I was very lucky to get an EPIK placement in Seogwipo, Jeju Island. If you are teaching English on the mainland, you should definitely make a point of checking out Jejudo. It is the top honeymoon destination in Asia, and is often compared to Hawaii (though in the winter that comparison falls pretty flat). Jeju Island has been named one of the new seven natural wonders of the world because of its many unique natural characteristics. Jejudo is the place to go for hiking, water sports, and scenery. It’s perfectly suited to anyone who loves the outdoors, and is an excellent getaway from the fast paced lifestyle of mainland Korea.
At the center of the island is the stunning Halla Mountain, the tallest mountain in Korea. On a nice day, this mountain takes about eight hours to climb, and offers a stunning view of the island and ocean beyond. The climb itself is not terribly difficult, but depending on the time of the year you may need to have crampons on your shoes for the climb down.
If a shorter mountain climb is more your speed you can check out Sunrise Peak (Seongsan Ilchubon) on the east side of the island. This is the iconic volcanic crater with a field of bright green grass growing inside. This beautiful craggy mountain takes about twenty to thirty minutes to climb up a well maintained stairway. At the peak, you sit along the crest and take in the view of the crater and ocean in front of you, and the island behind you. If you’re romantic, Sunrise Peak is the most easterly point of the island, so as its name suggests, it is the ideal place to view the sunrise.
One of my favorite things I’ve done since coming to the island is diving with the henyas at Sanbangsan. Henyas are female divers, famous on Jeju Island. For about 30,000 won the old women will take you out to dive for crustaceans. We were provided with a wet suit and snorkeling gear and lead into the ocean with floating nets for gathering everything we could catch, which was practically nothing compared to the skilled henyas, who can hold their breath for minutes at a time. These are some tough adjumas (old women) who were literally schooling a group of 20 somethings with their ability to swim, dive, and haul equipment. Henyas are one of the reasons that old women on the island are treated with a huge amount of respect. Adjumas everywhere in Korea are to be respected, but on the island in particular, they can, and will, whip young people in to shape. After retrieving a sorry amount of crustaceans, the henyas brought us back up to the restaurant they run and fed us our catch along with a few bottles of soju and beer, and they happily demonstrated that fishing is not the only thing they are better than 20 year olds at.
Sanbangsan also has a beautiful Buddhist temple, which you can’t miss on your way into town. Take the time to explore it and climb the mountain to the second temple where you can drink the spring water dripping from the ceiling of a cave and say a prayer. Also be sure to walk around Dragon’s Head rock to see the beautiful rock formation along the ocean.
Jeju is a beautiful province, with so many sights to see! I moved here in September, so I’ve yet to see the spring and summer, which are meant to be mind-blowingly beautiful here. I will surely have more to say about it in the future so be sure to check back for more fun things to do and see when you visit Jeju.
Sarah completed Ontesol’s 250-hour TESOL Diploma and a 20-hour Practicum.