Udo Diving Women

Originally uploaded by katevsnow.
The next day we set out from our little yogwan at Seongsan to the small island of Udo. It's known as 'Cow Island' because of the shape of it on the horizon looks like the back of a buffalo emerging from the water. The island is very relaxing and rural, with a total population of only 1750.
On Udo there is a small community of haenyeo, Jeju-do's famous diving women who collect shellfish from the depths of the south sea. There have been several generations of these women on the island, whom often work until they reach the age of seventy. They use no scuba gear (only wetsuit, face mask, net, gloves and a basket) and are able to hold their breath for over two minutes and dive to depths of over 65 feet.
Justin and I rented bicycles for three hours to peddle the flat neatly paved road which circled the island. The beaches of Udo were starkly white, ranging from rough coral to smooth sand.
We caught up a group of haenyeo taking a lunch break near the lighthouse on the north side of the island. They were friendly and let me take their picture, as I'm sure many other tourists had before.
The east side of the island is the'head of the buffalo', the highest point of the island, and is thus very un-bikeable. So, after a couple hours of biking, we thought we shold be able to cross the island to head back to the starting point of the ferry dock. We chose an inland road and biked uphill for aways through small housing complexes with four foot walls built by black volcanic rocks. We paused up top to take in the view and suddenly saw a small Korean man appear from one of the houses. The small dog near his side started barking ferociously at Justin on his bike, while I stood behind them and took a great picture of the rabid little beast. The man did nothing to try and control his pooch and all but started laughing as we quickly rode away.

Manjanggul Lava Caves

Originally uploaded by katevsnow.
After getting more than we could handle of pig parts and dead animals walking, we took a taxi to the center of Jeju-si, where we took a bus to the Manjanggul Lava Caves. The caves are a huge tourist attraction, but we thought we'd give them a shot since they were claimed as the world's longest system of lava caves, at over 13km long with a height and width varying from 3m to 20m. The caves were wet and cold, as expected and packed with Korean locals and tourists. I struggled to get a good shot of Justin without bypassers and managed to take this green tinted photo near the end of the cave.

Jeju-si Oiljang (Five Day Market)

Originally uploaded by katevsnow.
After a long first term here, Justin and I decided to take a trip to see the Korea that lives outside of Seoul. We took a four day trip to the southern most part of Korea, the island of Jeju-do. They call it 'the honeymoon island' because it's where most young Korean couples go after, of course, getting married and because it's the closest thing to a tropical vacation. There are palm trees scattered throughout the island, and although some say they're imported, I doubt it.
The first thing we did was go to the five day market in the city of Jeju-si. The market is only held on calendar days ending with a 'two' or 'seven'. Since we arrived on the 27th we thought we must go. It is the largest open-air market I think I've ever seen and I don't think we even saw half. There you can find anything from kimchi pots, plants and clothes to fish, beans and live animals.
We were just walking into the meat and seafood section of the market when I heard a loud squaking. I turned and saw two ajimmas carrying two big live geese in canvas bags. It was then that I noticed we weren't just at a meat and seafood market, we at a butcher's shop as well. Ajimmas (and strangly only the ajimmas, not the Korean men ajashis) were casually hacking apart cow and pig carcasses with huge rusty clevers at their wooden booths and tossing the parts into seemingly organized piles of flesh. We didn't stay very long in the area, but long enough to see large 3 feet long sections of shark meat with no heads or tails, lying on a wooden table surrounded by tons of small silver fish. Suprisingly, my little fear of sharks does not go away even when their meat is for sale at the market!


Muuido Wharf

Originally uploaded by katevsnow.
On the way back to Jamsildo from Muuido we had to wait a couple hours for the tide to rise, because the ferry was moored half way between the islands. So we enjoyed tuna and crackers for lunch, sitting on a concrete wall watching
stranded families collect clams and snails from the beach.
On our way through Yeongjongdo we stopped at the Haesupia Spa, a luxury seawater hot spa. We didn't know it was separated into men and women, nor that it was nude, but I suppose we could have guessed. In any case, it was really relaxing after two days of hiking from island to island. I enjoyed the oriental medicinal bath outside for awhile. It felt like I was soaking in a pool of Green Tea, and looked that way too. Other baths included the Deep Seawater Massage, Fresh Water Hot Baths, Deep Seawater Cold Baths and very hot saunas.
It was the first time I had been out of the enormous city of Seoul and it felt good. Although Seoul is where a quarter of the population of South Koreans live, sometimes it dosen't feel like Asia at all. It just feels like another big city that happens to be half way around the world from the States. Being on the islands made me eagar to explore other more rural parts of Korea and Asia.
So, Justin and I have planned a trip to Jejudo, the island off the south coast of Korea, for next week. Our first term ends on Tuesday and we fly out on Wednesday morning.

Muuido to Silmido

Originally uploaded by katevsnow.
The next morning we took a bus to the entrance to Jamsil Island, where we
walked around a small bend and then through a small fishing village. From there we reached a long concrete stretch of road linking the two islands, barely wide enough for two cars, much less pedestrians. So we waited for a break in traffic and walked briskly to the other side.
From the other side of Jamsildo we took a 20 minute ferry ride to Muui Island, where we walked through another small fishing village and up a very steep road to find the beach and camping area on the other side. From that beach we walked across this man made bridge of huge boulders and slimy rope, only possible in low tide.
At the other end was Simsildo, a small uninhabited island where we did another small hike to the other side to a beach where they filmed a popular Korean movie 'Simsildo'. From that beach you could look out onto the West Sea and see a few small islands in the distance. The tide was so low at that point in the day you could spot many ajimmas and ajashis digging for clams and snails on the mudflats.