Hikes and tea on Jeju Island

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Hikes and tea on Jeju Island

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A tea plantation near the O’sulloc Tea Museum. By Brian Lee

JEJU ISLAND — There are various reasons one might go on a trip to the country’s most celebrated resort island. I have visited the island a couple of times but never during this particular season.
The temperature hovered between 10 to 17 Celsius (50 to 62.6 Fahrenheit), perfect weather for traveling around the sites.
That said, the winds blowing in from the sea around Jeju make hikes along the cliffs tough let alone enjoy the breathtaking views.
One of the factors that makes staying on this island a pleasant experience is the superb condition of the roads. If you have traveled around the rural parts of this country, you will be aware that this is not always the case in Korea.
Tourists usually stick to public transport. The bus service is generally fine, even though the service is limited.
Honeymooners, who make up the bulk of Jeju’s visitors, usually rent taxis by the day. But don’t shy away from renting a car. It might be a more expensive option, but you get access to more hidden parts of the island.
If you have the budget, renting a convertible during this time of year is an absolute pleasure.
The rental shops are mostly located within a 10-minute drive of the airport, and at Jeju Airport you can find the desks of international companies such as Avis as well as local firms.
My first destination was Mount Songak, which is about a half-hour drive from the Jungmun Resort on the south coast of the island. The name means “Pine Tree Peak.”
One thing that I liked about Mount Songak is you can drive virtually to the top. So if you like to enjoy the view without the sweat of a steep climb, this mountain is for you.
The drive to the top was very pleasant with bright yellow rape fields bordering the road.
Tour buses stop along this route and disgorge their camera-toting cargo of tourists who line up to photograph this spectacular scenery.
The view from the top of the mountain is breathtaking. On a clear day, you can see Hyungjae Island, 12 kilometers away. Fishing boats chugging out to sea etched lines on the sparkling water.
Another charming aspect of this area are the small ponies grazing around the paths that lead to the peak.
A military base sits at the top, although you won’t see any signs advertising the fact. The guards might shout at you not to venture too near if you look like you are about to stumble into the compound.
Another stop that I enjoyed was the O’sulloc Tea Museum, which dates back to 2001.
It was the country’s first tea museum and it is surrounded by tea plantations.
This is the place to come if you want to learn about how tea culture has evolved.

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The Seongsan Ilchulbong, one of the landmarks on Jeju Island.

On display are 140 different kinds of teacups and teapots. Some are made from celadon from the Goryeo Dynasty. You can also see examples of Royal Doulton porcelain from England.
By taking a tour of a nearby tea plant, you can find out more about the process of producing green tea.
If you are visiting the island with your family, you should make sure you go to Soingook, a theme park near Seogwipo on the southern coast.
Here you can find miniature replicas of world landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the pyramids.
Altogether, you can gaze upon 100 man-made structures from 30 countries.
The day I went, the park was overrun with high school and middle school kids on official outings, posing in front of the replicas.
Even if you are a hardened traveler who has seen many of these sites in the flesh — or the brick and cement — the park is a lot of fun.
Most visitors will recognize structures such as London’s Tower Bridge instantly, but the idea is just to imagine you are really in that place, strolling around some of the world’s most famous locales.
Climbers will be pleased to know that Jeju boasts a number of opportunities for roping up and clambering to dizzy heights.
If you are looking for a manageable climb, Seongsan Ilchulbong, otherwise known as Sunrise Peak, comes highly recommended.
Jutting out of the eastern coast, the peak was created thousands of years ago from an underwater volcanic eruption.

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The Soingook Replica Park at Seogwipo.

Visitors can climb the peak from the northwest face, where Seongsan Village is located. The whole affair takes about 40 minutes, depending on the number of breaks taken.
For food lovers, especially carnivores, the best place for meat in Korea is Jeju Island. Jangwi-dong Yusung House is only a 10-minute drive from Jungmun Resort and it offers the only beef dish prepared over a charcoal fire.
The meat comes from Hoengsong, Gangwon, an area famous for its beef, even though few restaurants there are likely to compete with the tenderness and taste of the dishes at Jangwi-dong Yusung House.
Now the Yusung chain is scattered around Seoul and its headquarters are in Jangwi-dong, but the Jeju branch beats them all.
Next to the restaurant at Jeju is Gecko’s Garden, another franchise restaurant that serves cocktails and light meals.
So if you are looking for a place to feast and a couple of drinks, try this area.
All in all, Jeju Island offered me a different experience this time around. It’s probably the best place to drive around for sheer sightseeing pleasure.
Of course, it’s not like Singapore or Hong Kong where you can shop for the latest Gucci handbag. It’s a place where you can get away from the hectic city life.
Jeju can give you a traffic jam-free experience in a beautiful natural setting that is unmatched anywhere on the mainland.
That alone should be a good enough reason to consider Jeju next time you are looking to get away for a few days.

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The Soingook Replica Park at Seogwipo.

Information

The flight from Gimpo Airport near Seoul to Jeju Island takes about an hour.
Asiana Airlines charges adults 77,400 won ($75.55) on weekdays and 88,400 won on weekends one-way.
Korean Air charges comparable prices.
You can fly Jeju Air one-way for 55,400 won, or 63,100 won to 73,700 won at the weekend. Jeju Air flies 14 times a day.

The O’sulloc Tea Museum, a 50-minute drive from Jeju International Airport, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more (in Korean only), visit www.sulloc.co.kr.

For general tourist inquiries, call (064) 1330.

Jeju Island offers a wide range of accommodation ranging from luxury hotels to pensions. The Jungmun Resort is a hub for hotel chains such as the Shilla, Lotte and Hyatt while condos such as the Corea Condo are available as well.
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