Happy Chuseok, Korea! Chuseok is Korea’s thanksgiving holiday. It is a time when families gather to remember and pay respects to their ancestors. They spend many days preparing food and offerings and then go to their ancestors’ graves, which is sometimes on the sides of mountains, to pray and give the offerings. But, because we got two and a half days off of work, we made a trip to Jeju Island (Jeju-do)! The first thing we noticed about Jeju Island is how clean and fresh the air is. Once we stepped off of the plane, it felt like we were in a different country. Jeju is comparable to Hawaii. Couples from all over Asia travel to Jeju for their honey moon. It is Korea’s largest island and is pretty much a huge dormant volcano surrounded by the most beautiful beaches. Mount Halla stands tall in the center of the island while black volcanic rocks line the clear blue ocean shore. It is the most beautiful sight, with sparkling water, lush trees, tropical fruit and enormous mountains surrounding you. The first and only beach we went to (because of time restraints) was Hyeopjae Beach. They say that it is one the most beautiful beaches. It felt secluded, as there weren’t very many people there. It is a small beach, not for the waves or even for sunbathing, but just to enjoy the beauty. The water was shallow, just to the ankles or calves. Kids were playing in the water, fully clothed. A few girls were lying out, but not in bikinis. And couples took pictures together along the coast and drew hearts in the sand. In Korea, people go to beaches fully clothed. I think it is because they do not want to get sunburned or darker. It seems that Koreans think that pale white skin is ideal. There might be other reasons why Koreans swim fully clothed, but I haven’t found out why.
Near Hyeopjae Beach is a spectacular botanical garden called Hallim Park. A lot of the parks in Jeju are not free because the island makes its money from tourism. Hallim Park cost 7,000 KRW, which is about 6 USD. It was totally worth it. It took us about three hours to get through the park. It is filled with all kinds of plant families, cacti, palm trees, bonsai trees, hibiscus and iris flowers and much, much more. We also went through three different lava caves that were made from limestone and had stalactites dripping from the ceiling and stalagmites forming from the floor. Click here for more pictures of Hyeopjae Beach and Hallim Park.
Another well-known site for couples is a park called Loveland. It’s a park of its own kind. Among Korea’s traditional and conservative culture, this park stands out. Public displays of affection are frowned upon, living with your boyfriend before marriage is forbidden and being single after 30 means that you will never marry. But, Loveland is a place where these things do not matter. “Loveland is a place where love oriented art and eroticism meet,” according to their Web site. It was created by 20 artists from Hongik University in Seoul. Their liberal views have made a unique stamp on one of Korea’s most traversed places. Because of the vulgarity of the pictures we took, we cannot post them on our blog. Please contact us if you would like to see these very erotic photos (18 years and older, sorry Sean and Kaveeta).
On our last day in Jeju, we climbed an oreum in Sarabong Park, which is part of the Mount Halla, but they are much smaller. It takes about eight to nine hours to hike Mount Halla. We didn’t have time to do it this time, but we will next time! Hiking the oreums was a workout anyway. It took about two hours to hike one oreum, one hour up and one hour down. Every park or mountain in Korea has workout stations. I eat these up because a gym membership is so expensive!
Jeju is a beautiful place and we will return. Next time, we will climb Mount Halla and try our feet at surfing! We have to thank our friend Daphne for letting us stay with her in Shin-Jeju. Thanks Daphne!