Jeju Notes: Off-Season Meanderings

ocean view


As I mentioned in my previous post, T and I went to Jeju Island last month and I thought I’d type out some of my notes from the trip.

Jeju is Korea’s biggest island. Its oval shape is like an egg off the peninsula’s southern coast. In the middle there’s Mt. Halla, the volcano that created the whole thing. The climate is sub-tropical, but the landscape looked to me like a well-watered Southern California, with palm trees and gentle hills.

Jeju is Korea’s favorite destination for honeymooners, so there are several love and sex museums or parks, lots of romantic photo opportunities, and tons of symbols for marriage. We didn’t go to any of those museums though.

The island also has 3 natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Mt. Halla, some cavernous lava tube caves, and a picturesque small crown-peaked island attached to Jeju by a thin strip of land. Sadly, we didn’t go to any of these either.

So what did we do? Here are a few places we visited.

The Garden
We went to the Yeomiji Gardens, which had a gargantuan greenhouse in the shape of a sunflower. Each ‘petal’ housed different themes of plants. My favorite was the fruit tree room.

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In the middle of the glass flower, you can go up to a ‘stamen’ tower and get great views of the surroundings.  And outside there were well-manicured English, Italian, Japanese and Korean gardens.

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The Teddy Bear Museum
Nearby, we were pleasantly surprised by the Teddy Bear Museum. We thought it was too cheesy to enter, but they had a restaurant in there, and we were gagging for some coffee that didn’t come in a can from a vending machine.

The museum was awesome in a cheeky, self-referential way. For one thing, architecturally, the conical glass structure is quite contemporary. And the whole thing is located at the head of a canyon that empties into the sea.

glass conethe teddy bears of Xian

You can learn the history of the teddy bear. There were antique bears, some over 200 years old. And there were contemporary creations like this Shin Ramyun bear.  Our favorite section had teddy bear representations of famous art, like this iconic Klimt painting.

Shin Ramyun teddy bearklimt teddy

The Sculpture Park
As lovers of sculpture and art we had to go to the sculpture park. It’s much bigger than the Hakone Outdoor Museum, with many more pieces. But it doesn’t have any internationally famous artists represented. Instead, it’s probably the most complete cross-section of Korean sculptors assembled anywhere.

Since this park is a bit remote, there were probably fewer than 10 visitors including us. It was like a scene from the movie Spirited Away, an eerily deserted amusement park. Except it wasn’t creepy. It was just empty, which was nice because we basically had the whole place to ourselves.

After strolling through all the paths and checking out the art, we settled onto the expansive lawn and sketched some of our favorite pieces.

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The African Art Museum
Inexplicably, there’s a museum of African art. We had so many questions about this museum. For instance, how did it end up here? Was it a rich benefactor with a love of African art? Or was it some governmental exchange that subsidized it? And what about the performers that played percussion and danced for visitors 3 times a day? What’s their story?

The Museum itself is a replica of the Djenne Mosque.  Inside there were several galleries of photographs, tons of masks, and other traditional ritual paraphernalia.  

fake Djenne Mosque

For the full set of pictures click here.

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