After the eventful morning, it was a big relief to touch down in Jeju and arrive at the guesthouse without any big hurdles. Got my first glimpse of the public bus in Jeju when I boarded one (bus no. 100) from the airport to get to YEHA Guesthouse (City Hall branch). That wasn’t the best decision since the buses were not designed for lugggage – I had to haul my heavy bags up some steps when boarding and found that my bags blocked half of the narrow aisle. Luckily the locals who boarded from the other bus-stops along the route were very tolerant and didn’t give as much as a peep or a squeak nor a glare as they squeezed their way past my bags to the back of the bus.
I had read that travelling by public transport on Jeju island was not easy and travel forums were full of enquiries about full-day taxi services. However, taking one of those services sounded too excessive for a single traveller, as it would generally cost between 120,000 to 150,000 won (abt 150-180 SGD).
The other option was to take bus tours and YEHA Guesthouse offers 3 different routes, costing only about 79,000 won each (before a 10,000 won discount for guesthouse customers). However, further examination of the bus tour routes revealed that there were certain places I would not be interested in. In addition, the lunch-stops that were included in the tour packages were at non-halal places.
There is also a Jeju city tour bus with a hop-on hop-off format for a mere 5,000 won; however, that will only take you to attractions in Jeju-city, covering only a small part of the island.
As mentioned in my post on the kind people I met in Korea, I lost my camera on one of the days I was there. Will tell the story in full in another post, but just wanted to share here about the Korea Travel Hotline that I turned to for help. The hotline offers assistance in English, Japanese, Mandarin and of course Korean, 24/7. When you dial the number, you will be asked to select the language you speak and you’ll be connected to an appropriate operator. Now, most websites will tell you the number to dial for the travel hotline is 1330. However, when I called the hotline in Jeju, they told me to contact the local office there. I had a hard time figuring out what was the actual number to call.
Turns out that buried somewhere in the KTO website is this page that tells you that you need to dial an area code if you are calling from a mobile phone outside of Seoul: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/GK/GK_EN_2_7_1.jsp . Apparently that only holds true for mobile phones, and you should be automatically connected to the local office if you are calling from a landline. In any case, if you are ever stranded or need an English speaker to help, just call 1330 – you’ll be connected to the office in Seoul and they probably can tell you the area code as well (though mobile phone charges will be higher cos you’re making an intercity call). In the case of Jeju, the full no. to call is 064-1330
Met so many kind people who helped me along my journey that I just have to recount and share their kind acts here. Will keep adding to this list as I recall more.
- The ajusshi at Gimpo Domestic Terminal info counter who wholeheartedly helped me figure out where to collect my SIM card
- Several nameless phone operators at the other end of the 1330 travel hotline who helped trace my misplaced camera and translated to the bus terminal counter staff so I could get it back
- The two teenagers who agreed to show me the way to the obscure office to collect my camera when asked by the bus counter staff. Hope they didn’t miss their bus!
- Yumi, a manager at Sopoong guesthouse, who not only helped do my laundry, but also folded them nicely and placed them in my room. This was not a service regularly offered by the guesthouse
- The taxi driver ajusshi in front of Ibis Insadong hotel who walked out to the main road to help me get a taxi to the train station because he had a prior booking and could not take me himself
- The ahjumma at the restaurant in Sokcho who waited out front in the cold with me and my friend for the taxi to come because it was already dark and she was worried for us
Upon touch down at Incheon International Airport, I felt a palpable sense of excitement. Finally, my dream trip to Korea was about to begin. It was the culmination of many weeks of intensive planning, accompanied with not a small amount of anxiety about embarking on my first solo journey to a non-English speaking country.
The first order of business was to get myself to Gimpo Airport, collect the 3G sim-card that I had pre-ordered and board the domestic flight to Jeju. Having taken a red-eye from Singapore, I was pretty sleepy, so the adrenalin rush from finally setting foot in Korea really helped propel me forward.