2014 Our accommodations and stay on Jeju Island

We arrived in the Jeju ferry terminal area and, with the help of a Korean soldier, got Audre’s big Samsonite off of the ferry. The ramp had uneven slats and steep stairs. Between the rocky ferry ride and the awful ingress/egress to the ferry, we were not happy with the ferry ride (KRW 59,800/US$60 for the two of us on the Express Ferry from Wando).

We had not pre-booked our accommodation in Jeju-si (Jeju City) but we had identified a hotel on booking.com that we thought that we would like and had telephoned to make sure that they had availability. So off we went in a taxi to see what we would find.

We were very pleasantly surprised by the Amber Hotel (12, Sammu-ro, Jeju, Jeju Island, 690-726, South Korea, tel. 02-3480-0181). We ended up staying 8 nights. We paid KRW 107,525 per night (including breakfast) for 4 nights; our last 4 days averaged out to KRW 120,544 per night (a Chinese holiday period when the hotel was full and more expensive). The exchange rate was US$1 = Korean won .00098 on September 4.

The building was nice and looked modern and newly renovated. The halls were carpeted, as was our room. We like that. The hotel allows smoking (there was an ashtray in our room) but we didn’t smell anything, fortunately.

Our room (616) was functional and looked at if it had been recently renovated. We saw another room on the back side of the hotel and it was facing a wall. Our view was of the street, Sammu-ro, but the windows were good and so was the air conditioning. We didn’t hear any noise and had an open and private view. The room was large enough to be comfortable. It had a small entry hall with a marble-style tile floor; the rest of the bedroom was carpeted. There was a small closet with a drawer for storage. There was a round table and two comfortable chairs. Audre used the round table as her desk. There was a long, narrow table that we put the Cremesso Switzerland (single-cup) espresso machine on (yes, an espresso machine) and our fruit and so on. We were given actual coffee mugs too. Then there was a desk with some storage cubbies, then the window that had a good window covering. The bathroom was small but the shower had a partition which was okay (the floor still got wet) and a modern gigantic showerhead. There wasn’t much space in the bathroom to put our stuff so we brought the bench from the room and put a towel over it for our stuff. The toilet had a heated seat, the usual sprays and drying. The drain in the sink was dirty and so the water backed up in the sink but we asked for it to be cleaned and it was. The internet was good in our room.

The room was comfortable and we were happy. We asked for and got a water boiler. There was a water dispenser down the hall for all of our drinking water needs. On the website we had seen a room with a small sofa. In reality our room was more comfortable than the one with a sofa so we stayed where we were.

The breakfast was included and complete, even fried eggs and porridge (juk) in a pleasant room. The chef was eager to please and even made us scrambled eggs. That was very nice. The other staff members were also nice.

We think that this hotel is very good value for the money and we highly recommend it. The location was in the new hot spot of hotels and dining in Jeju and was very good. Transportation was easy. Audre says this matter-of-factly. The real reason why transportation was easy was because Dimitri is very good with logistics and with maps. There was no mapping service in English but (with some help from the staff at the 5-star Lotte City Hotel) Dimitri learned to use the local mapping service called naver.com. We traveled all over Jeju on buses that Dimitri had figured out.

For our first lunch, we went around the corner to the walk street (Yeondong car-free street (Baozen Street)) and found a place. We have learned over the years to wait when a restaurant, even a hole-in-the-wall, has a line because it must be good. We waited about 25 minutes for the famous noodles with pork belly (KRW 7,000) at 17 Jewon-gil, (261-16), Jeju-si, tel. 064-742-7355. People spoke English and gave us advice. The mom and pop running the restaurant must have been doing this for many years—they had a very good system. The soup and the noodles were very good. We were happy.

