As I previously wrote about, I took a week long trip to Jeju island with my good friend during my spring break this year (2016). On our first day we hiked up Hallasan, but we had many more less tiring adventures as well. We explored museums and other natural sites, as well as eating our way through some culinary adventures.
Loveland is a popular attraction on Jeju island. Fairly famous, Loveland is an outdoor erotic art park where there are statues, figurines, paintings, dioramas, and other pieces of art all depicting erotic acts or of just naked bodies. It was definitely on our to-do list before we got to Jeju. I mean, there is so much allure just from the name! I first heard of Loveland when I used to watch the television show Sexe Autour Du Monde on TV5. In an episode where the host traveled to South Korea, he stopped at Loveland and interviewed one of the park’s managers. We visited the park during the late evening during twilight, which certainly gave the park a different ambiance and appeal than it would have during a bright sunny day. It was kind of romantic with the night’s lights shining throughout the park. Exploring the park was a lot of fun, especially since neither of us had seen anything like it before. It was censorship-free. The artwork was beautiful; some of it was humorous. Most of the art was actually created by university students. There were even little tiny pig statues engaged in different sex acts that you could look for around the park. The park wasn’t just for it’s shock and laugh factor either, inside the park is a museum where you can learn about sex, learn about different sex toys, contraception, and even the history of sex in advertising.
I really enjoyed the park because in North American culture, sex isn’t talked about a lot in public. Frank discussion is generally avoided on tv and censored in movies. I felt like the park took away some of the stigma behind sex. Loveland brought back the humour and curiosity many of us have in regards to sex. It also brought back love, sensuality, and other human emotions involved in such an intimate act. Loveland is a perfect opportunity to start a conversation or even to step out of your comfort zone. It’s a great park to explore for an hour so in Jeju.
Another museum that we spent some time at was the Teddy Bear Museum. As an avid stuffed animal lover (keeping all my stuffed toy friends since childhood), I was ecstatic to go. And boy, was it awesome. Well, it’s awesome if you love teddy bears. If not, you can skip this tour. The museum starts off with a giant teddy bear you can take a picture of, and as you enter through various rooms, there are even more giant, cute, and cuddly bears that are dressed up like Charlie Chaplin, Vincent Van Gogh, soldiers, even Bruce Lee and Audrey Hepburn. It’s very unique. It’s an artsy museum. On the walls there’s often artwork like paintings of teddy bears done in many styles like abstract or classic.
The first exhibit is teddy bear history. There’s two different themes here. One is the actual history of teddy bears, showing the ones that were created in the 1800s to the present. It’s like an evolution from ape to man except from freaky looking teddy bears to what are now pretty cute and unlike real bears. The other theme is major events in history re-enacted by teddy bears. This includes a cute rendition of the titanic sinking, the Berlin wall being taken down, and even the first moon landing. It’s fun to travel through space and time with teddy bears. It’s a teddy TARDIS! Other exhibits showed expensive teddy bears, ones dressed up in elaborate clothing, or teddy bears reenacting complex scenes. There’s teddy fashion shows, teddy bears worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and teddy bears of various shapes and sizes. All in all, it was a great way to spend a couple of hours.
Even though I love museums, I’m more in love with hiking and nature. That’s why my friend and I spent a day on Udo Island. Udo island is a tiny island off the already small island of Jeju. A 30min boat ride took us to the cow shaped landmass. Udo is a small sparkling jewel in the Pacific, seriously. The beaches had crystal blue waters with white sands. I never wanted to leave that beautiful sight. Upon the rocks on the shore, green algae grew to add even more colour to an already picturesque isle. During the Spring season, fields and fields of bright yellow flowers (I think it was Canola) bloomed in certain parts of the island. So we spent the day outdoors, exploring small coves and beaches underneath lighthouses and cliffsides where we watched the waves crash against the coast. We befriended a stray dog on the opposite side of the island which was riddled with ancient and ruined outposts from an earlier era. He followed us around as we climbed to the top of outposts and as we walked across fields of lush grass. We ate peanut ice cream, we had seafood, we also ate delicious kimchi soup. We also had two different types of peanut pastries. Peanuts are pretty famous on Udo island. It turned out to be a pretty jam-packed day. There was still more sights to behold from the boat ride to and from Udo. One of the other wonders of Jeju was also visible, Sungsan Ilchul Bong Peak (성산일출봉): a majestic towering cliff made from volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Cheonjiyeon Waterfall was another beautiful stop while in Jeju. The waterfall itself was gorgeous, but even more incredible was the surrounding scenery. Because we arrived in Jeju during peak cherry blossom season, the trees in the area were not just pink, but also red, orange, yellow, and green. The colours of the spring season surrounded the clear blue rivers beginning at the mouth of an over 20m high waterfall. Other sights to see on the trail included a Dol hareubang (돌 하르방), the stone man of Jeju. These statues can be found throughout Jeju island. They are from an older time, either guardians or part of an older shamanism culture. Either way, they always brought joy when I saw them.
