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Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.

Journal Entry:

Monday, August 22, 2016 15:06:00

Asia 2016: 11 - Jeju Island, South Korea

Friday, August 19, 2016

Breakfast in the hotel was $25 each, so we went across the street to McDonald's where breakfast was $7 for both of us. Our guide who is also our driver was a Korean girl, Janice - she was about half an hour early. We had to check out of the hotel, as we are now part of a prepaid tour and they are using the Amber Hotel in Jeju, which is also very nice. We are on the third floor - there is no fourth floor as it is considered unlucky.

Jeju Island measures 73km by 31km (45mi X 19mi) and had a population of about 600,000. It is a volcanic island, with lots of inactive volcanoes, the largest in the center of the island is 1,900m (6,232ft) high with a lake in the caldera. According to Janice unemployment on the island is only 2.5%. 40% of jobs and income is from tourism, then oranges, fishing third and green tea. It is one of 8 provinces in Korea. The roads on the island are paved and in good shape with excellent signage.

Our first stop was in the horse breeding area of the island. There is an indoor arena with a show featuring Mongolian horsemen who showed off their amazing ability on horses. They did things like jumping onto the back of a galloping horse, then onto the shoulders of the rider to shoot an arrow into the bulls-eye of a target. Some of the stunts had to be seen to be believed. The backdrop was a film of Gengis Khan and his army. There were also some quite good acrobats, but the horsemen made the show.

The tour visited Dragon Head Rock, Sehwa beach where people were swimming in the 20C water, and the large Dongmun Market, which has large quantities of live seafood and lots of fruit and vegetables. I tried to buy 4 oranges from a lady, who grabbed 4 I wasn't impressed with and put them into a bag. When I picked out ones I wanted she told me on no uncertain terms that she would make the choice, not me. (Janice was translating) She didn't get the sale!! They are pretty independent in markets here, there is little bargaining.

At Seongup Folklore Village there are traditional houses and fences made of volcanic rock. What is special are the thatched roofs. Layers of reed and straw thatch are put on the roof, then tied down by horizontal and vertical ropes all connected to one another making a pattern about 1 foot square. Each of the ropes is tied to a bamboo pole under the eves against severe winter storms.

Lunch was black pork, for which the island is famous. Janice took us to a specialty restaurant where several dishes of various accompaniments were laid out, and a charcoal fire set in the middle of our table. The elderly lady who owned the restaurant then took great care in the cooking of each piece of meat, having cut them to chopstick size with kitchen scissors. We were the only customers, so had special attention. The pork was delicious.

Once settled into the hotel we decided to venture forth in search of a light dinner. That didn't work out well, as a restaurant Marilynn spotted with vent pipes going to the center of each table from the roof intrigued her. It turned out to be vent pipes for fire to cook the only item on the menu, black pork.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

We started at a green tea museum, then to the Cheeonjeyeon Waterfall. The first fall had no water, but a beautiful deep, emerald green pool at the bottom. I didn't go to the next fall due to the large number of steps, but I got the impression it wasn't too impressive. There is little water in the rivers this time of the year. There are entry fees to all attractions, ours were included in the trip price.

The next stop was the Jusangeolli Cliffs, where a flow of lava was cooled by the ocean into 5 or 6 sided pillars, looking very much like a huge bee hive. It covered quite a large area, going from water level to high cliffs. We passed the 42,000 seat sports stadium, built in 2002 for world cup football.

After driving through miles of greenhouses growing oranges we arrived at a big Buddhist Temple that was built 20 years ago on the site of a more ancient building. Buddhism is the religion of 59% of Koreans according to our guide, although others disagreed. The building is in the traditional style of most temples, complete with drums and bells. It looks over the ocean where a refreshing breeze helped lower the high temperature.

Lunch today was abalone. It was expensive, but very well done, in another little restaurant known to our guide. Once again, there were a variety of accompanying dishes surrounding the main feature. On the way back to Jeju City we went to Mystery Road. There is an amazing place where it appears the road goes up a long hill, however Janice stopped the car at the bottom of the hill, turned off the engine & put it in neutral and it rolled away on its own, obviously downhill in spite of the illusion of going up.

Janice said the Korean language and writing was invented about 1443. In Korea, when babies are born they are considered to be one year old. Birthdays are not celebrated, everyone in the country adds one year on Chinese New Year's Day. So a baby born shortly before New Years would be 2 years old very quickly!

After a siesta we headed out in search of something small to eat. We stopped at one little place with tables along the street for beer where Marilynn asked if they knew a place we could get wine. It is not popular here, and few places have it, so Marilynn has had to drink the good local beer. He mentioned a restaurant 5 blocks away. When we entered we were told it was by reservation only, with all patrons seated around a cooking area. The owner agreed we could sit at the bar share a bottle of wine.

First peanuts were sent as a snack, but then the chef brought us a plate of the most amazingly prepared food. Apparently it was a fixed price multi-course super gourmet meal that the others had paid for, but when we made such a fuss over how good the food was they included us in all courses, each served personally by the talented chef, who explained by gesture (no English was spoken) which sauces to use and so on. They were also fascinated to learn we were from Costa Rica, which the chef looked up on his phone. At the end of many courses, each with its own distinctive delicate flavours, we were introduced to three men at the end of the table. As best we could figure out they had either picked up the tab for us, or encouraged the chef to include us. At any rate, we paid for our wine and sake but they would not accept money for the food. There was lots of hand shaking and hugs when we left. The restaurant was SATO, a Teppanyaki Wine Restaurant.

While stumbling home we stopped for another unnecessary beer each (they come litre size) at the place that recommended the restaurant to thank them. It is interesting that beer here is served with the cap still on, and a bottle opener is left on the table.