Difference between revisions of "Jeju"
Revision as of 07:36, 25 March 2012
Jeju Island (제주도,濟州島) , formerly Cheju Island, is an island off the southern coast of South Korea, in the Korea Strait, southwest of Jeollanam-do Province, of which it was a part before it became a separate province in 1946, and more recently Korea's first and only Special Autonomous Province. Its capital is Jeju City.
Jeju Island, also known as the "Island of the Gods," is a popular vacation spot for Koreans and foreigners. It remains the top honeymoon destination for Korean newlyweds, and is also regarded as one of the top honeymoon destinations in the world. Despite attempts to market the island as "the Hawaii of Korea," climatologically and geographically it bears little in similarity to the Hawaiian Islands in the U.S. The island offers visitors a wide range of activities: hiking on Halla-san (South Korea's highest peak) or Olle-gil(routes), catching sunrises and sunsets over the ocean, riding horses, touring all the locales from a favorite television K-drama, or just lying around on the sandy beaches.
Although tourism is one of the main industries on the island, many of the hotels and other tourist areas are run by mainland companies, so much of the income never gets put back into the local economy. Also, since the attractions are geared towards tourists, many of the entrance fees can be hefty (although the locally owned and operated ones tend to be cheaper). Similar to Gyeongju and some other areas, local residents can enter most places for free or for a steeply discounted price.
Jeju is Korea's capital for unusual themeparks and niche commercial attractions. Oddly somewhat of a duopoly has developed on the island with typically two competing variants on the one theme in Jeju-si and Seogwipo-si, respectively. This trend extends even to the most bizarre ideas with pairs of sex, glass, and teddy bear museums all in existence.
The local traditional culture stands in stark contrast to the mainland (and much of Asia) as being matriarchal. Stemming from this basis, and some odd tax reasons, the role of seafood gathering on the island has been dominated by women. As such, a common sight around Jeju's coastline is that of the "haenyo" or "woman diver", a figure that has become somewhat iconic of the island. Perhaps even more iconic are the "dol hareubang" or "grandfather statues", giant basalt statues. You will often see them outside restaurants, plus a few are thrown into any tourism site for good measure.
Jeju has its own English language magazine created by foreign residents on the island – Jeju Life .
Typical mild coastal climate with minimum temperatures just below 0 degree celcius even in winter due to warm currents. Because it is to the South of the mainland, the island has a high mountain area that rises up into the atmosphere significantly, and the wind currents and jet stream move from the mainland to the island, it is in a perfect position to capture frequent moisture. The island is on the border of moderate and subtropical zones. The beach season runs from July to September. The climate features a hot summer, the usual air temperature being 26 °C (highest 33 °C), highest water temperature of upper layers is 28 °C. It has a warm and dry autumn when the air is becoming cooler and water temperature remains as in summer (24 °C) until October. Short and mild winter with snowfalls in the northern part of the island and in highland, while in the southern part farmers harvest tangerines. And finally a warm spring when everything blooms. During all seasons except summer, the island is known for being very windy. It's location in a zone ripe for frequent atmospheric pressure changes ensures almost constant moderate to high winds.
Jeju has two major cities, on the central northern and southern coastlines:
Furthermore, smaller villages dot the coastline and eastern and western interior. The following lists a few of note roughly clockwise from Jeju City:
As the tourist trade in Jeju Island has grown larger in recent years, it is increasingly common to find some taxi drivers who speak English, Japanese and Chinese, especially in Jeju City. The vast majority of service and tourist industry workers, however, are still monolingual.
Natives of Jeju island speak a dialect of Korean that is very different in vocabularies rather than the accent compared to the standard dialect spoken in the Seoul area. But all staff in the tourist industry are required to speak standard Korean, so this will not be a problem in places such as bus terminals, the airport, and most districts in the city.
Jeju international airport (IATA: CJU, ) has a total of 23 airlines providing direct flights (thirteen local, ten international). The vast majority of flights to Jeju are from Gimpo (Seoul's domestic airport) or Busan; there is also one direct flight per week to Incheon, seven direct flights per week to Tokyo Narita, seven to Osaka Kansai, four to Beijing, plus flights to Shanghai Pudong, Nagoya, Shenyang, Fukuoka, Dalian and Changchun. Eastar Jet  also started operation from Jeju to Seoul Gimpo, Gunsan, and Cheongju. Despite being budget airlines, they offer good service and are willing to change flights (including refunding the difference if you change to a cheaper flight), but they can be a challenge to book flights without speaking Korean.
Unfortunately, travel between Jeju and almost anywhere outside of Asia is not very convenient. Most itineraries will require either changing airports (likely in Seoul between Gimpo and Incheon), or spending a night in some other city. Your best bet is to try to sandwich the flight to Jeju between time in other cities in Asia. Jeju airport is undergoing active expansion so keep an eye out as more convenient routes may pop up in the near future.
