Thursday, October 17, 2013

Geomun Oreum and Jeju Stone Park

Long ago, when I last had a day off from work I spent a beautiful day walking. I walked several oreums, I walked through a stone park, I walked city streets, I walked country streets, I walked through stores, I walked and walked and walked. In all, I calculated that I walked over 10 miles that day. It was one of those nights when putting your feet up in bed is the most pleasurable feeling in the world.

My day started with business, but by late morning I was dropped off by my manager at Geomun Oreum. What is an oreum? It's a volcanic zone, of which there are many (more than 350) on Jeju Island. If you would like to read more about oreums you may do so here at the Jeju Province Website.

According to the tourist brochuress, Geomun Oreum is the best to hike for those not interested in the more challenging Mt. Hallasan. Since I've already hiked Mt. Hallasan, I decided to try some other less difficult trails. Geomun Oreum is definitely not challenging in my books, but there were plenty of people huffing and puffing up and down the many stairs.

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You have to make a reservation to hike here and you are then guided through the first two legs of the trails. You may choose to return to the information center after the first leg or continue on through the second. The guide takes you through the end of the second leg and then if you wish to continue you can walk the third leg on your own. The guide stops and various points along the way to tell you about the history of the trail, unique plants in the area, and volcanic structures special to Jeju and/or the Geomun Oreum. There was approximately two dozen people in my group and this seemed to be the approximate size to the other groups I saw around the center. The guides only spoke in Korean, so you may not learn much if you can't understand.

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The day was a bit chilly at the beginning, but it started to warm up nicely and was beautiful by the time we wandered into the woods after reaching the first peak. There were so many different types of trees and plants. It was so interesting to see the vast and diverse flora and fauna in such close proximity to each other. I continued onto the third leg after the instructor left us to take the majority of the people back to the center after the second leg. (What did you all expect anyway?) On this leg I got to talk with a few other people and made a couple new friends and really enjoyed the last leg where I got to walk at a slightly quicker pace and chit chat a bit more. The scenery was so beautiful and I really really enjoyed the entire hike.

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After walking the trail I wandered through the exhibit in the center. It were actually quite nice with English descriptions everywhere. There was a walk through cave and short movies in fully surrounding rooms, and models of nature highlights around the island. It was a really good exhibit.

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After Geomun Oreum I traveled to Jeju Stone Park. I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to see (outside of stones of course), but wow! This park is amazing! I loved it. I walked the first trail twice and really enjoyed my tour through the second and third trails. I took over one hundred pictures at this park. They are all posted on google+. But honestly, I had so much fun wandering through the giant stone structures

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I'm in this picture. Can you find me?
and the rather freaky and haunting collections



as well as the educational and more mundane artifacts.

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sense of humor just dive bombed

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There is also a stone museum which I meandered through for quite some time and it was a good thing I was alone because I am positive I went more slowly through the museum then anyone else I know would have wanted to go. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

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It was getting really cold and windy by the time I walked through the first trail for the second time but I had been hearing live music drifting to my ears from across a large lawn so I headed in the direction my ears told me to and discovered an orchestra rehearsal. What luck! Unfortunately, there wasn't much rehearsing that went on while I was there, but still, I enjoyed the little bit of impromptu concert I was able to witness.

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It was well past sunset and dusk was approaching so I headed toward a bus stop 3 kilometers away. I waited about 30 minutes at a stop with no seats or shelter (sometimes it's strange that one direction has a shelter and bench but the other side of the street is just a sign) until the bus came and I thankfully collapsed into a seat where I did my best (and succeeded) to not fall asleep so I could get off at the right stop.

Even though my feet were very tired I got off the bus in town and wandered through the village streets for a while, eventually stopping at the market for a couple groceries and a beverage before heading home.

I got home and promptly collapsed into the nearest chair. Realizing if I didn't move soon to the bed I'd end up frozen in place to the chair and unable to relocate I started making headway to the bedroom when one of the girls in the house asked if I wouldn't please join her and go to dinner with some friends of hers. How could I say no when she was leaving in a week? So I dropped my bag by my bed and headed out the door for more food, fun, friends, and did I mention, fun???



It was quite a day, but it was an amazing day. Recalling that day and writing about it has made me tired though. I hope you enjoyed the entry and if you ever make your way to Jeju I hope you can experience these two wonderful places yourself.