’m not sure what to call this one, but basically back in the day since Jeju was mostly farmland when someone was buried a large mound was built and and then a stone rock wall surrounded it. I’m not sure the reasoning but you will see these burial plots scattered all
over Jeju. You will be at a stoplight and over to your right you will see a burial mound. My grandparents were both buried that way but in a cemetery. I’m guessing Jeju was becoming more developed and they realized they needed to set aside an area for these burial plots.

Korean Dramas

I think every Korean drama I have ever seen always find an excuse to visit Jeju. One of the first things my mom said when we arrived in Jeju, “hey can we go to such and such place because I saw it in a Korean drama.” You can take yours here that focus on locations used in Korean dramas. Also when you visit a location that was filmed there will be a sign with a photo showing which drama was filmed at that location.

Museums

Jeju has a lot of museums. Some, most of them I find to be completely random and not worth spending money on. There’s a museum nearby for Teddy Bears. This is a not a museum for kids but lots of adults go and it’s extra popular because a Korean drama was filmed here.

Beneath the over commercialization of Jeju there is still natural beauty to be found.

Outside of the main tourist spots Jeju has over 300 craters many which can be hiked. They’re not very high and can easily be hiked in an hour similar to Runyon Canyon in LA. All the Koreans I saw on the trails were decked out in hiking gear.

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