The weather had turned foul, threatening to pour rain on my last day in Jeju. I had originally intended to hike Mt Halla but was vetoed by Sylvia due to the lack of snow shoes. So I turned to Sylvia for suggestions on where to go on this particular day after a hearty breakfast at TGG. She consulted her smartphone as if seeking answers from an almanac. "It will rain from 2pm onwards" Sylvia gravely informed me and promptly plunged into another discussion on possible attractions/places to visit. Once we had agreed, she quickly flipped through her collection of taxi contacts and made some phone calls. I held my breath as this was an extremely last minute request and 2 taxi-drivers had rejected her. Finally, she contacted Mr Kang, a tangerine farmer cum part-time taxi-driver and he agreed readily. Our half day tour was on.
Our agreed itinerary: Jungmun Daepo columnar-jointed lava-> Jungmun beach-> Organic strawberry farm-> O'Sulloc Teahouse Museum-> Yongmeori coast-> Lunch.
Mr Kang looked more like a gentleman than a farmer. He was soft-spoken and spoke some English. When he could not express himself well, he would whip up his smartphone translator and show me what he meant.
Jungmun Daepo columnar-jointed lava
Part of Jeju's global geopark, and Olle trail #8, the hexagonal lava pillars were the result of the contraction of molten lava when the lava cooled. It stretches for about 2 km from Jungmun to Daepo and is a spectacular sight to behold. The boarded walkway along the cliffs gave visitors a closer view of the unique jointed columns. We spent about 30 minutes admiring the views before Mr Kang drove us to the Dolphin show area at Jungmun resort, from the restaurant, we had a bird's eye view of the Hyatt hotel, Jungmun beach and another view of the hexagonal columns.
8am to 7pm
Adults: KRW 2000
Senior Citizen above 65 years: Free
O'Sulloc Teahouse Museum
O'Sulloc teahouse is a tea showcase for AmorePacifc, the company that mainly owns cosmetic brands such as Laneige, Sulwhasoo, Etude and Innisfree. The museum, opened in 2001 aims to revive the tea culture in Korea. Built like a tea-cup, the museum houses exhibits such as tea cups, tea sets and tools dating back to the Joseon dynasty while explaining the history of tea. Visitors can also sample and purchase their tea products in the tea shop and tea house. We tried the green tea ice cream which was rich, not too sweet and clearly taste of green tea. An observatory deck in the second floor offered a panoramic view of the surrounding green tea fields. According to Mr Kang, these fields were once barren land filled with rocks. It was reclaimed by the company and carefully cultivated into the now organic tea fields. This museum is a popular stop for tourists so be prepared for crowds.
10am to 6pm
Admission is free.
Organic Strawberry Farm
Strawberries were in season at the time of our visit and I had asked Sylvia whether she knew of any strawberry farms that we could visit. She did and promptly called and persuaded the farmer to open their farm for us to visit. Despite GPS guidance, we thought we were lost as we were guided to a side road amidst bare fields. Mr Kang had to call the owner for the exact location when we realised that we had already arrived as the owner hurriedly came out to welcome us. The strawberry farm was in fact a greenhouse with rows of riped large berries ready for harvesting. Our arrival was timely as they were packing strawberries for sale. The owner was flustered as they usually do not open their farm to public, their daughter spoke good English and acted as our translator. We were offered berries to sample; these were large, sweet and juicy. We could not resist buying half a dozen punnets, even Mr Kang bought some for his family. We left with our finds, our stomach temporary satiated.
Our last stop was lunch at a local Korean restaurant. According to Mr Kang, this place was a popular local haunt and was known for its sea urchin soup. The rain that had been threatening since morning finally poured. We decided to order the house specialty to keep ourselves warm. The restaurant was half empty when we arrived just past 1pm. Service was prompt and efficient. The sea urchin soup was tastier compared to the one we tried the previous day. It had clams as well as generous portions of sea urchin and seaweed. We did not linger as the patrons next to us started lighting up.
We enjoyed our half day tour, Mr Kang was enthusiastic and a careful driver. A keen photographer himself, he stopped at certain vantage points to allow me to take photographs. We were not hurried despite the threat of rain, in fact, the timing could not be better as the rain poured after we had completed our sightseeing.