Our fourth day of adventure found us in transit from one hotel to another. Before we left the hotel in Seogwipo City, we video called my wife’s siblings to participate in the treasure hunt they had set up for their parents. We had one of their clues, so it was sort of important that we did so, though we also managed to eat breakfast at the same time.
The hotel we were going to was in Jeju City. But rather than going directly to Jeju City, we took the scenic route. There is a bus that travels along the eastern coast highway and we hopped on it, as we wanted to stop by Seongsan Ilchulbong (성산일출봉 aka Seongsan Sunrise Peak), which is on the southeastern coast.
This east island circle bus took a lot longer than we had anticipated as it made so many stops. It may have stopped in every village and town on its route, as it was less like an intercity express bus and more like a city bus with a rather longer route. Still, it afforded some good views of the eastern part of the island, even if they were glimpsed in passing.
The endless litany of prerecorded bus stop announcements punctuated the hum of the bus and it seemed like our stop would never come, that perchance we had climbed aboard Zeno’s bus or had stumbled into a time loop and I was the only one who noticed (magnets?), but then through the windows I glimpsed the craggy cliffs of the Sunrise peak as it jutted out of the water and so awoke my wife, who had dozed off, as the bus ride was coming to an end.
One of the members of our intrepid adventuring party decided to sit out the climb to the top of the peak in a Lotteria (it’s a western-style Japanese/Korean fast-food burger joint). We left most of our bags with him and proceeded to the entrance of this UNESCO site. There were plenty of people around. We joined the near-steady stream and flowed up the path to the stairs. The steep, switchbacking stairs.
I think Korea loves stairs. You find a nice trail up a hill or mountain and suddenly there are stairs. So you run to the apartment complexes, but there are stairs there, too, dozens of flights of stairs with complementary lifts thrown in for good measure. You go to the commercial areas, but the stairs greet you. Underground shopping arcades–there are stairs, and, if they feel nice, perhaps some escalators, though those are really just moving stairs caught in a loop, so you can’t say you’ve escaped the stairs. Buses have stairs. The subway stations have stairs and, as there are platforms that are seven stories underground, you hope escalators. Even a flat that is only on one story of a building will probably have a stair inside it, as the entry is often at a lower level than the rest of the flat. So you return to that hill or mountain and brave its stairs. And at the top, when you think there could possibly be no more stairs to bother you for a while, you stumble across the exercise equipment and witness an elderly man using the stair-stepping machine.
On a less silly note (perhaps a D?), we ascended the stairs and found ourselves on the rim. There were platforms and stairs to facilitate watching the sunrise. I took several pictures of nearby Udo (우도 or ‘Cow Island’), glimpsed other islands on the horizon (at first I thought they could be the Korean peninsula, but they were the Korean islands between Jeju and the mainland), played hide and seek with Hallasan, and looked at the crater. If you’ve seen postcards or pictures on websites of Seongsan Ilchulbong, you’ve probably seen the crater in a stunning and vibrant green. It wasn’t like that.
You see, while Hallasan is marvelous to behold in the winter, Seongsan Ilchulbong is rather lackluster in that season. The grass carpeting the crater is in its winter colours. So rather dull. And while I expect it is probably marvelous at sunrise, as it affords an unobscured view of the sea/ocean to the east, we did not come at sunrise (the logistics didn’t work out and at the time we didn’t realize we could/should). I still enjoyed looking down into the crater from the rim and the views of eastern Jeju, but I was disappointed that it hadn’t lived up to the expectations the pictures had created. So if I ever return to Jeju, I’ll know to come at sunrise and probably in a different season.
We descended the many stairs on the left side (I handled it). After a brief wander around near the base of the cone we returned to our fourth party member and looked for lunch. We could have eaten at Lotteria, I know, but no, just no. I was not in the mood for western food. And my lovely wife wasn’t feeling up for seafood. So we went searching. We passed by many seafood places, discovered that the chicken places weren’t open yet (sometimes I don’t understand the hours businesses keep), and finally found a cafe that served ramyun (aka ramen). I, of course, ordered one of the spiciest dishes on the menu.
Lunch was followed by waiting for the bus. But then a taxi pulled up and the driver tried to convince us to take his taxi. Our “No, we don’t want a taxi” was ignored. Eventually the taxi driver made an offer that was around what the bus would cost. So we caved. The ride to Jeju city was interspersed with the taxi driver berating us for having wanted to take the bus. He also tried to get us to stop at various places, but we refused to be swayed further.
After checking in to our hotel we went out to have more black pork! This time all four of us went. One of the restaurant staff helped us with the BBQ, even though some of us knew the drill. And they don’t tip here in Korea! It was a good dinner. Seriously, if you haven’t had Korean BBQ before you need to find one to go to.
Our day ended with me discovering two things about our hotel room. The first was that the desktop computer they had in our room was made by a company called wolfNfox. The sticker of their mascots on the side of the desktop’s tower sort of resembled Sonic and Tails… Hm. And the second…? Et! I know this one.
Magnets! The soap in the bathroom had a magnet in it. Magnetic soap, how cool is that? You don’t have to worry about it slipping off the counter because it is magnetically attached to the holder! I sort of want magnetic soap now… And that was our day. Below are some pictures–click on one for a full view.