Unlocking Jeju

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I went to join with Mr.C once again in Jeju Island.  I have mentioned Mr.C once before and for those who don’t know who he is, I consider him a wise friend and also an important peer.  His knowledge and experiences in life is nothing short of incredible and he always have great stories to tell and lessons to teach…like this time on how to find dolphins in the Jeju sea.

It kinda’ feels like being in the Karate kid, but rather learning about kicking ass, I am being given keys to unlock secrets to Jeju culture.  Everything he says is so valuable and so culturally enriching!

Anyways the lesson learnt here is that when you travel, try to meet with many types of different people and sometimes do things which are out of your comfort zone.  You never know who you might bump into…they might even give you valuable knowledge and experiences that only a local can give.

Grass and Wind

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A lot of people ask me what is so special about the Olle Trails in Jeju Island?  Well, I remember seeing a recurring pattern of people taking express buses and taxis and hopping from one location to another.  The beauty of the Olle trails is that you will not miss the hidden beauty that sleeps in between these beautiful locations.  It also promotes a healthier lifestyle and you will always get a sense of healing after a few hours walk. I’m pretty sure the fresh scent of greenery and the unique Jeju wind is much healthier than an air conditioner at full blast.  Korea doesn’t know how to control their air con power!

I mentioned this previously here, it really is like an adventure, you’ll never know what you will come across whether it’s other friendly walkers or the unexpected natural beauty you stumble across which is inaccessible via public transport.

On the last note, I keep getting emails about people not being able to visit these BEAUTIFUL trails because they cannot speak any Korean. Who will you talk to when walking these trails? A tree?  Even getting there shouldn’t be a problem either as the guesthouse/hotel in which you will be staying in will provide you detailed information about the island and how to get there.  I spoke no Korean whatsoever during my first time in Jeju~ ~ piece of cake.

Slow City

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I’ve been thinking lately (surprise surprise) about what Seo Myung Suk (founder of Jeju Olle Trails) said in her speech during my stay at Jeju Island. Before the creation of the Olle Trails she wondered why people in Korea (or even in the world) are so one directionally driven into making money, climbing up the ranks, or achieving superb academic grades. So many children nowadays are spending more time indoors in academies rather than enjoying the simple pleasure of their environment. People nowadays are so driven in buying properties in high rise apartments, and then afterwards aim to get an even bigger one and so on.

Are we really put on Earth to save up for a Lambourghini?

That’s why sometimes I envy people who live in slow cities. Whenever I visit Jeju Island, the people seem to take it more easy…do what they love, or earn enough to get by whilst appreciating their social and natural environment. And the fact that they have less stress may be the reason why they look so much younger than their age!

…but most importantly, their grace and kindness…I’m always blown away by it~

BTW There’s a reason why they say ‘money is the root of all evil‘ haha I just wonder if there was no need for money anymore…will all the problems that humanity currently face in Korea all be solved? *AHEM* Suicide…

Anyways would love to know what you guys think too =D

Not Just An ‘Ordinary’ Olle Walk

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From my last experience with the Jeju Olle trail, I remembered feeling overwhelmed by the stunning natural beauty of Jeju Island. Of course I’m always up for another adventure every time I set foot onto this natural wonder but this time round I was a volunteer for the Jeju Olle Walking Festival. I thought I would lend my amateur photography skills and capture some of the Olle Trail’s most memorable moments.

First up~ why didn’t I think of dressing up as a zombie to walk the entire course? Halloween may already be over but it doesn’t stop this group of dress up enthusiasts to give this walk a little apocalyptic atmosphere. Ok, maybe there was more walking rather than biting, but it was fun seeing them scaring children or pretending they were eating people when people asked for a photo. Apparently these people are regulars and participate every year with a different theme. I can’t wait to see what they have in mind for next year’s festival. Whilst I was prancing from group to group, my eyes can’t help but stalk the Jeju Olle pony mascot and his carrot (do horses really eat carrots??). United with the Volunteer Youth workers they both provide a cheerful, bright, and energetic mood-making atmosphere which really gives strength to the walkers. What was especially encouraging to see was the number of foreigners who travelled from around the world just to take part in this festival….dayamm~

What’s great about Olle course number 16 is that you really get a balance of sea and land. However if I was to be honest I really much preferred the land part of this course. Although you get the cliffs, sea, and volcanic rocks…there wasn’t anything that really stood out or iconic. It was just a ‘nice’ stroll along the coast, but nothing more…OH WAIT…keep a look out for an O-ddeng truck. Seriously, one of the best ones I’ve ever tasted…and it is a good chance to take a cheeky break for some food and coffee.

Once you hit the agricultural land things start to get more interesting. You get to see the true rural culture of Jeju, something which is usually forgotten if you are a visitor. Sure the amazing iconic mountains, beaches, and museums are definitely on the ‘to do’ list. Yet people seem to ignore the lifestyle of Jejulites (can I call them that?) and focus more on the touristy, overly marketed areas…nope, not looking at you, Hello Kitty Café. One charming farm patch after another you get to walk pass forests, fortresses, flower fields, and Sarabong Oreum!
One might think: “how is this festival any different to a ‘normal’ walk during any other day?” Firstly during ‘any other day’ you will probably be walking the Olle course either alone, a partner, or with a small group of friends. However at the festival there are hundreds of people walking together. You get to meet many people from different walks of life and because you all have something in common (Olle…duh) strangers will be very intrigued and interested in knowing you. While you walk, meet new friends, a new hiking buddy, or even your future spouse! You never know…

Another point is that usually you would walk from start to finish for about 4 or 5 hours and in between you need to take breaks right? You might end up sitting alone eating some snacks or a leftover Shin Ramyun cup noodle. But NO MORE! In this festival there are break intervals where everybody gets to rest and eat together. Also, the Jeju Olle Organization has prepared special performances such as singing, dancing, Korean traditional classical music e.t.c. so that the walkers can enjoy and forget about the aching soles of their feet. Food and snacks are also provided generously…don’t forget your lunch and dinner coupons! Use this time to rest up, chill, and have a conversation with your new found friend while soaking up the buzzing atmosphere.
The final point is meeting the ever so hard working staff of the Jeju Olle Organization. Aren’t you curious as to who are the brains behind the intricate routes of the trails? Throughout my experiences of Korea so far, I can say the staff members of the organization are one of the most helpful, kind, and passionate people I’ve ever met…I genuinely feel honoured to be able to be a part of this major event with them. Don’t speak Korean? I was really surprised to find out the number of members who can speak English at a very good level. But if you really struggle to communicate then there is a very reliable and passionate foreign member of the Jeju Olle Organization who can help you and answer all your questions.

Even though I was a volunteer at this event, I didn’t really feel like I was a volunteer, but I felt as though I was part of a united community who just enjoyed walking and observing what Jeju Island had to offer. Not only did I take pictures of amazing landscapes, but I made really good friends along the way and got to hear interesting stories from different types of people from around the world. All I can say is I cannot wait for what next year’s Jeju Olle Walking festival has to offer…though this time round…I might end up wearing a yellow hoody with makeup on my face and a hat which screams ‘I’m an elementary school student’…. Hint hint 😉

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