Jeju Island, also known as ‘Korea’s Hawaii’ welcomed a group of English teachers for the Chuseok Holiday in mid-September 2016. While the Hawaii tag may be overstated, it was an enjoyable break and one I’d recommend anyone do while in Korea. It was my first organised trip with Enjoy Korea; a company renowned for it’s package deal excursions and events around the country and with the holiday time rolling into the weekend to offer a five day break, there seemed no better time to visit Jeju, especially in September.
The weather would be perfect, right?
Sadly, it was not. However, not to be defeated by grey skies and wet winds, we reminded ourselves that rain is just a state of mind and made the most of our time away from the daily grind of screaming kids and language-barrier frustrations.
While sunbathing on the sand was a luxury we would unfortunately have to miss out on, we did venture into the water regardless of the rain. Just beware, those waves are choppy! After being battered around for a while, we called it quits and escaped the rain to take shelter at a local shop with some Makkeoli wine before pigging out at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Enjoy Korea took away the planning and organisation aspect involved in such a trip, thus freeing us up to simply follow the steps and enjoy the ride – bus ride that is, of which there were many.
There were some mixed feelings about the extensive bus rides with the consensus being that a small group in a car would be the best way to do Jeju.
One thing is for sure; it would be a nightmare to try and do this island without your own wheels.
Everything is so spread out and navigating separate bus schedules would undoubtedly suck the fun out of the journey. Thankfully, we didn’t have to worry about this and the bus rides were much more comfortable than the crazy rural bus escapades I was used to.
So, with no further ado, in no specific order here are the top five things I did on Jeju.
1 – Fought The World’s Tallest Man in a Museum
Ok, so he was an immobile mannequin, but I was still there. I showed, ready to go and he did nothing.
Jeju has a lot of museums. No really, I mean it has museums for everything.
You could spend a week on the island just touring the museums. Rather than deprive ourselves of the beautiful Jeju air, we opted to do just two museums.
In the Ripley’s Believe or Not museum you’ll find all sorts of oddities, believe or not. Strangely though, Chocolate Jesus was not there and could be found across the road in the Chocolate Museum, which should really be called ‘The-chocolate-shop-with-a-few-strange-displays-on-the-way-to-the-shop’.
I also had an encounter with an even bigger freak outside the Chocolate museum. One should not take Chocolate Jesus’s name in vain.
2 – Toured Magpie Brewing Company
With beaches a wash out, Enjoy Korea rolled out some unexpected options, none more intriguing than a trip to the countryside to tour a prosperous brewing company.
Magpie Brewing Co. is owned by a group of foreigners and with a hipster-ish DJ event / pop-up art expo hooking the crowds for the afternoon, they had a good opportunity to promote their craft beers. A little out of the way for those with a car but it was a nice way to chill and nurse the hangover. The beers were pretty good too!
3 – Photo Shoot at Loveland
Jeju offers visitors a lot of unique flavours and frills that are a far cry from mainland Korea. But more than their strong soju and famous black pig meat, or the diving ajummas and cactus-flavored chocolate, there is one place above all other museums and sites that is head, shoulders and breasts above the rest when it comes to the downright curious.
Loveland is the infamous outdoor sex-theme park, where visitors can take a leisurely stroll around the lakes and, er, bushes. It did strike me as odd how Koreans came up with such an idea considering how incredibly prudish and conservative they tend to be otherwise. Even a kiss at a wedding is cause for embarrassment.
Apparently it was to provide inspiration for the natives to procreate more. During our visit, our tour guide challenged us to take the best photos possible. Sadly my phone died and the winning snaps were never to be revealed. The gold medal was swiped by another while my masterpiece was consigned to eternal mystery.
4 – Saw the biggest Lava Column in the World
Surprisingly, the biggest column wasn’t in Loveland. While the elements weren’t so warm and welcoming above ground, we decided to go under and explore the lava tubes and caves. At the very end is this column.
The walk takes about 30 minutes total – that’s a return trip, unless you plan to stay there with the column.
It’s a mildly interesting trip but somewhat underwhelming if I’m honest. If you do go, make sure you have a jacket because it’s very cold down there!
5 – Partied with the Wolf Pack
With the summer vacation sending people scattering in different directions around the globe, it was great to have (most of) our Wolf Pack together at Jeju. We hadn’t checked in too long before the soju was opened and the party mood continued for the duration of the trip.
My liver didn’t thank me but looking back, it was well worth it.
The first night at Monkey Beach Bar exhausted us – what kind of bar has a water slide, monkey ropes and a huge skip rope on the dance floor for the drunks to have hours of entertainment?! – but the drink flowed pretty steady thereafter as we made the most of our longest break before winter vacation.
Jeju is a fun place for a weekend and although Enjoy Korea made it possible for us to check out the main highlights, there was still a lot to be discovered. Perhaps a return will happen when the warmer weather returns.
Have you been to Jeju? What was your favorite things from your visit?