Travel Musings: Jeju 2017 (제주도 2017)

A recent long weekend resulted in an impromptu trip to Jeju. As most of you know, Jeju is my favorite place in Korea, outside of Seoul, and after a 2 year break, a visit was more than welcome. It seems I'm not the only one with a soft spot for this beautiful island as my past posts on Jeju (2015 and 2013) are also some of this blog's most popular posts!

So, in trying to meet demand, I've gone ahead and shared this most recent post ahead of literal months of other posts I'm still lagged behind in :(

Enjoy!



As I mentioned, this was a very sudden trip. As in, tickets were literally booked a few days before. As such, the schedule wasn't ideal- departing on a late afternoon. On top of that, even after booking the flight, it was difficult finding a car available to rent because of the long weekend but luckily a last minute cancellation secured us a Ray vehicle through Star rental in Jeju.

I want to first mention that since my last visit 2 years ago, the car rental system on Jeju has changed. Previously, you could pick up your rental vehicle at Jeju Airport directly in the parking lot but this is no longer the case. Instead, in the same parking lot where you were able to pick up your car, the major car rental services operates shuttle services. Verify with your car rental service on where exactly you should go to get picked up on the airport lot grounds (it's usually corresponded with a parking lot section that's numbered) beforehand.

In any case, after verifying our name was on the list, we boarded our shuttle and waited about 10 minutes for other passengers before being driven to the Star Rental center which is only like 1km or so away from the airport.

The rental center was quite spacious and comfortable. In the order you enter the center you get a number for which they call you up to get you set up. It's extremely fast and convenient.

They also have, available as long as limited supplies are available, a free kit that has things like cell phone charger, audio cable, etc. Also there was a free book that included some coupons and discounts for various attractions and restaurants around Jeju which came in handy later on (more on that later).

After getting set up with the folks at the counter, wait a minute or so and someone will pull up your car and call you over. Receive the instructions, make sure you do a full check on any scratches or dents (I always make a thorough video), and then you're on your way!

Unfortunately the homepage is only in Korean but when we were renting our car there were 1 or 2 foreigners who were renting cars so I believe they are accustomed to working with non-Koreans. I highly recommend Jeju Star!

Jeju Star (제주스타)
02-862-3348
mktg.jejustar@jejustar.co.kr
www.jejustar.co.kr (Korean only)
There's also a mobile application which, if you use to make a car reservation, you can receive a 5% discount (although the app is also only in Korean...)

By the time we were out from the car rental center it was early evening so not much time to do any sightseeing. Instead my friends and I headed for a restaurant near our Airbnb.

But hey, Buddha's birthday had recently passed so it was nice seeing the lanterns up in Jeju City.


Our Airbnb was on the western side of Jeju and not far from Hallim-eub so we decided to grab dinner in that area and deciding on a place called Dokgaemulhang (독개물항).

Specializing in a range of typical Jeju seafood fare their menu includes the usual galchi jorim (braised hairtail), abalone dishes, etc.



A sign that says they only sell Jeju soju... aiite, that's coo.


Sides were also a mix between seafood and vegetable dishes. Broccoli was my favorite.


Jeju radish is famous but this pickled radish (not the kkakdugi) was extreme sodium overload.



I went with the haemul ddookbaegi (seafood hot pot) while my buddy went with the hanchi mul hwoe (cuttlefish cold soup).


Visually, my friend's mul hwoe looked much more of a knock out than my simple stew. Plenty of cuttlefish, crunchy vegetables, etc. I wasn't a fan of the taste though. They seemed to use yuza in the seasoning but the amount was excessive to the point that you couldn't taste anything other than the yuza.


Particularly with all that fresh cuttlefish it would have been nice to enjoy its flavors but everything was masked into what seemed like a cold yuza soup. I think if one were blindfolded and ate this you'd have a hard time telling apart what the ingredients  were except to guess based on texture.


My haemul ddookbaegi was much preferred personally. A good mixture of seafood including abalone, crab, scallop, mussels, etc. As it's dwenjang based, it's mild enough that even the spicy-averse should be able to enjoy.


Verdict overall of the restaurant? A bit underwhelming. Nothing that was particularly impressive while some of the dishes and sides were excessive in seasoning or sodium levels.

Dokgaemulhang (독개물항)
478, Hallim-ro, Ongpo-ri, Hallim-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do
064-796-3966
Open everyday but break time between 3:30-5PM. 

In addition to already being quite tired, there was a mix-up at our Airbnb where they overbooked so we ended up having to stay in a room of the owner's house on the first night. We didn't really mind and they were a nice lovely retired couple who had lived in South Africa and Antarctica and such with fascinating stories to tell but because we didn't want to disturb them either, it was an early night. Not that there was anywhere to go because the Airbnb was literally in the countryside in the middle of nowhere.

Enjoying the freedom to properly sleep in for the first time in a while, I woke up ready for a full day and also hungry!

The sightseeing agenda for the first full day would begin on the east coast, remember our Airbnb was on the west coast, and as such we were looking for a place to eat that was on the way.

Having had seafood for dinner the previous night, we settled on Guksu Bada which specializes in gogi guksu (pork noodles) and mohmguk.


I've written about mohmguk before which is a soup that's unique to Jeju. Taking Jeju pork, entrails etc and boiling it for hours to make a deep broth and then adding seaweed to it. I've been to a few restaurants in the past that specializes in this dish and with mixed results. Sometimes it's been pretty good while other times the seafood and game scent from the pork has been overwhelming to say the least.


But besides the momguk and gogi guksu, they have cold noodles like bibim guksu and milmyeon, hwoe guksu, etc.


If you're part of a larger group (4 or more) they have a set available that will give you urchin soup, hwoe guksu, gogi guksu, momguk, sooyook, and mandu for only about 15K per person. 


Overall prices are reasonable, especially considering it's a Jeju restaurant. With the (reasonably) simpler prices, side dishes are basic as well being just kimchi and kkakdugi.


