Palm trees swaying in the warm tropical breeze. A picturesque beach with pristine white sand. The laid back, “go slow” island vibe of the indigenous people. These particular images conjure up wonderful memories of traveling for me. Places like Thailand, Belize, and the Philippines amongst others are perfect examples. Korea… not so much.
Having lived in Korea since 2008 and never taken the time to visit Jeju was beginning to wear on me a little bit. Following the island’s inclusion into the New 7 Wonders of Nature listing (note: this is certainly a controversial list, nevertheless the two others I have visited (Iguazu Falls and the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park) are certainly amongst the most surreal natural landscapes I have ever witnessed) we decided it was time to finally make our way down there.
I must say it was incredible how different Jeju was. I always experience the general less wound up nature of people when I leave Seoul, but this was somehow different. You could tell things just moved at a slower pace (something Seoulites could certainly learn a thing or two from). I took the time to trade in my Canadian driver’s license and get a rental car for the duration of our time down there. In hindsight this proved to be an extremely wise move, it’s amazing the freedom this experience offers, and although I would never want to bother driving in Seoul it was quite a thrill to get back behind the wheel of a car. The sights in Jeju are remarkable, but for my money the experience is just as rich (if not more so) simply following the coastal roads and taking in the myriad of sights and smells that you would never find in the hustle and bustle of Seoul. If taking the time to head to Jeju, everyone’s ‘must-do’ list should certainly not leave off a trip to Udo. This island takes the laid back level of Jeju to a whole new extreme. The entire island can be traversed in thirty minutes by car, and the beaches are without doubt comparable to some of the most magnificent I have ever seen (also, for seafood lovers I challenge you to find a meal fresher than those offered here).
Overall, I must say I went into the trip with a bit of a negative stereotype regarding what I thought the island experience would resemble. I feel fortunate in saying that all of these feelings were completely shattered, and I left Jeju with a renewed love for this country that I have called a second home for many years now. I am certainly grateful that we took the time to visit this little piece of (Korean) paradise.