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Monday, January 9, 2012

Korea Day 3

Morning, glad you could join us again on this cold lovely morning, brrr. ☺

Jeju Island is renowned for their homegrown oranges, so the first thing we are doing today straight after breakfast is to visit one of their orange orchards. Hopping down from the coach, I begin to realize how remote this orchard we've just arrived at is, situated along some highway as if it popped into existence out of nowhere.

Who knows, Korean oranges probably need lots of privacy to grow juicily and each of those things can cost up to SGD 5 bucks. The building you see there is situated at the entrance to the orange orchard and sells chocolate made out of their own home-grown oranges and other fruits.

The orange orchard
So yeah, this makes for a nice place to get snacks for the Homies back home.

So this begs the question: Are their oranges worth buying? They do taste slightly better than the ones we have at home but they won't give your taste buds an orgasm. You might still wanna try one for bragging rights or something. Well, we did buy a few boxes of their different-flavored chocolates made from different fruits.

I tried bargaining with the proprietor but decided to drop the bargaining since she threw in a couple boxes of free chocolate based on a minimum quantity order which I snapped up on the spot. The free boxes are cheaper but still, I think she's being generous already. Business probably isn't that good given the remoteness of the location, so I hope she has a distribution channel in the market.

Speaking of the remoteness of the location, here's a snapshot of the highway right in front of the orchard:

It's remote, isn't it? Guess they can probably use this place for a zombie apocalypse movie. Looking at the highway and the surrounding area, I begin to imagine myself living here. I think I'll like the idea if I can have a solid Internet connection at the same time.

And I can crank up the volume of my guitar amp and jam away with only the trees and asphalt here as my audience. What's there not to like about it? Besides, the cold here is right up my alley. Ok, it's actually a tad colder than cold but it still beats the damned humidity of the darned tropics.

And I think the nights here ought to be really peaceful and quiet moments, though my Rabbit would interpret that as something straight out from a horror movie. One thing's for sure though, if you are staying here and your vehicle goes kaput or if you run out of petrol, you will be pretty much stuck until help arrives. That's the problem with remote areas, so I suppose the folks here are pretty efficient people.

Me getting dressed up for the occasion, brrr..
Straight from the orange orchard, our guide 珍珍 brought us here to Songsan Sunrise Peaks for some mountain hiking. The tops of mountains ought to be much colder than ground level, so that's me wrapping myself up in anticipation of that.

Songan Sunrise Peaks is an extinct volcano on the eastern tip of Jeju Island. Just as well, I wouldn't want a mountain to suddenly blow up on me while I'm walking up its slopes. The plan for this place is to walk up the mountain till you reach the peak where you will be rewarded with a bird's eye view of the surrounding vicinity from the top.

Stairs are actually provided, so you don't have to bring your ice picks & cliffhanger equipment. Also, there are rest points, shelters and a provision shop along the slope of the mountain, so you can leave your camping equipment at home. In other words, this place is tourist-friendly and not a pro hardcore mountain climbing site.

She knows Ninjutsu. Clothing style-wise.

Hindsight - Perhaps it's due to the fact that the base of Songan is one big piece of open plain or perhaps it's due to the fact that walking up the mountain warms your system up, but the base of the mountain is a heck lot colder than the peak, which explains why my Lioness is dressed up like a Ninja here.

These gorgeous steeds at the base of Songan are ride-able with a fee. They hardly move when stationary. The poor horsies must be feeling too cold to fidget. I mean, they are mostly naked here.

Halfway up the mountain at a rest point and getting sniped at by the camera while I'm doing a video vlog with my trusty camcorder. I had to talk my way up a volcano here.

Climbing up Songsan works on your thigh muscles and makes your lungs pant for breath at certain points. I can see lots of folks panting and I don't even feel that cold anymore. Almost reaching the peak, this prominent rock suddenly pops into view. I think it must be a lava formation though. It resembles a human head and I don't think it was stolen from Easter Island.

The natives here used to bow down to it multiple times whenever they pass this rock in days gone by. Some of them might still be following this custom, probably out of fear that if they don't, this rock might open up it's 'mouth', swallow them whole & spit them into the crater up top or something.

Seeing formations crafted by Mother Nature that resemble human or even animal forms can jog the imagination.

And once we reached the peak..

Oh gee, we just walked up 180 meters to get to the peak here. But since we couldn't walk up here in a perfectly straight vertical path, we traversed for more than that distance.

View from Songsan's peak
View from the peak.

*Me makes the horizontal hand-swaying gesture to indicate only so-so.*

There's nothing much spectacular about the view but sunrise might be a different story, I guess. The air here is fresh though. This place reminds me of Mount Hakone in Tokyo which peak is enveloped by the smell of sulphur and enshrouded with sulphuric fumes here and there. But since Songsan is an extinct volcano, its peak doesn't have this problem.

Anyway, after some further sight-seeing and some photo-takings at the peak, we begin to make our way back down the way we came, stopping at this provision shop halfway along the mountain path for refreshment.

Songsan is just next to the sea and I snapped this while walking down the mountain. See those caves? The Japanese Imperial Army or Navy hid ammunition in them when they occupied Korea.