And voila, gogi guksu and mohmguk.



Gogi guksu was great. Nice and flavorful but clean. Big ol hunks of meat and reminiscent of a bowl of Japanese ramen. 


I was tempted to go for the gogi guksu as well but I decided to brave it out and try this place's mohmguk. After all, a few places serving gogi guksu have sprung up around Seoul but I have yet to see anywhere on the peninsula that specializes in mohmguk. 

Arriving at the table boiling and bubbling in full, the thickness and color makes it difficult to see what's hidden underneath. 


But turn things over with a spoon and see a nest of seaweed and speckles of pork meat within. The pork flavors is what comes first but then as you chew and release the seaweed's oceanic scents it comes together quite nice while the nuttier, ground wild perilla seeds and other seasonings keeps it grounded. This was quite nice and I enjoyed it though it still remains quite a richer dish on the Korean food spectrum for me.



Guksu Bada (국수바다)
982, Iljuseo-ro, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, Republic of Korea
064-739-9255
Closed on the first and third Thursdays of every month

As mentioned, our sightseeing began on the east side of the island, hitting up Seopjikoji (섭지코지). This narrow strip of land is not far from the famed Seongsanilchulbong and known for its volcanic formations and scenery.


It's a pleasant course to walk just by the sea. With a nice contrast in color and shapes with the volcanic scenery and blue ocean. 






This rock formation is candle stick rock.



As you walk, you'll come across a ridge with steps that lead to a lighthouse. 




Pleasant views.


The region shares space with the Phoenix resort and a few famous architectural structures are found around Seopjikoji (which was another appeal of why we came out here). 

Below is the Glass House with a nice little flower garden behind. 


Just across the harbor you can see Seongsanilchulbong.


The Glass House is a very modern structure that sits in the middle of the natural scenery.



Inside is a restaurant, a (quite randomly) Zippo Museum (as in, the famous lighters), and a cafe with great views but terrible coffee.


Zippo man's eyes are followin me.


Also on the space is the renown Genius Loci designed by the renown architect Ando Tadao... but which was unfortunately closed for renovations on my visit though I managed to get this shot of part of its facade. 


Lastly, on the Phoenix resort ground, the glass structure known as Agora is found. Designed by Italian architect, Mario Botta. It serves as the resort's club house and as such, there are actually signs that says only members are allowed in. As such, I didn't actually enter it. The Agora's accessibility and openness for the public was a bit confusing as the resort naturally connects with the Seopjikoji grounds making it more than simple for any visitor to just walk over here. I won't say what you should or shouldn't do but I wouldn't say it was something worth going out of the way for.



Seopjikoji
107, Seopjikoji-ro, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do
There's a parking lot for the area which is about 1K or so for a vehicle. 

After seeing the seaside, we next decided to do some hill climbing. As a volcanic island, hundreds of hills called "oreum" are found throughout the island.

Yongnuni Oreum, also on the eastern side of Jeju, was featured in a lot of articles and blogs as being particularly beautiful.


It's a beautiful hill indeed. Almost like a Microsoft desktop wallpaper. And horses!



And graves.


You can spot surrounding hills and even mountains like Mt. Halla.




Windddddddddyyyy


Those dots on the ridges are people :)


The climb isn't too bad that even novice climbers should be able to do. The complete course around takes about 30-40 minutes depending on your pace.






It is, however as mentioned, quite windy (note the many windmills that are in view around) so take precaution if you're wearing hats or anything like that or just go wild hair like me. :)


Yongnooni Oreum (용눈이 오름)
28, Jongdal-ri, Gujwa-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, Republic of Korea

After having seen ocean, and mountain, why not complete the trifecta with some forestry? Near Mt. Halla is the famed Saryeoni Forest Path known for its big ol' trees and various fauna.


We arrived in mid to late afternoon on the north end of the trail, where the main parking lot is, only to find that the last admittance time to the forest had passed, as told by the older guard who stopped us from embarking on the path.

Bummer.

But after getting into our car again and driving on, we found ourselves at the southern end of the trail which apparently(?) either has later hours or entry times aren't enforced.

Some choose to walk the entire length of which there are two main paths, one a 10km walk and one a 15km walk (both one-way distances).


10 or 15km is a bit intense for time-strapped travelers so just walk a kilometer or two to enjoy some of that fresh mountain forest air and greenery.





Beside usual rules about smoking and littering, there's a berry that's apparently extremely poisonous as shown below. Be careful, especially if you're traveling with children or pets (not sure if they affect animals the same way but you never know)...



Saryeoni Forest (사려니 숲길)
1487-73, Namjo-ro, Gasi-ri, Pyoseon-myeon, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do

From Mt. Halla, we decided to squeeze in Wonang Waterfall before we reached Seogwipo City.

This 5m high, split waterfall is part of the Donnaeko Recreational Area. But first you need to park and walk about 5-8 minutes to reach it.


Getting to the falls is easy as it's a descent but there are stairs you'll need to climb on your return walk so keep that in mind for those of you who may have bad joints and such.



Blocked off cave to the side :(


No diving!


But once you reach the falls it's quite a pleasant treat to take in. Sourced from Mt. Halla itself, this icy lagoon is popular for swimming and dunking in the dog days of summer. But even then it's said to be quite cold.






Wonang Waterfalls (원앙 폭포)
114, Donnaeko-ro, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do

Finally reached Seogwipo City where I always try and reach the Olle Market to pick up snacks and goods. PS, don't forget to check out the Lee Jung Seop Street just by the market if you're into cute cafes or want to check out the Lee Jung Seop museum.

The Olle Market's snack offering has really continued to develop since my last visit with recent popular stalls including the Jeju Pork skewers, octopus bread, fresh (apparently from Jeju) mango juice, etc.

I was all about reaching one spot though- Manong Chicken. Having featured in numerous television shows, this place serves up only one variety of chicken- its fried chicken with garlic.

