Two Weeks in South Korea: Day 3 – Climbing Hallasan

We woke early today to a rather foreboding sky. The weather reports had been telling us for ages that today was going to have a few hours of rain… but they were wrong about yesterday so we figured it might not be too bad. So we demolished some instant ramen sans cutlery (mine being a black bean noodle pot), bought energy bars and water from the convenience store next door and started making our way to the beginning of the trail.

Hallasan is the tallest mountain in South Korea and has a number of trails that allow you to scale it. We went for the Seonpanak trail as it got us to the top whilst also being the gentlest (and so the longest at 10km). In preparation for this I actually bought some hiking poles because I heard the terrain was uneven at the top and wanted to make sure that my knees didn’t turn to mush partway through the ascend. Well, these purple poles of mine might be the best £20 I’ve spent for a holiday as not only did they save my knees but they gave me some confidence with balance when my confidence was failing.

The reason we even decided to climb this mountain was for a view of the gorgeous looking crater lake but, as you can see from this picture, the mists had rolled in. Still, we remained optimistic as sometimes mountains can punch through the clouds. Everyone else on the trail remained optimistic too. There was a man blasting ABBA from his phone, to the point that I started to sing along to ‘Andante, Andante’. People smiled and were considerate of overtakers and passers by. Hell, there were times where people were telling us how well we were doing, or I just initiated the Korean cheer of “Fighting” as I climbed down in order to spur on those going up.

I’m not going to mince words though, we saw absolutely nothing. I think we actually climbed into a cloud as it was actually hailing and extremely windy near the summit. There was a point where a gust caught me the wrong way and I could feel it trying to wrench the glasses off of my face, which made me feel incredibly scared for my own safety. At that point I knew all the crows at the bottom of the trail were making the flight up for my potential corpse.

List item: Climb a taller mountain
Progress: Completed

Still though, we made it to the top and to say that me, who is not in great physical shape (although I have recently lost 55 pounds) got to the climbable peak of South Korea’s tallest mountain is something that I am so incredibly proud of. Not sure I would do this again though, but at least I can say I’ve done it.

The way down was a lot easier than the way up… and drier. On the way up I got soaked to the skin and on the way down I started to dry off. It gave me the chance to take some pictures and appreciate the beautiful surroundings that I had climbed through, which was nice. Just wish it hadn’t taken another four hours to reach the bottom again. However, I did get a neat certificate out of it stating that I’d climbed the mountain, which I kinda want to frame and hang with my hiking poles.

We refuelled with some local orange juice (or is it mandarin, I’m not sure) and powerade before returning to the hotel and having a good rest and shower before heading out again for the evening. Where to? To Love Land, one of Jeju’s weirder attractions.

Essentially, Love Land is a sculpture park filled with depictions of sex or things of a sexual nature. However, in an over the top and quite tacky way. It’s a bit of a throwback to when Jeju was a top honeymoon destination, so you have this and the museum of sex as a way to spur on the production of offspring. It begins seedy and funny enough with some of the really weird sculptures, but things take a turn at the end of the tour.

The person who commissioned or made these statues at the end would have been a favourite patients of Freud. They all appear to depict the same man being coerced into sex with the same older woman – with titles like ‘You Can’t Escape’. Granted this is a park that began with a funny gimmick and just pounded it into the ground, but man did these sculptures get dark toward the end.

By the time we left Love Land it was eight in the evening and we hadn’t had a proper meal all day. Originally I wanted to go to a famous seafood place in the city that was known for their seafood stews with abalone, but then I learned how the octopus and abalone was cooked alive in front of you and tried to escape the pot. I know it makes me a hypocrite, but I can’t do that.

So we ended up going for a different place… and then for the address wrong completely as we ended up with this gorgeous spicy beef stew whose name I later found out was yukgaejang. It was exactly the hearty sort of meal that we needed at the end of the day and it came with a gorgeous plate of fish cakes on the side and the most lovely server ever.

Seriously, this Korean woman was in full auntie mode with us, telling us it was okay if we found it too spicy because a customer in the corner was clearly having trouble. She even gave us extra fish cakes and some warm milk with black pepper to help my husband with the afterburn. It was such a wonderful experience and I want to adopt her.

And that’s the end of the final full day in Jeju. We really haven’t been here for long enough to see everything we wanted to see, but we fly out to Busan in the later afternoon, which means we can squeeze in one more attraction as long as I finish this post quickly enough and get to bed. And on that note!

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