Wednesday, June 15, 2016

[Travel/ Food Guide] Itinerary to Jeju Island (济州岛), South Korea (韩国).

Known as the "Hawaii of South Korea", Jeju Island is no doubt one of the most popular holiday destinations by both domestic travelers and international tourists. The natural wonders- Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes were inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The island is 45% larger than Penang State as a whole (1,848 sq km for Jeju VS 1,031 sq km for Penang State) but less populated. The island is fairly big but the transportation system is less-advanced as compared to the country's metropolitan cities.

How to go to Jeju-do from Seoul, South Korea?

We departed from Gimpo International Airport, Seoul and flew with T'way (47,900 KRW per person/ return ticket) to Jeju International Airport. The experience flying with the carrier was alright (they provide complimentary 15kg check-in baggage allowance) but there were slight delays in schedule. Checking in was smooth and easy. Considering the prices we paid were lower than the famous Jeju Air, we thought it was a good deal.

Car Rental in Jeju Island?

Jeju Island is not small and the tourist attractions can scatter around the island. Public transportation is not as convenient as it seems and the bus-waiting period can be quite long. After some research over the internet and we thought it would be wiser for us to rent a car. To drive legally in South Korea, Malaysians are required to present International Driving License to car-rental provider. Getting one is easy, in case you are wondering, it costs Rm 150 and you may check out their website for more information.

We booked via and it costs us approximately USD $110 for Kia Morning *Picanto in Malaysia* (including full insurance for 3 days 2 nights). The process of getting the car was easy and fast but with AJ Rent A Car (the car rental provider), we had to take a Bus (free) to their office (not within walking distance from the airport) and proceed with the booking. Hertz on the other hand, has an office directly opposite the airport (within walking distance). Driving on Jeju Island was fun, the road users were generally friendly but South Korea is a left-driving country. Do get yourself familiarized on the rules before you hit the road. Also, another word of caution... the petrol in Jeju Island is not cheap. On our trip, though we did not drive a lot (we've only used up 20% of the full tank Petrol) and it costs us 19,000 KRW!

1) Seongsan Ilchulbong Sunrise Peak (城山日出峰)
Direction: Enter Phone Number: 783 0777 or 782 0104 into your car's GPS. For public transport, take any buses to Jeju Bus Terminal and transfer to either Bus No. 710 or 710-1, all the way to Seongsan Ilchulbong.
Admission: 2,000 KRW per adult

The iconic Volcano Tuff Cone that makes its appearance on most major marketing collateral of Jeju-tourism. The hill was formed many years back due to volcanic eruption, fast-forward today, it has become one of the most visited tourist attractions in Jeju. Seongsan Ilchulbong Sunrise Peak is far from Jeju-si or Jeju City, it took us approximately 1 hour-drive to get there. Finding a place to park was a challenge for us, we eventually took a few turnings before we could find one. 

The trail has uneven surface so please ensure that you are physically fit before climbing the hill. Though the journey took 40 minutes, we were rewarded with glorious view. Also, at certain hours (say 2 pm), there will be performance by Haenyo Divers (otherwise known as Korean Mermaids) by the sea but we were not keen to check it out. 

Going down the stairs was hassle-free but make sure you are wearing the suitable shoes or you will might ended up with bruises all around the feet. Also, another word of caution for those who can't stand under the sun for long or those with medical condition, please make sure you are fully protected before climbing up the hill. The whole process may take up to 40 minutes (depending on your speed).

Hallabong Ice Cream (4,000 KRW)

Before you leave the place, do make sure you have tried the Hallabong Ice Cream... which can be found in one of the stalls right next to the car park (right in front of the ticket office and main entrance to the mountain). Ice Cream might be a misnomer, it was more of a sorbet kind of texture but it was extremely tantalizing with its slight tangy-acidic flavor but cleverly balanced with sweetness (topped with the Hallabong Jam). Not cheap but worth a try.

2) Jeju-Rang Korean Restaurant [Halal]
Direction: Enter Phone Number- 782 0104 into your car's GPS. For public transport, take any buses to Jeju Bus Terminal and transfer to either Bus No. 710 or 710-1, all the way to Seongsan Ilchulbong.
Business Hours: Morning till night
Contact Number: +82 010-3698-7030
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No

Abalone Porridge (13,000 KRW)

Grilled Mackerel Rice Set (15,000 KRW)

Complimentary Ban Chan

Considering the distance to Seongsan Ilchulbong, you may want to settle your lunch here. Be spoilt for choices, you will be surprised with the amount of Seafood restaurant in the vicinity. We walked down the slope to find a "Halal" restaurant (we met some Muslim Malaysians there too) and we decided to check it out.

Abalone Porridge is seen as one of the famous Jeju offerings and we did not hesitate to take the opportunity to try it out. To our dismay, for the price of 13,000 KRW per bowl, it did not come with loads of Abalone; in fact, only a few miserable pieces were seen. The Porridge comes in an emerald-green hue; as promising as it seems, we thought it lacked the salty-touch.  The texture can be softer, it reminded us of Teo Chew Porridge. As luxurious as it seems, we thought it was a mediocre dish and probably not worth the money spent.