Starting off as a simple stall, this fried chicken restaurant exploded in recognition and popularity for its seemingly flavorful and allegedly perfectly fried chicken. The original stall is still available for pick up only but is extremely popular; when we reached there at around 6PM, we were told the wait time would be 1 hour 20 minutes!

Remembering though they have a second, sit-down restaurant located just a few alleys up from the original stall, we asked what the wait time for the second location was and was told we should be able to be seated quickly or potentially even right away.

Reaching the second location, we were able to sit down right away. Here, they fry the chicken directly as well (instead of bringing over orders from the original store).

I strongly recommend you go to the second, sit-down store for reasons I will explain soon. 

Menu is as below. The chicken is 16K while you can get draft beer (Cass) for 4K or 10K for 500cc or 1700cc respectively. Soju, bottled beer is 4K, soft drinks is 1K, and large-sized cola is 2.5K.


Extra pickled radish or sauce is 500 won extra.



It's an extreme no-frills joint with water self-serve and a sign that even says to use the pickled radish container lids as trays for the chicken sauce as they don't provide plates.


Chicken are fried to order and because of the heavy, heavy demand (people were waiting outside this second store too to pick up their chicken), it takes a good 10 minutes or so for the chicken to come out but when it does it comes out as such.

Big ol' plate of the fried chicken, pickled radish, salt, and two packets of sweet-spicy sauce.


The chicken pieces are coated with a seasoned batter, fried, and then given a scoop of freshly minced garlic atop.


And these chicken pieces are quite big as referenced by my fist to show a comparison. The quantity is quite a lot as well. I figure they may be using either two small chickens or maybe a regular chicken and a half.


A few battered and potato pieces are also found within. 


Now let me preface first that I've tried quite a number of famed chicken joints around Korea from Sokcho to Bucheon and such. That being said, my first bite of the chicken here was something I can only describe as a moment.

First the crunch of the batter, followed by the initial taste of the seasoning. The seasoning is not that strong alone and initially you might even think it is under seasoned especially comparing it to the salty, turmeric-y, flavors of the common Korean fried chicken.

But within a nano second, from beneath the crusts of this fine batter unleashes the juices of the wonderfully fried chicken. I don't even know how to explain it except it was as though each cell of the chicken meat itself had retained every last bit of the chicken's natural juices. And in between, the bits of minced garlic adds a wonderful parallel flavor, like a beautiful meteor shot across a wide expansive field....

It was then I realized why the initial batter seasoning was kept to a good bare minimum- to let the perfectly fried chicken it was holding within, really shine. In a time where Korean fried chicken joints are only increasing the seasoning of their chicken with spicier and sweeter sauces, additives like artificial cheese powder and whatnot, our society as a whole had forgotten that a good fried chicken simply came down to the chicken itself.

I tried to take pictures to show just how perfectly fried and incredibly juicy the inside of these chicken were but even my pictures don't do justice.



In the end, we didn't even end up opening the chicken sauce or salt packet that was provided. The chicken was simply too superb and enjoyable on its own that there was never a thought that it needed anything extra.

That being said after eating the chicken about halfway through, as the chicken continued to cool, the level of juiciness does decrease and that's why I realized why I had read so many mixed reviews about this chicken joint beforehand. The bloggers I had read who found the chicken underwhelming or on the blander side all had ordered the chicken as take out and consumed the chicken after significant time had passed.

Thus the bottom line boils down to this: In addition to using nice, meaty chicken, Manong Chicken knows how to fry a freaking chicken to absolute perfection. But, as anyone who knows fried food knows, fried is always best enjoyed right away. So as I suggested, nay, commanded before, do yourself a favor and sit down to enjoy this chicken. Don't worry if you can't finish it as they'll pack away the leftovers for you. But to enjoy the magic of, what I can only say is this absolute perfection of a fried chicken, find the second store and sit down to eat it fresh from the fryer.


One last note- along with the self-serve water and whatnot, cleanup for diners here is self-serve as well. They have a station in the back to throw away food scraps, recyclables, and leave trays and chicken dish behind.

Please note that chicken bones should go in the regular trash and not with the food scraps (a fact about trash disposal in Korea that even many Koreans don't know). 

Manong Chicken
13, Jungang-ro 62beon-gil, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, Republic of Korea
064-738-3521

Back in the market, the stalls are always perfect to pick up some fresh fruit, snacks, and whatnot for your trip. Picked up some of the Jeju specialty of omegi ddeok (rice cakes), barley bread, and some Jeju makgeolli (for immediate or within-a-few-days consumption always get the fresh ones, not the pasteurized ones). This was one fruit stand we randomly went to to get some hallabongs and such.


Heading back to our Airbnb, with our spoils from Olle Market and 1/3 of the fried chicken left, I was sure that we were done eating for the time being when my friends suggested checking out a well reviewed Jeju pork restaurant not too far from our place of stay.

I balked at first but my tried and true travel mantra of "you only live once" convinced me to go for it and we arrived at the Myeongridong Shikdang (명리동식당) just an hour or so before closing.

For the pork, you can get either 200g of samgyeobsal or pork neck for 18K or the jaturi gogi which is a mixture of  cuts from the legs, belly, or neck which is 14K for 250g.

They also serve a kimchi jeongol which begins at 6K for 1 person, 12K for 2, 17K for 3, and so on (rice is separate and 1K a bowl). Bottled soju or beer is 4K and soft drinks are 1K.

For those who have been to Jeju and tried other Jeju pork restaurants before, you'll know from the menu that the immediate draw is the more than reasonable prices. The 200g for Jeju pork belly or neck at 18K is on the lower end of the Jeju price spectrum while the 250g of assorted Jeju pork cuts for 14K is a true deal.


Sign saying they close on Mondays as well as the opening hours. They were quite strict on last orders at around 8:30 PM or so, turning away a group by that time. 


Open kitchen while refills of sides are self-serve. 


