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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Korea Adventure #1: Jeju Trip: Part I

The highlight of my trip to Korea so far would be my trip to Jeju Island! I went there for a three-day trip with my best friend from high school, Annalise, who flew in to Korea last week to visit me and her friends from pharmacy school.

To give some background, Jeju, more commonly called Jejudo in Korean, is an island located off the southwest coast of Korea. Jeju is to Korea as Hawaii is to the US. It is known for the wonderful weather and fresh seafood!

To get the most out of the trip, we hired a tour guide who drove us around everywhere until 7pm. What I found interesting was the lack of fluent English-speaking tour guides in Jeju, so I had to translate most of the time for Annalise, which I did not mind. Because Jeju was once a hotspot for Chinese tourists, there are more tour guides who are bilingually fluent in Korean and Chinese than those who are fluent in English.

Once we landed, our first stop was lunch to eat Jeju's specialty: baked cutlassfish! It was oh-so-crispy and fresh. I also dared Annalise to eat the eye of the fish, which was hilarious. She actually said it was delicious and tasted like toast...

After lunch, we went to The Ma Park (더마파크) to watch a horse show that reenacts Korean history! To be completely honest, I only understood a part of the reenactments, because I never studied the history of Korean dynasties. This show encouraged me to learn more about Korean history in my free time. The performers were absolutely amazing, doing the crazy tricks like cheerleader-type pyramids on running horses! Throughout the entire duration of the show I was praying that no one would suffer the fate of Christopher Reeve. You could definitely tell a lot of effort went into the show. I highly recommend going here if you have the time!

After nearly getting a heart attack from watching the horse tricks, we went to Osulloc Tea Museum (오설록티뮤지엄)

Osulloc is the largest tea brand in Korea, and they created a museum in Jejudo in 2001, which shows the history of the brand and the origins of Korean tea culture! 

Jejudo is actually a dormant volcano, so it is not suitable for agriculture. However, after much cultivation of the land, it went on to become one of the best tea fields in the world. 

In the back of the museum, there is a cafe where you can purchase their famous green tea ice cream and roll cakes. They are a bit pricey but the quality of the matcha justifies the price. Everything was SO good and so fresh. Since I cannot think of a better way to describe how delectable everything was, I will just show you...

A couple minutes' walk from Osulloc is the Innisfree Jeju House (이니스프리 제주하우스). The many Korean products made of "Jeju volcanic rocks" are, well, from here. AmorePacific, a Korean cosmetic company that owns several popular brands including Innisfree, Laneige, and Espoir, bought over 71100 square feet (2000평) of land in Jejudo to make a factory so they could use fresh minerals and green tea leaves directly from the island to make their products.

By the entrance, there is a Paris-lovers-keychain-concept type of memoir (?). Of course, we left one each. Annalise's note is in blue, mine in yellow.

A popular activity here is making your own soap! If you pay 15,000 KRW (~13 USD), you and your friend get a bag of three bar soaps and ingredients to make your own soap! If you see below, one side of the store is entirely dedicated to this activity, with instructive iPads and stamps.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am probably the least craftiest person in the world. An Innisfree worker actually giggled at me when she saw my soap because it actually looked more like ramen than soap. When I told my mom that the soap was for her, she said, "Do you think I will break out if I use the soap you made?" Sigh...

After making soap, our next stop was dinner! Another dish that Jejudo is famous for is its black pork (흑돼지). It is literally a black pig, but it is juicier and richer in taste than regular pork and its fat is much chewier. Fun fact: back in the day, black pigs were actually fed human feces. In the olden days, black pigs were placed in the bathrooms, so the pigs could directly eat the, you know, waste. There were also wooden sticks so men could hit the pigs if they got too close to, you know, their parts. Nowadays, the black pigs are fed organic veggies, but nonetheless they are super juicy and delicious!

To end the day, we stopped by the E-Mart near our hotel and got ice-cream.

All in all, it was a busy day well spent! While all the landmarks we visited were fun, I think the best part was being able to share my culture with a great friend like Annalise, who made this trip a great experience with her positive and open-minded attitude. Stay tuned for part II of this trip!


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