Grilled Mackerel on the other hand, was toothsome. The Fish was expertly grilled to perfection, the skin was a crisp while the pristine white flesh with a hint of fish oil was most delicious. It was veering towards the salty side but we had no issue with that as it was supposed to be eaten with Rice.

3) Dongmun Market Place (东门市场)
Direction: Enter Phone Number- 752 3001 as your GPS coordinates. 
Business Hours: Morning till evening (approximately 7 pm). Opens Daily.
Admission: Free

Hallabong Orange (I bought one premium quality Hallabong Orange at 5,000 KRW)

Mulberries (2,000 KRW per cup)

Pay a visit to the wet market and you will understand the local culinary culture better, also to learn more about the daily happenings in the Korean society. If that reason is not good enough for you, what if I told you that there are plenty of cheap Jeju-souvenirs here? Everything is about Hallabong in Jeju- Hallabong Orange Jam, Hallabong Orange Perfurm, Hallabong Chocolate, fresh Hallabong etc. Cheaper bargains can be found here, we bought the Hallabong Jam (delicious stuff, regret for not buying more) at 3,000 KRW per bottle. I was shocked to find the price is doubled in Jeju Airport (they are selling the same brand, same size at 6,000 KRW each)! Also, I bought the mediocre Chocolates... 3 boxes at 5,000 KRW (they can be more expensive at other places).

Also in Dongmun Market Place, you will find many local fresh produce. Strawberries, Mulberries and Cherries can be bought in cups; the Sashimi lovers can explore the Seafood section. There are plenty of pre-packed Sashimis for you to choose from, all freshly sliced and reasonably priced (around 10,000 KRW per packet).

We explored the entire market and found no restaurant inside. It seems like most restaurants are located outside of the market so it's more sensible to take a walk there and proceed with your lunch/ dinner at somewhere else. You may opt to walk to the Black Pork Street if you wish (not that far).

4) Chilsungro Shopping Town and Underground Shopping Centre
Direction: Enter Phone Number- 752 3001 as your GPS coordinates.
Business Hours: 11 am to 10 pm. Opens Daily.

Yours truly have a confession.... that I am a shopaholic. Chilsngro Shopping Town, just across the street from Dongmun Market Place is the perfect place for me to shop in Jeju. The entire shopping district is filled with retail boutiques (more than 120 brands available according to the official website), notable brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Guess, Calvin Klein, Armani Exchange, Top Ten, Nike, Adidas, Onitsuka Tiger can be found here. 

5) Shin Dang Tong Topokki (新堂洞辣炒年糕)
Direction: Exit 10 from Underground Shopping Centre or enter "724-8685" as the phone number for GPS coordinates
Business Hours: 12 pm to late. Opens Daily.
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No

Stir Fried Tteokpokki with Seafood (20,000 KRW/ serves 2)

A stone's throw distance away from Robero Hotel, Shin Dang Tong Topokki is said to be the only restaurant that offers similar product in Jeju Island. There are a few types of Topokki available but we opted for the Seafood version. For 20,000 KRW, the portion was monstrous but there could be more Seafood. There were no doubt, plenty of Topokki, Jap Chae (Korean Glass Noodles) and Korean Ramen (that instant noodles) but the Seafood element was weak. No Prawns, Scallops, Squids or whatsoever... except for Black Mussels and Clams; of course, more than enough of carbohydrates. The taste was alright but not good enough to leave us with a very strong impression.

6) Gogi Guksu Noodle/ Ramen Street
Direction: Enter Phone Number- 727-7056 as your car's GPS coordinates. 
Business Hours: Morning till evening. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: 727-7056
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No

Signature Pork Ramen (6,500 KRW)

A 10-minute drive away from the township of Jeju-si would land you at Jeju's Ramen Street where you will find aplenty of Pork Ramen outlets in the vicinity. The folks in Jeju have showed great love to their domestic pig breed- Black Pork; not only do they barbecue them but they have incorporated the yummy delicacy into noodle-dish as well.

All Pork Ramens are cooked using Black Pork, we took a short walk around the area and found this place with most awards and accolades. It is opposite to Park where we parked our car there and walked over to the place. The restaurant has a homey ambiance, with the mother being the Chef while the 2 sons serve as servers.

The signature Pork Ramen comes in a huge portion, with creamy milky-white meat broth. The Ramen noodles were smooth and al-dente, something like Spaghetti... in slightly softer form. The broth carried a weak salinity but a bold pork-notes that we were not quite fond of... too strong that it became a nuisance. The broth could be saltier but we had it together with some Fermented Bean Paste. It was a good experience overall, but definitely not something that I would like try again.

