This is an article written by a foreign student participating in the "Must-See Routes" program organized by the Visit Korea Committee. It is the final of three articles published in The Korea Times' tourism section. — ED.
The flight from Seoul to Jeju Island took no longer than an hour. By the time I opened my eyes from a quick snooze, I was surrounded by palm trees and a clear blue sky. Everything looked unfamiliar and exotic.
Many travelers on Jeju rent cars or motorcycles, but because I did not have a Korean driver's license, I stuck to public transportation.
From Seongsanpo Port, visitors ride on a boat heading to Udo Island, a small, volcanic island east of Jeju Island.
I jumped on a bus to Soesokkak Estuary. Soesokkak, located in Seogwipo city, is a small river near a mouth to the sea that is famous for its beautiful water color and volcanic landform. Soesokkak is Jeju dialect for "cow lying in a pond," a comment on the landscape.
Travelers can enjoy the waters on boats with transparent bottoms, allowing them to see the black sand and fish.
Soesokkak has no restrictions or a set opening time so it is accessible at any time of year although you must pay a fee to rent a boat. Look up the information online before paying the place a visit.
Manjanggul Cave, Udo Island,
Located east of Jeju Island, the small, volcanic island is one of the most scenic spots in Jeju. The island can only be reached by a boat departing from Seongsanpo Port.
The boat ride to Udo took about five minutes. I rented a bicycle with a friend to get around the island and it was a perfect way to enjoy the island's beautiful coastline and villages of traditional homes, distinctive for their low stone fences.
There is a 132-meter-high volcanic cone, called by locals as "oreum," in the middle of the island. The view is magnificent from up the hills.
The most popular beach in Udo is "Seobinbaeksa," or Seobin White Sand Beach, famous for its white coral sand. Geommeolle Beach contrasts with black, volcanic sand.
A round trip to Udo costs 5,500 won by boat, or 20,000 to 50,000 won to carry your car on the boat. There is a boat to Udo Island every hour, although the schedule changes depending on the time of year. Check the times before your trip to be sure.
When you arrive at Udo, you will find a tour bus at Udo Quay. It takes you to all the major tourist spots on the island, accompanied by a guide.
I wanted to spend the night at Udo Island, but my friend talked me into leaving early and visiting Seongsan Ilchulbong instead.
The trip from Seongsanpo Port to the entrance of Seongsan Ilchulbong takes about 20 minutes by boat.
Seonsan Ilchulbong, located in Seogwipo city, is a tuff ring scientists believe was created about 100,000 years ago.
Once we reached Seongsan Ilchulbong, I got a view of the open ocean on one side and a view of Mt. Halla on the other side.
The sunrise from the summit is reputed to be the most beautiful of all in Korea. If you are interested in seeing the majestic sunrise, plan your trip ahead of time.
Kimnyoung Maze Park
Jeju black pork
If there is one food that represents Jeju Island, it would be grilled "black" pork from the island's native, dark-colored hogs. We ordered pork belly.
The pork was cut into thick slices and served on a sizzling hot grill at the table. Dip the meat into anchovy sauce before eating and your lips will sing.
Kimnyoung Maze Park
On the second day of the trip, my friend and I headed to Kimnyoung Maze Park first thing in the morning.
Fred Dustin, an American who lived on the island for over 30 years, created the park by planting trees based on a layout by maze designer Adrian Fisher.
The maze is beautiful and testifies to Dustin's passion. More than 1,300 Leylandii trees serve as walls of the maze since 1987 and there are a total of four lanes.
The hedges are tall enough to block your view, so anyone could get lost easily if they don't pay attention. Some manage to get out in five minutes. Me and my friend kept walking in circles.
Jeju black pork
Not far from Kimnyoung Maze Park is Manjanggul Cave, a large lava cape that takes 40 minutes to go from one end to the other.
We were both wearing thick jackets, but the cave still felt cold. The cave was mysterious like some underground fantasy world with odd shaped stalactites and boulders.
You can also see a lava pillar 7.6 meters in height, which is claimed as the tallest in the world.
Bijarim Forest is said to have existed for over 1,000 years.
Each tree here is given a serial number and is specially managed and protected closely. Tree number one is the biggest and the oldest tree in the forest.
More than 3,000 nutmeg trees between 300 to 800 years of age are growing in this forest. Taking a stroll on the forest's 1.3-kilometer path was an unforgettable experience.
We saw and learned so many things from this trip. Not only did we get to know Korea better, but we got to see a whole new side of Korea. The people we met on our trip, beautiful wildlife, and the sound of lapping ocean waves will not be soon forgotten.
The writer is a student from Bangladesh currently studying at Korea Christian University. Rodrigo Braune Wanderley who accompanied Das on the trip and took the photos for the article is a student from Brazil who studies at Chung Ang University's graduate school.