The present day location of the restaurant is not the original as it actually began elsewhere in a much smaller and humble setting. We actually had a bit of a fascinating chit chat with the co-owner (the servers cook the Jeju pork for you) who shared they'd been in the business for almost 2 decades after relocating to Jeju from Busan. She talked about how their restaurant was actually quite discriminated against by their native Jeju neighbors who would go out of their way to even report them for petty things to harass them! Luckily they overcame all that and their friendly prices and food grew in recognition and popularity (even featuring on some popular Korean television food programs) and they were able to move to this new location. 

But as another thorn to their side, after moving here a restaurant opened up right next door with almost the exact same menu which, on my way out of the restaurant later, just as she said, really was there! 

Hmmm.

Original restaurant pictures. Started from the bottom but now we here...


Anyhow, hot charcoal is brought out to your table


Followed by sides including pa muchim (spicy sweet green onion ribbons), spicy fish cake bokkeum, soybean sprouts, seaweed, pickled peppers, pickled onions, kimchi, and lettuce for wraps.






Making an order for the pork neck and an order for the assorted pork, these cuts were brought out to the table along with the side of the representative Jeju fermented seafood sauce.



As mentioned, the pork is cooked and attended to by the servers in which we had the co-owner lady (a husband and wife duo own the restaurant) cook up ours.



Verdict? It's not bad. It'll satiate a Jeju pork craving and it certainly is great value especially considering how high costing Jeju is in general. But the pork was just a tad on the drier side and not particularly flavorful (as agreed by all of us) and better enjoyed in wraps. The owner lady mentioned their kimchi jeongol was also quite delicious but none of us had any room (can you blame us?)

Initially I wondered if our slight underwhelming of the Jeju pork this time around was just that we were already full from having downed that delicious fried chicken from a couple hours before.

But! I was proven wrong by a visit to another famous Jeju Pork restaurant in the coming days (don't worry that place is making its appearance later in this post).


Myeongridong Sikdang (명리동식당)
498, Nokchabunjae-ro, Jeoji-ri, Hangyeong-myeon, Jeju-si, Jeju-do
064-772-5571
On my search the web listed that there's another branch in Aewol-eup in the northwest corner of Jeju Island, a little closer to Jeju City. I'm not 100% sure if it's affiliated and I can't vouch for the second branch but the address for that one is: 384-8, Aewolhaean-ro, Gonae-ri, Aewol-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do

After heaving ourselves back into the car and rolling ourselves into our Airbnb, we took a stroll around to walk some of our gluttony off but found it literally was a little village in the middle of nowhere complete with the fresh aroma of cow dung for miles around....

Back to the Airbnb for fruit we picked up at the market.




Though I'd had Jeju tangerine makgeolli before I hadn't had the Hallabong variety so this was a bottle we picked up at the Olle Market. As almost always with any flavored makgeolli, it simply was way too sweet for my liking but if that's how you like your makgeolli then go for it.


On our second full day, woke up hungry (sigh, oh stomach of mine) and eagerly got a fresh coffee brew going to enjoy with the barley bread and omegi ddeok bought at the Olle Market the day before. 


The last time I bought barley bread from the Olle Market it was filled with red bean which I'm not usually that keen on but found it to match well with the hearty and nutty tastes of the barley bread. Expecting the same thing I bit into it... only to find that it was literally barley bread and nothing else. I received a lot of flack for that since I was the one who insisted we pick these up the night prior. Apparently there are two versions? I'll have to verify on my next visit to the market but if you're at the market and on the hunt for them, you may wanna ask if there is red bean ("paht" or 팥) in them.


Omegi ddeok, however, was delicious as usual. We got it from the same famous vendor as the one I went to last time and was not disappointed. 

Omegi ddeok does not last well and quickly hardens in the fridge or melts together into a sticky hybrid mess so make sure you eat them within the same day or freeze them if you're not. 


Now minor disappointment about our out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere Airbnb aside, one of the major plus about its location was that it was located just a few kms away from my favorite Jeju beach, Hyeopjae Beach (which I also wrote about in my previous Jeju post). I remember some 5 or 6 years ago when I first visited this beach it was quite unknown with few people. It has since continued to grow in popularity between the 4 or 5 times I've visited here now with a lot of developments.

Nevertheless, if you walk out just a bit, it's more than easy to find yourself some privacy and enjoy wondrous views as such:






Who would think you're in Korea and not in the south Pacific somewhere?


The beach is home to many critters like this one as well.




Squint, squint for a picture.


...or two...


...or three...


Seriously. I love this beach.

Hyeopjae Beach (협재해수욕장)
329-10 Hallim-ro, Hallim-eub, Cheju, Jeju-do

After a delightful morning at the beach, it was time to be re-caffeinated. Having seen a lot of buzz and postings about Bomnal Cafe and the jaw-dropping photos, we selected it as our cafe of choice.

It's quite a well-known place already and the parking lot in front was already quite teeming with both cars and folks.


At Bomnal, you order at the outside counter first before finding a seat (indoor or outdoors). 


There's a small and quaint alley between the cafe and a store to get to Bomnal's grounds.





Interior is cute and all.



And menu:



But the real highlight of Bomnal Cafe is the view. You'd think you're in Hawaii or something from the picture perfect window views!


Now with a lot of these cafes with a premium in location often times the downside is that the coffee is rather crummy while you pay a high price for the setting. And that's what I was expecting with Bomnal but imagine my surprise when A. the coffee was good and B. the prices were reasonable! They hand roast their coffee beans and everything and their desserts were apparently pretty tasty too based on other reviewers.

Seriously, with the views and everything I was mind boggled at the price and taste of the coffee.


As mentioned, they also have an outdoor seating available too. I heard the cafe right next door is G-Dragon's cafe or something? I didn't go but location-wise, it seems like that cafe would also have great views as well... though I recall our Airbnb hosts said the coffee there wasn't that good.




If you noticed all the paddle boaters out on the sea in the pictures above it's because a few meters down from the cafe there's a little harbor where they were renting out paddle boats. I think like 10K or 20K per hour. They must really make a killing cuz there were a lot of folks paddling.


