Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Korea - Jeju

Jeju is a volcanic island located south of Korean peninsula. It only takes about 45-50 min plane ride from Seoul to get there...yet it is an entirely different world.
Somehow everything feels beautiful...and well, maybe it is. As I walked out of the plane, immediately I felt the atmosphere...the sunlight, not too strong nor too weak. We had decided to take a taxi tour that day, which means one taxi driver will be with us throughout the day to lead us to different monuments of Jeju.
Oedolgae Rock (Solitary Stone)
There's a legend about the Solitary stone. It is said that the solitary stone is the remnant of a wife of a husband who had gone to the sea and never come back. She had waited him so long that she had become a stone. To her left, you can see another set of rock, which is supposedly her husband. He had died in the sea, but had come back next to her afterward.
Near the Oedolgae Rock
It is strange how the whole entire continent of Korea is filled with such sad stories. I suppose we are incredibly sentimental people. I am not sure why else such sad love legends linger at so many different sites in Korea. As a nation in whole, Koreans had always suffered, perhaps due to lack of will to protect themselves...or perhaps because so many of Koreans are at their soul, artists. They talk of love, wistful breeze, the absolute right at wrong...they compose poetry, enjoy good food, gifted in art, and talk of the sadness.
Perhaps to some, Koreans are quite a sad bunch of people.
Near the Solitary stone
Near the solitary stone

Near the solitary stone
Now I look at this world with the eyes of a grown up person. I can still remember what I had felt when I was young. Everything was full of wonder then. I suppose it still is now since I don't know why I still seem to maintain such naivete amongst such sarcasm and cynicism. I suppose that is my dichotomous nature.More on Oedolgae Rock

There was supposedly storm on its way or on its way out. There is always storm nearby in Jeju, but never quite. We walked the paths to and from the solitary stone. I remembered being there as a young child...I believe six or seven is when I had really been able to last tour Jeju. I had once more been there, but mostly had stayed close to where we had stayed. It had been a trip of rest.
More on Jeongbang Falls
Jeongbang Falls
So much had changed since I last remembered. I hardly remembered this waterfall at all. I remember there were no wide path nor parking lot near this spot. Now it is very accessible and almost too commercialized. I once again feel that Jeju has changed so much. For better or for worse, I am not sure. I miss the flavor of provicial town. I remember the people of Jeju of old. People who had such different culture. Now it all seems they want to blend in with everyone else in Korea. I suppose I should expected such a thing. More development seem to lead to more loss of identity.

When one first set a foot on Jeju, it is almost impossible to believe Jeju is a volcanic island, but after a while, one can't help but notice so many streets and structures are made of the volcanic stone. It is less common now, but such stones were so common in olden days, that you could just randomly pick some up from different places. It used to be that sidewalks were paved with these stones...even this bridge for example have components of volcanic stone.
A bridge near Cheonjeyeon Falls
There are many waterfalls in Jeju, one of famous is this one. I guess because it is so pretty. Personally I preferred another one, but this one is quite exceptional as well. I wanted to find out exactly how many waterfalls there are in Jeju. I suppose one must only count the famous ones since waterfalls seem to just spontaneously appear after the rainfall.
More on Cheonjeyeon Falls

Cheonjeyeon Falls
Dol-Harubang is one of the very typical statue one finds in Jeju. It is said that rubbing the nose of this statue would result in conception. So it is very funny to note that so many noses of these statues are worn away. Koreans can be a superstitious lot...or should I say, they'll try any remedy?
Regardless, this statue is one of the symbols of Jeju. That and possibly volcanic stones and waterfalls.
Dol-Harubang (old stone man)
There are two sites where you can see the so called Dragon head rocks. They are called this because the rocks form what appears to be the shape of the head of the dragon. This one is the one that is going to the sea. There is another near the Jeju city that is going to the heavens.
Since I have the zodiac sign of Dragon, I am constantly fascinated by any dragon statues, natural or not.
Yong Du Am (Dragon head rock)
One can find a very strange rock formations around Jeju island, but this rocky coast is especially interesting since all the stones look like they were carefully arranged into certain shape and staked against each other. This seemingly hexagonal shaped rocks clustered together are certainly not man made.
Jungmun Daepo Coast
 I am still unsure what had turned this rocky beach into such strange formation. I suppose it is the volcano, but how is it possible? Despite my fear of height, I did try to do it justice by looking down over the edge. What a fright! But it was definitely worth it. I had no idea until then how blue the waters of Jeju was.
More on Jungmun Daepo Coast
Jungmun Daepo Coast
From here there is a path where one can walk around the rocks, hugging the coast. We had wanted to do this walk, but unfortunately no one was allowed to go near the beach due to the storm warning. I wish I could have done it. I might have felt dangerous, but imagine the exhilarating experience of the wind, the ocean, and the rocks themselves...
Rocky coastal area
It used to be that women were the ones who went to catch the daily livelihood. They dive sometimes up to 5 min and get fish, squid, octopus, clams, abalone...whatever they can for the food. It is a harsh profession. Sometimes they need to be out in the ocean for hours at the time. They also frequently get severe headaches due to the side effects of diving so much.
Hae Nyo (Water lady)
It is sad to note that there are not that many water ladies left. Most of them who are still doing it are quite old...all over 50 years old. They say no one else wants to follow their footsteps. It had been such a common occurrence to see the water ladies and eat their freshly catched seafood.
I am saddened by the loss of yet another culture.
Hae Nyo (Water lady)
In Jeju, atop a mountain, there is one of the biggest Buddhist temple in Asia. It is amazingly huge and incredibly well built. So many people make donations to this temple...many famous ones.
Yak Chun Sa (Buddhist temple)
Each of these figurines represent some type of virtue. There are hundreds of them, each with different posture. I am often amazed by the buddhist temples. They are equally awspiring as the sun streaming through the stained glass windows in the gothic churches.
Yak Chun Sa (Buddhist temple)
This temple had been built because one very rich old man said he'd donate all his wealth in order to erect this marvellous temple. So there it stands, in the mountains, surrounded by the trees, and the stream what is supposed to have curative components.
Yak Chun Sa (Buddhist temple)
One of the coolest thing about the cities near the ocean in Korea are their fish markets. This is probably Halibut...or some type of flat wish. They are waiting to be plucked out of their baskets to be eaten. Of course, all these are fresh. It would never do to sell old fishes. There is difference in taste between fishes that had stayed long in the aquarium and fishes that are freshly caught.
Flat fish, perhaps halibut
I'm not sure the direct translation of this octopus like creature. It is smaller than octopus, but definitely not a squid. I am sure there is a scientific name for it, but I have never bothered to look it up. All I know is that it is delicious when raw, especially right after it is sliced. It still likes to stick to your mouth...slimy but satisfying...not for faint hearts either.
raw cuttlefish (or octopus?)
Sea cucumbers, abalone, sea squirts, sea snails...all different in texture and when fresh, exceptional delicacies. I think the reason I studied these creatures is that I loved to eat them and wanted to know more about them...possibly to preserve them so that they would last...
Various raw invertebrates
Squids tend to die very easily in captivity, but since this is a fresh fish market, some still are alive. Squids are good cooked, but they are also eaten raw as sushi.
Live squids

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