Jeju-do and Bumbling Expectations

Jeju Travel Blog

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Jungmun
Yesterday I REALLY wanted to love Jeju.  I mean I reeeeeeeally wanted to love it.  I knew I'd love it.  I knew it would be THE place in Korea that I cited as my favorite and raved about and recommended to everyone.  I just knew I was going to have THE BEST DAY EVER.

I've really got to get a handle on this expectation thing of mine.

The day started out well enough.  Took a bus to Jungmun, on the south side of the island, where I walked to a waterfall and walked a path around to admire it from different sides.  I even paid 1,000 Won for a slice of ice cold pineapple speared on a chopstick, because even if that did make me a sucker for tourist gimmicks this was going to be THE BEST DAY EVER.
Jungmun
  And the best day ever requires certain splurges and out of the ordinary treats.  You follow.  From there I walked through a small neighboring town, and then walked to Yakcheonsa, the ONLY temple on the entire island hailed by the guidebook as a must-see, and equally praised by all three of my Korean roommates, who said it was most delightful and beautiful and truly enjoyable.  It took me close to two hours to walk from the waterfall to the temple, but as I said I was set on this being THE BEST DAY EVER, and so I was taking special care to admire the scenery and think about what a wonderful day I was having, and how Jeju really is the crown jewel of Korea, and that even though I hadn't planned on walking two whole hours just to get to a temple it was all part of the experience, and the experience was going to be THE BEST DAY EVER and so it was totally worth it.
Jungmun
  Expectations running RAMPANT at this point.

Yakcheonsa.  How can I sum up Yakcheonsa in a word?  Such wonder and delight must certainly be difficult to sum up in just one word.  Hmm, let me think.  Oh yes.  I think I have it.  Yakcheonsa in one word: CLOSED.  I shit you not.  Closed up shop.  Completely empty and abandoned, short for the half dozen or so workers painting and caulking and scrubbing and yelling at me to get off the property.  You'd think the people at the front desk might have alerted me to such before circling it on my map.  Or perhaps one of the four signs I passed on my way; perhaps it would have been nice for an amendment saying: don't waste you're time, we're closed.  Some sort of tip off BEFORE I trudged TWO HOURS would have been nice.
Jungmun
 

Let's just say I was frustrated.  Quite frustrated.  But I wasn't about to let this ruin THE BEST DAY EVER.  Well, perhaps now it wouldn't be the BEST day, but it was still going to be pretty damn good.  I was on Jeju-do!  A gorgeous volcanic island likened by EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHER to Hawaii.  How can you not have THE BEST DAY EVER on Hawaii??  (For the answer to that question, ask my cousin Catherine and her boyfriend Matt.  A week in Maui without a single ray of sunshine and torrential downpours every day -- I believe they were what you'd term "frustrated" too.)  But there was still a hot spring to be had, and that was certainly going to meet and exceed my expectation and the day would surely be salvaged.
Jungmun


I'll cut to the chase: there was no hot spring.  It was a water park.  A WATER PARK.  Where you wear bathing suits and children are running around screaming and you swim in pools and go down slides and eat theme park food.  A WATER PARK.  WTF??  (The Korean roommates have since instructed me that there are no hot springs on Jeju-do to be had, even though we are on a VOLCANIC ISLAND and all.)  I then attempted t console myself by grocery shopping, but even that didn't help.  It was a nice big grocery store, the biggest I've seen in Korea thus far, but everything was overpriced and I managed to get yelled at while attempting to purchase bananas.  Yeah I know, bananas.  You'd think it'd be hard to go wrong in the produce section.
Jungmun


Finally caught a bus back to Jeju-si (Jeju-si is the main city on Jeju-do, the island.  People generally say "Jeju" and mean the island when they are not actually on the island, and say Jeju and mean the city when they already are.  Not as confusing as it sounds.) and zoned out to the ipod, making the most of the hour-long ride by marveling at my bus driver's très chic attire: Gucci loafers and a Burberry belt.  He was infinitely hipper than me.

Had an average meal, not terrible but nothing special.  I bought another one of those ice cream sandwich things that are FREAKING AMAZING as a pick-me-up.  Such disappointments certainly merit a little caloric indulgence.  Happily, that delicious treat was every bit as good as I remembered, and I savored every bite.
Jungmun


When I got back into the hostel I ran into Ben Allgood, one of the two Bens I met in Kyoto.  And he had literally just that second hit send on an email to me asking where in Korea I was.  Small world! He had just rounded up a group of troops for dinner, so after an hour or so of catching up and the such I decided a second dinner was in order and went out with them.  The second dinner wasn't as good as the first, falling into the "below average" category.  That being said, I think I was the only one disappointed, so kept it to myself.  (It was another one of these Western places, serving a whole manner of fried food, nary a piece of kimchi in sight.)  We then went to some kitchy bar with the halls lined with beaded curtains and private rooms sporting velvet couches, all which we found rather hilarious and entertaining.
Jungmun
  Kept me up past my bedtime, but was fun to hang out with a group and make new friends and catch up with old ones (having met someone two weeks ago makes us old pals now -- with travel everything is relative).

All in all, not a bad day at all.  Just nowhere near THE BEST DAY EVER.  That is yet to be had.
fransglobal says:
Maybe when you come to Ireland?
Posted on: Oct 19, 2009
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Yakcheonsa - the temple that doesn…
Yakcheonsa - the temple that does…
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Jeju World Cup Stadium
Jeju World Cup Stadium
Jeju World Cup Stadium
Jeju World Cup Stadium
Jeju
photo by: domnicella