And nearing the base of the mountain is this view:

Arrival at Song-up village
Now that we are done with our visit at Songsan, we begin to proceed to the next place where a very famous Korean drama was filmed and thus, making the place a renowned tourists spot.

The place I'm talking about is the Song-up Folk Village where the traditional thatched houses are under a protection order to preserve their traditional novelty. I suppose these houses can bring you to court if you so much as touch them the wrong way?

Stepping into this place makes all my memories of our visit to the Ainu village in Hokkaido come flooding back, which is a bittersweet thing since I miss Hokkaido much. I have a mind to make plans bring my Lioness back there again some day again during Japan's winter season. For now, it's Song-up. Let's see what we can find here..

Walking further into this small village and arriving at the center of it, I see this before me which is hard to miss:

The Korean drama 大長今 (Dae Jang-Geum) was filmed here. That's the idolized almost to the point of worship Korean drama I was talking about. I won't be surprised if some secret formal cooking cult already exist that worships this drama series.

Our hostess giving us a sales presentation
When we arrived at Song-up earlier, we were greeted immediately at the village entrance and guided along by a Chinese female hostess. She's gotta be a mainland China Chinese judging by her accent. I've mentioned in my previous blog entry that lots of Chinese nationals are living and working in South Korea.

So we were invited into one of the houses for a sales presentation where we were introduced to their local products made out of wild honey, powdered horse bones and other stuff. I was half expecting our hostess here to pull down a projector screen and launch Powerpoint but that didn't happen.

Occupational hazard inculcation.

So here are the wild honey and other local products in all their glory, put into containers that won't break and which will be reinforced with styrofoam boxes for your flight home. The village may look primitive but they have credit card facilities here, which seemed kinda out of place while I was there. Still no Powerpoint though.

Samples of each product introduced are given out to us tourists to sample and I'm taking much delight in downing a spoonful of wild honey, since wild honey is almost like an elixir to me. The more natural, purer and less processed they come, the more beneficial they are.

Since nobody experienced seizures and whatnot after tasting the samples, my Lioness decided to buy their 五味子 and powdered horse bones for her dad. The 五味子 contains ingredients that are supposed to improve or prevent a multitude of things like insomnia and liver conditions, etc.

While the purchasing transactions were going on, I snuck outside and explored the place on my own. Well, they are done with their transactions and are coming out of the house now. Regroup.

Statue of a traditional Jeju woman
This statue in the village depicts a Jeju woman from days gone by.

Travel Knowledge: In ages past, Jeju women grew up with a personal earthen or clay container put into a basket with straps that they used to climb up mountains to draw water. On their day of marriage, they had to carry their own water container to their hubbies' houses. I guess that's because they considered their water containers to be a part of themselves since they grew up with them.

Jeju women have such strength and stamina that when they were occupied by the Japanese, the Japs conducted live human experiments on them, slicing their bodies open while they were still alive without anesthesia in the Japs' search for what made Jeju women so strong & resilient.

In the end, they found the answer diet-wise: grounded horse bones consumption. Jeju men used to eat the meat of horses while their women could only eat the grounded bones in powdered form.

My Lioness just tried carrying one of those clay water containers on her back (empty without water of course) and I've lifted one to get a feel of its weight. Let me tell you: even when empty, those things are rather heavy already.

I can understand why Jeju women from ages past were strong physically, besides their consumption of grounded horse bones - if that proves anything medically, that is.

It's already noon, so what's for lunch? The answer is wild boar meat at this restaurant within reasonable walking distance from Song-un village. Reading Asterix & Obelisk when young made my mouth water and I've always wondered how wild boar meat tastes like when I was a little boy with comics in hand. Had my virgin taste of it in Taiwan.

The section on the right of the pic there shows the intended proper way for eating the wild boar meat - pile up, wrap up, chow down. No questions asked. But for me, I just pop the meat straight into my mouth since I prefer it this way.

Next: We have arrived at the Trick Art Museum where 3D exhibits create optical illusions. Take photos with them posing in the correct way and you create the illusions with your photos.

Unfortunately, it's really crowded in here and since I'm allergic to a throng of people, barring a Rock concert and inside clubs, we find ourselves watching other folks play with the exhibits more than we participated.

It's a Monday too. Can't imagine how this place will be like during the weekends and holiday seasons. Well, we just go posing at those exhibits where there aren't much of a crowd.

Emo comes to South Korea

Now that we are done with inside the Trick Art Museum, we proceeded outside and out here is this little park with figurines of wild life made to real-life scale, so I climbed on little Dumbo to taunt Jumbo.

Ok, it's time to proceed to the next place..

The chocolate castle / museum

Arrival at the Chocolate Castle - Korea's first chocolate museum constructed with Jeju's volcanic basalt stone.

These people are making chocolate. Did I mention before that the typical Korean is slim? Well, this is a chocolate factory, so whaddya expect?

Here, have one using your imagination

You can't get to those since it's behind a glass panel inside the choc-making factory we can't get into. Tease. If you want them, you gotta buy them. Only air & some hugs are free in this world the last time I checked with reality.