Bomnal Cafe (봄날카페)
25, Aewol-ro 1-gil, aewol-ri, Aewol-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do
064-799-4999
http://www.jejubomnal.com/
Open everyday from 12 PM to 8PM

Re-caffeinated we were more than ready for some lunch grubbin but since we had some photographers in our party we decided to make a quick pit stop at Aewol Elementary School's Deoreok Branch.

This primary school has become famous in recent years because of its colorful facade, apparently designed by the French colorist Jean Philipppe Lenclos. Every aspect of the school's exterior is in a rainbow spectrum making it popular for commercial shoots, wedding shoots, and amateur picture taking.








There's nothing else to do besides walk around the building (takes what, 10 minutes?) and you certainly can't enter inside. But if you're into picture taking or want some fun Instagram-worthy shots, it's worth a visit.

Do note that this is an actual school and, as such, visitors can only visit the school grounds after 5PM on weekdays and after 1PM on Saturdays. On Sundays, it's open from 9AM.

Aewol Elementary School Deoreok Branch School (애월초등학교 더럭분교장)
195, Haga-ro, Haga-ri, Aewol-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do

Making a decision for lunch, we were all saddled with guilt on our downright gluttonous choices of the day before on chicken, pork, makgeolli, and more and thus decided to take things a bit lighter for lunch .

Shin eui han mo, literally means block of the gods. "Block" is a rough translation as it is referred to tofu blocks. Specializing in homemade tofu and Japanese cooking, this seemed like a perfect lighter meal.

Situated in a large wooden structure and just off the north coast of Jeju, the outside doesn't look much...


But the inside wooden decor and yellow-hued lights gives it a nice ambiance.



Tofu is the star of the show here and they take great pride in explaining how meticulously and lovingly they create their blocks of fresh tofu. 


Apparently started up by three friends who brought over the secrets and know-how from Japan, they take quite a bit of pride in their work as reflected in their explanatory mural.






But their menu is quite extensive beyond tofu only, including various tempura, sooyook, etc. They also have some interesting menu items like a soy milk shabu shabu and sets. Prices are a bit on the mid to higher ends with most main dishes in the 15K-20K area. 


They also do Japanese style skewers with various sets that also includes their tofu on the side for those looking for bites with drinks.


Simple sides include kimchi, some pickled onions, and homemade takuan (or danmuji in Korean).

Very simple yet a right balance to the meal coming on later. Let me also take the time to do a shout out to that danmuji. Now, I know you may be raising your eyebrows at this point thinking of those neon yellow radishes that comes with jajangmyeon with probably a 1/2 cup of sugar per slice.

But these, these, danmuji are something. Made in house and just lightly seasoned and pickled with just the perfect amount of salty and tartness and crunch, what sends them over the top is the katsuobushi that adds just a tinge of smokey, added umami. I don't know if I've ever been that impressed by danmuji before.


With the set menu you can get a half block of their homemade tofu which comes with a simple grated ginger garnish atop and some katsuobushi, chopped scallions, soy sauce, and kimchi to the side. Essentially, you can eat your tofu Korean or Japanese style.


But with just a perfect al dente, so to speak, and nice creaminess the tofu is a perfect vehicle for both topping options. Though, to appreciate this homemade goodness, I prefer the lighter fish flakes and herbs.


Two of their bestselling bowls are the oyaokodon (egg and chicken bowl) and their ganjang gejang (soy sauce marinated crabs) natto bowl.


The oyako don comes with fluffy eggs and grilled chicken thigh meat over rice. The thigh meat is perfectly tender and juicy while the spring onions add a nice flavorful touch.


A great mixture of texture and flavors that's filling but not too heavy.


Now the gejang deopbab is their particular star dish and they even have little signs on every table that explains their recommended way of eating it.

Basically, don't mix the entire thing like bibimbap and instead scoop each spoonful to enjoy it best.


And here it is in all its natural glory. Rice, topped with soft homemade tofu, homemade natto, ganjang gejang (shell removed), toasted seaweed flakes, scallions, chives,  and raw egg. Toasted sesame seeds and a sprinkling of shichimi with a drizzle of soy sauce completes the deal.


Natto and ganjang gejang isn't for everyone and I have to admit I'm not the crazies about natto. But if you're willing to have an open palate (and mind) for this dish it is a damn fine dish. It's initially interesting to think to pair ganjang gejang with natto but then you remember the latter is naturally given a soy sauce drizzle and so the complexities of the ganjang gejang adds an intriguing dimension to the soft, nutty beans while the fishy ganjang gejang and earthy natto doing a great job in balancing each other out. Those two are the primary flavors behind this dish but then each spoonful, as recommended by them, gives different layers depending on what your spoon holds (toasted seaweed, scallions, egg, etc). 

My friend isn't even a big tofu fan but later admitted it was one of the favorite meals of this trip. 


Having enjoyed a, comparably, lighter fare, on our way to pay I noticed they had an in-house cafe going with some interesting things like soy milk shakes, soy milk ice cream, etc. And of course we went for it (don't ask me about what happened to eating "light").



Again, not the cheapest prices (4.5K for the soy milk shake, and 3.5 for the soy milk ice cream) but man were they delicious. Cold, creamy, nutty and just a touch of sweetness, it's a great extension of the food here that also isn't overbearing. 



Good spot for a light, healthy meal. Friendly for families and vegetarians alike.

Shin eui han mo (신의한모)
11-1, Hagwi 14-gil, Hagwi 1(il)-ri, Aewol-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do
064-712-9642

To walk off the lunch, we hit up the ongoing barley field festival that was going on which took a reallllll bit of trouble to find. Addresses were conflicting or just flat out wrong and it really just pops out of nowhere.

Nevertheless, it was quite rewarding to find this scenic beauty. Located on the hills near Mt. Halla, the golden barley stretches out in all directions as they sway to the breeze.



