Jeju Island Day 1 {From the Archives}

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How was everyone's weekend?  Because I got to spend mine in the lovely 제주도 (Jeju-do or Jeju Island) with my 고모 ("go-mo" a.k.a. second aunt) and her friends! The motive behind such a trip sounds like a script for a Korean drama involving flying to an island popular amongst couples and honeymooners in the hopes of rekindling a fire between acquaintances of mutual friends that sort of died due to a missed phone call and distance and . . . well, you sort of get the picture. 

Aside from the drama and potential romance, this trip can only be characterised as one about food. I woke up this morning still full from all the eating! Koreans absolutely love food like no other culture I've experienced. If they're not getting their serious grub on, they thinking about what to eat next. My weekend marathon of eating began before I even left the mainland!

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After a great breakfast of 돌솥 비빔밥 (dolsot bibimbap) at the airport and a short flight from Seoul, we arrived in Jeju-do. We met the rest of the group at the airport and hopped into the rental car to explore this deceptively large island. We drove along the coast for a bit before stopping at a famous spot where the famous 해녀 (haenyeo) go to dive.

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The haenyo are female free divers who are part of a long tradition of Jeju Island, diving without the aid of diving equipment to harvest various eatables from the sea. They begin diving in their preteens, often going well into their sixties! 

I fell in love with this quaint little island's charm very quickly. It was absolutely freezing and crazy windy, but the view was still absolutely beautiful!

After we froze our faces off by the sea, we warmed ourselves up with some seriously seafood-y soup! First meal of the trip and we were jumping straight in. No warm up for us. Let the eating games begin!

Our wonderful mélange of seafood cooking in hot soup.

Our wonderful mélange of seafood cooking in hot soup.

 I can't even name all the different kinds of wonderful stuff in there: crab, mussels, crab, octopus, a gargantuan clam thing, and then those abalone . . . Prior to this trip, I hated abalone, but I'd only eaten it raw. It always tasted too briny and had a strange, off-putting crunchiness. But not when it's gently cooked in this amazing broth! They were absolutely tender and didn't have a fishy taste, along with the rest of the seafood. That's what you call fresh!

Perfectly timed, the waitresses expertly removed the meat from the shells, cut up the squid, and portioned the crab to finish cooking (and for easier eating). Oh, and they also made sure to rinse out all the tasty innards of the crab's body to flavour the soup. They know what they're doing here.

Never realised how much abalones resembles vaginas. It gave a whole new meaning to "eating out." Thank you, I'll be here all evening. *Bowing to the sounds of crickets*

Never realised how much abalones resembles vaginas. It gave a whole new meaning to "eating out." Thank you, I'll be here all evening. *Bowing to the sounds of crickets*

I still can't get over how   massive  this mussel was!  "No Crustacean Left Behind 2k14"

I still can't get over how  massive this mussel was! "No Crustacean Left Behind 2k14"

Usually, abalone is quite expensive, but I think this whole meal only sent us back 50,000 won? That's about $50 USD, and it stuffed all 5 of us! You can't get this quality, price, and freshness anywhere else but right by the sea!

After our amazing meal, we were back to exploring the island! First stop: Sangumburi Crater (산굼부리)

It was quite the hike, with a beautiful view at the top!

It was quite the hike, with a beautiful view at the top!

Tired, hold, cold, and relieved all at once. The view of the actual crater was not that impressive -- just a bunch of dead grass in March. It's apparently very beautiful and full of flowers in the summer months!

Unlike the steep, narrow rock steps for your ascent, there's a nice wide wood staircase for the walk down.

Unlike the steep, narrow rock steps for your ascent, there's a nice wide wood staircase for the walk down.

Down below, you can go on a boat to watch the female divers do their thing. I kind of we could've gone, but by that point, I had cooled down from the hike and the sea wind was way too cold for comfort! We then checked into our surprisingly super nice hotel. There was also some horse riding at some point, but I've forgotten when exactly that happened . . . Everything gets kind of blurred out from all the food.

Well, regardless of when that happened, dinner time inevitably came along, and guess what happened next? That's right; more eating!

This restaurant served Jeju-do specialties in a multi-story building, serving the many tour groups and hungry patrons with military precision. The bottom floor houses large tanks full of live seafood before being killed cleaned, cooked, and eaten. 

The fat on the pork may have been better than butter. Things got real serious early on. And those burnt looking cockroach-like fish on the right? Bizarre looking but they were the most mind-blowing fish I've ever eaten. They looked crunchy and fried to a crisp, but then I bit into one and everything melted into one tasty morsel in my mouth. Fishy? Spicy? Salty? I gave up trying to figure out exactly what and just enjoyed the hell out of them. 

Oh wait, did I forget to mention that those were just the appetizers? Now, on to the actual meal.

Stone cooked mackerel in a not too spicy sauce, grilled fall off the bone white fish, and a huge bowl of seaweed soup. That "bowl" (more like pot) in the bottom corner was just for me. One serving. Each one of us got our own "bowl" with the creamiest 미역국 (miyeok gook) I've ever had. I didn't even know it could be creamy! I'm such a sucker for seaweed soup. 

That evening also included plenty of beer and clinking glasses to round out a truly exceptional and unforgettable meal; however, it didn't quite finish out the day. After dinner, there was a night exploration for a wine bar or just somewhere to hang out that wasn't a Starbucks. We finally found a coffee shop that also did tarot card readings, but I was practically asleep at the table and didn't get my future told.

Finally, around almost midnight, we returned to the hotel, and I fell asleep on top of the blanket. That's how exhausted I was. After what felt like days without sleep, I found my way under the covers and was out like a rock. Everyone else stayed up even later for more beer, snacks, and games in the other room! Mind you, these people are in their 30's, and they made me feel old!