Ferry access from the mainland is also available. Jeju port has six direct sailing routes. 6% of total travelers come in and out of Jeju by sea.
Services are comparatively infrequent and slow however are reasonable value after factoring in accommodation savings made on overnight ferries. There are daily services from a number of ports:
Buses and taxis are the main method of public transportation. Some locals prefer bicycles to cars especially in areas outside of the Jeju-city metropolitan area. There are places that rent bikes.
Jeju Bus Information System  to find information about the available lines in Jeju Island.
There are four major bus networks on the island:
If arriving at Jeju International Airport, there are two bus stands, one for the inner-city Jeju City bus services, and one for the Airport Limousine service to Seogwipo.
All buses on Jeju utilise Seoul's T-money transportation cards and do not accept Busan Mybi, Daejeon Hakkumi nor Daegu cards.
While the taxi rates are reasonable, the island is large enough that the fares can add up. Hiring a taxi for the day costs about Kw 100 000, but the driver will likely not speak much English, so have the hotel write down the itinerary ahead of time.
Car hire is a good option to see the island's many sights. Hiring an English-speaking tour guide costs about Kw 200 000, plus car expenses (about Kw 50 000 for up to 3 people so a private car can be used, more than that requires a van and a separate driver).
Despite the frequent high winds and heavy precipitation, many people enjoy getting around the island by motorcycle. There are a number of places that offer this, including Mr Lee's bike shop , although the legalities of a foreigner driving a motorcycle on Jeju are unclear. In Seogwipo, there is a motorbike rental shop (perhaps also part of Mr Lee's empire) on the same road as the Little France Hotel (exit the hotel and turn right).
When the weather is adequate, you can ride around on a bike in Jeju much easier than you could in the rest of South Korea. There is less traffic, wider roads and it is possible to travel the island entirely by bicycle.
At 1,950 m (6,400 ft), this is Jeju's most distinctive landmark, and South Korea's highest peak. Furthermore, it is one of Jeju's three UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites.
There are five hiking routes available, only two of which actually goes to Baeknok Lake (Baekrokdam 백록담) at the top. Despite this, the routes terminating at Witse Oreum (윗세오름) are in themselves popular for good reason. Note that the trails are regularly closed and re-opened for conservational reasons. The 1.5 km route linking the trails on the west side and the top of Mt Halla has been closed for some time. Witse Oreum has a manned rest house and a very basic shop that sells coffee and ramen.
All distances listed above are one-way.
Most trails are open all year round, even in the winter. If planning a winter trip, the short trails on the western side are particularly popular, going up Yongsil and down Eorimok or vice-versa, with children and the eldery even being common sights on both . Strap-on crampons (shoe spikes) are however a necessity but if you lack them, the shop at the start of the Yongsil trail sells some for 20,000 won.
Most routes are accessible via bus -- simply state your chosen path at the ticket booth in the inter-city bus terminal -- although in winter the final buses back can leave quite early (around 5). Trails sometimes put up "closed" signs around midday in winter to prevent people getting stuck. Also note that the inter-city buses will drop you at the carpark. The often 1-2 km sealed road walk up to the trail start is not included on trail length approximations on local signage and documentation so bear this in mind.
Continually undergoing extension, the Olle hiking trails are a set of 18 (plus a handful of "bonus" trails on outlying islets) trails that roughly follow the coast in a clockwise fashion. The first trail starts at Malmi Oreum in the northeast (near the famed Seongsan Ilchulbong) and the final terminates in Jocheon, a village just east of Jeju city. Trail length is mostly in the 4-6 hour range so one can be comfortably covered in a day, perhaps two for experienced hikers. Note that some trails, such as Olle-7, require hikers to traverse the island's extremely rocky coastline. It is beautiful, but be prepared with good shoes or boots. Olle-10 in particular is very popular and runs around a pretty peninsula in the south-west of the island.
The trails are well marked: blue arrows point in the forward direction and orange point the reverse (anticlockwise). Blue ganse symbols (like a little wireframe pony) face the forward direction in other places.
Extensive tourism information, directions and maps of the Olle trails (including details of any which are temporarily off-limits) in all the usual-suspect languages can be found at the airport or tourism information centres such as the one at Jungmun.
"Olle" itself is the Jeju-dialect word for the pathway connecting a house to the road, and is used as somewhat of an invitation to explore the island.
For more information, visit JejuOlle website. 
Most ATMs on Jeju do not accept foreign ATM/Debit cards for cash withdrawls; most of the few that do are located in the city of Jeju. So get all the cash you can at the airport, especially if you are not staying in Jeju City.
In Seogwipo, there's a BK Star bank, East of Jeunghang Rotary which accepts foreign cards. Also, it seems that most Family Mart which have an ATM inside work with foreign cards too.
Souvienier shops, craft stores and fruit stands exist almost everywhere on the island, but if you are looking for more mundane daily goods, your best bet is to head into Jeju City or Seogwipoi which have the usual array of Korean conveniences including some Lottes and an unusually high proportion of E-marts (both of which also contain large souvenier shops).
