Our second day was spent exploring the east side of the island and we were all ready for it after a good night’s rest at the Four Seasons hotel! 😂
We hired a private driver to bring us around for two days as private transport in Jeju is generally limited. Our second-day itinerary focused on the best of natural volcanic formations on the island and brought us to these places:
- Manjanggul Lava Tube
- Seongsan Ilchubong
- Sangumburi Crater
We did the city area on the first day with the Jeju city bus! Read more here.
Manjanggul Lava Tube
We started with the UNESCO world heritage site – the Manjanggul Lava Tube. It is one of the longest of its kind in the world.
Although the cave is more than 13 km long, only about 1 km is open to public. A walk in the cave should take no more than an hour.
To enter the cave, you will need to descend some steep steps. I recommend that you get some good shoes as the ground was slightly damp and slippery.
As we entered, the first thing we noticed was the cool air. Some articles put the temperature of the cave at 11 to 22 degree celsius and I imagine it would be an excellent respite for the locals and travellers during summer. The interior was also dimly lit and the path uneven so we had to trek slowly.
At the end of the path was a lava column, which unfortunately came across as slightly underwhelming for us. People who are into geography or just more knowledgeable than us, will know that this is the tallest lava column in the world, standing at 7.6 m.
Our next stop was the Sunrise Peak, a tuff cone formed from a volcanic eruption. The cone, shaped very much like a mountain cut off and scooped in, is said to offer one of the most gorgeous sunrises in Jeju.
You will need to conquer many steps to reach the summit (reiterating in case the picture above isn’t self-explanatory enough). We were panting profusely and had to recover ourselves at the viewing deck for a while but the climb was worth it. The air was super fresh and the verdant landscape against the grids of houses was beautiful.
Take a breather at the viewing deck as you gear yourself for the downward leg.
After you descend, you can watch the female divers as they demonstrate their capabilities in the free show at the beach. Recognised as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity, these divers often have to go 10 m deep into the ocean without any breathing apparatus to gather food.
Unfortunately, we were too tired after the climb to go down the cliff for the show.
Instead, we just hung around and took whatever photos we could without expending more energy. ;D
We ended the trek with a hallabong ice cream, which was surprisingly good! A good pick-me-up after the workout.
Traditional Korean lunch
We were not huge fans of Korean food nor were we adventurous with our choice of food so we opted for something familiar – Kimchi stew. We quickly found out that stew was “jigae” in Korean and asked our driver, in a combination of broken korean and hand gestures, to recommend and bring us to a restuarant with kimchi-jigae.
I’m glad he understood us.
Our lunch was in a typical local restaurant and we ordered kimchi and abalone stew (not pictured) plus some stir-fry black pork. The pork was pretty pricey, about $25 for the plate. As usual, the meal came with lots of side dishes, but thankfully, they had mostly recognisable ingredients. (We went to a barbecue restaurant on the third day and there was this black leaf side dish which had a mortifying taste…)
Re-energised, we headed to Seopjikoji next. Seopjikoji is located at the east coast of Jeju and features a beautiful basalt coastline and clear waters.
There was a light house open to visitors but we weren’t feeling up to climb another long flight of stairs. We contented ourselves with pictures from the bottom of the stairs.
There was the glass house restaurant and I imagine it would be nice sipping on a hot latte inside, looking over a beautiful meadow of flowers.
The glass house is designed by Tadao Ando and it was the first of his architecture I visited in person, even though I didn’t know at the time.
A short distance away was Genius Loci, also by the Japanese master, and it was a pity to have missed it as I didn’t know about it until I wrote this post.
Our next and last stop was yet another volcanic wonder; Sangumburi is a crater that’s more than 2 km wide and home to a diverse amount of plants and animals. The crater was covered with a lush, verdant carpet of vegetation that looked absolutely inviting though access was prohibited since the area was of important scientific value.
The park extended into endless green fields and made for a serene stroll with the most gorgeous, uninhibited scenery.
Tip: Visit in autumn to see the breathtaking silver field of pampas!
Our driver sent us back to the hotel slightly before 6 PM and we were basically left fretting about dinner. Our recce around the vicinity last night left us disappointed as there was hardly any restaurants around (save for the ginseng chicken one).
And then a fried chicken advert came up on the television and before we knew it, we got the reception’s help to order a three-flavour platter set from Nene chicken, one of the popular fried chicken restaurant chains in South Korea.
For about $35, we had a platter that was way too much for the three of us to finish but it was a pretty decent meal that locals would probably approve. 🙂
If you will like to get the contact number of the driver we engaged in Jeju, feel free to drop me a comment on this post with your email address or contact me at email@example.com. Our driver was not the most friendly person but he was reliable and helpful, and always there to help us take photos!