Friday, February 10, 2012
Heal your body, mind and soul on jeju Island of Korea
The country’s southern resort island of Jeju used to be a popular honeymoon destination for newlyweds here before they started going abroad. But the island, with its subtropical climate and warm seawater, along with its flora, marine fauna and living culture, has emerged as an exotic holiday spot over the years for not only Korean tourists but also foreigners.
Many of the island’s natural assets have been designated as a World Natural Heritage site, helping to draw many Chinese and other foreign tourists. Jeju’s pristine nature, unique cuisine based on a variety of seafood, and exotic cultures have turned itself into a must-visit destination for those traveling to Korea.
``Wherever you are on Jeju Island these days, it is a sure thing that you will run into groups of Chinese tourists. The number of annual Chinese visitors is expected to surpass the Jeju Island population of 570,000 this year,’’ said Han Kyung-ah, executive director of the Visit Korea Committee. ``Hotels and other hospitality-related businesses catering to visitors from the mainland are flourishing.’’
There are dozens of natural wonders throughout the island for visitors to appreciate, Han said, adding they will be touched by the warm hospitality extended by Jeju residents. ``A wide range of seafood-based dishes will also please their taste buds at affordable prices. State-of-the-art hotels and other types of lodging facilities are ready to cater to diversifying needs of foreign guests,’’ Han said.
Besides tour spots, food and accommodation, a variety of festivals are held on Jeju Island all year round, providing visitors with opportunities to experience its unique culture and tradition.
For instance, the island holds the ``Olle’’ Walking Festival every autumn. In 2011, the festival was organized from Nov. 9 to 12.
Olle trails, built along its coasts, first opened in September 2007 and there are now a total of 23 trekking courses spanning 376 kilometers. Olle comes from the old Jeju dialect, which implies a narrow alley or path from a main street to a gate of a house.
Festival organizers say the festival is for people from across the globe who would like to walk the most beautiful and peaceful hiking trails in the world. Since 2007, more than 1 million Korean and foreign tourists have taken advantage of this unique and healthy way of leisure, they said.
``Additionally, Jeju’s selection as one of the New7Wonders of Nature in a worldwide poll, which puts Jeju on par with the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and Halong Bay in Vietnam, will bring more Korean and non-Korean tourists into the southern resort island,’’ the executive director said.
Jeju Stone Park reflects the stone culture deeply ingrained in the formation of Jeju Island and its history. Also as an ecological park, it is designed with the theme of the local mythology, Seolmundae Halmang (grandmother goddess) and Obaek Janggun (five hundred generals).
Gyorae Recreation Forest boasts the unique combination of trees and plants growing in the warm temperate zone. A mountain farmland and a kiln site producing charcoal from the 1940s still remain. It is a valuable place in terms of anthropological and ecological value. It is also home to cottages, an outdoor performance stage, a camping site, walkways, and an ecological experience zone.
Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak) was formed from the eruption of a volcano from the sea 100,000 years ago. It is a rare site even among the numerous craters on Jeju Island. The peak covered with silver grass is 600-meters wide and 90-meters high. People used to farm here in the past. Udo Island can be readily seen from the peak. From the old days, the view of the sunrise is considered one of the best attractions on Jeju Island. Watching the rising sun over the emerald-blue sea from Seongsan Ilchulbong is simply breathtaking.
Cheonjiyeon Falls are 22 meters high and 12 meters wide. It was named as such because it looks like the intersection between the sky and the land. It is surrounded by rare plants and trees. Patagua grows there along with unique plants in the warm temperate zone, including psilophytales and camellia. The waterfall is also a natural habitat for giant mottled eels, one of Korea’s natural monuments.
Jusangjeolli (pillar-shaped columns) are vertical columns formed by rapid contraction of thick basalt lava. They typically have square or hexagonal shapes. Jusangjeolli stand as high as 40 meters and as wide as 1 kilometer. They are one of the largest colums in Korea.
Olle trails along the island’s coastal line, have emerged as one of Jeju’s main tourist attraction. The trails first opened in September 2007 and there are now a total of 23 trekking courses spanning 376 kilometers. A festival is organized every autumn attracting tens of thousands of visitors. For more information and further inquiries on Olle trails and the festival, call the Jeju Olle Foundation at 064-762-2170 or visit its website (www.ollewalking.co.kr).
Yacht excursions are one of the many fun activities visitors to Jeju can engage in. Thanks to several yacht operators, travelers can enjoy high-quality yachting at affordable prices in the island’s warm southern waters. Among them, Grande Bleu stands out. The company, which opened on Oct. 15, operates one mid-sized yacht, which is 17 meters long and 9.5 meters wide. The yacht sails out of Daepo Port in Seogwipo. Its one-hour voyage allows passengers to view the southern coastline of Jeju Island. For more information on Grande Bleu, call 064-739-7776 or visit its website (www.grandeblueyacht.co.kr).
Seafood hot pot: Jeju Island boasts diverse and fresh seafood dishes. Seafood in broth uses a variety of ingredients including abalone, clams, sea urchin roe, squid, shrimp and much more, along with tofu, green onions, and crown daisies. The seafood and vegetables are prepared with fermented soybean paste. Visitors will experience the taste of the sea from this dish.
Grilled tilefish: Boasting a simple and elegant taste, the tilefish is caught only around Jeju Island and the East Sea. Tilefish are relatively devoid of the typical fish smell, offering a high concentration of nutrients including protein. It is often used on special occasions in Korea such as for ancestral rites. To grill tilefish, it is first cut open and dried in the wind and sunlight. The half-dried tilefish is then grilled. It is also used for a stew with seaweed or sliced to make sashimi marinated with vinegar.
Hairtail fish soup with squash: Hairtail, known to be rich in protein, can be best enjoyed with squash and other vegetables. To make hairtail fish soup, it is cut into pieces and prepared with aged squash, green chili peppers and napa cabbage in boiled water. Depending on preferences, salt or hot chili powder can be added to the stew.
Sea urchin soup with seaweed: Sea urchins are caught mainly between late May and June in waters surrounding Jeju Island. Female divers catch sea urchins hidden between rocks in the sea. To make the soup, sea urchins along with seaweed are slightly fried with sesame oil. Then, abalone and salt are added to the soup. Adding sea urchin roes to it creates a uniquely sweet taste.
Jeonbokjuk (rice porridge with abalone): Abalone, the most expensive kind of clams, is a famous local produce from Jeju Island for years. The porridge is easily digested and
a healthy substitute for a full meal for children, the elder and patients.
Godeungeo-jorim (braised mackerel with radish): Fresh mackerel is cut into three or four pieces before being marinated with white radish, red chili paste, red chili powder and ground onion. Godeungeo-jorim is known for the combined taste of oily radish, spicy chili, and delicious mackerel. To prepare for Galchi-jorim (braised hairtail with radish), fresh hairtail is cut into pieces, which are then seasoned with soy sauce, red chili powder, sliced white radish, ground garlic, and ginger.
Attention! Foreign travelers
Foreign tourists, who follow one or more of the Visit Korea Committee’s ``Must-See Tour Routes’’ and leave comments on its website, could win free airplane tickets through a prize draw. Those who make suggestions on how to improve the committee’s tour courses may also be awarded with a prize. Jin Air, Korea’s leading low-cost carrier, is sponsoring this event. You can either send comments to email@example.com or leave them directly at http://english.visitkoreayear.com/english/micro/bbs/01_view.asp?idx=242.