Little walk paths are around to explore. It's a nice picture taking deal and break but it's a seasonal thing and I'm not all too sure it's happening next year...




Again, this is a seasonal event (until June this year in 2017) and 1. I'm not sure if the address below is correct (there were so many conflicting addresses) and 2. I'm not sure it's going on next year but if you're in Jeju and interested in the late spring/early summer time then do some searching online beforehand:

Jeju Gold Barley Festival
San132, Yeon-dong, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, Republic of Korea

Made a pit stop to the Jeju Museum of Contemporary Art that I'd visited a few years ago. Actually the plan was to stop at the Jeju Museum of Art, near Jeju City, but it just happened to be the day of the week it was closed.

Anyways, not a lot of the art has changed since then at the Contemporary Art museum but it's still worth a visit if you haven't been before.




Jeju Museum of Contemporary Art
2114-63 Jeoji-ri, Hangyeong-myeon, Cheju, Jeju-do
064-710-7803
http://www.jejumuseum.go.kr/kor/ (Doesn't seem to have an English site yet)

Ongoing with the photography tour the next pit stop was to The Cteshphon House. I'm still not sure of the whys and whats of this little house. What I know is that it's styled after some ancient Iraqi-style house from a city called Ctesiphon near present-day Baghdad. Said to be the only house of its kind on all of Jeju Island, it's sprung up as a top attraction for photographers (especially wedding shoots).

But for all the things that were said about it, it was quite... underwhelming.

It's in a field that's really in the middle of nowhere. Though there are lots of cows and apparently a now popular ice cream store near this house's parking lot.

It's an abandoned house that, sure, is unique. But in its unkempt condition, I'm not so sure it has the aesthetic properties to really merit it a far drive out.



Still, there were quite a bit of people that were interested in taking pictures in and around the structure. Maybe they were seeing something I didn't.



Ctesphon House
Jeju-si, Hallim-eup, Geumak-ri 142

Luckily, just near the house (about a 10 minute drive?) is something that we definitely found worth visiting for some pictures and that's the "Lone Tree".

Exactly as the name describes, this tree sits in a wide spanning field and it does so quite alone. Not another tree like it within the vicinity.

The surrounding fields:


It is, exactly as described, a lonely tree in the field which may not be for everyone but it does make for a fascinating picture as evidenced by the increasingly many who are stopping by to snap photos here.






I do have to add, access to this tree may, or may not, be technically illegal. You literally have to park on the side of a road (no parking lot anything), then cross a small ditch (people have put up makeshift little wood plank "bridges") and then a fence with signs that says access is limited as they're trying to discourage the spread of avian influenza. The sign is apparently a recent add-on so I'm not going to encourage you to break any rules or do anything that may, or may not, get you in any kind of trouble. I haven't heard of any issues with trespassing or anything but... it's your call.... :)


Lonely Tree (나홀로 나무 or 왕따나무)
산30-8, Geumak-ri, Hallim-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, Republic of Korea

Capping off the day before dinner, the plan was to watch the sun set at Suwolbong, the westernmost point of Jeju.


But some of us had to really pee (too candid?), weather wasn't so good, and we were all quite hungry so we didn't stay for the whole thing but did enjoy the view. Suwolbong is always worth a visit imo.



Suwolbong (수월봉)
Gorak-ro, Hangyeong-myeon, Jeju-si, Jeju 
제주특별자치도 제주시 한경면 고락로 (한경면)

We were craving hwoe (sashimi) for dinner but not wanting to drive too far out as we'd covered quite some km all day. Near Hyeopjae Beach was this hwoe spot which didn't seem too bad so we stopped by.

It's a humble little spot just by the beach parking lot and prices are quite reasonable with sets (for 2 or more folks) starting at 15K to 20K. For the basic 15K per person you can have abalone porridge, a grilled mackerel, seafood stew, and either halibut hwoe or galchi jorim (braised hairtail fish). Or you can get both for 10K. They also have ala carte items that runs between 10K to 12K a dish such as abalone stew, braised mackerel, mool hwoe, etc.

Not really interested in the other seafood items and really just craving hwoe though, we just went with the kg of halibut hwoe at 50K.


Even ordering just the hwoe you get sides as below...


grilled mackerel.. delicious btw.


And lettuce and fixings for wraps.


Full spread. the 1 kg is plenty for two but you can get more for a bigger group.


Fresh hwoe. 


Belly is the prized part... not necessarily my favorite but prized nonetheless.


As in all hwoe places in Korea, they will take the head, bones, and leftover parts to create the hearty maeuntang as a finisher. Nice level of spiciness, rich broth... good stuff.


If you're looking for the real local seafood dishes that are caught by the famed hyenyeo divers around, this isn't the place for you. But for affordable general hwoe fixes, this is a decent place.

Samchonnae Hwetjib (삼촌네 횟집)
318, Hallim-ro, Hyeopjae-ri, Hallim-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, Republic of Korea
제주시 한림읍 한림로 318
064-796-7035

Dropping by the supermarket near the Airbnb, I noticed Hite Jinro had debuted a new line of beer called FiLite. Super cheap too at like 7K for 10 cans or something. It's also surprisingly not bad. Very light but a nice hoppy finish. I wouldn't mind enjoying it as like an after work, after shower beer but I haven't spotted this in my neighborhood markets just yet.


On the final full day, kicked off "brunch" at a Chinese-Korean restaurant near the Airbnb. Bo Young Banjeom has been in business since 1967 and is run by the same family as its original.


Their menu is similar to that of most any Chinese-Korean restaurant in Korea with jajangmyeon, jjambong (and their varieties), fried rice, tang soo yook, and such all on there. Prices are also comparable to similar restaurants on the mainland too.




And they use local Jeju pork and chicken.


Simple and common sides.


Lots of tables and surprisingly not as many people as expected.


So you may be wondering why I would go to a Chinese-Korean restaurant all the way in Jeju. It was actually for this simple dish called gan jjambbong. Jjambbong is seafood soup noodle dish while gan jajangmyeon in which the black bean sauce and ingredients are stir fried in oil beforehand for added flavor.

