Sunday, September 23, 2012

Jeju Island, Korea – August 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012:  I was off on other Advantage Travel & Tours trip.  This time the main objective was to visit North Korea, but first, since we were in the area we visited Jeju Island, Korea (some spell it Cheju).  Our group of eleven led by Cathy and Bob Parda included Mike Bidwell, Lynn Bishop (my ex-roommate on many trips), Linda Marshall and Terry Wharton from our Antarctica South Georgia aborted cruise.  In addition, Edna Erspamer, Bill Boyd and Edith Ann Pazmino from many previous trips and one new comer, Mary Alice Warren, Lynn’s high school girlfriend rounded out the group.
I started the journey, Wednesday, August 29 at 4AM for a 06:30 flight to San Francisco were I met Lynn, Mary Alice, Bill, Edith Ann, Linda and Terry for an eleven hour flight to Inchon, Korea on United Airlines.  We arrived in Inchon on the heels of Typhoon Bolaven on Thursday, August 30 at 14:30 and had to wait until 17:30 to check in for our flight to Jeju Island.  Edna spent a day in Seoul and arrived in Jeju just before us.  Kevin, our local tour guide, met us outside of arrivals where Edna was waiting and escorted us to our tour bus for the trip to the hotel at 21:30.

At our hotel, the Jeju KAL Hotel, we were met by Cathy, Bob and Mike who had arrived a day ahead of us.  Bob gave us a schedule for the next day and we retired to our rooms.  The rooms were a little unusual.  On a bedside table was a small console with a clock and buttons to control the alarm, the TV and the lights.  I used an outlet just below the bedside table lamp to plug in my power strip for my CPAP machine.  I discovered when I tuned out the bedside table lamp that the CPAP machine stopped working.  There was no switch on the lamp, it was only controlled by the console button so I had to turn it on and unscrew the bulb in order to provide power to the CPAP machine.
On the ride from the airport Kevin gave us a little background on the Island.  The island is off the south tip of Korea.  It has been called the Hawaii of Korea and compared to Disneyland and Paradise.  It is a popular honeymoon destination and is a very popular vacation destination for both Koreans and Chinese.  Industrial plants are banned and while it was once an agricultural center, it is now a tourist center.  The islanders live by three mottos:
                                    ·         No beggars
                                    ·         No thieves
                                    ·         No gates

The island was formed by the eruption of Korea’s highest mountain, Mt. Halla, located in the center of the island.  The coast has many fine beaches and the inland farms are marked by stone walls of lava rock.  An interesting fact is the lava rock walls are not tightly fitted.  They are gaps between the rocks to allow the wind to pass through.  Kevin told us that the winds are so strong and prevalent that solid walls run the risk of being blown over.
Pearl diving and fishing are the main activities beside farming and the tourist trade, and even the pearl diving and fishing are closely linked to the tourist trade.

The island is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is nominated as one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
Friday, August 31, 2012:  We started our tour of the island after an interesting breakfast buffet with a mixture of Korean, Asian and American choices.  Several of the group added Kimchee to their fried eggs for a little “get going kick” in the morning.  Our first stop was a super market where we loaded up on bottles of water.

By 10:00 we arrived at the Geomunoreum Lava Tube System, a UNESCO World Nature Heritage site and is regarded as the finest such cave system in the world.  The lava tubes spread out throughout the island.  They were formed when the Geomunoreum volcano flowed in a north-northeast direction, down to the coastline for about 10 miles.  Lava tubes are natural conduits through which lava travels beneath the surface of a lava flow, expelled by a volcano during an eruption.  They can be actively draining lava from a source, or can be extinct, meaning the lava flow has ceased and the rock has cooled and left a long, cave-like channel.  The Geomunoreum lava tube system is estimated to have formed between about 100 and 300 thousand years ago.

