Two Weeks in South Korea: Day 2 – The Waterfalls of Jeju

Well there was no rain today – sadly that got pushed to tomorrow in the exact time slot where we planned to go mountain hiking. But where there was no rain we made for with jet lag, dehydration and fannying about in the morning having to buy a new travel card as we were sold the incorrect one in the airport yesterday.

But a near constant dehydration headache didn’t stop me on my first full day in Taiwan and it won’t here in South Korea. So, we skipped breakfast in order to make up for some lost time and took a bus to the other side of the island to visit the first of three waterfalls that we were going to see today. Now, I need to be careful with names here as two of the three waterfalls have basically the same name.

Our first visit was to the Cheonjeyeon Falls, which is an area made of three waterfalls and the beautifully ornate Seonimgyo Bridge that soars across the valley. Amazingly we’d arrived in the final day of a festival to celebrate the fairies of the area – so it was free entrance for the weekend and that meant more money towards souvenirs.

To see the falls means a nice stroll up and down a number of walkways surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and the sounds of water mixed with birdsong. It was busy enough, but then there would be some prolonged periods where it felt like the nature was just there for us to enjoy. This really was a great start to our first proper day in Korea and it got us acquainted with a lot of things that are likely to be recurring themes whilst in Jeju.

First is the abundance of these guys. Pretty much everywhere you go on the island you see a variation on these stone men. They were originally put up as guardians and are carved from the bountiful basalt that comes from being a volcanic island. We were also followed around by the smell and the appearance of Jeju’s big crop: mandarin oranges. We ended up having some of these as a freshly squeezed juice to refuel us after the first falls and it might be some of the best fruit juice I’ve ever had.

I backtracked a bit down the road to get some final pictures before boarding the bus to take us to put next location… or so Google Maps told us before we realised that it had instructed us to get off a bit too early.

But this gave us a chance to make some lemonade by finding a beautiful park walk decked out with sculptures and a fountain that partially led us to the falls and made me glad for the error. Sometimes special things can happen when plans go awry.

Anyway, we eventually found our way to the coast which meant that it was our second destination of the day: Cheonjiyeon Falls. The entrance was substantially more built up, which is how we ended up with this rather lovely cheese filled octopus as a mid-afternoon snack.

The waters here are so clear and clean that koi carp are happy to call it home. Just so clear and blue, which makes for another beautiful waterfall. On a sunny day like today, the waterfall just looks like it is sparkling and, sadly, I was unable to get a picture of the small rainbow that appeared at the bottom. It really was one of those sites that I felt the need to stick around for a while to make sure I took it all in.

Our next destination was not a planned one, but I saw a pretty bridge 700 metres away and I wanted to investigate. This is how we ended up on the island of Saesom – an island that used to produce crops to make thatched roofs and was not connected to the main island until 2009. Instead of just making a regular bridge, they made something pretty beautiful to make the connection, which would also be one hell of a wind tunnel.

The island itself was nice and gave some great views of Seogwipo harbour. It also gave me more attempts to take a photo that did Saeyeongyo bridge some justice and to enjoy some very jovial Korean pensioners who were laughing and singing up a storm as they were doing their own turn about the island.

Rather than get on the bus again, we thought it would be nicer to walk to our final destination and take in some more of Seogwipo by wandering along the sea front and their main food street. At this point it was about four in the afternoon and we had to resist the urge to indulge in some freshly grilled seafood as we had big dinner plans for the evening.

Our final stop was Jeongbang Falls, which are fairly unusual as they are a waterfall that falls into seawater. It makes for a spectacular view as the waters crash onto the rocks below before entering the sea. It also makes for a lot of tourists, me included, that end up clambering over said rocks in order to get a better look at the falls. Worth it just for the spray alone.

So that was it for the waterfall tour and it was going to be a bus ride back to Jeju City for an early dinner so we could get plenty of rest for tomorrow. The big traffic jam had other ideas, so we ended up having a fairly regularly timed dinner that may be one of the best meals I’ve had on holiday.

Yesterday I had a local specialty and today I was going to have the food I’ve been looking forward to most on Jeju: Jeju Black Pig. Not only that, I had it as the meat in my first ever Korean BBQ experience. As they cooked this gorgeous pork in front of me, I knew what it must be like to be a wolf standing outside of a farm – my mouth would have been overflowing if not for the kimchi-jjigae that we got on the side.

Being a Korean BBQ it meant that I was mindful to follow whatever rules and etiquette there was about putting the various fixings together, but everyone seems to be doing their own thing so I just dove in making my own lettuce wraps with the picked radish, spring onions, kimchi etc. This was truly a glorious meal, which makes me keen to try more of this type of BBQ in the future.

So that’s the end of the first full day on Jeju. Tomorrow is going to be a bit different as we will be attempting to climb Halla-san, the tallest mountain in the country. It is set to rain all morning, but I have hiking poles that’ll hopefully equal that out. Will I reach the top before they start sending people away for being too late? God I hope so, just got to make sure to get plenty of rest and stock up on snacks and energy bars to keep me going!

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