The long-awaited summer vacation began on a Thursday. We were only booked to leave to Jeju Island the next Monday so, for the next four days, I slept. Clearly, the exhaustion from teaching was real. That Monday, I donned my heavy backpack and jumped on the subway to meet Jess at Gimpo Airport. For the first time in months, I felt like I belonged. Perhaps, it was because I now looked how foreigners in Korea are expected to look – like tourists.
Two hours after skimming through the airport, and the airways, we were on Jeju Island. Flashbacks to my last jet-lagged arrival, not even a year before, had me searching for familiarities from the sky: “Hey, there’s that theme park we saw last time. And those random lights in the sea (buoys obviously). Oh, and look we’re landing, I remember this runway!”. Jess’ patience is eternal.
A quick stop at the CU for a late-night feast, and soon we were being ushered to our hotel room by a very wary hotel manager. I’m pretty sure he was convinced we were going to destroy his hotel room; probably have an orgy/satanic ritual. Luckily for him, we don’t participate in orgies on Monday nights and satanism is no longer the ‘in’ thing, so we just slept.
The real holiday started with rushed showers and a frantic packing of bags the next morning as we realised we only had 20 minutes to leave our hotel. This felt more like the travelling style I was used to. Unusually well-rested, we found our bus with ease and rounded the coast of Jeju towards our next destination – the Blue Hawaii Resort.
Now, I usually don’t trust hotels with fancy af names… They’re much like gelled-up boys wearing too much bling with overwhelmingly flashy cars. But, while the Blue Hawaii Resort was far from top-of-the-range, our room had an enchanting view of the ocean, and below, an averagely-fancy pool and chill area. The only negative? We were the only non-family there.
This wasn’t a problem until it came to swimming time. As I have mentioned before, Koreans don’t really wear bikinis. Partly because they are discrete beings and partly because they are terrified of the sun (rightly so – that shit be nasty). So, two foreign girls with all the right curves in all the right places and two itsy-bitsy pieces of material strung delicately across their “bits”, in front of a bunch of kids and pervy old men was Totally Inappropriate. Without exaggeration, it took us a seriously awkward hour to shift from our clothed state next to the pool, to a Practically Naked state inside the pool. Probably much to the hilarity of everyone around us.
Wednesday was spent at Hyeopjae Beach (협재해변) – famous for its view of some island that I can’t remember the name of. Being able to relax on the beach for an entire day without suffering from exhaustion or a hangover is certainly a blessing, and something I should probably look into doing more often.
Highlight of the day? Once again, appreciating how safe Korea is. We abandoned our bags under an umbrella and didn’t see them again for several hours. On our return, they were exactly as we had left them. Still pleasantly surprised every time.
After a last-minute decision, we were soon on a bus to our next (and favourite) destination: Seogwipo (서귀포시). A promising pension (“a whole house to yourself!”) was our home for the night. While comfortable, it was certainly no house. But, no matter, we spent maybe four hours in that room overall (three of them sleeping).
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Luscious views on Jeju Island. • • • #southkorea #igerskorea #travellovers #instagram_korea #seogwipo #explore #jejuisland #harbour #gameoftones #justgoshoot #liveforthestory #vsco #igerssouthkorea #exploretocreate #stayandwander #visualsoflife #lovekorea #natureletsme #instagramkorea #watchthisinstagood #photooftheday_sa #sharecapetown #exploretheworld #livefortravel #adventurelife #loves_travel #pixelpanda #wonderlust #wanderlust #wowkorea
After dumping our bags, it was time to visit my favourite place in Jeju: Jungmun Beach (중문색달 해변). This was where the magic had begun to happen on my trip last year, where two beautiful lifeguards had whisked us straight off the beach and into their cars. However, this time around it felt different. While, the beach and sea were as beautiful as ever, and, no doubt, the people maybe even more beautiful, we were more jaded. The naivete and childish excitement from the previous year had darkened into cynicism and higher expectations. Fortunately, the joy of splashing in the sea quickly washed the bitter taste from my mouth. After all, no day spent on the beach can be a bad one – right???
Wednesday night appears in bits and pieces: dancing to Kpop in the pension, a married (with child) man asking to pay for an hour of ‘skinship’, a bucket or two (or three) filled with cranberry juice and eight shots of vodka, dancing on stage, and, finally, falling asleep very hungry.
As expected, Thursday was a struggle. Unable to stay in bed all day (we had to clear out by 11am and move to our next home for the night), we went back to the one place we knew would make us feel better: Jungmun Beach, of course. On this day, we got very sunburnt, but also very happy. We left the beach long after the sun had gone down and attempted to hitchhike to our next hostel. Embarrassment forced us to take the bus.
Friday. The first day of two days of messiness. Messy is how I would describe most things that Jess and I do together, and we’d avoided it for too long. We knew that if we didn’t dive down the distinctively dirty route, destiny would surely punish us. We decided not to book accommodation for Friday night: our plan was to party the night through and then bus back to Jeju City (a cool two hours away) and catch the 8.30am flight back to Busan. A plan that worked surprisingly well.