Explanation from Wikipedia:
“Lava tubes are a type of lava cave formed when an active low-viscosity lava flow develops a continuous and hard crust, which thickens and forms a roof above the still-flowing lava stream.  Tubes form in one of two ways: by the crusting over of lava channels, and from pahoehoe flows where the lava is moving under the surface.
Lava usually leaves the point of eruption in channels.  These channels tend to stay very hot as their surroundings cool.  This means they slowly develop walls around them as the surrounding lava cools and/or as the channel melts its way deeper.  These channels can get deep enough to crust over, forming an insulating tube that keeps the lava molten and serves as a conduit for the flowing lava.  These types of lava tubes tend to be closer to the lava eruption point.
Further away from the eruption point, lava can flow in an unchanneled, fanlike manner as it leaves its source, which is usually another lava tube leading back to the eruption point.  Called pahoehoe flows, these areas of surface-moving lava cool, forming either a smooth or rough, ropy surface.  The lava continues to flow this way until it begins to block its source.  At this point, the subsurface lava is still hot enough to break out at a point, and from this point the lava begins as a new "source".  Lava flows from the previous source to this breakout point as the surrounding lava of the pahoehoe flow cools.  This forms an underground channel that becomes a lava tube.”
The first tube we entered was the Manjanggul Lava Tube.  The cave is a 4.5 mile long tube with a multi-level structure.  It is one of the longest lava tubes in the world with the main passage having a width of 59 feet and a height of 75 feet.  Three entrances to the cave developed due to collapse of the ceiling.  The second entrance is the one used by tourists.  It contains a 24 foot high lava column known as the largest in the world.  The Lava Stalactites and colorful walls and ceilings were spectacular.

Our next stop was the Jeju World Natural Heritage Center, an impressive building with large solar panels over the parking structure.  Unfortunately the Center is still under construction and was not open for tourists.  We then drove to an example of a native village.  Kevin explained to us the two large statues that are found at the entrance path to Jeju villages.  Referred to as “Stone Grandfathers”, the statue on the left has his right hand on its chest and left hand on its waist.  The statue on the right has the left hand on the chest and right hand on its waist.
The buildings in the village had thatched roofs and grass and mud walls.  The community “outhouse” is located in the center of the village and is a circular pig pen.  The pig feeds on the human excrement that flows from an Asian hole at one end that had a pole in the hole to ward off a pig from coming up under the person squatting over the hole.
At 13:00 we stopped at a local restaurant for a Korean lunch.  We sat at long tables with grills embedded in the table for each two pairs of people.  The grills were fired by gas and raw lamb, pork and beef were cooked along with vegetables.  Dishes of spices accompanied the meats.  I counted 18 small dishes of vegetables and spices around my grill.

After lunch we drove to Seongsan Ilchulbong, also called ‘Sunrise Peak’, an archetypal tuff cone formed by hydrovolcanic eruptions upon a shallow seabed about 5 thousand years ago.  Situated on the eastern seaboard of Jeju Island and said to resemble a gigantic ancient castle, the tuff cone is 600 feet high, has a preserved bowl-like crater and also displays diverse inner structures resulting from the sea cliff.  These features are considered to be of geologic worth, providing information on eruptive and depositional processes of hydromagmatic volcanoes worldwide as well as past volcanic activity of Seongsan Ilchulbong itself.
None of group walked up to the top to see the cone, rather we walked down to the cove below the cliff where several female pearl divers in wet suits were squatting on small stools behind a low table with large basins of oysters in water they were opening and selling to the patrons in a restaurant in back of them.  I walked around taking pictures of the scene and the peak cliffs.  Soon it was “show time” and the ladies stood up and gathered their baskets which had a large floatation cube of Styrofoam attached.  A female with a microphone introduced five women in wet suits.  They ranged in age from 52 to late 70’s.  After the individual introductions they sang a traditional song and then lowered face masks and waded into the cove where they disappeared under the surface and started to hunt for oysters in the coral and lava rocks below the surface.

I climbed back up the hill to the bus park and toured a small museum that explained the creation of Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak and its designation as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site.
We returned to the hotel to rest and freshen up before walking to a restaurant two blocks from the hotel for dinner.

Saturday, September 1, 2012:  We continued our tour of the island.  First stop was a mini-market for cold water and then on to the Mysterious Road, a section of road off the main highway where you get the sensation that the bus is going up a hill when with the engine off it actually coasted downhill to a Gift Shop and turn around area.  We got out and took pictures to try to capture the illusion.

