Jeju Island, South Korea
Jeju-do, South Korea
Jeju Island, South Korea Jeju-do Reviews
General information about visiting Jeju-Do Sep 09, 2011
The most cost effective and easiest way to get around Jeju Island is to rent a car or scooter. To do so (legally) you will need an international driving permit which you must obtain in your home country before you start traveling.
The busses are also economical, but there is very minimal information available and it is not in a format that is useful to a non-Korean speaking person who is unfamiliar with the geography and all of the little place names on the island. There's nothing like a bus route map even in Korean.
If you want to be close to most of the interesting things on the island, do not stay in the Jungmun resort complex. It's expensive and far from almost everything else. (It is convenient to a popular water falls park and to Jungmun Beach).
Jungmun is on the central south shore of the island just west of Seogwipo-Si (Seogwipo City). The vast majority of things I found interesting on the island turned out to be closer to Jeju-Si (Jeju City) which is on the central north shore of the island.
A notable exception is that the Jeju Folk Village Museum is not to be missed if you have an interest in Korean history and culture. This museum is on the far east end of the island and is very far from both Jungmun Resort Complex and Jeju-Si.
A convenient selection of good restaurants that are used to dealing with people who don't speak Korean can be found in Jeju Si-Cheong (pronounced Shi Chong) which means Jeju City Hall, but, refers to an area of approximately 10 square blocks near the city hall.
I highly recommend Red Nation for their Bool-Dak (Fire Chicken), especially the Cheesu Saamdak (Fire Chicken in a bed of Mozzarella cheese served in a hot cast-iron pan) (but only if you like your food pretty spicy, think Thai Medium+).
For the milder palate, there's a place that serves excellent marinated Dak Galbi and Dak Bulgogi. I can't remember the name, but from the Burger King on the main road, head south along the main road and take your first or second right (look for the road with the giant inflated tube with a chicken on the top at the next intersection). When you get to the giant inflated tube with a chicken on top, turn left. (The chicken points you to the restaurant, actually). The restaurant is about 1/2 block down on your left hand side. I highly recommend the Special Marinated Chicken Kalbi with Chicken Kalbi Rice (탘 칼비 and 칼비 밥).
Harder to find, and much less foreigner oriented, if you follow the street past the Dak Galbi place to its end, then turn right and go until you see a place called "Ori Martu" (Chicken Market) 오리 말트, turn left on that road and about a block down you'll come to "Han Ori Bulgogi" (한 오리 불고기). Delicious food, great service, run by a very nice Korean Family. The daughter will probably want to talk to you for a while to practice her English. Fair warning, this is a traditional Korean Restaurant. (no chairs, shoes off, sit on the floor) and they aren't accustomed to tourists (no English menu, no guarantees anyone on the staff speaks much English).
A few other tips... If at all possible, take some time to learn the Hangul alphabet before you go. While a casual glance from a western eye may not see Hangul as distinctive from Chinese/Japanese ideograms, it is very different. It is a phonetic alphabet written in syllable blocks. Each syllable block contains 2 or 3 characters (consonant/vowel or consonant/vowel/consonant). You can learn the alphabet fairly easily in a few days and that will allow you to at least write down names of places and/or recognize certain foods. Most restaurants have signs specifying what they serve on the outside of the restaurant if you can read them.
One of the most popular dishes on Jeju (and definitely not to be missed) is their black-pig (a local indigenous species of pig that yields a very tasty meat). There are restaurants specializing in Jeju Black Pig everywhere on the island. Popular are Pork Bellies, Neck Meat, and Kalbi (rib meat).
Jeju is also home to what is reputed to be the best Soju in Korea. I enjoy Soju and the Jeju Soju tasted good to me, but, I couldn't distinguish it especially from the Jinro Sojus common in Seoul, so, I guess I'm just not enough of a Soju connoisseur to tell the difference. Of the two Jeju Sojus I tried (Both are called "Hallasan", I preferred the "Mool Sunham" (green bottle), but, the other (clear bottle, blue label) was also good).
If you're a SCUBA diver, diving in Jeju is not to be missed. I highly recommend being at least an Advanced Open Water before going, but, if you aren't, don't let that stop you from diving, it will simply limit your choice of locations to dive. We didn't get deeper than 100 feet (about 30m), but, at the better dive sites the current can be substantial, there can be large crowds of not particularly well supervised students, and the conditions can change rapidly (strong current one way and 5 minutes later, it's equally strong in the opposite direction or no current when you get in and really strong current near the exit when you return, etc.). When I was there (early September, 2011), diving in a 3mm full wet suit with hood, boots, and gloves was a bit chilly, but, not unbearable. A 5mm suit would probably have been better, but, a 7mm or a dry suit would definitely have been too much. However, the water temperature appears to vary quite a bit in that I was much colder on Saturday (several degrees) than Sunday which is a pretty rapid change for ocean diving.
There are definitely significant thermoclines and you will cross several of them in each of your dives.
Overall, I had a great time in Jeju-do and I highly recommend visiting there. However, do come prepared for the following facts:
1. Most of the population is monolingual (Korean).
2. The cab drivers don't seem to know where anything other than the hotels and very large centers (Jeju Shi Cheong) are located. The best thing is to have the address and phone number already written down in Korean. (or drive yourself)
3. The cab drivers don't seem to consider that this is in any way their responsibility and they run the meter the whole time while trying to figure out where you want to go, calling and asking for directions, etc. In fact, if you don't watch carefully, quite often, the cab driver will start the meter when you wave him down or when the bell hop signals him to come. Even if you do watch carefully, the difficulty in getting this resolved is usually not worth the 2-300 won ($0.20-$0.30) it will cost to ignore it, but, I did make a point of tipping cab drivers that did not do so and not tipping those that did.
4. There appears to be a ubiquitous and well run bus system throughout the island. Navigating it remained a mystery to me throughout the time I was there and I resorted to cabs.
5. From the airport, it is a much better deal (and not much extra time) to take the Airport Limousine Bus to wherever you are staying (and vice versa) than to take a cab. Especially if you stay outside of Jeju-Si.
6. Web resources for finding things on Jeju via English searches are pretty minimal and I didn't have much better luck searching in Korean using the KR version of Google.
If you have other questions feel free to message me and I'll do my best to answer.
Have fun on Jeju!
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