Exploring North Jeju in a Day

jeju-map

Image Source: Jeju Tourism Organisation

Jeju (Cheju) is, perhaps, the most popular tourist destination in South Korea. With cheap flights connecting all major cities, in the mainland, to Jeju; it makes for an excellent weekend getaway. Exploring the whole island itself, will take longer than a week and yet, it might not be possible to cover everything. Jeju is one of The New 7 Wonders of Nature and has an enviable wealth of natural diversity in the form of lengthy coastlines, quaint fishing villages, oreums, lush forests, arboretums, and Korea’s pride, Mt. Hallasan. It also has a fair share of museums, amusement parks, recreational areas, shopping markets, and casinos. Take your pick!

bus-routes

Image Source: Jeju Tourism Corporation

 

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Jeju Golden Tour Bus

For simplicity, the island can be divided into 5 zones (corresponding to the geographical orientation) namely: north, south, east, west, and centre. We started our 10 day trip in the north, travelled to the east, back to the north again, and ended the trip in the south combining it with the central region (Mt. Hallasan). The best way to get around would be to rent a car, scooter, or if you’re adventerous — a bicycle. Local bus connectivity is a test of your patience and is pretty scarce after 7 pm. Tour buses run with a similar frequency, but have an added advantage of connecting tourist places of interest with popular hotels. If you have a T-Money Card (Seoul), it will be valid across public modes of transport in Jeju. Cabs may turn out to be expensive and it’s probably best to avoid them for longer distances. Although,walking is the least popular mode of transport for many, it’s the simplest and most enjoyable way to get around.

We spent about 4 days in the north, clubbing it with Basil’s work trip, and explored the popular areas in quick succession depending on the available time. However, it’s possible to cover most of the north in a day — if you’re pressed for time.

Breakfast at Tapdong

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Tapdong’s top draw is its scenic coastline. It’s a great way to kickstart your morning with a walk along the rocky shore. Although, it might get a bit noisy with planes landing at regular intervals. The street parallel to the coastline is famous for its cafes, shopping markets, casinos, and high-end hotels. A Factory Cafe, opposite Arario Museum, has a fine collection of art books, a seating area with free WI-FI, and is perfect for a light meal.

Arario Museum

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Like most of its counterparts in Seoul, Arario Museum doesn’t allow photography of its exhibits. Showcasing contemporary artworks by artists, across the globe (Andy Warhol, Subodh Gupta), Arario might be a bit disappointing if you’re not into contemporary/abstract art. The cold, grey brick stones didn’t do much for me. Some of the exhibit areas were dimly lit and it was creepy to be alone in a room, with little light, and the overpowering smell of cement. Since I couldn’t get any pictures inside the museum, I tried to take abstract pictures of the building instead. The irony was not lost on me.

Yongduam Coastal Road

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Tapdong is about 15 minutes away from Yongduam Rock on foot. The Golden Bus City Tour has a pickup at Ramada Hotel (Tapdong) — if you want to skip the walk. The coastline, connecting these two popular tourist spots, is lined with fish restaurants (the most popular local meal in Jeju) and cafes.  Yongyeon Ponda quiet cove, painted bluish green, by the confluence of fresh and sea water — lies just before Yongduam Rock. If you’re not in a hurry, you could try kayaking here. We explored a bit of the bridge and walked towards the fabled “Dragon Head Rock“.

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Tourists were having a field day with the camera and blue seas — in the background. We did manage to get a couple of good shots without getting photobombed. The jagged coastline and rock shapes are result of erosion by the sea and wind over the years. However, local legends prefer to narrate interesting stories about fallen dragons and mystical deities, to explain the origin of these strange rock formations.

Lunch at D-Stone Pub

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Leading away from Yongduam Rock towards the coastline trail, at the far end, lies D-Stone Pub. If you’re lucky to get a seat by the window, you’d be privy to some of the best views of the sea.

