*NONE OF THE PHOTOS SHOWCASED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE MINE*
Korea has never really been part of my “must-go” list of destinations. I’m not saying that I’m totally not interested in going there, it’s just that other parts of North East Asia, especially Japan, has always been more alluring to me. Nothing about Korea really caught my eye in a way that intrigued me to actually visit; until now, I’ve never actually been to Korea yet. I’ve been to Japan (which I absolutely love!), China, and Taiwan, but not Korea. I know that most people who want to visit Korea want to go there because they are fans of Korean pop-culture, and I’m not exactly a fan so that’s another reason why I was never actually intrigued to go.
It wasn’t until I read a magazine article about the female skin-divers of Jeju Island (called haenyo) was I then intrigued about going to Korea, specifically Jeju Island; not necessarily to see these women alone, but for the island itself as well. Coincidentally, I found this article of Jeju Island on Lonely Planet’s website right after reading the article, and it intrigued me to visit the island even further.
What makes the place so special is the location, as well as the volcanic composition of the island. Because it is located further south, Jeju Island enjoys warmer weather than the mainland, and people often mention it as Korea’s Hawaii because of the volcanoes of of the island. Jeju Island has the world’s largest lava tube cave system in addition to having the highest mountain in Korea, the Hallasan Volcano.
The island itself is even listed as a World Heritage Sight. Most of the tourist attractions around the island are mostly nature-based sights, so it might not really appeal to those who prefer going to urban areas. I personally think that the island looks stunning, and has a different character altogether as opposed to other volcanic islands like Hawaii and those in the Philippines.
Since the island is quite far away from the mainland, it also has a culture unique to the island that is different from the mainland. For one, the island has these basalt statues similar to those in the Easter Islands called grandfather stones (dol hareubangs). They serve as statues of gods that give protection against demons. Keep in mind though that some statues you might find in Jeju are simply decorative, and not the actual thing.
The food here is also slightly different from the usual cuisine of the mainland, being more seafood-based due to the rich waters surrounding the area. I think I will really love the food here since I prefer seafood over meat, and I read that the seafood here is very delicious since it’s incredibly fresh.
Jeju Island is also known for their mineral rich water which many Korean cosmetic brands source their water from. The island also has its own fair share of hot springs and spas, similar to those in other volcanic areas like Iceland and Rotorua, which promise good skin after taking a dip
I currently don’t have any plans for a trip to Korea, but I will definitely try to go to Jeju Island if I do end up being in Seoul. It’s not very hard to get there since it’s only a plane ride away from Seoul.
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