We continued on to the Waterfall that fed rivers which houses many migratory ducks; Korea is often a stop for birds heading North in the summer. I enjoyed taking pictures of them as I am an avid bird photographer, even though it can be frustrating. They swim, they fly, they even just turn around and walk away. Such fickle birds… Along the trail to Cheonjiyeon Waterfall, there was a statue of a dragon with a golden orb. Rubbing the gold orb is supposed to bring good luck, so I did. It must’ve come true because I was lucky enough to have a fantastic week in South Korea.
On another day, my friend and I went to Manjanggul (만장굴), a UNESCO World Heritage site. Manjanggul Cave is a large, complex lava tube that stretches over 7km in length. 1km is walkable and open to the public. Magma once flowed through these massive tunnels, as Jeju used to be volcanically active. This cave is dark, wet, and the dried lava is black in colour. In some areas the lava tube was around 30m in height and more than 20m wide. Other places were much more narrow. It’s a surreal feeling walking where hot molten lava once flowed. Signs of the flow are clear to spot, such as lines indented into the walls shapes like small waves, indicating the height and direction of past flows. It also has a variety of interesting stalagmites and stone pillars. For instance there is a 70cm tall lava stalagmite, and another one famous for being shaped like a stone turtle.
Now, this site tries to remain as natural as possible, keeping the natural history of the island alive to all visitors. Though, in order for people to safely visit, lights are strung up along the walking path or else it would be practically pitch black. Luckily, only 1km is possible for tourists to see. The other parts remain habitats for creatures. Past the part open to the visitors, animals can be found living in the lava tube. This natural wonder is home to large colonies of bats. It’s great lava tube to visit, the largest of its kind. Walking under the ground in a dark cave is fun experience, and a lot different from other natural sites on the island surface.
There were a couple of other small activities in which we partook. Nearby the cave was a giant maze that my friend and I decided to get lost in for about 30-40min in the rain. It was outdoors and made of giant hedges, so high that it was impossible to jump to see over. There was one theory we tried out, just make sure your right hand is always touching the hedge and follow that path, but it ended in failure. It’s always fun to think you’re going the right way, and then you reach a dead end. Another place we visited for no apparent reason was a Hello Kitty museum. Although cute, and the food at the cafe there was shaped like Hello Kitty characters, it was supposed to be more for children. In addition, we visited a small park representative of historical South Korea. They were actual buildings from the older times, some gone due to war and destruction, some still standing surrounded by iconic gardens. We were able to dress up like royalty, warriors, and just peasants from the times before. I even got to hold some torture devices and play some games that were popular in the 1300s. It was nice to learn a little history and wear beautiful outfits.
South Korea is also famous for its spicy food. Spicy, but delicious – can you handle it? I couldn’t because I’m an embarrassment. We ate so much that one day my stomach decided to quit and hurt the entire evening. It was in pain, but what hurt more was the shame of not being able to take the spiciness. Regardless, I still ate a lot, it was too good. It hurt so good. We had kimchi (of course), kam ja tang (pork bone soup), grilled black pork with various sides and soups, seafood noodles, deep fried sausages, Jjigae Chongol (hotpot), tangerines, Korean style fried chicken, as well as peanut ice cream (back on Udo). We probably ate more than that, but it’s in my tummy now so the names don’t matter anymore. It was just amazing. And thankfully my friend could speak Korean, so in some places she would ask to make it less spicy for me.
What else? Our flight back to Taipei wasn’t direct so we spent a night in Busan. Instead of a hotel, airbnb, or hostel, we decided to spend the night relaxing in a Jimjilbang. Jimjilbang is a Korean spa. One takes off all their clothes, showers, bathes, and washes themselves in a gender divided room. It’s very warm and very relaxing. I previously had this kind of experience in Iceland, so being naked in this kind of setting isn’t completely usual. In fact, a lady found out I was a bit confused and got me soap, shampoo, a towel, and a toothbrush. She was so friendly that I wish I could say more in Korean than simply 감사합니다 (thank you). Afterwards, my friend and I slept in the communal nap room on the wooden floors. It was quiet, relaxing, and I felt very clean. It was a nice way to end the trip before heading off to the airport and back to the hustle and bustle of life in Taipei.