7) Traditional Korean Walnut Cake (Hodo Kwaja)
Direction: Enter Phone Number- 723-0054 as your car's GPS coordinates. Near the end of Chilsungro Shopping Town
Business Hours: Morning until evening. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: 723-0054

Walnut Cakes (3,000 KRW for 12/ smallest portion)

When taking a leisure stroll around Chilsungro Shopping Town, we stumbled upon an unpretentious stall by the road that sells Hodo Kwaja, a type of Walnut-shaped Cake stuffed with Azuki Red Bean and Walnut Filling. The stall constantly churns out fresh Walnut Cakes, the taste resembles characteristics of Kuih Bahulu, but with a sweet Red Bean filling and nutty Walnut pieces inserted. They were good in juggling between the sweetness of both the filling and the cake. It was good to be enjoyed as snack as we spent our leisure time at the shopping district. Try it out if you come in a group (might be too filling for one to entirely finish all).

8) Cafe Aewol Monsant
Direction: Enter Phone Number- 799-8900 as your car's GPS coordinates. *If your GPS could not read the Phone Number, please use Waze or Instagram to direct you*
Business Hours: 10 am to 9 pm. Opens Daily. *Kitchen closes at 6 pm*
Contact Number: 799 8900

Hallabong Cake (8,000 KRW) and TWG Vanilla Bourbon Tea (6,500 KRW)

One of the latest tourist attractions- Cafe Aewol Monsant, started to gain its popularity after netizens shared information that the cafe may belong to Korean celebrity- G Dragon of Big Bang. Many K-Pop fans have since paid their pilgrimage visit to the cafe. Celebrity-aside, the cafe is strategically located by the sea side and offers spectacular view of the sea. It is an ideal spot to enjoy the chilly sea breeze as well as the romantic sunset by the beach. The glass-house design is suitable for your selfies or portraiture shots too. However, getting there may not be as easy as you think. For those who are driving, please ensure that you have inserted the correct phone number or you will be ended up at somewhere else (just like us, we used Instagram in the end).

You will have to go through a lot of winding-narrow alleys and park your car near the main road. You will need to walk down the slope and find your way there. There plenty of choices in the cafe, whether you are looking for mains or just some snacks to fill the tummy space but do note that the kitchen closes at 6 pm daily so the best time to visit would probably be around 5 pm (also to catch the sunset). The Hallabong Cake with Cream Cheese frosting was beyond amazing. The tangerine flavor was subtle and paired perfectly well with the buttery-sweet cake; we washed it down with a cup of TWG Vanilla Bourbon Tea.

The drive from Jeju-si to Cafe Aewol Monsant took us approximately 35 minutes and the reward (the breath-taking sea view) was amazing. We strongly recommend you to check this place out if your time permits.

9) Jeju Black Pork Street/ Hwaro Hyang Barbecue Restaurant
Direction: Enter Phone Number- 724-4050 as your car's GPS coordinates.
Business Hours: Lunch and Dinner.
Contact Number: +82 010-2787-3804
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No

Black Pork Neck (100 grams for 9,000 KRW/ minimum order of 200 grams) and Abalones (3 for 10,000 KRW)

The carnivores would be glad to know that Jeju Island is famous for its Black Pork. There's one street dedicated to serve Black Pork and would be thronged with regular patrons in the evenings. The Black Pork Street is within walking distance from Chilsungro Shopping Town.

We tried our luck at one of the busiest restaurants around the area. If you must know, these barbecue restaurants only serve ONE type of meat.... Black Pork. No Beef, Chicken or whatsoever. Probably we had the wrong cut, the meat was harder than expected. The Porky-flavor was bold... a lot stronger than usual; for those who don't favor the smell, stay away.

Complimentary Kimchi Soup

Complimentary Steamed Egg

Complimentary Korean Cold Noodles

10) Haejangguk/ Hangover Soup
Direction: Enter Phone Number- 752 3001 as your GPS coordinates.
Business Hours: 8 am till evening.
Contact Number: N/A
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No

Beef Haejangguk/ Hangover Soup (7,000 KRW)

Hwangdae Kongnamul Haejang Gook/ Hangover Soup with Dried Pollack and Bean Sprouts (7,000 KRW)

Korea is famous for its alcohol-drinking culture, they don't drink as a pastime but rather, they see that as a way of life. As a result of the excessive drinking, hangover is extremely common for them. To ensure that their minds are fully functional the next morning, they would prefer to have some soft-diet with comfortably warm temperature and thus, the Hangover Soup.

In order not to upset their stomachs, the Hangover Soups are usually served hot; it can be enjoyed as it is or to go together with Rice. We had that for breakfast, on a fine morning (before our flight back to Seoul). The Beef Hangover Soup was well-spiced, it certainly reminds me of Kimchi Jigae (sans the acidity) but with Beef and plenty of Sprouts/ Spring Onions. It was most comforting and invigorating for us to kick start the day. This particular shop right beside Robero Hotel (we stayed here) opens as early as 7:30 am!

Have Fun in Jeju Island! 

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