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The choices of food match the location of this restaurant/cafe. Many guests (suited business men and young couples) chose to reserve tables by the window — to enjoy a cup of coffee or desert. We were hungry and indulged in King Prawn pasta and burgers instead.

Haenyeo Women Divers

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If you’re lucky, you might spot Haenyeo Women Divers in the wide expanse of blue. These women have quite an extraordinary ability to hold their breath underwater for 2 or 3 minutes. And, it’s fascinating, because they don’t need specific gear earning them the name of Mermaids of Jeju. Many of them sell their catch (abalones, shellfish, seaweed) along the rocky bed of the sea.

Jeju Museum of Art

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Jeju Museum of Art is situated in the midst of nature — away from the chaos of the main city. The modern building is surrounded by art exhibits, a clear pond, and trees. Noisy ravens crackled in the background and soft sounds of music (from the neighbouring Love Land) trickled in. On the day of my visit, I wasn’t charged an entrance fee. However, only two of the exhibitions halls were open for visitors and photography wasn’t allowed inside. Exhibition hall 1 showcased the paintings of Chang Lee Suok highlighting stories of the hardships of the past. The Haenyeo Women Divers are a prominent feature of his work.

Jeju Love Land

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Keeping up with the island’s underlying theme of bizarre museums and amusement parks, Jeju Love Land is known for its erotic take on love. The exhibits are the creations of art graduates from Seoul’s prestigious Hongik University.

Since, Jeju happens to be a popular honeymoon destination for newly weds and young couples, this museum fits in quite well. However, Love Land has its fair share of elderly tourist groups, happy to pose with the exhibits, or flaunt the unfazed look. I was asked to double as photographer on multiple occasions. And I found people watching, more interesting, than the exhibits themselves. Ajummas laughed at a nude male exhibit, an elderly man walked and posed beneath a large exhibit of a woman’s legs (when he thought no one was looking), and couples had a field day with the interactive devices. In the background, the Beatles and Beejees tried to croon some real love into the air. Personally, I was disappointed. Having visited the Khajuraho Temples in India and the Sex Museum in Amsterdam; I thought Jeju Love Land was a rather tame version of what it claimed to be.

Hot dumplings

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On a cold day, it’s perfect to have a quick snack of steaming hot dumplings. The stall, run by an elderly lady, outside Jeju Love Land offers a good selection of Korean meals.

Chilsung-Ro 

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Jeju’s shopping markets are known to be open till late evening and some through the night. These streets are great to stroll around and soak in the atmosphere — even if you don’t want to shop. Chilsung-Ro, near Tapdong, has some of the popular brands and a couple of good eating options. Most places were shut by 8 pm, so you’d want to visit earlier.

Dinner

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The underground shopping centre (also serves as an underpass) is perfect to get good deals on clothes or shoes. Since we hadn’t had our meal yet, we decided to grab a bite to eat at one of the local burger joints. And there’s some pretty stiff competition out here. Exit 11 leads you to Jeju Gwandeokjeong Pavilion.

Jeju Gwandeokjeong Pavilion

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We reached Gwandeokjeong Pavilion around 9 pm. The doors to Jeju Mokgwana (the former government office) were shut. On a full moon night, we weren’t disappointed, and were happy to even see Dol Hareubang. 

This post is available for download on GPSmyCity. Click here to explore. 

37 responses to “Exploring North Jeju in a Day

    • Glad you liked reading it, Miriam. I have so much to write on Jeju — one of the reasons I’ve delayed posting for so long. 🙂 When I started writing this, I thought it’s going to be the easiest part of the trip and it took me much longer to get it all documented (hyperlinks). Phew! We did (north) this in bits and pieces as Basil had to break our holiday and mix it with work. 😦 But if someone had to get a taste of Jeju, it’s possible to do this in a day. Thanks so much for your comment! It feels so good to be appreciated! xo

      • Oh, you’re definitely appreciated Cheryl. I love the wonder lusting attitude that you and Basil have. It shines through in all of your posts. xo

