A Travellerspoint blog

Olle

semi-overcast 13 °C

Towards the end of the 20th century a Korean got the idea to duplicate the concept of the Compostella pilgrimage trail and introduced it to Jeju. It is now possible to follow the entire coastline on foot, in short sections that can easily be covered in one day, on tracks and sometimes roads that are clearly marked with blue and orange ribbons. The tracks are named “Olle”. There are guesthouses at the end of each Olle. You can buy a passport and collect the stamps at reporting points at each stop. The logo of the Olle is a horse, a reference to the horsebreeding tradition of the island.

Posted by jefvincent 15:33 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Cheonjiyeon

semi-overcast 13 °C

Just passing by, looking for a toilet, a convenience store with instant noodles and a tourist informationbooth, on our way to greater things, we invested 2 dollars in the viewing of a waterfall that cannot be compared to many many others that we have already seen in our busy lives, and is nowhere 12 meters wide as announced (this must be the dry season), but was just nice.

Posted by jefvincent 15:26 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Halla

overcast -3 °C

The whole island of Jeju is in fact an extinct volcano that started his life about 2 million years ago and had its last convulsions 5,000 years ago. For thousands of years it was celebrated as the goddess of the island. It stands tall at around 2,000 meters above sea level – we climbed to 1800 meters. There is a crater lake in the middle, but more interesting, there are 368 smaller cones scattered throughout the island. They are called Oreum. Some are modest in size, a few hundred meters high, others are impressive. My tourist guide book refers to them as “parasitic”, which is an interesting but scientifically indefensible image, until the Trump team sets its roving eye on it.

So we walked and climbed the Halla, from 1200 meters 600 meters up in 2 hours, down in 1:40’.
The track was very well designed, marked and maintained and at the end of our part a shelter sold plenty of useful stuff, like instant noodles –soul food for the Koreans I was told -, water and coffee, and further basic equipment like raincoats and crampons so that the shoes get grip on the ice.

The track that we had chosen did not go till the crater, because the fauna and flora enjoyed a sabbatical year to recover from the tourist stampede. The weather was not ideal. Most of the time we walked in the clouds. The signboards on the tracks showed from time to time the panorama’s that we should admire, and looking up we just saw grey soup. The winds were fast and cold. As as the hours grew we had occasionally patches of blue sky and a glimpse of the sun. These few moments, and those when we were briefly sheltered from the wind, we were happy and congratulated each other for our bravery and stamina.
And we went up and up, sometimes on smooth wooden platforms, sometimes on woodblocks that alternated with rocks. For the steep parts we had regular stairs.

The trees became shrubs in strange shapes, tortured by the winds. At the end the vegetation was minimal. A type of dwarf bamboos –I mistook them for grass at the beginning – survives till the top.
It had snowed the day before. Where we were supposed to admire the alpine flowers according to my book, from 1600 m. altitude onward the layer was thick with no intention of melting. Slippery at times, I understood the more professionally equipped raiders with crampons on their shoes, mountain gear, solid shoes, gloves, thermic clothing and a decent hat, all things that seemed rather ridiculous at the base.

The last stretch to the shelter was very very beautiful, and you will be able to judge by yourself. The snow had transformed the crippled shrubs into a Disney Christmas card. I had material to feed you with pictures and I was happy for this and many other reasons.

Posted by jefvincent 06:19 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

about trash

I have hardly seen any dustbins in public places since I arrived in Korea, 10 days ago.
I knew that Koreans have very strict rules to sort their trash in multiple categories, more stringent than in Belgium at least. Still need to get used to it.
The absence of trash bins in public places is even a bigger shock. People are supposed to take their garbage with them and to dispose of it at their own place. And it works! I haven’t seen any trash on the roads or around the convenience stores where people consume their purchases on the spot. I have to add that the education system is also slightly different from the countries I know.

Posted by jefvincent 06:05 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Jeju

overcast 13 °C

Jeju is an island, south of mainland Korea, oval shaped, roughly 70 by 30 km. It is supposed to be subtropical although I haven’t noticed this personally. It is traditionally renowned for its 3 abundances: rocks, winds and women. The plenty of female creatures was related to the scarcity of men, who had the habit to drown at sea while fishing. It was equally renowned for its 3 absences: no beggars, no thieves, no locks. Basically, it was a very poor land, dominated by an extinct crater – Halla mountain - and with hardly any soil on the rocks. It was not possible to cultivate rice, the economy was based on horse breeding – sturdy pony’s -, fishing and other seafood, especially abalone – a type of clams that was harvested by women who had to dive for it-, and orange farming – in fact tangerines.

And then, in the third quarter of the 20th century, Jeju became the honeymoon island, the “subtropical paradise”, and more recently one of the new 7 nature wonders of the earth according to Unesco. The mass tourism industry set foot on the ground and transformed Jeju city and some of the tourist attractions into a shantytown of restaurants, souvenir shops and the whole slew of connected industries. In that respect it reminds me Phuket. It became a favourite holiday destination of Chinese tourists, and when they comes it is usually in big quantities.

Shin had never been here and we thus had no unfair local insider know how. We had booked 4 nights in an Airbnb that is acceptable, although the virtual pictures on internet had given us a more spacious expectation than the brick and mortar reality showed. We had booked a small rent car that is effectively as small as a car can be (Kia “morning” if you want to check). The GPS navigation system works well, but each time that we get close to a site of one of the (many) advertisers on the system, an ad promising discounts pops up and that is hugely disturbing. With our Morning we crisscross the country and check the most advertised tourist attractions, with mixed appreciations so far. You will read more about it.

The main spoiler is the weather. This should be the season of the cherry blossoms, but the bloom has not taken off and the cherryblossom festival that was supposed to start yesterday has been put on hold. We see hardly any buds on the trees and very few of the springflowers that we expected in the fields show off. We’ll have to return sometime in the summer, or wait till the global warming reaches this place.

Posted by jefvincent 17:30 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

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