As the name might imply, in this case the jjambbong base ingredients are stir fried first to create a soup-less version of jjambbong.

As you can see, not a drop of soup in sight.



As a specialty dish for this restaurant, I was quiet intrigued and looking forward to it. I have to say though it was rather underwhelming. Taste-wise it's ok but it's certainly not spicy (despite how red it looks) and the abundance of cooked onion gives it a more sweeter flavor than anything. Considering it's a variation of jjambbong, which is known for its seafood and seafoody flavors, it was mostly onions and didn't taste anything remotely close to any flavors of jjambbong. If I was served this dish and didn't know what it was, I would've just thought it was some seafood deopbab but with noodles instead of rice. 

And priced at 8K it certainly was underwhelming in value as well. :/



At that same price (8K) the samseon bokkeumbap was much better in taste and value. Sea cucumber, shrimp, crab and veggies alike all stir fried with rice to a yummy point. It's served with egg drop soup but surprisingly no jajang sauce as many fried rice dishes in other Chinese Korean restaurants do. But you can ask for jajang sauce which they'll provide complimentary if you desire.


But meh. Not worth going out of the way for...

Boyoung Banjeom (보영반점)
692-1, Hallim-ro, Hanrim-ri, Hallim-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, Republic of Korea
제주 제주시 한림읍 한림로 692-1
064-796-2042
Closed on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of every month

Somewhat disappointing meal aside, to get our coffee fix we headed over to a cafe called Cafe Geu Goht. Led by a young married couple who take pride in their specialty roasting and home baked goods, the interior has a very vintage feel to it... and a lot of the furniture and items there are actual old school pieces they've picked up here and there.






It's not a very big cafe and with maybe seats for around 20 or so. But each table, chair is different. Stacks of books available too (albeit in Korean).



Charming menu.


Right off the first page of the menu though, the cafe establishes a number of ground rules. Depending on the person this can come off as a bit snobbish or perfectly acceptable but the rules include:
- keeping your voices down low
- kids are allowed but are asked to be looked after and prevented from running around/screaming/etc
- minimizing excessive photography (they even explicitly call out wedding photo shoots which must have happened before @_@)
- if you decide to change tables, let the counter know beforehand and don't move around the tables and chairs
- be respectful of everyone in the cafe as well as all items
- no outside food and drinks.


Whew. Extensive rules aside, their house roasted coffee beans come with poetic names like "Emerald Ocean" with equally poetic descriptions that conveys themes of the island's natural setting and beauty. The beans alternate depending on the day and time.


On top of the usual coffee variations they carry Jeju varieties of seasonal teas, hot/ice chocolate, ade, etc.

I mentioned they also bake their own breads and goods on a daily basis which they sell both separately and in simple bites like ciabatta sandwiches, cakes, homemade yogurt, etc. And all the prices are more than reasonable.


Set menus and bottled beer also available.




Coffee is strong, good, and some unique edges of flavors. I can't recall which coffee bean variety was offered that day but it was simple yet bold and the peaceful setting just a perfect way to unwind and relax.


You can also get a refill of just hot americano for like 500 won or something. 


Our seat was at an old school home desk and in the drawers were these journals and pencils. The journals were titled things like "Your Story" and people had written, drawn, and scribbled various messages, artwork, and such within. How cute.


Baked bread from the morning on counter for sale.


Lovely cafe, atmosphere, and good coffee.


Cafe Geu Goht (카페 그곶)
65, Geumneung-gil, Geumneung-ri, Hallim-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, Republic of Korea
제주 제주시 한림읍 금능길 65
070-4128-1414

Not wanting to stray too far for our early evening flight to Seoul we were on the fence about whether a visit to Hallim Park was worth it or not. A massive, natural cultivated park started by a private citizen some decades ago it's curated carefully to include a wide variety of fauna, natural volcanic rock, a folk village, and even a small aviary. But at 11K for admission (kids 8K and young children 7k), it seemed quite high a price for a park. 

There's a way to get like 5% off admission by downloading an app and purchasing coupon at least 2 hours before entering but it was rather complicated. Luckily, the coupon book I picked up for free from our car rental center on the first day had a similar coupon within it which we were able to utilize (to save all of like 1K or something... ㅡㅡ; ).  


Now as for the garden portion it is really extensive. Trees, bushes, flowers, ponds, and all sorts of fauna of all varieties are spread out in different zones.



With lots of explanation signs.


The famed Hallim Lava caves are also within the park grounds and included in the admission. Not particularly deep but it's very cool (if you're susceptible to colder weather you may want a light jacket or sweater) and nice to walk around.









Scattered around the park are some real fascinating lava stone formations and trees as well.






This one is called the smiling face.



Upside down tree. They also have a bonsai tree section with some impressive varieties that are hundreds of years old.



The folk village is fun to look around to see how folks lived in the past. You can explore some of the rooms and see the equipment and tools that were used back then.





Kids will enjoy the aviary which is predominantly occupied by peacocks.


It must have been mating season cuz all the males were going crazy with their full tail spread and shaking them around for all the ladies.



Turkeyyyy


Ostrich


Even peacocks in the trees.



Mr. Peacock tryina impress and getting friendzoned hard. Yo, she ain't even your species yo.



Overall, Hallim Park was better than expected. The sprawling grounds with the variety of things to see within it makes it particularly good for families... especially if your family members are a bit diverse in age (young'ens to seniors). You can easily spend a good 2 hours or more here. 

Hallim Park (한림 공원)
300, Hallim-ro, Hyeopjae-ri, Hallim-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, Republic of Korea
제주특별자치도 제주시 한림읍 한림로 300
064-796-0001
www.hallimpark.co.kr

More photography visits...
The Bangju Church is already quite well known- probably one of the best known "architectural" sites on the island.


Initial views may prove underwhelming but its the little reflecting pool behind it that makes it a favorite for photographers.






