Jeju Island

Craig and I went to Jeju at the beginning of the year, but hadn’t been able to see the planned soccer match, because it ended up being in… Seoul. So, we went back a few weeks ago to see Jeonju play Jeju.

Getting to Jeju involves an hour-long flight from Gimpo Airport, which isn’t that bad, because there isn’t a line at check in or security, and you can show up about 15 minutes before the flight time. (I ❤ Korea.) You can reach Gimpo by express subway which begins about a 15 minute walk from my house.

Unfortunately, you have to remember that such a subway exists. We did not, until we had been stuck in a taxi on Olympic Daero for about thirty minutes. When we finally got to the exit, a new road had just opened and the signs were confusing, and… our driver followed the wrong one. Being a new road, there weren’t many exits, so it was more than ten minutes before he could turn around. Really. So, to take the one-hour flight, we sat in a taxi for nearly two hours. This being Korea, there was no hassle about checking in late, and our flight had been delayed so we were still early.

In Jeju, we went to Seogwipo (the “other” city) and found a hotel listed in Lonely Planet. In the morning, we saw that ALL the hotels in that edition were on that street. Thorough job, writer guy.

When we got up, we took a cab to Oedolgae, planning to walk along an Olle Trail spur which ended at the World Cup Stadium. We got lost almost as soon as we started walking. A nice Korean guy (carrying what looked to be a week’s worth of supplies), gave us directions, but we were walking in the wrong direction, so the flags weren’t posted as helpfully as they could have been.

You are here.

About an hour and a half later, we ran into the same guy, who seemed very surprised to see us so far afield. He pointed us back in the right direction, and this time we were able to pick up the trail and not get lost again. We probably cut about 2km or so off the walk, but it was still a pretty good one. It was a bit odd, because all of the Olle Trail sections are meant to be roughly the same length, but we only started a couple of km from the World Cup Stadium. To pad out the walk, it was made in a rambly, twisty-turny way and the stadium was within sight for a fair amount of time before we got there, because the trail kept meandering around. As we are both directionally challenged, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

It was closer than it looked, but we took our time getting there.

We got to the stadium with about 45 minutes to spare, but had to walk all the way around the entire perimeter to find the entrance. This didn’t seem odd, because many venues that don’t expect large crowds will only open one gate. In the end, we had to go in through what is now a spa entrance. We were able to get out to the seats from there. Again, it was a little odd, but not all teams charge entrance fees. Then, we looked at the field. The grass was overgrown, there were no nets, and there were no lines painted on the ground. Ruh-roh, Raggy.

This made the trip to the wrong stadium completely worthwhile.

Jeju plays about three games per season in Jeju City, and this was one of them. That stadium is within easy walking distance of the airport, but about 45 minutes from Seogwipo. So, we hopped in a cab, and away we went. If you are interested in reading about the game, you can here.

After the game, we walked around the corner to a black pig restaurant. We figured, since we were in Jeju, we should try their signature food. It didn’t hurt that their sign outside also mentioned mal-gogi (horse meat). I sometimes mistranslate food items because I assume the name has to do with the ingredients, which is not always the case. This was not a mistake, though. Everyone else in the place (it was pretty busy), was eating horse tartare, the house specialty. Neither of us were feeling that adventurous, but we did try some horse steak along with our ogyeopsal. I didn’t tell Craig until after we had ordered, but they also served cat rib stew. The horse was far better than the pork, and I would be happy to have it again. Actually, I would have been happy to have it again the next day, but we had plans in Seogwipo.

Neigh, I like horse meat.

On Sunday, we walked course 7 of the Olle Trail, which, like the spur we had done the day before, started at Oedolgae. As the day before, the place was packed with Chinese tourists. Fortunately, they only wanted to go as far as the cutout of the woman from that drama a few years ago. You know, the one about a queen. Yeah, that one. Unlike the meandering path through town the day before, this one was along a quiet coastal road.

When did Waldo go Buddhist?

I'm not a queen, but I played one on I pretended to be one played on TV.

We stopped twice along the way. Once at a coffee shop and once for lunch. Both of the places seemed brand new. The coffee shop still had signs printed on A4 paper taped to the wall. Presumably, they are for the new foot traffic since the trail has opened. At any rate, the raw mackerel and maeuntang we had were delicious, and Craig was pretty excited to see his dinner being fished from a tank. Lunch was at the end of the course, so without getting our Olle Trail passports stamped (unlike the four adult women we saw stamping theirs), we got a cab back to the hotel. Along the way, we also saw a group who seem to have set up a fairly permanent camp protesting a new marine base which apparently appropriated farmland. There were a number of riot police down from Seoul (or, at least, Seoul was printed on all of their stuff, even the buses), but everybody seemed pretty relaxed.

Even protesters and riot poice need a sleepy Sunday.

As the driver dropped us off, I noticed a sign pointing 300m to a waterfall. So, we decided we couldn’t pass that up. Especially since the “waterfall” we had detoured to see the day before had been dry. It turned out the 300m got us to the ticket office to the waterfall. LOL On our way there, we got distracted by signs for the submarine tour, anyway. The tourist information lady was kind enough to ring up and get us reservations and give us discount tickets, so we were able to get on the next excursion. The submarine involved taking a boat to a landing area and transferring. We were singled out as foreigners and put on first with a Japanese couple. That was good, because they had packed the submarine to the gills, and bad, because most of the trip involved looking across the boat, out their window, which they covered trying to photograph every second of the trip. So, we didn’t get any photos of coral or schools of fish, but it was still a lot of fun and worth it, even at the relatively spendy 93,000 won for the two us (post-discount).

I didn't pay $50 to look at the back of their heads.

Back on dry land, we remembered about the waterfall, and got ourselves some tickets (2,000 each), before walking the further 700m from the ticket booth. This waterfall had water, but it also had tons of people who seemed to think they were part of America’s Next Top Model. I had Craig climb up on a rock so I could get a photo of him that wasn’t blocked by girls making hilarious (to me) poses. I then had to run change places with me, because the woman next to me pointed Craig out to her son and told him to go pose there. When I got down, there were several people waiting to take my place.

Craig starting a trend.

We now had just enough time to head back to the hotel, shower, and get to the airport. Check in was the usual in Korea– everyone had several bags, but since it was Jeju, they also had boxes of oranges. We were able to use Craig’s mileage card to get priority boarding, which was a good thing, because the plane wasn’t even 1/3 full before the flight attendants were running up and down finding any space they could for all those bags. I really don’t know why they are so lenient at check in and boarding, unless those people secretly hate the flight attendants.

Confusion over the soccer venue and getting lost aside (it’s all part of the adventure, anyway), it was a great trip. So good, that Craig has already booked us another trip to walk another section of the Olle Trail and see some more soccer. Next time, we’ll double-check the venue in advance.