Friday, February 7, 2020

Jeju Island Through My Lens

Our day began with a different kind of start, skipping the usual hotel buffet breakfast for a meal across the harbor in a small restaurant. Ah! The challenge of figuring out the names of eateries in South Korea when everything is in Korean (SEOUL TO JEJU), including this one. Breakfast commenced with toast, butter, jam, and a soft-boiled egg, with the highlight being the abalone porridge. Or at least, it was supposed to be. Noticing the absence of abalone in the porridge and informing the guide, he got worked up as if I was pulling his leg, until the rest echoed. Soon enough, we were served additional bowls of porridge, this time with discernible pieces of abalone. The porridge paired with the soft-boiled egg was an appreciated start to the rainy day.

Post-breakfast, we found ourselves at the Jeju Folk Village, umbrellas in hand, as the rain continued to follow us. This quaint village offered a glimpse into the early settlement of the Jeju clan, showcasing their seaside homes, daily activities, and the sense of community that tied them together (MYANMAR: FROM MAE SAI). Wandering through the village, we observed the simple, harmonious lifestyle of the past.

The journey took an intriguing turn with a demonstration of Jeju's horse bone powder, including a tasting session. As expected, there was an attempt to sell us the product afterward. Despite the persuasive pep talk from our tour guide, I politely declined, unlike some of our Chinese tour companions who eagerly purchased the powder (OSAKA SUNSETS & KOBE UNFOLD).

On our way out from Jeju Village, we made a stop at another tour guide's shopping spot, likely for the guide’s commission. I didn’t mind grabbing some Vitamin C and a few boxes of fruity sweet treats. Lunch that day was served before noon, which was appreciated as the rainy weather seemed to trigger hunger. However, it was nothing special - just the usual Korean hot pot meal alongside banchan, the Korean side dishes that saved my lunch. I love these sides, especially when eaten with rice.

After lunch, we spent over an hour at Aqua Planet. Aqua Planet on Jeju Island, South Korea, is a premier marine life theme park and one of the largest aquariums in Asia, offering an immersive and educational experience for visitors of all ages. Nestled in the stunning coastal area, Aqua Planet showcases a diverse array of marine species, from colorful tropical fish and mesmerizing jellyfish to majestic sharks and playful dolphins. The facility is designed with cutting-edge technology to replicate natural habitats, providing an engaging and informative journey through various aquatic ecosystems.

The experience was truly amazing. Watching the colorful tropical fish of all shapes and sizes, swimming gracefully in vibrant colors, was incredibly pleasing. It was both a learning experience and a way to quench my curiosity about marine life and conservation efforts.

Jeju Teddy Bear Museum was next. Located on the picturesque Jeju Island in South Korea, this charming destination delights visitors with its extensive collection of teddy bears from around the world. The museum showcases a variety of bears, ranging from antique and vintage pieces to contemporary and themed exhibits, including famous scenes from history, art, and popular culture, all reimagined with teddy bears.

Highlights include the world's smallest teddy bear and the most expensive bear adorned with jewelry, along with interactive displays, a picturesque garden, and a dedicated section for children. It was a lovely experience, filled with moments of seeing and smiling at the adorable teddies. They are a sight to behold, and it felt like they were smiling back at you. Imagination runs wild in such places.

Next, we visited the 3D Museum. The 3D Museum on Jeju Island offers an interactive and visually stunning experience that blurs the line between art and reality. Featuring an array of intricately designed 3D paintings and optical illusions, the museum invites visitors to become part of the artwork, creating fun and imaginative photo opportunities. Each exhibit is crafted to engage and amaze, from fantastical scenes to famous landmarks and cultural icons, all rendered with astonishing depth and detail.

It was my first experience of this kind, primarily for photo opportunities, albeit with the need to patiently wait for others to give way before striking your own pose. It was entertaining, injecting fun, laughter, and comical madness - moments to let loose and make yourself happy, along with loads of pictures.

We also had a stop at the indoor ice sculpture gallery. The Indoor Ice Sculpture Gallery offers a magical escape into a winter wonderland, showcasing an impressive collection of intricately carved ice sculptures. Kept at a crisp, sub-zero temperature, the gallery features an array of stunning ice artworks, including mythical creatures, famous landmarks, and whimsical scenes, all beautifully illuminated with colorful lights. However, it was too much for me to handle. The freezing cold (TAJ MAHAL AGRA & KODAIKANAL WONDERLAND) made it difficult to even take pictures, so I took a quick walk before exiting swiftly.

By about 3:30 pm, we were already at Seongsan Sunrise Peak. Also known as Seongsan Ilchulbong, this UNESCO World Heritage site is located on the eastern tip of Jeju Island. The dramatic volcanic crater, rising 182 meters above sea level, was formed over 100,000 years ago by a hydrovolcanic eruption. Renowned for its stunning sunrises, the peak offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding sea and landscape. The ascent to the top is adorned with lush vegetation and vibrant wildflowers, making it feel like a nature walk. 

I strolled leisurely, admiring the scenery that unfolded in front of and around me. The beautiful, comforting weather with a soft wind blowing made for a soft and luscious walk, although I chose not to walk all the way to the peak. Returning downhill in an hour, I bought a spiraled fried crispy potato on a stick and tried the must-try Jeju orange juice, sitting on a bench across the hill for my own moment of relaxation. 

Dinner ended our day with yet another seafood meal accompanied by Korean side dishes. It made me wonder if there was no other food for tourists in South Korea or if it was the tour agent's preference for such meals? It was a blessing my hunger was save by the " Godeungeo Gui" - grilled mackerel. Otherwise?

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