Situated in a most ideal setting, Jeju is a South Korean island in the Korea Strait. The largest island in Korea, it is defined by its volcanic landscape full of craters, cavelike lava tubes, and being an island of sky and sea.
Jeju island is also known to be a pretty magical place, with its magnificent rocks and roaring winds, and offerings of spectacular views from just about anywhere on the island!
It’s no wonder that more often than not, tourists can’t help but fall head over heels in love with Jeju. Me, including :)
I was fortunate enough to have been given an opportunity to explore the charming countryside Jeju, thanks to AirAsia X and Korea Tourism Organisation. In short, it took my breath away – a couple of times, in fact. But if you’re interested in going there someday, here are some things you’d want to look out for on the island:
1. Hallasan Mountain (한라산)
The dormant volcano Hallasan Mountain on Jeju island is everywhere you look. This is because Hallasan is a massive shield volcano which forms the bulk of Jeju island, and it’s hard for it to not get in the way of your view. It’s so prominent that locals say, “Jeju is Hallasan, Hallasan is Jeju” because the Hallasan Mountain represents the island itself. If you’d like a closer look at the mountain, there are 5 hiking trails available, some more demanding than others. The shortest route, the Yeongsil Hiking Trail, is about 5.8km-long (one way) and it takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes to make a round trip to the top. Once you get up there, you may feast your eyes on the magnificent scenery and the crater lake at the 1,950m summit.
2. Udo Maritime Park aka Udo Island (우도해양도립공원)
Take a ferry out to just a little off Jeju island to see the Udo Maritime Park, otherwise known as Udo island. Udo has its very own local heritage such as fertile soils (thanks to the volcanic rocks) enough to farm peanuts, abundant schools of fish, stone walls, female divers, as well as other natural attractions. Tourists (like me!) will also love it for its amenities e.g. fishing, bike trails, sand massaging, submarine tours, and cruises. I especially loved the coral beach Seobin Baeksa, said to be one of the most popular Udo island tourists attractions, for its white sand and the bluest of all blue seas. There’s also a black beach (read: volcanic/lava rocks) that’s quite a sight to behold. Makes for many, many beautiful pictures!
3. Joanne Bear Museum (조안베어뮤지엄)
There has never been a sleuth of bears cuter than those that I saw at the Joanne Bear Museum! But first, a little history lesson. The Joanne Bear Museum is a gallery exhibition hall for Joanne Oh, a world-famous teddy bear maker. She first shot to fame for creating “joon bears” that were based on Bae Yong-joon of “Winter Sonata”. Since then, she has worked on more teddy bears that are made of all-natural materials, and has made more based on other notable characters i.e. President Barack Obama. But her bears aren’t just for showcase because visitors may purchase a “joon bear” of their own at the museum’s souvenir shop. The Joanne Bear Museum also has a cafe, a backyard garden, and a rooftop where visitors can go to enjoy the view.
4. Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak (성산일출봉)
If you’re not into tough hikes (read: Hallasan Mountain) but still want to soak in a great view, then the Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak is your jam. Located on the eastern end of Jeju island, Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak rose from under the sea in a volcanic eruption some 100,000 years ago. There’s a huge crater about 600m in diameter and 90m high at the top of Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak. With the 99 sharp rocks surrounding the crater, it looks like a gigantic crown. But the one thing that the peak is especially famous for its view during sunrise, said to be pretty magnificent. And in spring, the Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak surrounded by pretty and bright yellow-coloured rapeseed flowers. Wouldn’t you like to go for a leisurely stroll at place like that? ;)
5. Samgumburi Crater (산굼부리)
It wasn’t until I went to Jeju island that I discovered “glorified lalang” as tall as I am. It has a real name, of course – pampas grass. And it can be found at the Sangumburi crater. With a circumference of over 2km, the Samgumburi crater has been designated as a Natural Monument. Unlike the other craters on Jeju island, Samgumburi is a flat crater and about 650 metres wide, and kinda looks like a man-made circular stadium from above. Locals call it the “baby crater” and they love it for its variety of plants but I was there in Autumn so I didn’t get to see the different kinds of trees and plants, or the rare winter strawberries. Samgumburi crater is also a popular location for filming, as it has been featured in K-Dramas such as “Love Wind, Love Song” (1999) and “Goddess of Marriage” (2013).
I got my tangerine farmer skillz on while I was in Jeju! The farms are an abundance, seen along the highways as well as the smaller roads, and even tucked away in the littlest corners. To the Jeju folk and Koreans, the tangerines grown on Jeju island are considered sweet. My take? I say it really depends on when you’re from and the kinds of fruit that you’re used to. This is because I got to pick them at an open tangerine farm and was told that it’d be better to consume them 2 days post-picking as the tangerines would be sweeter then. But they weren’t really that sweet even after 2 days, at least to me. On Jeju island, tangerines farms are an abundance and the fruit is picked between March and October. Jeju island produces so much of it that they even make tangerine chocolates and candies!
