In Search of Real Mermaids

Do you sometimes feel that you are in your own movie (The Truman Show comes to mind) sometimes?  Like life somehow knows of your plan and all the travel shows you watch somehow relate to where you were planning to go next.  This happened a lot but I specifically remember it for Jeju.  We were just having our usual crash on the couch and watch a bit of TV before bed with our mates when suddenly on TV are the Haenyos of Jeju (Diving Ladies).  It gave me a bit more reason to visit the island.

So on our usual escape out of the Island last September of 2011, we decided to give South Korea a try.  We’ve included Jeju in our itinerary with a specific goal other than the awesome view: to see and talk to a Haenyo.

So from Seoul Gimpo Airport, we boarded our Jeju Air flight to Jeju Island.  Since I never looked at the map properly, I was shocked when we were trying to land.  The island is HUGE!  I really thought we took the wrong way and were landing on the wrong island.  It was no wonder that it takes one hour from the airport to get to our hostel.  We were actually very lucky that the owner herself was in Jeju at that time.  She was the one who picked us up and accompanied us to have dinner.

We stayed at Ssari’s Flower Hill, a hostel  owned by the same people who run Seoul Guest House.  It is a concrete bungalow on the outside, and all Hinoki (Japanese Cypress) interiors.  It is the perfect place to relax after a whole day of travelling.  The room smelled so nice and the interiors are just perfect.  They also have 2 huge dogs who are just the sweetest.

There’s a lot of things you can do in Jeju so don’t be like us and just allot at least 3 days there.  There’s Seongsun Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak) — a UNESCO heritage site meaning castle hill.  A must see site.  It takes a while to reach the top but the view and the place is amazing on it’s own.  People actually climb up there to see the sunrise — hence the name.

We were fortunate that our landlady was such a sweetheart and dropped us off the next day near the base of Seongsun Ilchulbong.  So off we went to climb up to the peak where the view is spectacular but make sure you have enough water as it was quite a long hike.  I wouldn’t even think of climbing the higher one which was Hallasan until maybe I’ve trained for it.

After climbing down, we opted to walk to the pier to head towards Udo Island (Cow Island).  Udo Island is where they shot some part of the movie Il Mare of which the movie The Lakehouse was based on.  Once there, Jore saw simple modes of transportation that she decided to rent and force me to drive.  Good thing she rented a golf buggy and not some ATV.

We chugged along with me panicking every once in a while.  I had a scary thought running through my mind: If they didn’t check if I had a driver’s license, then what about the rest of the drivers zooming around the island…

Without much incident, we parked and had a little stroll along the beach where Il Mare was shot with Jore waiting for her Lee Jung-jae.

By the way, remember the goal of meeting a Haenyo?  We got to see a lot in action.  We ran into one but she was quite busy and only was able to say “Hello” to her.  The rest were all out at sea diving.  It was amazing how we just stared at them while they were out there doing their thing in the cold sea.

After chasing Haenyos, we explored the rest of the beautiful Udo and returned our rental vehicle.  Once arriving at the port, we took a cab to the Teddy Bear Museum at Jungmun.  Since, we are talking about taking cab, I suggest you take a cab service if you want to explore the island as it could easily cost you an arm and a leg just to keep on hailing cabs from the streets.  Our cab fare from Seongsan Pier to Jung Mun was a whopping 58,000 KRW which is more than I pay for a night stay in Jeju!  If you rented a cab for the whole day, they would only charge you around 100,000 KRW.

There’s a lot of other places in Jeju that we wished we could have seen.  We wanted to follow the Olle Trails but didn’t have the time nor cycling skills.  We’ll learn how to ride a bike, then we will be back, Jeju.