Our first mission in Jeju was to find a laundry that would do all of our laundry (in Jeonju the laundry we found would not do our underpants and socks). We had tried to find a "wash, dry, fold" place in Seoul but didn't. In our apartment we had a washer (no dryer) and didn't want our underwear to feel like paper from line-drying. We finally used the washer in our apartment with some softener that our friend, Holly, gave us. The underwear really wasn't soft even using the softener. Dimitri did a google search on laundromats in Jeju and found some. We walked and walked looking for one and then took a taxi (KRW 6,200). We found a laundry that would do our laundry (even our socks and underpants) for KRW 10,000. We decided to keep looking for a laundromat. We remembered that the Lotte City Hotel (near our Jeju Amber Hotel) had coin operated washers and dryers for long term guests. We waltzed in, saw the directory, went to the 6th floor, found the laundry room and did our laundry in luxurious splendor (KRW 4,000 for the wash and KRW 4,000 for the dryer). Fortunately the instructions for the machine were also in English--we had heard disastrous stories of people adding detergent to machines that automatically dispense it. After we had done our laundry, we felt absolutely triumphant. Small things make a huge difference. As we walked our neighborhood we found another coin operated laundry nearby that was open to the public.

We were frankly disappointed with Jeju Island. First of all, we went for hiking and perhaps also some biking. We did only two hikes in 8 days. Those hikes were good but not great. But more about that later. Had we stayed at an expensive beach side resort, we would have had a much different island experience. We didn’t want to do that because we had just had a two-month beach vacation on Kauai and because the weather was getting cooler and we would not use the beach. So we had the city experience on Jeju Island.

On our first night in Jeju-si we had a delicious fish at Yuri Nea Famous Fish Restaurant (427-1 Yeon-dong, Jeju, Jeju-do, South Korea, tel. 064-748-0890) which they called braised cutlassfish (KRW 30,000). It was in a stone pot with onions and vegetables and a slightly spicy sauce. The fish was tasty and tender—cooked just right! There were many banchan that were different from the ones we have been having —a spinach-like vegetable that was very tasty, squash, lettuce leaves (in case you wanted to wrap your fish up), a delicious soy bean paste, kim chi (of course), kelp that with cucumber that had been marinated and was good and crisp/crunchy, tiny fishes that were caramelized (sounds better than they were). The absolute best banchan was pieces of raw crab in a spicy red sauce—really yummy! On the menu Dimitri saw a sea urchin soup (KRW 9,000). It actually had cooked sea urchin floating on the top of lots of cooked kelp. We don’t like cooked sea urchin actually so the soup was not a hit. We had a “sansachom” fruit wine (KRW 7,000) which (in English) was described as a blend of sonsa and sansuju fruits and said it was “rice wine for future generations.” We spent KRW 46,000 and were very happy.

One of the first things we did is take a bus tour (in English) of the eastern section of Jeju with Leha Bus Tour (KRW 79,000 x 2/US$158), including lunch. It was a pretty bad tour because of the guide and because the majority of the 7 stops were a yawn. Jin, our guide, spoke very fast. His enunciation was poor and his delivery was as if he were reading a script with no feeling or personality. In addition, he repeated himself too much. He really didn’t have the personality to be a good tour guide.

We hoped that the first stop would be the Sangumburi Crater but it was not, allegedly because the pampas grass was not yet in bloom. It was. In any event the first stop, after touring Jeju City to pick people up, was the Trick Art Museum for one hour. It was awful and a total waste of time. We tried to walk around the area but the main road was the only option and that was pretty bad. The second stop (also 1 hour) was the Seongeup Folk Village. After a little bit of explanation and couple of pictures, this too was a yawn.

At about noon we had lunch at Nammun, South Gate Restaurant (Seongeupjeonguihyeon-ro 22 beon-gil, Seongeup, Jeju, South Korea tel. 064-787-2432). The price of the lunch was included in the tour cost. There was a choice of Jeju Black Pork or Bibimbap. Both were equally atrocious—the worst Korean food we had had. The bibimbap was just vegetables and a fried egg (cooked hours before and hardened) with rice on the side. The banchan were standard. The black pig was tough and the sauce was marginally flavorful.  We found a seller of Jeju tangerines and had some, as well as his (too sweet) Popsicle tasting faintly of tangerine.

