Having unfinished posts is like owing someone money. There is always some lingering feeling that I somehow have to get the job done. So, this post should hopefully end that feeling.
Place visited: Seongsan Ilchulbong, Orange Farm, Chilsimni Food Street, Jeongbang Falls
Accommodation: Sum Guesthouse
I think I am a person who aims high, but also being pragmatic (or easily giving up) once one or two things do not go in my way. For instance, I was planning to watch sunrise at Seongsan Ilchulbong, which is also known as the Sunrise Peak. I thought that would be awesome, but winter was the problem. It was cold, which made it hard to rise early in the morning. As expected, we didn’t go watch sunrise that day, but we still headed to Seongsan Ilchulbong. Along the way, we spotted some middle-aged women in diving suits. These ‘sea women’ or haenyeo are literally wonder women who dive in the cold, deep sea to harvest seafood without any breathing equipment. During the 17th century, a lot of men were gone because of the war, forcing women to do the job. Since then, diving in Jeju has exclusively become women’s job. However, the number of the sea women is decreasing because it is dangerous and does not give much in return. Amazingly some old ladies even in their eighties are still active in the sea, indicating that they are worthy to be listed as Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Our climb to Seongsan Ilchulbong was welcomed by light drizzle and cold breeze, but like other visitors, we were not discouraged. Seongsan Ilchulbong is the result of hydrovolcanic eruptions with a bowl-like crater on the top. It is a easy climb to the top through the stairs, and toilets are even available half way. After reaching the peak, I could see the crater and it did not look anything spectacular. I guess having an aerial view of the whole place will be much better. We headed back and rewarded ourselves with some hot fish cake and fried sausage before heading to our next destination.
We were going for orange picking! Jeju is well known for its citrus fruit. In fact, you can see the symbol carved everywhere including at the bus stops. I had a problem finding the address of orange farms, and the only one I could find online was The Orange Farm, which claims to be the most southernmost orange farm. The address is 164 Namwinamseong-ro, Namwon-eup, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do. Along the way, we could see many orange and mandarin trees on the side of the streets or in the yards of some residents. The sun was out, too, although it was still cold. We parked our car and directly headed to buy ticket. It cost 8,000 won per person, and we could pick 1 kg of mandarins (no oranges) to bring home and eat as much as we could on the spot. Besides that, we were given some food to feed the animals in the farm.
The place was a bit empty. I was not sure if it was because of the end of the orange/mandarin season, so we gave ourselves a tour. At first, we some some animals such as ducks, bunnies, deer, and donkey. It was a great joy to feed them as they finished everything we gave. Along the route, there were some greenhouses with orange/mandarin trees inside, but they were not for picking. Our mandarin trees were just located at the end, and we could see they were not at their best condition. Still we had a lot of fun. Since the weather was cold, the mandarins were as if they were kept in the fridge. We were told that we could not throw what had been picked, so we either had to bring it home or eat it. My family just went wild and we had picnic under the trees, eating the mandarins. The highest record went to my uncle who probably had a dozen of oranges that day. Before finishing, the person who was looking after the farm gave us a mandarin that was put on top of a fireplace. I guess we could call it roasted mandarin. The taste just surprised me because it tasted just like roasted sweet potato.
The farm also sold some other Jeju specialties such as flavored rice krispies and cactus chocolate. However, I later found out some other places actually have better deal, so I do not recommend getting them there. After that, we went looking for real food and found ourselves in Chilsimni food street. I actually imagined there would be a lot of food vendors in the street, but the streets were quite empty because it was not dinner time yet. There were many restaurants to choose for, but we picked one that served fish. Our family is fish and seafood lovers, so we really enjoyed it. After that, we quickly headed to Jeongbang Falls before sunset. It is said that Jeongbang Falls is the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the ocean. But, in terms of water volume or height, nothing was special for this waterfall. We spotted some ladies who probably dived in the ocean selling fresh seafood. They cleaned and sliced some sea cucumbers and served them with some dipping sauce. It should have tasted fresh and sweet, but unfortunately we did not get to try it.
