Adventures in Jeju: It’s Rainier Underground

Rain poured down on our umbrellas as we went in search of breakfast.  The rain had been expected, so we had already planned to spend the day at a lava tube and then maybe a museum, as that would keep us dry.  But as Robert Burns said, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / gang aft agley.”

Little did we know, as we ate breakfast at Paris Baguette (a Korean bakery chain that doesn’t always have the best-tasting baked goods…), that our plans would prove leaky.  So we ate our bread not worrying about what the day would bring.  (At this point I shall also point out that rainier in the title refers to the adjective and not the mountain in Washington.)

As it was raining and we didn’t know which city bus would take us to the inter-city bus terminal, we took a taxi.  The woman at the city information desk was rather helpful.  So we knew exactly which bus to board and which bay it would be in.  Conveniently, the bus was waiting outside.  I wanted to watch the scenery, but the windows were foggy.  A little wiping cleared them up for a short while, though.

The bus didn’t go directly to the cave, so we had to get off a few kilometers away (if you want it in miles, I’m sorry, but I tend to think in the measurement system of the country I’m in–probably because I don’t have a strong sense of how far I’ve gone and rely on signs, maps, and such things).  It was still raining.  Yay umbrellas!  A taxi pulled up and we gladly took the offer.  (well… I wouldn’t have minded walking, but I didn’t protest and I didn’t want to walk alone).

The area surrounding the entrance to Manjanggul (만장굴; 굴 means “cave”) reminded me of the  various lava tubes I had explored as a Boy Scout.  Well, not the UNESCO signs.  Nor the green vegetation, which is not to say that there wasn’t any green vegetation at Lava Beds National Monument or at the caves east of Bend, but that it wasn’t quite so green at those places as it was in Jeju.  It was mainly the igneous rocks protruding from the ground that brought back my memories.  In any case, I was really excited to go exploring a lava tube again.

The stairs down entered through a skylight.  Rather than a metal framework attempting to leave as small a footprint as possible, these were concrete stairs that extended out from the walls a good distance.  The trees and other vegetation growing on the edge of the skylight trailed down into the cave.

At the bottom of the stairs, when I figured I was safe, I discovered a cheesy light shaped like a stratovolcano (which is a bit out of place, seeing as Hallasan is considered a shield volcano…). …  Lights I understand.  If you’re not going to require visitors to bring their own light sources, then you need to have lights in the cave (and this one did have lights spaced out along the length of the section open to the public).  But a volcano shaped light?  I couldn’t decide if I should feel like I was at an amusement park or that my intelligence was being insulted.


In any case, as we wandered farther from the entrance it got wetter.  Now I know that there can be seepage in caves (in limestone caves that seepage plus a lot of time can create stalactites and stalagmites) and have been in lava tubes with ice deep inside them, but I wasn’t quite expecting it to be quite this wet.  This may be because of one one caving trip with the Boy Scouts that was in the back of my mind.  On that trip it had rained while we were down in a cave, but we hadn’t noticed until we had returned to the surface and found the ground wet.  And back at camp two of my friends’ tent had become a swimming pool because they had pitched the tent in a semi-depression and spread the ground tarp out beyond the edges of the tent–all of us younger Scouts learned from that!  So with that experience in mind, I had been anticipating a drier time underground.  But I got used to having to protect my camera from the “rain” in the cave!

I really enjoyed hiking through the lava tube.  I didn’t have a tripod with me, so my pictures didn’t really turn out (since I don’t like using my flash), though I got some that aren’t all that blurry.  And the cave provided me with some writing inspiration.  So it was worth it.  I especially liked the lava pillar (or column?) at the end of the public access section.  It is supposedly the largest of that type of feature discovered on earth.  And I was glad that they had railings to keep people from getting close enough to touch it!

We emerged from the dripping cave into the rainless overworld.  I think we were wetter from our time spent in the cave than from walking around outside (mainly because we didn’t really use our umbrellas in the cave…).  We took a brief look at the nearby info center, but avoided the souvenir shop.  The sign explaining ‘aʻā lava gave me a good laugh, as it’s reason for why that type of lava was named thus was humorously off.  Then we walked down the road to the maze park we had passed.

The maze park was amazing! *Waits for groans*  I found neither the babe with the power nor David Bowie in that labyrinth, though I did find a fake skeleton and a “kiss here” sign.  Plus, there were a lot of cats wandering around.  We first encountered several of them as we entered the parking lot, as they were resting on the bonnets of cars (maybe because it was warmer there?).  One cat lay at the entrance, an indifferent gatekeeper.  In our wandering, circling, and backtracking a cat crossed our path more than once.  It wasn’t bound by the hedges like we were.  We stopped to pet it on one occasion.

My wife and I had ventured into the maze without the other two members of our party, but we ran into them at least twice.  Eventually the four of us decided to join back up and navigate the maze as a group.  A few dead ends and a winding route later and we climbed the stairs to a platform with a bell on it.  Four triumphant notes sounded.  Then we walked over the tops of the hedges and down stairs to exit the maze.  We rewarded ourselves with ice cream (conveniently sold near the maze entrance), talked some with the people in charge of the maze, who I think had a connection to the state of Washington, and walked back to the bus stop.

Before returning to our hotel we made a stop at the Jeju National Museum.  Though it was a two story, two building complex, the exhibit space was confined to a portion of the ground floor of one of the buildings.  The mosaic on the atrium ceiling captured my attention more than many of the artifacts on display.  It’s not that they weren’t interesting.  More that I’ve seen so many of some types of artifacts that the average examples no longer jump out at me.  It probably didn’t help that there weren’t as many English descriptions as there were Korean (which makes sense, it being a Korean museum in Korea)–so I didn’t have much in the way of interesting facts to associate with what I was seeing.

After the museum it was back to the hotel, for which we hailed a taxi.  My vixen and I ate at an Indian restaurant for dinner.  And sometime after that we went to bed.  Below are a few pictures.

Cry 'Havoc!' and let slip those thoughts of yours!