After lunch we went to the Woman Diver Show and Sunrise Peak (about 1 ½ hours). The diving show was a non-event and the women didn’t seem to find any shellfish. We climbed the zillions of stairs to get to the crater of Sunrise Peak (180 m above sea level).
Climbing Sunrise Peak with our 1,000 closest friends
Sunrise Peak was voted one of the new 7 natural wonders (Amazon, Iguazu Falls, Halong Bay, Komodo Island, Table Mountain, and an underground river in the Philippines). We were glad to get some exercise and the views were nice. We would have gone there in any event so having it on the tour was good. On the way to the last stop, the bus took the Jongdairi Shore Road which was a lovely coast road. At Manjang Cave (part of UNESCO World Heritage) we walked the slippery, uneven and poorly lit path 1.5 km to the 7 meter column. It was again good to do some walking and the cave was interesting but how the cave was made was still a mystery after reading all of the panels (Wikipedia said lava flows of differing temperatures). We had left at 8:30 a.m. and returned at around 6 p.m. It was a very long day without much interest.  

Another evening in Jeju City we went to Raj Mahal, Youn-dong 272-13, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, South Korea, tel. 064749-4924. The food was good. We had one Aloo Jia appetizer of potatoes cooked in butter and cumin that were good (KRW 4,000), one lassi (KRW 4,000), two glasses of wine (KRW 12,000), a lamb vindaloo (KRW 12,000), a rice (KRW 2,000)  and a plain naan (KRW 2,000). We sat at a table in a booth alcove and looked down on the street. We spent KRW 30,000/US $30 and were happy.

We were enjoying the Lotte City Hotel and its 5-star services (83, Doryeong-ro, Jeju, Jeju-do 690-818, South Korea, 064-730-1000). The concierge gave us restaurant recommendations and other kinds of help (like teaching Dimitri how to use the naver.com mapping service). We decided to go to their Sunday brunch. The brunch was fantastic. There were three soups (all very good), was a sushi and sashimi station, cheese section, fruit section, salad section, cold noodle section, hot pasta made to order, a Chinese section, a dim sum section, a meet and potato section, waffles with maple syrup and whipped butter, a Danish pastry section, a bread section, a dessert section, a coffee station, a carrot juice pitcher and more. We had a ball trying everything. The staff went out of their way to make sure we had everything we wanted. We ate enough for several meals and spent a reasonable KRW 80,000/US$80 for the two of us.

The Olle Trail around Jeju Island is famous and from our experience it was very good. The section we walked was #7 because it is the most famous and supposed to be the most beautiful. There were beautiful view and good wooden walkways in the well-traveled sections. Some sections, where buses could bring people, were very crowded. When we were 3 miles away from the trailhead there were few people, particularly when we got to the dirt path portion. We had lovely views of Beomseom Island and the Oedolgae Rock. We saw the Saeyeongyo Bridge which is a pedestrian overpass. The bridge, inspired by ‘Tewu’ (Jeju's traditional log boat), was opened in September 2009. There were a few concessions selling tangerines along the path and one enterprising old woman cooking shell fish over a barbecue and serving it to a few tables that she had set up in a clearing. There was one terrible section that took us up to the main road and west on the main road past the girls’ high school. But we got back to the sea and continued along the sea on the dirt path. We arrived (at lunch time) at the halfway point on Section 7, about 4 miles. There was a pier and boats in Beophwan Port with scuba divers on them.  Of all things we found an Italian Restaurant on Maksukpro-ro Road (in Beophwan Port, tel. 064-739-7757where we had a Brazier Seafood Carbonara (KRW 20,000)! It was served in a stone pot and was made with 2 clams, 2 mussels, tiny shrimp and had a cream sauce (not with a bacon and egg-rich sauce). It was a measly portion but it was good. We also had a fruit salad (KRW 15,000) that was large and filled with delicious grapes, as well as kiwi, banana and lots of tomatoes (both good cherry tomatoes and not so good regular tomatoes). The restaurant was a “breath of fresh air” for us because we had been yearning for some food other than Korean. It was expensive but in the right place at the right time. We spent KRW 35,000/US $35 for lunch. After lunch we climbed up the hill and found our #780 bus back to Jeju-si near the World Cup Stadium (914 Beophwan-dong, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do).