That concluded our Jeju trip.
Place visited: Bukchon Hanok Village
Accommodation: Hostel KW, Hongdae
Despite taking a morning flight from Jeju to Seoul, we only got a half day left to explore Seoul. So, we went to Bukchon Hanok Village to get a feel of how traditional Korean neighborhood was like. I was impressed at the willingness of the government as well as the residents to preserve the traditional architecture. Visitors were welcomed to roam free but advised to keep the noise down. Some of the houses were actually museums, galleries, craft workshop, and restaurants. So, there were things to do and see besides the building architecture itself. N Seoul Tower or Namsan Tower is also clearly visible from here, and it’s a common stop for people who are visiting this area. We just wondered around, and skipped Namsan Tower altogether because my dad was not fond of height. I remembered we visited the Empire State Building in New York, and bought the ticket to the observation deck. He probably just spent a second looking down, and decided it was not for him. Anyway, Namsan Tower is famous for its padlocks left by couples as a symbol of locking their love. I guess it is a more appropriate place for couples because of its romantic atmosphere. Day quickly turned to night. We went back to Hongdae area for dinner. Since we were quite traumatic with our BBQ dining experience, we opted for something different. We ended up at a place for chicken and beer, which was somewhat inspired by the drama ‘My Love from Another Star.’ For Indonesians, there is always something missing in a restaurant if it does not serve rice. Although rice is almost everywhere in South Korea, but it is not as ubiquitous as it is in Indonesia. Try visit McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, and any fast-food chains in Indonesia, and they will have rice. So, my family definitely complained about just having chicken and salad. When we went back to the hostel, they had another round of dinner with rice, of course. By definition, for an Indonesian to eat is to have rice (period).
Place visited: Myeong dong, Nangdaemun Market
Accommodation: Hostel KW, Hongdae
Finally one last day was left to explore Seoul. We took our day easy, and the plan was only to go shopping. My aunt had a long list of cosmetics to buy from my cousins. So, our destination was Myeong-dong. It is a shopping district with lots of cosmetics stores, such as Etude House, The Face Shop, Nature Republic, and many more. Each offered a lot of freebies with purchase, so it was hard to resist. The boys were not interested in cosmetics, so they went off wandering by themselves. We also went to Nangdaemun afterwards, but ended up stopping at one stall buying umbrellas only. You can bargain at the market, especially when you buy more than one item. I find bargaining is a lot of fun, but usually I am not the type to take initiative. With the aunties around, I had no choice but to be their translator to do the transaction. Also notice that many items were not made in Korea, so always ask if you care about it. Comparing items made in China with those made in Korea, I notice that the later have better quality, but they also come with price. There is always a trade-off, so make your own decision.
For dinner, we were just planning to have something different. There is a small Italian restaurant, so my brother and I thought we could buy some to-go. Apparently, they only have dine-in, so we ended up ordering a bit for 6 of us. After finishing the meal, we also dropped by a local supermarket for a last minute shopping for snacks. I bought a bottle of soju, and when I paid I was shocked! It only cost 1,200 won (~1.20 USD), so for a second, I thought I grabbed a bottle of sparkling water or something. I asked the cashier if it was soju, and he nodded with a smile. I felt silly and thought maybe one was too little since it was that cheap. But, no one was into drinking, and I bought it for the experience purpose. We had a round of sipping the soju with every person trying to imitate the expression ‘Ahhhhh’ after drinking soju I found in K drama. That was a lot of fun. With that, our ended our excursion in Seoul.
Flying home! Annyeong! It was great fun, and I knew I was gonna miss it. And I did. Hope I would have another opportunity to explore more and to experience what the locals have to offer.
Last words, all picture credits go to my brother. Thanks bro… I won’t be able to finish the writing without you!