1. British Airways “First Class” Lounge at SFO
2. Korean Air First Class San Francisco to Seoul
3. Korean Air Economy Class Seoul (Gimpo) to Jeju
4. Kensington Jeju Hotel (Seogwipo, Jeju Island)
5. Eating Jeju – the Ultimate Seafood Paradise
6. Korean Air Lounge at CJU (Jeju, Korea)
7. Korean Air First Class Lounge at ICN
8. Korean Air First Class Seoul to Hong Kong
9. Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Tsa Tsui
10. Conrad Hong Kong
11. Eating Hong Kong
12. Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to Tokyo (Haneda)
13. Japan Airlines First Class Lounge Tokyo (Haneda)
14. Japan Airlines First Class Tokyo (Haneda) to San Francisco
Jeju Island is a versatile vacation destination that has a little bit for everyone, and we wanted to make sure that we had a mix of those experiences over our three days here. For those with an international driver’s license I’d recommend renting a car, since it’s the most efficient way to get around. I did not end up getting one, and instead hired a private driver for 130,000 KRW per day.
We were off to the races from the beginning and started our sightseeing adventures with a 4-hour climb up Mount Hallasan. We underestimated the difficulty of the 6-7 mile trek and were completely wiped out for the rest of the day after finishing.
Unfortunately, the picturesque fields covered in flowers that you often see in Korean dramas was nowhere to be found given the time of year.
After the hike were reading to pig out, and what better way do to that than with Korean BBQ. In particular, we were eager to try the famous Jeju black pork.
The pork belly was incredibly fatty, as you’d expect with that cut of meat, and a few strands of black hair were deliberately left on to signify that this was black pork. Perhaps it had been hyped up too much in our minds, but we didn’t really find anything special or noteworthy about this dish.
Jeju is also famous for its abundance of seafood, and in particular its abalone. As a result, abalone dishes were an incredible value here, which was perfect for an abalone-lover like myself. At almost every meal we had a dish that contained abalone, like this stewed rice below.
After lunch we headed back on the road to do more sightseeing, and visited Sanbanggulsa Temple which is famous for its Buddha statues.
Last stop before heading home was to Jusangjeolli Cliff which had a large open-air park where you could stroll around and enjoy the seaside views and incredible rock formations.
The next day we focused on the east-side of the island and started with a hike through Manjanggul Cave. It was a leisurely two kilometer stroll through a lava tube that took about 30 minutes, and since it was a weekday, we mainly shared the walk with kids who were there on field trips.
Next up was a hike up Seongsan Ilchulbang, also known as “Sunrise Peak”, which had great views of the surrounding areas. This was a much more moderate hike than Mount Hallasan, and only left us half as sweaty.
Even though we were headed out to lunch right after, I couldn’t resist grabbing some freshly grilled squid from one of the many vendors.
And a refreshing tangerine juice.
We ate nearby for lunch where we had our most memorable meal in Jeju. The restaurant specialized in abalone, and we ordered up quite the feast which included a delicious abalone congee.
And this stew where the abalone was so fresh that they were still moving! The freshness and meatiness of these abalones were just incredible, and made for by far the best abalone I have ever had in my life.
To finish the day we headed over to the Saeyeong-gyo area which featured an elevated pedestrian bridge which provided great views of the coast.
There were several of the world-famous Jeju women divers here, and it was impressive to see them in action. Since there haven’t been any new divers joining the profession, it means that the average age of the divers is 75, with the oldest one clocking in at over 90 years old. What I found most impressive was that it appeared they were doing all this in loafers!
Every now and then we’d see these huge bags of seafood being hauled in.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped by one of the many government-sponsored villages and purchased some omija tea. We also visited with this little guy, who will likely become someone’s black pork dinner in the near future.
For dinner that night we decided to walk around the neighborhood – directly across from the hotel you could find Ripley’s Believe it or Not and the Teddy Bear Museum.
We wandered off a bit further and popped into a restaurant that the hotel had recommended. The special dish served here was cutlassfish, which was a very long fish that as you can see below, easily stretched across the width of the table. It wasn’t my favorite since it had a lot of little bones, which meant that it was a lot of work to eat.
The last day we had about a half-day before we needed to leave for the airport, and decided to spend the time exploring the area near the hotel. We started with a stroll down to Jungmun beach.
From the beach there was a labyrinth of different walkways that took you in various directions. We ended up taking the walkway that led to The Shilla hotel, and since we were already there, decided to have breakfast at the hotel.
We found a side entrance near the pool that took us inside from the beach, and had a laugh over the image of this hallway that took us toward the main lobby. This must have been the family-friendly or “baby-wing” of the hotel.
The breakfast buffet itself was solid, and featured a wide mix of traditional western options, along with some Korean, Chinese, and Japanese dishes.
Lastly, my wife wasn’t going to let me leave Jeju without stopping by the Hyatt Regency that was next door to The Shilla to see the wedding chapel that is often featured in Korean dramas, and I was forced to be the photographer as she re-enacted several scenes.
Overall we had a blast on Jeju Island, which essentially felt like an Asian version of Hawaii. We barely put a dent in the multitude of things to see and activities to do, and can definitely see ourselves returning for another visit.