Playing outside the grounds of the chocolate museum.
Tram-Raiding. Where's the freaking door?

By the way, everything about this place reminds me of the chocolate museum in Hokkaido, which is much much prettier when you make a comparison between the premises outside both museums.

Following this, we begin proceeding to the last tourists attraction spot we'll be seeing here on Jeju Island for this trip before we fly back to the mainland tomorrow.

A short coach ride later, we arrived at O'Sulloc Green Tea Museum where they showcase everything about.. well, you've guessed it - green tea and how it gets processed and such for the making of green tea products.

I can't say I'm interested in this but at least there's this huge green tea plantation just opposite the museum building and I've never been inside a plantation before, so this is still good for a new experience. But before that, let's head inside the building first, which looks this way:

It's basically a long curved stretch of interior space with counters for buying green tea products and exhibits showcasing all things green tea.

You just gotta try the green tea cakes & ice cream here, they are quite yummylicious. Well, I don't find anything else interesting here, so let's head outside.

Inside the green tea plantation

We have crossed opposite and are now inside the green tea plantation proper. That's me playing with the plants.

Green tea

Behold, this is an authentic green tea plant up close & personal. I'm surprised that there is no fragrance at all emanating from the plants around me since I was expecting them to have that distinct.. well, green tea drink smell. It looks like I'm being educated by a plant this minute.

Never judge a plant by its smell or lack thereof. Sorry, plant.

Well, with the visitation of the green tea museum and the plantation, our tour group is going for dinner now before going back to the hotel and calling it a day.

While inside the coach, besides being entertained by our tour guide 珍珍 and chatting or catching some shut-eye, me & my Lioness find ways and things to do to amuse ourselves. Here, I had to wear one of her gloves for this shot. It was tight but lovely. Glad her glove didn't tear on me.

The seafood restaurant
Here we are at this seafood restaurant for our dinner. Actually, we were supposed to have dinner at another place but a group of women from our tour group wanted to have a change of taste from the usual Korean steamboat and so 珍珍 brought us here instead.

For that, we all have to chip in and share the cost. Majority wins on consensus when it comes to traveling in a group (as with everything else, unless you wanna go all rebel and break away from the group to do your own thang) and you gotta give & take some.

I'm showing you a picture of this place because, besides showing you how a Korean seafood restaurant looks like from the outside, there is also another reason which we shall see later, which is quite horrifying..

Dinner. This is not everything we are having for dinner here, though it already seems like much. As soon as we finish a plate, they brought in new stuff for us to munch on. The continuous stream of seafood served seems so endless it's making me wonder if seafood in Jeju is either infinite or their marine life reproduce at a rate faster than the whole of Jeju can eat them.

The same group of women seated at another adjoining table who suggested earlier that we change our originally planned dinner for something different are complaining about how they are being shortchanged of a slice of fish when they realized that the rest of us have an extra slice each for our tables.

Later, the Sashimi came sailing
in on a boat.
珍珍 seems to be getting stressed up over their demands and so, those of us at our table offered to donate a slice or two of our own fish to them to help 珍珍 deal with the hassle.

So 珍珍 came over to our table and as she's taking the donated slices of fish from our table, my Lioness hears her muttering "Ajuma" under her breath, lol. Ajuma means 'aunties' in Korean.

Well, that group of women are actually friendly and nice, it's just that they can be quite fussy and a little demanding at times, that's all. 珍珍 has to babysit them sometimes while the rest of us are independent on our own with an attitude that says 'that's ok, anything goes, we don't really give a fuck as long as things turn out ok'. I'm sure 珍珍 loves us very much.

The live octopus
And then the horror came..

This is a live octopus.
But me & my Lioness only eat dead things.

They brought it out to the dining area for the guests to play with it first before bringing it back into the kitchen where it met its agonizing doom.

They chopped this guy into little pieces while it was still alive.
When the pieces were served, they were still squirming.

Everybody should eat only dead things.
If you don't, try chewing on yourself to feel how it's like.

This is not just sickeningly fucked up, I really think that this is within the realm of animal cruelty too. And to think me and my Lioness having to pay a share for it even though we refused to eat it.

The live abalones
And then there are the live abalones meant to be cooked alive, just like those we've seen in Hokkaido.

Sitting before us at the same table is this newly wed couple. So hubby proceeded to take one still squirming abalone, put half of it inside the boiling water, stops there and turns to us asking us something about the food.

Oh gosh, come on dude, put that abalone completely into the water and end its agony already, sheesh! All the while, I'm horrified to the point of being at a loss for words while mentally willing him to drop that abalone whole into the steamboat.

Anyway, at least the abalones here are a little luckier.. over in Hokkaido, they get slowly cooked on a frying pan over sake.

Damn, I'm in a lousy mood. Anyway, now that we're done with our dinner and are back at our hotel, I'm gonna bring my Lioness over to that nearby Family Mart for some groceries and beer for myself (she doesn't drink).

Thanks for joining us today, dear reader. Come back tomorrow, I'll take you back to the mainland to visit Everland Theme Park and Dongdaemun before we go watch a wonderfully hilarious theatrical play called 'Jump'.

- De Lion Speaks

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