There's a big ol' field nearby too which picture takers enjoy too.


And since it is a church be respectful of its worship times. :)


Bangju Church (방주교회)
113, Sallongnam-ro 762beon-gil, Sangcheon-ri, Andeok-myeon, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, Republic of Korea
제주특별자치도 서귀포시 안덕면 산록남로762번길 113
064-794-0611
http://www.bangjuchurch.org/

As a final meal for this trip, I finally hit up Donsadon. This is probably one of the most well known Jeju Pork restaurant on the island and recommended by visitor after visitor. They also have spread to hold branches all over the Korean peninsula.

But the OG branch that started it all is the only one that's directly run by them. The rest are franchises. This I learned from our server.

Now, it's also pricey. 600g is 54K and meant for two. After that you can order extra order by weights of 400g for 36K. They're quite strict about the ordering.

You could, opt for the 28K for 400g or 42K for the 600g featuring regular, non-Jeju pork but why would you come all this way for that...

Other than that, it's just their kimchi jjigae on the menu which is 7K per person(!) and rice is even separate (1K a bowl).


I was skeptical. Prices seemed inflated for pork (even if it was Jeju pork) and they are quite strict about other things too- don't even bother asking for garlic to grill for example (shut down, right away).

Nevertheless we ordered and soon the charcoal was brought out to the table.


And simple sides such as pickled onion, radish slices, kimchi and radish kimchi. The green onion salad mixture is provided for each person as is the roasted natural sea salt.




Lettuce and pepper.




We had an early dinner... around 5PM or so but even then it was nearly full.


Here's the 600g of pork. Thick, steak-like cuts of Jeju Pork. Everything is cooked, cut, flipped by the servers. So you don't have to do anything.

What I was initially surprised though was how low the fire was. Now for us impatient Koreans when enjoying Korean barbecue a low lit fire is a big no-no. You want the fire high enough to get the meat goin and people getting fed.

I asked about the low heat and our server said this was the norm here. In fact, she told us the average cooking time for their pork was around 20 minutes. 20 minutes!! Trust her, she said.

Again, I was skeptical. No, actually, I was borderline annoyed at this point. Customization for your orders? Forget it. Also forget even wanting standard Korean barbecue extras like garlic, and, on top of that, wait a full 20 minutes for your meat to cook. What.

And at these borderline beef prices? I was thinking at this point my last meal for this Jeju trip was going to be a flat out bomb.



But wait I did. As the server cooked, cut, mixed around while tending to other tables in between. At one point she took some peppers and snipped them up to put into the standard seafood sauce for Jeju-style barbecue.


After 20 minutes (yes, really) she put onto our plates morsels of the meat and told us to try it. Borderline rolling my eyes at this point, I popped the pork into my mouth and chewed. 

Immediately a flood of juicy, oh so juicy, Jeju pork flooded my mouth. Our eyes widened as our table members gazed at each other while chewing in silence for another good 20 seconds or so. Wow. Immediately the thought that came to my mind was, "OK. THIS is Jeju Pork." Up to this point, every other Jeju Pork restaurant I've been to has been a lie, I thought.

I don't know what their secret is. Is it the pork? The slow method of cooking? A combination of the above and more? All I can say it was truly delicious. Particularly with the pepper-infused jeotgal sauce. The peppers and garlic add such a nice element to the sauce that really works with the pork. It was the first time, after so many Jeju pork restaurant visits, that I understood this pairing. That sauce was the only thing any of us were having with the pork in the end. 



Is it pricey? Yes. Is it time consuming? Very. 

Is it worth a visit? Absolutely. 

I cannot vouch for any of the other branches which, as I mentioned, are franchises and not directly operated. But this, the original, is Jeju Pork at its pinnacle.
Or at least that's what I say unless I come across a better one in a future Jeju visit :)

Donsadon (돈사돈)
19, Uopyeong-ro, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, Republic of Korea
제주특별자치도 제주시 우평로 19
064-746-8989

Full and satiated we could have easily capped this trip off then and there. But with just a bit of time to spare after returning our rental car, we made the decision to squeeze in a last minute trip to Jespi.

This local beer brewery in Jeju City has been buzzing by visitors not only for their excellent craft brews but their anju (bar dishes) that make use of local ingredients.

Located in the heart of Jeju City, I was surprised at how big the place was. It was also surprisingly empty but it was a weeknight and we were there at like 5:30 PM or so.


They've got the standard craft beers on tap- lager, stout, ale, etc which they sell at 300mL, 500mL, 1000mL at 5K, 7K and 12K respectively a glass. They also do seasonal special brews as well. 


We were stuffed after having just come off that amazing Donsadon experience but their bar menu I heard is quite good. Their whole roasted Jeju chicken, house made Jeju pork sausage, Jeju pork jelly, etc all regular favorites.


Natural fruit chips, pizzas, and local tangerine juices and ades also available. All reasonable prices.


Detailed explanation on their brewing process. 


They also have a small, in-house natural goods store selling their bottled craft beers as well as local goods like jams, jerky, etc. 


Wanting to preview everything before deciding on a glass, the Jespi 5 type sample is what we got and really what you should order first. 


Reasonable at 11K for five smaller glasses of their beers. I was a fan of the lager and the strong ale, the latter which had won some award recently.



On a whim, I also ordered the heobeok sul. A local Jeju spirit that's 25% in volume but only 1K for a shot. Quite aromatic and surprisingly not as strong alcohol tasting- this would prove immensely dangerous were it in Seoul or in any bar near me.


But capping this trip off with the local Jeju beer was just the cherry on the cake for me. Despite it raining outside when we left the brewery and headed to the airport, with belly full of excellent pork and good beer, a good buzz going, and new memories, I left Jeju again only thinking of when I'd be back again.


Jespy (제스피)
44, Sindae-ro 16-gil, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, Republic of Korea
제주 제주시 신대로16길 44
064-713-7744
Only open from 4PM onwards everyday

Till next time Jeju!