Journal 36: Day 12 Busan to Jeju and the ultimate island bike trip

Okay, so this morning, I didn’t think I was going to make it to the airport on time.  In fact, I don’t think I actually did make it on time.

For starters, I thought that my flight was at 9:30.  And when I woke up at 9:15, I almost lost my breath.  I can’t believe that I had slept through my alarm.  But partying until 3am sometimes has that effect.  At any rate, I threw my clothes on, packed my bags and ran out to catch the bus to the airport.  It was quick and efficient, but expensive as far as buses go in Korea.

A half-hour later, I was sifting through people at the small but crowded airport when I realized I didn’t know what airline I was taking.  Luckily, in the domestic gates, there were only two airlines.  So I have a 50/50 chance of getting it on the first shot.  Korea Airways and Asiana were my choices.  And since the Korea counter was closest, I headed over and checked in.  They found my flight was actually booked for 10:30.

It was 10:15 when I arrived, so I had just enough time to grab a sandwich and a water from the shop and run to the gate for probably the easiest time at an airport in recent memory.  It was a breeze.  It was like the held on to the flight for me, didn’t give me any crap for carrying on my umbrella and then gave me a snack break in order to get some breakfast down.

Once on the ground, I was able to make my way to a beachfront hotel and check in.  I spent the rest of the day editing photos, so I didn’t get to see much.  But I can say that the first thing you start to see everywhere on this island are these interesting little statues.  They really are everywhere.  People put them in their gardens, they’re on fence posts, overlooking bridges and building entryways — everywhere!

They come in all sorts of sizes and are mostly made from the volcanic rock that’s found all over the island.  But they are also seen in wood and other substances.  Mostly they just have this stoic look on their faces.  But every once in a while you’ll see one smiling or made to look more like some animal or something.

There are so many of them that it started to feel like I was on Ester Island — but still in a city.

There are a lot of interesting things about Jeju Island.  Firstly, it’s the only autonomous province in Korea.  It’s Korea’s largest island.  It sits in the Korea Strait.  It has the larges flowing lava tube in the world.  And it’s got tons of amazing geological formations.  There’s everything from waterfalls and lava tuffs to columnar lava pilings and hot springs.

It can be visited in just a couple days.  But to see all that it has to offer, it’s best to spend a week here.

Now, I have to say that the people have been getting more and more abrupt the further south I have traveled in Korea.  In fact in Busan people were practically yelling at one another, and the most I could gather, beyond the fact that they were not really angry with each other, was that they were simply a rougher breed than their northerly cousins.  But here in Jeju they are basically all out at each other.  They really enjoy screaming into the phone and generally being as hostile as they can possibly be.

Much of the gloom can be pretty well seen in the representative water park in town.  Once you come to the main stretch just past the bus stop, you come to this “T” junction — another main artery through this part of town — and as you peer through the rusted out gates, you can see this disheveled park in its ramshackle state with upturned metal shards on the platforms where rust has withered its once-sound support system underfoot.  It’s frightening to look at.  But what’s worse is that it’s still functional — and I am assuming that term is used loosely — during the warmer months.  It’s frightening because kids play there, young adults congregate there; and all the while, the holes in the walkway threaten to break knees and remove toes as people break through them.  It’s a mystery that in a developed country, this place passes inspection.

More adventures tomorrow!

Till then, have a good night!


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