7. Eco Land Theme Park (에코랜드테마파크)
The Eco Land Theme Park gives visitors chance to explore the “Gotjawal Ecosystem’” of the mysterious amusement lands, built in the 1km² Gotjawal primeval forest. I like how we get to explore the park in a train that looks like something right out of the 1800s – a steam-powered train. In fact, Eco Land specifically ordered 5 of ’em trains which were manually manufactured in the UK, especially for the park. It’s too cute! It takes you into and around the park via the railway trails, where you can see a variety of plants, animals, and insects. The Eco Land Theme Park also has a lake for visitors to experience the ecosystem of the forest, take a walk, and enjoy a picnic. Other park featurs include the Eco Bridge, Hovercraft, Eco Windmill, Picnic Garden, Kid’s Town, Eco Road, Bare Foot on Scoria, Floating Café, and topiary art works.
8. PLAY K-Pop
What’s a trip to anywhere in South Korea without some guilt-free indulgence in K-Pop, eh? The newly opened “PLAY K-Pop” attraction on Jeju island features a range of new media technology that will bring you that much closer to your favourite groups/idols. My personal favourites are the live concert and hologram concert (I got to watch BIGBANG leader G-Dragon’s solo concert), the “Hall of Fame” exhibitions, and the interactive entertainment space. Hey, it’s not every day that you get to take pictures with or get into the studio with a K-Pop idol – although it’s all make believe. Interestingly, you can take/save as many pictures as you want in your “PLAY K-Pop” pass and print them out (for a fee) before leaving the venue. “PLAY K-Pop” also features F&B outlets as well as a souvenir shop so it’s pretty hard to walk away empty-handed. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya :)
9. Jusangjeolli Cliff (주상절리(대포동지삿개))
This wasn’t actually part of our #VacayWithAirAsiaX itinerary but it became one of my favourite stops during the trip! Follow the farm road 600m to the southwest from Depo-dong, at the end of the pine tree forest to see the Jusangjeolli Cliff. I was really impressed by the volcanic rock formation (created between 250,000 and 140,000 years ago) lined up along the coast. Designated as a cultural monument of Jeju island, the Jusangjeolli Cliff was formed when the lava from Hallasan Mountain erupted into the sea of Jungmun. The result is hexagon rock pillars in various sizes that look like someone either cut those shapes in or carved them out. The waves of the high tides crashing into the side of the cliff provide a breathtaking view of the ocean surrounding the pillars. It’s safe to say that I spent way too much time just standing there, feeling the cool wind in my face. Good times!
10. Baozen Street
Of course, for some of us, no holiday is complete without at least some shopping! Just like Busan, Jeju also has its very own dedicated shopping street called Baozen. Though it’s not as busy as Busan’s shopping street or Seoul’s Myeongdong, it has enough Korean brands/stores (Red Eye, Aritaum, innisfree, Etude House, etc.) to offer so that you can tick items off your shopping list. There are also some pretty cool cafes and bars where you can hang out in till late night, because that’s what I did :) So just in case you think that there can’t be any nightlife on Jeju island, think again. And keep a look out for the self-serve BTURN balcony bar while you’re at it. That has got to be my favourite place on Baozen street!
With breathtaking views from coast to coast, some of nature’s greatest treasures, and various ways to soak all the wonders in (walking, hiking, bike riding, boat trips), Jeju more than just a tourist destination – it’s a “healing” island.
And now, the most important question of all – how do get to Jeju? There are no direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Jeju but the good news is, AirAsia X does help connect us to parts of Korea!
AirAsia X, the world’s best low cost airline* flies from Kuala Lumpur to Busan 4 times a week.
Alternatively, you could also fly in to Seoul, because AirAsia X operates 14 times weekly flights from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul, South Korea.
After which, feel free to book a connecting flight from either Busan or Seoul to Jeju :)
As the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul/Busan takes about 6 hours and 20 minutes, you might want to also pre-book baggage allowance and save up to 88%, or use the “Manage My Booking” function to add-ons e.g. Hot meals, Seat options, Premium flatbed, entertainment, and others ?
Not from Malaysia? Fret not! AirAsia X also offers “Fly-thru” service (connecting flights), with over 43 Fly-thru for Seoul, South Korea spanning across 15 countries in Asia region, Australia, and Saudi Arabia, and over 29 Fly-thru for Busan, South Korea spanning across 9 countries in Asia region and Australia.
Book your flight at the lowest fare via AirAsia’s website now! Happy holiday-ing :)
*Skytrax World Airline Awards 2015
For more information, visit AirAsia’s website.