Torrential rain joined us for breakfast; a very unwelcome guest. However, while our bags, hair, clothes, and general beings were dampened, our spirits were not. So we grabbed a cab to Hwanguji (황우지) – a rockpool near Oedolgae Rock (외돌개) we had visited (and swam in) the previous year. A kindly woman at the top of the cliff path agreed to look after our backpacks (LOVE KOREANS), and we eagerly began our steep and slippery walk down to the sea. Two minutes later we were rudely stopped by police tape and a sign banning entry due to dangerous sea conditions. First plan for the day foiled. No worries, we thought, we’ll head to Old Favourite.
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Beaching in Seogwipo at Hwanguji 🌴🍉 (yes this is actually a beach, even though it's really just a giant rockpool) • • • #southkorea #igerskorea #travellovers #instagram_korea #seogwipo #explore #rockpool #beach #gameoftones #justgoshoot #liveforthestory #vsco #igerssouthkorea #exploretocreate #stayandwander #visualsoflife #lovekorea #natureletsme #instagramkorea #watchthisinstagood #photooftheday_sa #sharecapetown #exploretheworld #livefortravel #adventurelife #loves_travel #pixelpanda #wonderlust #wanderlust #wowkorea
Jungmun Beach felt like home at this point. However, we were greeted with devastating news: swimming was banned. Clearly this sea was also suffering from dangerous conditions. We had nowhere else to go though, so we set up camp on the sand and slipped into depression as the tantalising water teased us.
We spent the whole day like this. Our moods did lighten when the surfers started entering the water (a lot of them were first-timers and therefore v. entertaining to watch), however, soon we were antsy to swim again. We decided to sneak off down the beach, out of the lifeguards’ (who had been desperately blowing their whistles all day at anyone who dared put a toe near the water) sight, and get our fix. Unfortunately, an undercover lifeguard (apparently that’s a thing in Korea) spotted us as we dashed into the water and we got a very stern talking to.
Slightly ashamed we returned to our little camp of books, bags and towels and quietly (and hypocritically) spent the day lambasting all of the Arrogant Foreigners who dared to disrespect the lifeguards by going into the ocean, despite knowing they weren’t allowed to.
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When hot days on the beach turn into romantic sunsets it's just 😊 • • • #southkorea #igerskorea #travellovers #instagram_korea #seogwipo #explore #rockpool #beach #gameoftones #justgoshoot #liveforthestory #vsco #igerssouthkorea #exploretocreate #stayandwander #visualsoflife #lovekorea #natureletsme #instagramkorea #watchthisinstagood #photooftheday_sa #sharecapetown #exploretheworld #livefortravel #adventurelife #loves_travel #pixelpanda #wonderlust #wanderlust #wowkorea
With nowhere to go, we stayed at the beach until it had emptied, hoping to use the public showers to get ready for our night of partying. We waited too long, and discovered that the showers were locked. No problem! We are resourceful, and instead, used the basins in the public toilet to clean the worst of the sweat and salt off of our bodies. I only flashed one child so, all in all, a fairly successful mission. However, the encroaching cockroaches soon convinced us to find a better bathroom. The bagel restaurant (Cafe del Serano or something) near our party place for the night would suit.
After gorging ourselves on salmon and avocado bagels, we disappeared into a beautifully-clean bathroom for a good hour to don make-up and appropriate clothing. If the management of that cafe ever reads this, I sincerely apologise for using and abusing your bathroom in that manner.
Next stop, predrinks at the usual: outside a convenience store. Revitalised by soju and Hot6 (Korea’s Red Bull), we disappeared into Monkey Beach, Jeju Island’s only (and best) club, unless you count the Aroma Superdome, which is more of an interactive viewing experience if you ask me. A kindly security guard stashed our backpacks, and feeling considerably lighter we headed to the bar for one of those dangerous cranberry and vodka buckets.
Dancing, playing pool, flirting with Mongolian vaulters (the ones who do acrobats on horseback not the ones who jump over things), and hyping Jess up to do things like jump a giant skipping rope and enter into a pull-up contest made the night go quickly.
Soon, we were stumbling towards a bus back to Jeju City and our airplane. In a half-asleep state, we made it to the airport (where I suffered through eating a very dry scone), onto our plane, and into Busan – Korea’s Cape Town.
A jjimjilbang (Korean spa) was our first stop in Busan. R100 later, we were clean and on our way to the communal sleeping room, where I promptly passed out. Honestly, jjimjilbang’s are paradise on earth and should be more appreciated.
By this point we were way past the point of feeling ashamed of our bodies in bikinis, so we swaggered our way onto Gwangali Beach and soaked up the sun, salt, and the forever unavoidable stares. Pizza and beer (oh wait, is this why I can’t lose weight??) revived us and we spent the rest of the evening desperately trying to find a cool club to party at, only to end up at Thursday Party (shame).
On Sunday morning, I was mentally and physically (seriously) ready to go home. This was cool, because it was my first time feeling homesick for Seoul. The journey home was a blur, and after cramming sushi into our eager stomachs, Jess and I parted. My tiny apartment welcomed me with open arms on my return. I scoffed a bowl of cheap ramen (thanks Past Cat for stocking up!), and sunk deep into sleep and back into reality.
Follow the journey pictorially here.
**Apologies for the lack of photos. I forgot my camera because I’m far from being a functional adult.
***Featured image: Alamy. Hyeopjae Beach image: stolen from Google.