The people of Jeju have evolved various lifestyles, depending on whether they live in fishing villages, farm villages, or mountain villages so specialties vary within the region. Life in the farm villages was centered on farming, as it did around fishing or diving fishery in fishing villages, and did around dry-field farming or mushroom/mountain-green gathering in the mountain areas. As for agriculture, the production of rice is little. Instead, beans, barley, millets, buckwheat, and dry-field(upland) rice are the major items.
The most well known fruit is the hallabong. It has been grown here as early as the era of the Three Kingdoms, and were offered as presents to kings along with abalone as special products of Jeju. Pork from black-haired pigs is also a local specialty.
Foods from Jeju mainly made with saltwater fish, vegetables, and seaweed, and are usually seasoned with soybean paste. Salt water fish is used to make soups and gruels, and pork and chicken are used to make pyeonyuk (sliced boiled meat). The number of dishes set on a table is small and few seasoings are used. And usually, small numbers of ingredients are required to make dishes native to Jeju. The key to making Jeju-style foods is to keep the ingredient's natural flavor. The taste of the food is generally a bit salty, probably because foods are easily spoiled due to the warm temperature. In Jeju, there is no need to prepare Kimchi for the winter as in mainland Korea. It is quite warm during the winter and Chinese cabbages are left in the field. When they do prepare Kimchi for the winter, they tend to make few kinds and small amounts.
Restaurants are scattered across the entire island, usually near highway intersections, but the majority naturally lie aroun the coast and particularly in the urban centers of Jeju City and Jungmun/Seogwipo.
For non-Korean dining, the best option is Gecko's near Seogwipo (see details in the drinking section). In Jeju city there are some options. There is a Mexican restaurant near City Hall/Sinsan Park named El Paso that apparently serves up mediocre but passable Mexican fare. In Shin-jeju there is also an Indian restaurant named Rajmahal that serves up quality spicy Indian dishes. There is also another place with Pakistani/Indian cuisine called Baghdad Cafe around the City Hall/Sinsan Park area.
The local specialty soju is named Hallasan Soju and runs 1000 to 3000 won a bottle.
Except for Gecko's in the South, there aren't any other genuine Western pubs on the island, but there are some good options. In Jeju city, all the real partying establishments are located in Shin-Jeju, about a 5,000 taxi ride from Jeju city proper. Some of the establishments in this area rumored to be worthwhile are La Vie, Boris Brewery, Modern Time, Blue Agave, and GP.
There is also Led Zeppelin, a vinyl bar which as the name suggests is focused on album-oriented rock, and has a massive selection of records, CDs, tapes, and DVDs. Song requests are the main pastime and the sound-system rules. Off the main drag in Shin-jeju next to the Indian restaurant.
If you are not looking for luxury, minbak (guesthouses) abound on Jeju, and due to its reputation as a honeymoon getaway, there is a wide variety of other accommodation. Outside of the peak tourist seasons (such as Korean national holidays and July-August summer holiday season), and as long as all you're looking for is a clean affordable room, don't be afraid to come to Jeju and find accommodation as you travel. In Jeju, Seogwipo and the smaller towns there is an abundance of rooms in small guesthouses with character.
As in most places in Korea, right next to the bus terminal in Jeju city there are several motels, around 30,000 each a night. Three directly next to the bus parking area are You-cheong, Oh-cheon, and Nam-san. Although you will need to read Korean to recognize these names, it's fairly obvious as all three are in a row with lit signs and the ubiquitous motel logo of Korea.
For larger hotels, the majority are located in the urban centres of Jeju City and Seogwipo with the most luxurious 5-star options on the entire island within Seogwipo's Jungmun Tourist Resort Complex. Refer to the individual city pages for listings.
For budget travellers, jjimjillbangs are pretty ubiquitous in Jeju City but outside of the capital city's limits, the only other jjimjillbang options exist under the World Cup Stadium in Seogwipo.
While South Korea in general is a remarkably safe country, the crime rate on Jeju is even lower. In fact, Jeju has the lowest crime rate in the whole country. Violent crime is almost non-existent, although just like in all tourist hubs, there are a number of pickpockets, so you should still remain vigilant.
Take the regular precautions whilst hiking: ask locals about course conditions and tell someone where you are going. In reality, hiking in Korea tends to be something akin to ant-trail winding up a mound, but in Winter, when the buses terminate early, and it gets dark early you could run into trouble. Seek and follow local advice from the base huts and be sure to depart before the daily course closure time.
Other parts around the south coast, even near Jungmun are rockfall regions. The signs are often not in English, so if you're near a cliff or cave and see an obvious Korean warning sign, this is a fair assumption as to what it says.
Short of chartering your own boat or light aircraft, your options are Incheon, Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Cheongju (Daejeon), Gunsan, Mokpo and Wando domestically and various ports in China or Japan internationally. Take your pick.