We went to the Dongmun Traditional Market and to the Jeju fish market. We did some walking which was good but our lunch near the fish market was not memorable. That night we had an excellent meal in a nice place: Doraji (2112 Orasam-dong, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, South Korea  tel. 064-722-3142, www.jejudoraji.com). We had one sliced coral fish ice soup (KRW 10,000) and one seafood hot pot (KRW 15,000). The sliced coral fish ice soup was filled with coral fish and ice cubes. The soup base had a slightly sweet taste and lots of sesame seeds. The coral fish was a bit chewy and had bones which were annoying. The seafood hot pot was better. It had 4 clams, crab, 2 crayfish, 2 abalone, enoki mushrooms and a green vegetable. The broth was delicious and the seafood very good. The abalone was surprisingly tender and tasty. The banchan were great: marinated kelp, kim chi, delicious raw crab marinated in a spicy soy sauce, the ubiquitous tough ginseng root in a red spicy sauce, marinated soy beans, and small marinated fish that tasted like sardines. They also had self serve hot tea! We were very happy and spent KRW 25,000/US$25.
At the Dongmun Traditional Market we snapped the crab marinated in spicy sauce, a favorite of Audre's
Another day Dimitri figured out how we could take the Route 5.16 bus of the #780 from the main bus terminal to a trail head on Mt. Hallasan. It took about 40 minutes and cost KRW 1300. We hiked the Seonpanak Trail, Mt. Hallasan 5.2 km (3.2 m) from 700 m to 900 m in elevation during 2 1/2 hours. The trail was “paved” with lava rocks and so the hiking was difficult and slow. It was a nice forest but we’ve had more enjoyable hikes.

Dimitri loves juk, the Korean rice porridge. For lunch one day we went to Yeon Juk, next to Paris Baguette at the intersection of Doryeong-ro and Samu-ro and across the small street from Lotte City Hotel, tel. 064-742-6288. For KRW 7,000/US $7 Dimitri had one mushroom and vegetable juk porridge. The small space is cute and the owners are nice. The mushroom and vegetable juk porridge was especially flavorful and delicious. The small dishes of kim chi and pickled daikon were good too. We had a good lunch.

We had another very good meal at Neulbom (2343-3 Nohyeong-dong Jeju-si, Jeju-do, South Korea, Tel No : (064)744-9001, http://www.jejuneulbom.co.kr/index.php (in korean)). We had fun at this restaurant too. It was recommended by the concierge at the Lotte City Hotel. We had samgyopsal (grilled side cut of pork belly) with the sesame seed sauce (180g x 2) for KRW 15,000 x 2. It was very delicious. On the grill with the meat were thin slices of trumpet mushroom and a thick slice of onion. There were 10 banchan that came with the meat. All were very good: the crab in a spicy red sauce was Audre’s favorite. There was daikon sliced very thin to put on lettuce with the pork belly and the soy bean paste sauce. There were slices of onion, cole slaw, green onion salad, kim chi, pickled cabbage, garlic, pickled spinach, an anchovy-based soup with tofu and clams. With our meal we had one black raspberry wine (Bok Bunja Joo), that cost KRW 12,000 and one beer (KRW 4,000) and something else that cost KRW 1,000. Our meal cost KRW 47,000/US$47 and we recommend this restaurant.

With Dimitri’s logistics, we took a bus (#780) from the main road near our hotel to Seogwipo. That’s the town on the south coast we considered taking a bus  tour to see. We’re glad we didn’t. It was not much different from Jeju-si.

On next stop in Korea was Busan, Korea’s second largest city and its main port. We decided to fly from Jeju to Busan because the cost on Jeju Air was about the same as a ferry and a bus. It was US$80 for each of us. We were delighted that the woman checking us in at the Jeju Air counter did not charge us over-weight for Audre's big Samsonite suitcase. It weighed 28 kg and the allowance was 15 kg! The other reason we wanted to fly was that it took less time. The ferry ride to Mokpo alone was more than 3 hours. Then there would have been a bus ride. The flight was 55 minutes. Thanks to Dimitri’s logistics, we had no problems at either end. We took a taxi from Amber Hotel to the airport and the Airport Limousine bus from the Busan Airport to (within 1 block of) our hotel, Sunset Business Hotel (we got off at the Seacloud Hotel stop). It cost KRW 14,000/US$14 for the two of us.

Coming into Busan was a glorious site. Like Naples, it is a city of mountains. The top half to one-third are pristine; the large apartment blocks climb up the sides only so far and then it is gorgeous green everywhere. It was a long ride to Haeundae Beach (over an hour) to our hotel on the bus but the highways were good and there was not much traffic. Haeundae was another matter all together. It was wall-to-wall people. We arrived at the beginning of the Busan Film Festival—a very big deal.