As I described in an earlier post, I took a trip to the Japanese island of Tsushima nearly three months ago. Not long after that, Habiba and I went on a biking trip to Jeju, a large Korean island south and a little east of the peninsula. The trip took place over the Korean thanksgiving holiday of Chuseok – a three-day holiday, which, this year overlapped slightly with a weekend, making a four-day holiday in total. I’d been to Jeju before – a whistlestop weekend trip three years ago.
The point of the trip was to ride bikes. Habiba and I were under some misapprehension as to the extent of the bike-riding, but it turned out to be a pretty enjoyable holiday. We got a coach with a bunch of other foreigners from Seoul to somewhere on the south coast, from where we took the ferry. As with my trip to Tsushima, the ride was pretty rocky, with a typhoon in the vicinity. Everyone felt a bit sick – even me, and I’m usually pretty sturdy on the waves.
When we got to Jeju City, we were taken to a bike shop in the rain and waited for about an hour for everyone to get a mount. Then, wearing disposable rain capes and cheap gloves, we were off.
We rode, apparently about 80 km around the coast on the first day, much more than that on the second day, and some similar amount on the third day. It was gruelling, but it was a fun challenge. The bikes weren’t amazing – mine had to be coaxed into the highest set of gears, and I think I only figured it out on the third day – but they weren’t at all bad.
We didn’t make too many sight-seeing stops on the way, but we did have a look at some lava columns similar to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. We had a rest break in the grounds of the Museum of Sex and Health. We also made a stop to ascend the Seongsan Ilchulbong (‘Seongsan’ means ‘castle mountain’), a striking elevated crater right on the coast.
Accommodation was supposed to be tents, but, on the first night, it was raining quite heavily and we stayed at a guesthouse or hotel. On subsequent nights, people did camp out, but plenty of us – including Habiba and me – stayed in more comfortable accommodation.
As a special treat on the final day of the trip, I and a few others were bussed to Hallasan – a volcano (not at all active) and South Korea’s highest peak. The hike up was surprisingly mild – it was a fair distance and not easy, by any means, but it also wasn’t as steep as other mountain tracks I’ve hiked in Korea. The view at the top was pretty spectacular. We had blue sky and bright sunlight and the place was pretty quiet – some trails in Korea can be packed with people. On the way up, one of the many Scots on the trip spotted a little deer very close to the decked trail.
We got back home the same way we travelled down and it was a pretty late night before going back to work the following morning (or afternoon, for me).