Last November, Basil coaxed me to join him on a work trip to Jeju. I usually prefer to stay back in Seoul and stick with my routine. But I’d also just come back to Korea — after an annual monthlong trip of visiting family and friends. I was glum and Seoul’s dipping temperatures weren’t doing anything for me. So, I decided to get some sun and warmth in Jeju. This island paradise never fails to be a mood changer.
Slow travel is quickly catching on. Since most of our trips turn out to be walking marathons; I thought I’ll try to take it slow. I could read a book, look at the gorgeous sky, and relax on a bench. By lunch, I couldn’t concentrate with that sky turning the perfect shade of blue. I had to get out and walk. Our pension house was bang opposite Yongduam Coastal Road and the midpoint of Jeju Olle Route 17. The map/guide book of all Jeju Olle Routes can be downloaded here.
I couldn’t believe my luck. The sun was shining on the grass and sea. Clouds cast shadows on waves and created gradients of blue in the water. I was ecstatic and excited. I tried to ignore the wind and my freezing fingers.
It was high tide and the waves lashed out on the rocks. In the afternoon, I was the only person standing there. Occasionally, a tourist would look at the waves, click some pictures, and walk away. I didn’t want leave. I had picked up 2 gimbaps (a Korean dish of rice and filling — rolled in seaweed) from the local convenience store. I ate it as waves waxed and waned along the rocky coast.
Eventually, I decided to do what I know best: walk. I have walked along a couple of sections of this trail before and I was vaguely familiar with the route. Anyway, it’s a straight trail and it will be hard to get lost here. One should bear in mind that you might not always find convenience stores or transport (buses/taxis) along the trail. Water and energy bars are your best friends on this trail.
I walked for a bit and found a nice spot to enjoy crashing waves. The tide was strong and some of the waves rose high above the rock. I’ve always lived by the sea and was also born in a coastal town. The sea makes me feel alive and the moist, salty air stirs warm fuzzy feelings.
Koreans truly appreciate and respect nature. The best trails, in Korea, are hidden from prying eyes and will take some level of Korean to find. I wasn’t the only one spellbound by nature. Halmanoees (grandmas) and Haraboji (grandpa) laughed and enjoyed nature’s show.
I don’t always take pictures. And even if I do, I don’t always write a post on every experience. I like to keep some memories for myself, for a rainy day (like today), or a rough spot in life. I like to look back at that memory and be grateful to have lived it. I had totally forgotten about this walk and I am so happy to find these pictures now. Given how social distancing and self-isolation is catching up (for good reason) — I thought: moments like these should be appreciated and shared.
Graffiti and wall art are constants along this coastal road. Most of the artists are inspired by nature and blue is the underlying theme for all the artwork.
I had wanted to cancel my ticket to Jeju when I learned that my uncle had passed away — a couple of days before this trip. I wasn’t sleeping well and was drained after reading messages on my family group chat. Expat life has many moments of helplessness. I’m glad Basil changed my mind. As I walked along the coast, there were moments when my eyes moistened, and my heart was heavy. But nature, especially the sea, can be a great comforter and friend. The sounds of the waves and the beauty around me reminded me how precious life is and that we have to accept the highs with the lows.
Kids wanted to test how close they could get to the waves for their pictures. It looked very dangerous to me. Those rocks are jagged and slippery. Each kid pretended to control the wave, then realised it was foolish, and then the next one tried his luck. Maybe, as humans we’ve become conceited about our own super human achievements — never realising that nature can take it all away in an instant.
Haenyeo (women divers) are the stars of Jeju and it’s natural to have graffiti dedicated to them.
Olle Trail markers are hard to miss. Blue and orange ribbons are tied along the path. Arrows are marked at regular intervals and a blue line runs right through the walking path.
I didn’t have a destination in mind. I had nowhere to reach. I just wanted to keep walking in silence and breathe. I reached Eoyeong Village.
In November, silver grass swayed in the afternoon breeze. I was surprised to see the tall grass along the coast.
Yongduam Coastal Trail is dotted with interesting historical monuments. I couldn’t understand the Korean text on the description board and assume this used to be a natural spring.
This sign lead to a boardwalk to the left of the trail.
The boardwalk (not in pictures) opens into an elevated platform — above the sea. During high tide, water will splash on your face.
Jeju City Tour Bus stops at the popular tourist stops in Jeju. I had taken this bus on my earlier trips to the island. I came across the stop for Eo-yeong Coastal Road. I remember passing this route on my earlier trips. I could have chosen to board this bus and head back, but I decided to keep walking.
The coastal trail looks quite scenic along this stretch. A wooden fence marks the boundary of this trail. The grass was turning yellow — signalling the arrival of autumn.
There were a couple of benches here — the first I’d seen so far. I was tempted to sit for a bit and enjoy the sky, clouds, and sea. Tiredness was slowly creeping in and I was torn between turning back and carrying on.
I decided to walk till Yongduam Rock. From there, I could find more transport options back to our pension house or even take a taxi. Silver grass gleamed in the afternoon sun and I almost crossed the road to enter the private field. I changed my mind because I couldn’t find an entrance and didn’t know if there were guard dogs.
I was alone on this trail and I enjoyed my solitude. Occasionally, I’d pass a couple riding bikes, or a solo traveller — enjoying the scenery.
Most tourists rent cars in Jeju. It’s faster to get around the island and visit the top tourist attractions in a short time. We too had rented a car for the weekend. Walking also has its own charm. You take longer to reach places, but it’s worth the experience.
I reached another bus stop, but didn’t know how long it would take to get a bus. Local buses, in Jeju, take forever and I decided to stick with my plan and walk towards Yongduam Rock.
Cafe Antoinette has a fantastic view inside. Basil and I have had a couple of meals here on our earlier trips. Their meals sell out very fast and I’d recommend going there early or making a prior reservation. Coffee is always available.
As I approached Yongduam Rock, I could see the entire coastline and tried to spot our pension house. Jeju’s airport field was next to our pension house and I could estimate the location — by guessing where the planes landed.
Yongduam Rock is quite popular with tourists and there was quite a bit of activity here. I had visited Yongduam Rock on my first trip to Jeju in 2016. I spent a few moments here and walked away from the noise.
I couldn’t find transportation and didn’t want to walk on the main road. Basil had finished work and he was at a cafe near Tapdong. The route to Tapdong, from Yongduam, is equally scenic along the coast.
This part of the coast looks very different from what I had seen earlier. It looks more manicured and the sea looks different without the rocky coast. Basil and I sat for a couple of hours and then took a taxi back to our pension.
We had made it in time for sunset. Golden light was reflected on every surface around us. It was magical. I wanted to capture some sunlight in a bottle and take it back to Seoul. Winter was coming and I’d be happy to have some warmth with me.
I had explored the other side of this trail on the earlier evening and wanted Basil to walk with me again. We spotted a Die Loreley-Statue — gifted by Germany — in return for the two dolhareubang (stone men) statues that were sent by the Jeju government.
On the earlier evening, the tide was low, and I could walk down to admire volcanic rocks along the coast. It’s better to avoid walking on the rocks and stick to the path of flat ground.
We watched planes take off and land — with perfect precision. We were losing light, but that didn’t take away from the beauty of this coastal road.
Nuggets of history are scattered all along Jeju. You just need to keep your eyes peeled for them. These stone beacons looked intriguing and ancient. And to think, they just were lying along the road, with cars whizzing by.
I felt rejuvenated and excited for the weekend. Perhaps, a long walk was all that I needed.