I am officially over a quarter of a century old, as of Monday the 28th of September 2015. Luckily, I spent the moment that I turned twenty-five on the Hawaii of South Korea: Jeju island. What would normally be a moment where I would become very introspective, negative, and self-pitying, was instead another happy moment in a long weekend filled with joy and relaxation away from Dongtan. In celebration of this, I will list twenty-five things that I learned in my four days on Jeju.
1. My girlfriend is truly the perfect woman for me. She managed to keep the trip a secret for three whole months, right up until we had to pack and leave. Normally she cannot hold a straight face when she’s trying to tell white lies, so this was impressive, and shows how dedicated she was to surprising me. Thank you, my love.
2. Jeju’s most famous fruit, the hallabong, is simply a naartjie. A good naartjie, but not the face-melting taste explosion it had been hyped up to be.
3. The statues symbolic of Jeju are just guys that look like penises.
4. On the subject of penises, a prominent attraction in Jeju is ‘Loveland’, which is essentially a collection of erotic or suggestive statues.
5. Noraebangs (Korean karaoke bars) are heaps of fun. Kris and I went on our first visit to one in Jeju, and we stayed for three hours and woke up with sore throats the next morning. It was worth it.
6. Jeju is home to a volcano (the one in the big picture above) that was once separate from the mainland, but became connected to the rest of the island after erupting. The eruption was so vicious, the soil eroded in such a way that it formed a path to the mainland.
7. Everywhere is a potential spot to throw a Frisbee.
8. Do not try to do anything sea-related when there is a supermoon happening on the other side of the world. The tides will disappoint you. Keep that in mind for 2033!
9. Korea is apparently okay with having the aforementioned sexy statue park, but should a woman show her shoulders, she is likely to get scolded by elderly Koreans.
10. Crime is very low on Jeju island, because everyone on the island is taught at a young age that one must work hard to earn things, and stealing is seen as completely contrary to this philosophy.
11. It is possible to rent a bicycle and, in the course of a few hours, cycle around U-do island, a small, scenic island a 15-minute ferry ride away from Jeju.
12. Travelling for seven hours on a bus sucks.
13. Travelling for seven hours on a bus sucks slightly less when said bus plays a movie.
14. There is a maze in Jeju that is home to dozens of cats. Kristen enjoyed that one.
15. There are more South Africans in Korea than I thought possible.
16. Muffins can be a well-rounded breakfast.
17. Jeju’s moniker of the ‘Hawaii of Korea’ is well-deserved. The beaches are very clean, the water is warm and clear, and the weather was perfect. A must-do for all in Korea.
18. Do not expect to receive good service in a fried chicken restaurant when the employees of said fried chicken restaurant are watching an important football game.
19. Watching Twitch.tv streams on mobile data is a great way to burn through your data allocation in a matter of minutes.
20. After a trip to the beach, some bus drivers will spray your sandy feet with compressed air before allowing you on their bus.
21. Korean beachfront shops are not known for selling sunglasses. What’s up with that?
22. There is a restaurant on U-do island decorated entirely in Marilyn Monroe memorabilia. They also serve burgers the size of your face.
23. Koreans are not shy to decorate ice-creams with savoury snacks such as spicy chips and onion rings. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds!
24. I am going to miss being twenty-four.
25. Being twenty-five is going to be great! I am in a pleasant country, with the woman that I love. It is all going to be okay.
All in all, I had a wonderful time in Jeju. It is a quirky island, filled with enough things to do to fill the long weekend we were lucky enough to spend there. We made new friends, we strengthened blossoming friendships with people we knew beforehand, and we had a bunch of fun with everyone. We will definitely be returning to Jeju before our time in Korea is over. Sadly, I will not be returning to age twenty-four. It was a good year. But I am certain that twenty-five will be even better!