      • Thanks so much, Miriam. I had to tell you about this incident. Basil rarely reads my posts, probably just glances through the photos and reads some comments. The other day, I made (forced) him to read a post, and he said, “You have become so good!” Haha! He’s been my toughest critic and always keeps me grounded. I must thank Basil for a lot of our travels. He pushes me and I never really thought — I’d had it in me! My family is pretty shocked I’ve travelled like this! Haha! I’m trying hard to get him to write a post. Have a super weekend, Miriam! Always feels good to connect with you! xo

      • That’s so great to hear. I think it’s awesome that Basil said that and acknowledges your writing because it really is good. You obviously make a great team. Sometimes I wish my husband was more involved in my blog. Although he reads some of my posts and occasionally comments I don’t think he really gets it. Tell Basil from me that I’d love to read a post from him! Enjoy your weekend my friend xo

      • I’ve been telling him for ages! I said no one will expect anything from you and they would love to hear your side of the story. I’m sure our readers would like a fresh perspective. haha! Hope you had a nice weekend yourself. Ours was packed and really needed some time out today. 🙂 xo

      • Oh, absolutely. Convince him Cheryl! Sounds as though you had a busy weekend. Hopefully the week ahead is not so crazy but happy and relaxed. Take care. xo

      • I’m hoping for the same thing, Miriam. I’ve been making a lot many new friends (I can’t remember so many) and also have signed up for couple of Korean craft classes. These days I’m travelling around the world without leaving Seoul. 🙂 Sounds crazy right?

      • Aww! Thanks for your interest, Miriam. I haven’t been able to take ‘tasteful’ pictures of my work. 🙂 Once I can cross that hurdle, the post will follow soon. My friends and family are pretty pleased with it. And I’m surprised myself. Haha!

    • There’s so much more coming up, Jeff. I’d say the north is where you’d want to spend the least time. We found the east and south more appealing (fantastic forest, cycling, walking, and oreum trails). The trick is to escape the peak season. We got lucky with the weather (good sunshine) and since everyone else was probably enjoying fall in the mainland (mountains), many places were pretty empty. Glad you enjoyed reading this post! Thanks for your comment, Jeff! 🙂

  1. South Korea is certainly not a popular tourist destination in this of the World. But looking at your recent posts which explores South Korea, it looks like its surely a great offbeat place to visit…quite like Japan.

    • I’m so glad that many will consider South Korea as a potential holiday destination. I think, the country is very well documented by expats. I’ve seen some fantastic blogs. I guess, most tourists don’t have time to explore the lesser known places because of the time crunch. Japan is fantastic too. 🙂 Vegetarians might have a slight problem. 😦

      • When I compare place like Thailand with Japan and Korea to some extent, (even though they all have “big time problem” when it comes to Vegetarian food) exchange rate, expensive economy and tourist friendly infrastructure are major differentiating factors. While Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand have targeted Indians in a big way, China, Japan and Korea are yet to do. I do see Korea Tourism adverts in travel magazines in India but unless they plan specifically I don’t see it as a popular travel destination specially for individual travelers. China is picking up but people prefer to travel in a group tours which saves them language and food troubles. Being a vegetarian, even though I have survived on fruits and ice cream sundaes during far east travel, I’m always happy exploring India…This life time won’t suffice for country like India. And I hate group tours…they take away my freedom!

  2. Haha I wish I’d read your guide before we visited Jeju ourselves. You accomplished so much in a short period of time! We spent SO much time in the car driving between north and south, and should’ve just divided up the trip. Would’ve been so much more effective. And by the way – the air route between Seoul and Jeju is the world’s busiest…and has been for quite a number of years I think…CRAZY.

    • Haha! Jeju was an unplanned trip with Basil falling sick before leaving etc… I’m not sure how did we do so much! I think we just went with the flow. I was too lazy to get Basil his international driver’s license and so we had to use public transport (buses and even taxis). We stayed at Ramada (second time in the north) and the view was amazing, but the planes a real nuisance! I agree, it’s so crazy!

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