After sleeping for less than four hours, I woke up at four in the morning. We had everything ready to go since we had gotten organized the day before. There was still the matter of our transportation to the airport. We have no car and the subways and buses do not run early enough for us to get to the airport on time. So, we stepped outside simply hoping there would be taxis hanging around at five.
Lo and behold, a taxi was parked right there waiting for someone, and that someone was us. A light rain started as we cruised on past the apartments and stores that makes up the neighborhood. The taxi driver spoke very good English, especially compared to most taxi drivers. He seemed excited to speak in English and explained he was learning the language. We were practice for him. The Olympics had just started and he wanted to talk about that. Then he decided to play some music. The first song was Ike and Tina Turner's cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary." He sang to us too. It was great. His iPod was mounted on the dashboard. Pointing at the lyrics scrolling down the display, he told us he learned to speak by reading the lyrics to songs as they were playing. The one question he had about the song: what does "pumping lot of 'pane down in New Orleans" mean. The whole taxi ride was great.
We arrived at Gimpo International Airport in no time. In fact, we were there before the airline employees had set up to start checking us in and even before the security checkpoint had been opened. After checking in and waiting for 30 minutes, we started going through security. Now, in the U.S, that is quite an event. You have to take off your shoes, go through metal detectors (sometimes a couple), take off any extra shirts or jackets you are wearing, etc. In this airport all we had to do was put our stuff in the bins and send them through the x-ray machine. I emptied my pockets, but did not have to take off any clothes, shoes or even my belt.
Once our plane was ready, we boarded quickly. That was a unique experience. Jeju is a nice island and tourist destination, but it is not very big. So the airplane was also a smaller one. We had to go down stairs and take a bus to the plane. Then, just like the videos and pictures I would see of the Beatles boarding planes, we walked up the stair-car (there were some hop-ons) and took our seats.
The flight was short, about an hour, and we landed hours before we were scheduled to check in at the hostel. We took the airport shuttle bus halfway around the island to near the hostel. Along the way we passed gorgeous green hills, blue water, orange trees, purple clouds, pink cows, red balloons, yellow monsters, polka dotted bushes and stripped houses.
The Jeju Airport is on the north coast of the island. Where we would be staying, Seogwipo, was on the total opposite coast. Still, it only took an hours ride. We found the hostel, but there did not appear to be anyone working. Jackie rang the bell. Nothing. With a three hours until we could check in, we had to make a decision, stay in the lobby and waste the day or go out, with our luggage in tow, and check out some of the city. Of course, we decided on the latter.
Ten minutes later we wandered down a street that looked like it might have a place open for breakfast or, really, any place with air conditioning. It was already blistering hot. I was sweating like a thing that sweats greatly. Unfortunately, the entire area was littered with bars and karaoke joints, no real breakfast places or restaurants open in the morning. We stumbled upon a grocery store and picked up some chips and a couple of banana flavored donut-esqe things. Shade was hard to find, but we managed to find some where we could sit and eat. There were stray cats looking for food too.
Jackie and I talked for a few hours and it was great, it always is, but we had adventures to get to! So we made the short trip back to the hostel, Jeju Hiking Inn, and the owner was at the front desk. He gave us a map, explained how to get everywhere and recommended certain places to explore.
Our room was nice, on the fourth floor, two beds, a mini fridge, a tv and a much larger bathroom than either of us have been able to use since moving to Korea. The air conditioner worked nicely too. That would prove to be a life saver. The view from our window and from the rooftop was beautiful.
Our first adventure would be to the Cheonjiyeon Waterfalls about a ten minute walk from our room. I have a smartphone now, a Samsung Galaxy S III, so I tracked all of our walking, hiking and bike riding with Runkeeper. We would be doing a ton of exercise this vacation.
Okay, first we stopped into Dunkin' Donuts next to the entrance. But then we went to the waterfalls. It was about noon now and the sun was killing me. It did not cost too much to get in, well under $10 for each of us. The trail to the waterfalls is easy and not very long. When we got there, there was not a huge group. We were certainly not alone, but it was not as packed as I figured it would be. Inside the water you could see lots of fish, some very big ones, and even eels. Picture opportunities abound.
We searched around a bit more and met a nice, big spider web. That would not be the last one we would see. And then we took some more pictures before begin the second part of our day.
The second half of our trip would be even more eventful and then really crazy. We will meet someone who made us feel embarrassed to be Americans, a feeling I always hate. Then we will get bikes. Exciting things will happen! We can not read maps apparently! Burgers! More taxis! Robot attacks? Maybe!