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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

South Korea: Day 18 - Jeju Island, the Island of the Gods

We had to leave the Romance+Night Sea Hotel in Yeosu very early in the morning, as we needed to catch the ferry to Jeju Island. Jeju Island is not only South Korea's largest island, but also the country's favorite holiday destination. It offers plenty of attractions, from beaches to craters, temples to amusement parks, nature, history, and caves. It is also called "Island of the Gods."

On the side note, Jeju Island or Jeju Special Administrative Province has independent visa policy which varies from that of the Republic of Korea mainland. So, all ordinary passport holders "excluding" those from Afghanistan, Cuba, Ghana, Iraq, Kosovo, Libya, Macedonia, Nigeria, Palestine, Sudan or Syria can stay visa-free for 30 days. Better check before entering the island.

We wanted to take the Hanil Express Ferry, which would leave Yeosu at 8.30 a.m., but boarding would start already at 7.45 a.m., and we still didn't have a ticket. There was no one at the reception in the hotel so we couldn't ask to call us a taxi and just left our keys and waited at the main road in front of the hotel to catch a cab. Fortunately, soon one arrived and brought us to the Yeosu Expo Ferry Terminal, which is just behind the Yeosu Expo Train Station.  

Getting a ticket was no problem. We just had to show our passports and after some time could get onboard the massive ferry. We didn't have a cabin or designated seats for the ferry ride, which took about five hours. But we were sent to an area, where you can stow your luggage and lie on the floor on a carpet - like a (gender separated) resting zone. It indeed was something new to us, as we had expected just seats. You can actually sleep there (and for some time I did...). You can also go on the deck, where it was quite windy, and of course, there is a restaurant, a kiosk, and you can even sit at the restaurant area. All said it was a rather pleasant journey.


When we finally arrived in Jeju island, we just took a taxi to our hotel for the next two nights, the Ellui Hotel Jeju. Fortunately, we could check in already, and the room was small but perfectly fine. 


We actually chose the hotel also, because it is located in walking distance to the Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal. We had seen online, that the Jeju Golden Tour City Bus stops there on its way to some attractions, we wanted to see.

Using regular public transportation on Jeju Island looked somewhat tricky, without speaking the language. It seemed to us that it would also take a lot of time to get from one attraction to the next, using different buses, where you might not even understand, at which stop you have to exit. So, the Golden Tour City Bus seemed to be a good idea to us - and it was! The only problem was that it was already afternoon and there wasn't much time left.

So, we walked to the Intercity Bus Terminal and immediately found the stop for the Golden Tour Bus along the road. The Golden Tour Bus unfortunately just covers a small part of the island, but it was fine to us for today. We bought a day pass inside the bus and could hop on and hop off, as we pleased, with buses departing hourly.  


We first exited at the Samseonghyeol Bus Stop to visit Samseonghyeol. It is said to be the place, where the founding fathers of Jeju, three demigods, first appeared. Of course, we had to take a look! While no demigods appeared to us, it is still a beautiful area with wonderful buildings and a little museum.


The Jeju Folklore & Natural History Museum is the next stop for the Golden Tour City Bus, but it is in walking distance to Samseonghyeol, so we just walked. Unfortunately, it was so late already, that we didn´t have time to enter it and just took a look at the grounds before we had to go to the bus stop.  


The Golden Tour City Bus actually stops at more attractions like the Gwandeokjeong Pavilion, Yongduam Rock, and the Halla Arboretum. But we could only visit one more attraction, in order to get the last bus back. So, we decided to exit at the Jeju Museum of Art Bus Stop and visit Jeju Love Land, which is just a few steps away from the museum.


Jeju Love Land is kind of an erotic sculpture park. It is also something special because Koreans, in general, are said to be more on the conservative side. But on Jeju Island, where many newlyweds come to, they created something to loosen up. The park is a nice one to stroll around and there were actually quite a lot of older Korean ladies, taking photos with racy sculptures. It was kind of fun and they also have some kind of exhibition.


We just managed to be back at the bus stop for the last bus for the day. Unfortunately, it terminated at the Jeju Welcome Center and not at the Bus Terminal. But we knew that before and eventually decided to take a taxi for the rest of the route. Back at the hotel, we also found a nice chicken restaurant and soon went to sleep, as we had booked a driver for the next day, to see much more sights of Jeju Island.


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