Sylvia from TGG had helped arranged for a taxi cum guide for a full day tour of the eastern part of Jeju. After sifting through her contacts and regaling me on the potential driver's capabilities and experience, she final settled for Mr Lee. Mr Lee, Sylvia warned; speaks minimal English but he was reliable and honest. The taxi reservation process was humorous as she reminded me of a matchmaker peering at her list of potential grooms and finally decided that Mr Lee would be the one.
Mr Lee arrived early just before 9am, the agreed stipulated time of departure. Together with Sylvia who acted as translator, we went pored over the map of Jeju and mapped out the points of interests to visit. There were some negotiations as Sylvia and Mr Lee nay, agreed and recommended places for us to visit (do put your foot down gently if you really really REALLY want to visit a specific place).
The final itinerary after much negotiation: Soesokkuk estuary and beach->Jeju Folk Village Museum-> Coastal road passing Pyoseon Beach-> Seopjikoji and Phoenix Island->Lunch at traditional Korean restaurant-> Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak-> Manjanggul Cave-> Sangumburi crater. It was an ambitious itinerary for a 9 hour tour and Sylvia placed another responsibility on Mr Lee, that of a time-keeper.
Off we went, after Sylvia had her pictures of us and the taxi driver (next to the car) smiling widely. Mr Lee was polite and a careful driver. Although he could not speak English very well, it did not prevent him from trying to explain to us the places of interests enroute. Any awkwardness felt initially thawed under the bright blue skies. The tour went smoothly, Mr Lee was an excellent time keeper but he was also flexible, allowing us more than adequate time to explore the various places. Mr Lee highlighted more points of interests along the way, from the scenic coastal roads passing by various Olle trails, to abalone "farms" to the Saryeoni forest path (which I wanted to visit but was advised against it), past Mt Halla's Seongpanak hiking trail on the way back via a tunnel formed by a canopy of trees on either side of the road before heading back to Seogwipo town and TGG.
Lunch, highly recommended by Sylvia; was a local seafood Korean restaurant near the sunrise peak that was also a favorite with taxi-drivers (taxi-drivers the world over are known to be gourmets who would know where the cheap and good food are). Aware that we had to pay for the driver's meal, we over-estimated Mr Lee's appetite and ordered too much. We had grilled mackeral, sea urchin soup, seafood nabe (Mr Lee's choice), abalone bibimbap and abalone porridge (all must-try local dishes) unaware that the soup and mackeral comes with rice as well (not forgetting the various side dishes of kimchi). The seafood was fresh and delicious but we did not quite liked the abalone as it was chewy and hard. Still, we managed to finish most of the food, knowing that we would be climbing Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak after lunch. We paid KRW 64 000 for our lunch (not that expensive after all).
With the taxi tour, we had more freedom to explore at our own pace. We did not have to pay entry fees for him as he enjoyed guide privileges at the various attractions.
The cost of the 1 day taxi tour was KRW 110 000, a good deal since a similiar one day group tour would have costs us KRW 70 000 to 80 000 per person.