Today’s tour was for the East Course, which had two UNESCO World Heritage sites on its list (Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, and Manjang Cave; Jeju women divers were also recently put into the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List), which I would safely assume were the main reasons the only seats available on the bus were at the back. I had already checked out from the guesthouse before I left.
We started with the Trick Art Museum, which I finished just about half an hour ahead of everyone else. This just wasn’t my thing. I dearly wished we had the alternate course of Sangumburi Crater instead, but they only offered that during fall.
The Seongeup Folk Village was next, which was also where we had lunch. Right, it was Jeju black pork again, but I wasn’t complaining. This wasn’t a buffet, but the offerings from the chosen restaurant, as well as the known Korean-style cook-it-yourself presentation, was just more satisfying a meal than yesterday’s. I joined the Filipino family again from yesterday, where they offered me a mandarin orange -one of Jeju Island’s food prides, along with tangerines- which I gladly took with gratitude.
Today, we were having more ice pellets for snow, which we had a taste of from yesterday’s hike:
We were up for the Woman Diver Show next:
Often referred to as Korean Mermaids, haenyo (women divers on Jeju and Udo Islands) can dive up to 20 meters, holding their breath for several minutes as they harvest the sea bed for abalone, sea urchin, octopus and seaweed. Yet such work in a prevailing Confucian society didn’t sustain itself without considerable costs. The haenyo of Jeju and Udo Island have fought for years protecting their rights against men, governments and even armies in order to make a living from the sea [source]
They didn’t catch anything after their shallow dive, as visibly seen from their empty baskets. There was a mix of curiosity at this living exhibit, and just plain embarrassment with some tourists who would just shove their cameras at face the divers at every opportune moment, even during their performance.
Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak was just next to the show, and from the looks of the casual hikers, this was not going to be a challenge at all. Well, true, the hike was manageable, but the ice pellet snow was pretty aggressive with the wind, it feels like there was some sort of facial sandblasting happening.
The view at the peak was spoiled by ongoing construction. People persisted though, selfie sticks abound, even when about this time, this bit of news was shared actively across the online social networks.
Our last destination was the Manjang Cave:
Manjanggul Cave (만장굴) is one of the finest lava tunnels in the world, and is a designated natural monument. A lava tunnel is formed when the lava that was deep in the ground spouts from the peak and flows to the surface. Manjanggul Cave has a variety of interesting structures inside including 70cm lava stalagmites and the lava tube tunnels [source]
By this time, I’ve managed to be part of a small group of travellers. Eileen, who was Singaporean, was staying at Yeha Guesthouse City Hall as well, and we did make polite introductions earlier in the morning in the elevator before boarding the tour bus. There was Morakot, a Thai graduate student based in Australia, and another Thai girl who I didn’t really have the chance to interact much with. We were the last tourists the guides were waiting for, before heading back.
Considering that I’ve been on this solo traveller bit since the beginning, Eileen and I both decided to have dinner together, as our Thai friends had other obligations that night. I pushed for the Dongmun Market eateries I saw last weekend, since the tour guide emphasized that most Korean mainlanders go to Jeju to eat two things: again, the black pork, and sashimi.
Our dinner spread was worth 30,000 KRW (168.92 RMB = 1,211.55 PHP), which Eileen agreed was a great deal, considering the variety and amount of food that we had on the table. We didn’t finish everything, and there was enough food left for one, probably even two, more.
Oh, that haircut of mine? Birthday haircut from the night before from a hair salon near the guesthouse. It was part of a casual list of things-to-do in Korea, which had a good reputation with haircuts and what-not, and it was rather the opposite from where I reside these days.
Hugs were exchanged, and farewells were said, as my flight was scheduled for 11PM. I wandered for a bit around the area -an officemate asked for the famed Korean make-up as souvenir- and chanced upon a record store, and literally just picked up the new J Rabbit CD, but didn’t buy it, since I didn’t have the assurance that it was a legit copy. The store-person mentioned the word “indie“, though, which I found amusing.
The international flight section of the Jeju airport oddly looked dormant at 9PM, so I asked around, showed the attendants my itinerary. One burly man pointed out the time on the printed paper: 1100, not 2300.
I went back to the guesthouse, got a bed in a dorm-type room -just needed a place to sleep anyway- where it looked like the other three people were students, and had a nightcap of sorts with Eileen, and Morakot as well this time, since he moved in shortly before I left. They helped me book a flight the morning after, as I did not have the appropriate resources to get one. Ah, the kindness of strangers again! And, after much thought about the trip, it was apparent it was looking like I was an apparent third wheel for the second time this year.
We met for breakfast, and I escorted them out as they had a custom tour set for that day. A few hours later, at the airport, people on my plane had bags and bags of duty-free goods, and Mandarin chatter was everywhere. Yes, I am definitely familiar with this ambience. I will definitely miss the fresh air, the quiet, the somewhat easy, slow-paced life at Jeju.