From the Mysterious Road we drove on to Jusangjeollidae, a National Monument, at the Jeju Jungmun Daepo Coast.  Jusangjeollidae are rocky cliffs with columnar joints of about 1.2 miles in length along the coast.  The joint is a pattern of cracks in rocks.  There are two types of joints: columnar and platy joint.  Jusangjeollidae ia s pillar-shaped joint formed by basaltic lava.  As high-temperature basaltic lava cools, it shrinks in volume, often producing a columnar joint.  Basaltic columns of 82 feet in height look like a stack of pillars, which can be called nature’s masterpieces.
At the entrance to the National Monument area there was a plaza with a large crotch shell, series of large concrete dolphins and a concrete boat.  The mask of the boat had signs pointing toward major cities of the world and their distance from the spot.  Los Angeles was 9,604 km from the spot.  We walked down to a viewing platform and spent about twenty minutes at the site.

From the National Monument we drove to Cheonjeyeon Falls, named 'The Pond of God'.  The area consisted of three parts.  Around the falls, a variety of plant life thrives, such as the rare ‘solipnan’ reeds.  To the east, there is a cave where cold water pours from the ceiling to create a waterfall. The water from the first waterfall becomes the second and third waterfalls and flows into the sea.  In Cheonjeyeon Valley, there is the “Seonimgyo Bridge” (arch bridge that has 7 nymphs carved on the side) and the octagonal “Cheonjeru tower”.  The Seonimgyo is also called Chilseonyeogyo” (meaning seven nymphs) and it connects Cheonjeyeon with the Jungmum Tourist Complex.  On the surface of the Cheonjeru Tower, there is a painting that tells Cheonjeyeon’s legend of the nymph and mountain god.
We took a long walk, first across the bridge and then down a shaded path to the pools below each water fall and to the observation decks above water falls two and three.  Back on the bus we drove on and along the way we stopped at the Jeju World Cup Stadium which supported the Japan 2002 World Cup.  We also stopped at Oedolgae Rock (Lonely Rock), a single basalt pillar standing 65 feet in a small bay along the coast.  The bay seashore has hexagonal shaped rocks called Jusangjeoli formed when volcanic magma was exposed and cooled.  From the plaza we walked along the cliffs viewing the Rock and various formations.  We encountered a number of trees blown over by the Typhon and other damage to the walkway.  It took about thirty minutes to complete the walk and return to the bus.

Lunch was a little different that the day before in that the there was a pot on each grill and we were served more of a stew like meal of meat and vegetables cooked at the table in the pot.  A number (not as many as the day before) of small dishes of sauces and vegetables were on the table to add to our rice and main dish.
After lunch we toured the O’Sulloc Tea Museum with a large tower overlooking a vast acreage of tea bush fields.  The museum displayed various tea and the history of the Sulloccha brand of Green Tea since 1980.  Of course I had to buy a cup of Green Tea Ice Cream in the Tea Shop.

From the Tea Museum we drove to Hallim Park located on the Northwest coast of the island.  The park contains a Tropical Botanical Garden, Washingtonia Palm Garden, Foliage Plant Garden, Palm Tree Garden, and Kiwi Fruit Garden.  Hyeopjae Cave (also designated as a Natural Monument) is one of several caves located in Hallim Park.  Unlike most lava tubes, this cave contains a number of stalactites and stalagmites.  Additionally, Ssangyong Cave is the only two-dimensional cave in the world (a cave that has another cave inside).  Ssangyong means "double dragon".  I walked through the caves and they were also spectacular, especially the double cave.  Outside I walked through the gardens.  There was a replication of an old Korean village and many stone sculptures in the Gardens.  Near the exit was a Bird House and outside it a number of Ostriches which came right up to a fence where I could touch them (but didn’t).
From Hallim Park we returned to our hotel.  Our tour of Jeju Island was over.  We had an early departure for the next morning for our flights to Beijing and our North Korean adventure.

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