Sunday, July 2, 2017

South Korea - Day 5 - Jeju Island

Still catching up on South Korea!

This morning we were up early to fly from Busan to Jeju Island, a volcanic island off Korea's south coast.
We made our way to the December Hotel in Jeju City to drop off our bags, then headed by bus to Seogwipo, a town on the south side of the Island.

Our first stop was Yakchunsa Temple, a large Buddhist temple that is relatively new (1982) compared to those we'd visited recently. It's out in the countryside, with lovely orange tree-covered grounds.
We toured the main hall, which houses three large golden buddhas, and climbed up to the second- and third-floor galleries, lined with thousands of little gold buddhas and colourful murals.
Behind the temple we checked out a neat little cave-turned-prayer hall.
We visited the Hall of 500 Arahan, a room filled with statues of 500 Buddhist disciples, each one unique.
On our way through the grounds a monk came over to invite us to lunch. It was such a kind gesture; we of course said yes. We followed him into the monks' dining hall and enjoyed a nice meal of rice, vegetables, and soup.
The monks had finished eating and dispersed, but one came over to greet us -- he didn't speak a lot of English, but when he heard we were from "near Vancouver" he beamed and said "I like sky train". Meeting the monks and sharing in their lunch was really quite special.

We next caught a bus to the International Convention Centre and walked a short ways to Jusangjeolli Cliff. This is a part of the coast comprised of hexagonal columns of black volcanic rock.
We walked out on a windy cliff-top platform to get a better look at columns, which looked especially spectacular against the choppy blue sea.
We took another two buses to reach Mount Sanbang and the Yongmeori Coast.
Though we didn't climb the mountain, we spent at least an hour meandering the coast, which was geologically just as interesting as Jusangjeolli.
We made our way down to a beach of black volcanic sand, then continued along the rocky shore. The sandstone comprising the beach was magnificent -- beautiful yellows and oranges; weathered into ridges, potholes, and gulleys.
Every so often we'd come across haenyeo, Jeju Island's famous female divers, selling their catch to customers seated on little plastic stools. A gentleman saw us watching and insisted we sample his chili-dipped raw sea cucumber. It was crunchier than expected and tasted salty, of the sea it had been pulled from no doubt hours before. Talk about fresh.
The Yongmeori Coast was a wonderful stop, rain and wind notwithstanding. We made a two-hour trip by local buses back to the north side of the Island, had some instant noodles for dinner, and called it a night.

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