My last trip to South Korea was three years ago. That time my friend and I restricted ourselves to Seoul and some of the provinces nearby Seoul. Incidentally, as I was browsing through my blog, I realised that the first time I visited South Korea was in 2009, some 10 years ago. At the end of my blog, I wrote that one of these days I would return to South Korea and explore other parts of the country on a free and easy trip. Here we are, some 10 years later, I actually returned to South Korea and planned to visit other parts of the country. As I was telling my friends, the theme of this trip is Experience. We will be experiencing things that we have not done before. Our journey will bring us to three major stops in South Korea, Jeju, Busan and Seoul. The best way to visit Jeju is to drive around. This is my first experience – driving on the left-hand drive in a country that I hardly know their language. This trip is going to be interesting.
Arrival At Incheon Airport – Gateway to South Korea
After an overnight flight from Singapore, our flight landed slightly ahead of time. Just when we thought we had more time for our connecting flight to Jeju, we met with a snaking queue at the immigration which resulted in only 30 mins ahead of our planned timing. Our flight from Gimpo Airport, where domestic flights in South Korea departs, to Jeju was brought forward by 15 mins, I was a little concern that we might not make it in time for the onward flight.
After clearing custom and collecting our luggage, we originally wanted to get SIM cards for our travels in South Korea, the KAL limousine bus to Gimpo Airport leaves in 10 mins. We changed our plan and rush for the bus instead of getting the SIM cards, thinking that we will be able to get some at Gimpo Airport. Travellers can take either the train or the limousine bus to Gimpo Airport. The train option is half the price of that of the bus option and takes only 45 mins vis-a-vis 1 hour by bus. We opted for the bus as it meant resting on the bus all the way to Gimpo Airport. Several buses are operating between the two airports, we went for the service operated by Korean Air, which departs from entrance number 4. The bus departs at 10.55am, with mere minutes to spare, my friends and I quickly bought our tickets and made our way to Gimpo Airport.
Our First Destination in South Korea – The Volcanic Province of Jeju
The bus pulled into Gimpo Airport at 11.40am, which was 15 mins ahead of time. We proceeded to Level 2 where the check-in counters are located. We had no problems looking for Korean Air counters and got ourselves checked in for our flight to Jeju. Having some time left, we inquired at the information counter to see if we can buy some SIM cards. However, to our dismay, we were informed that we will not be able to get SIM cards in Gimpo Airport and only do so in Jeju. Before our flight, we headed to a food court on level 3 of the airport terminal for brunch. There were a lot of food options at the food court, ranging from Japanese to Western and Korean cuisines. It took us 10 mins to decide what to eat. The food was inexpensive and tasted great. After having our food, we noticed we only have 30 mins before our flight departs and made our way to the boarding gate. Soon we found ourselves on the flight bound for Jeju. We managed to get some rest on the 80 mins flight.
Our flight touched down at 2.40pm. After collecting our luggage, we hunted in the terminal building for SIM cards and were able to get some. We then headed to the car rental counters to collect our rented car but was told that our car collection is at another location, 15 mins bus ride from Jeju Airport. We were given instructions on where the complimentary shuttle is and made our way to the bus. We planned to visit some of the sites in Southern Jeju today, however, we were delayed when we collected our car. Apparently, the car that we were initially assigned seems to be problematic during our walkthrough with the staffs. It took them 35 mins to bring us another car. It is already 4pm when we headed to our Airbnb accommodation. We were further delayed on our way to our accommodation as we keyed in the wrong address. I had to drive carefully in Jeju as this is the first time I am driving left-hand drive car. We reached our accommodation at 5pm, which is too late for us to visit any sites in Jeju. After settling down and freshening up, we make do with the rest of our time in Jeju today and checked out Dongmun Night Market, which I have visited 10 years ago.
Downtown Jeju – Black Pork Street and Dongmun Night Market
The drive to Jeju-si from our accommodation took around 30 mins. We spent a considerable amount of time looking for a carpark lot as it was a weekend and all the carparks seem full. After waiting for another 20 mins at the entrance of the carpark, we finally parked our car. Our first stop is the Black Pork Street for dinner. This place came highly recommended by our Airbnb host who was thoughtful enough to send me a picture of the area. Black Pork Street is 5 mins walk from the entrance of Dongmun Market across the road. One will not miss this street as it is very well marked with an arch. The Black Pork Street is where a small number of Korea BBQ restaurants selling Jeju black pork congregates. There are not a lot of restaurants here and every one of them seem to sell about the same thing, the price did not differ much. My friends and I picked one and headed inside for our dinner. We ordered black pork set for three pax. Korean cuisines always come with numerous side dishes known as Banchan, this restaurant is no exception. We always determine if the food in the restaurant is nice by tasting their kimchi. The kimchi served in this restaurant is no exception, it is tasty and well marinated. The black pork is tender and delicious, our BBQ dishes are done by the staff who helped us cook the meat over the heated metal plate.
After dinner, we headed back to Dongmun Night Market where we briefly past through while making our way to Black Pork Street. The Night Market is full of life and seems like the whole of Jeju is here for the weekend night market. Dongmun Night Market is not only a market that attracts tourists, but locals also seem to gather here for the food and the atmosphere. There are two parts to the sizable Dongmun Night Market, the larger market part sells local produce from Jeju orange (which was in season at the time of our visit) to live seafood freshly caught off the coast of Jeju Island to souvenirs catering to tourists. This part of the market is dotted with vibrant colours from these produces but is less crowded. We spotted some people, mainly tourists, shopping in the fresh produce part of Dongmun Night Market.
The other smaller part of the night market is the street food part, where most people gather. There is no lack of option of street food here with stalls selling black pork ribs, BBQ abalones, tteokbokki, stir fry beef and freshly squeezed orange juice. One can get pretty much settle their dinner from these street food options alone, lucky we did not have too full a dinner to enjoy some of this inexpensive street food. We did not stay here too long as this part of the market is rather small plus we had a long day travelling from Singapore to Jeju, we headed back to our accommodation to readjust our plan for tomorrow to make up for the lost time today and to rest early as we have to wake up early the next day.