Jeju Island is a semi-tropical paradise off the Korean peninsula. It was formed some 2 million years ago from a series of volcanic eruptions which left behind some simply spectacular scenery.
It’s a great place for nature lovers. Many people come here to climb to the top of the island’s central crater, which is actually the highest point in South Korea. Koreans list this as one of the things they need to do before they die.
Clouds swirl around Hallasan’s peak and Koreans say it reflects the mood of the Gods. It’s a bit of a grueling slog, so getting up early is recommended. Setting out first thing in the morning also means you’ll avoid the crowds.
The walk takes around six hours but once you get there, you’re rewarded with some of the most spectacular scenery you’ll ever see. You’ll also see the surprising sight of small lakes dotted around the pinnacle.
But there’s more to Jeju Island than just the walk to the top of Hallasan and perhaps the best way to experience slow-paced island life is to travel by bicycle. Depending on your pace, you can travel right around the island’s coastal highway in three to five days. For the less physically fit, scooters and cars can be easily rented and are no less an enjoyable way to travel.
There’s also a glut of accommodation on Jeju. Turning up with no reservation is no problem—even in high season (July/August) there’s plenty of availability. And your food choices are almost unlimited. One local specialty is “Jung-Shik“, which basically means a set-menu. It is made up of soup, rice, meat or fish and an array of kimchi (a delicious spiced cabbage dish) and other side-dishes. It varies by restaurant and by day, but one thing is certain: it’s filling, delicious and always cheap (around $5).
Seafood options abound and if you’re adventurous, try it Korean style: as fresh as possible…and raw. You can find old ladies set-up on the rocky shores next to tourist sites selling their still-wiggling wares. Sometimes, they’ll even have caught it themselves, by holding their breath and diving into the sea to explore nooks and crannies. Point out what you want—they’ll clean and cut it up for you right there on the rocks. Dip it in some salt, or hot pepper sauce, and enjoy the freshest meal you’ll ever eat.
Then there’s the famous hoek-dwae-ji (Black Pig). It’s served up at a table-top BBQ with rice, side-dishes and lettuce wraps. Wash it down with some beer or soju (rice wine) and piping hot kimchi stew.
Getaways to Eastern treasures like Jeju become part of life when you work as an English Teacher in Asia. Long weekends and lengthy summer vacations make it all possible.
Editor’s Note: A long weekend in the ultra-modern cultural melting pot of Singapore…a week spent exploring Cambodia’s ancient Angkorian ruins…a month of soaking up sun on the legendary white-sand islands of southern Thailand—when you’re an English teacher overseas the world has a way of opening up to you. You can be trained up in weeks and jobs are easy to come by. This is the shortcut to an overseas life you’ve been waiting for.