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Armchair Traveller

by reception
posted 28/07/2010

JEJU Island, Goddesses, Mermaids and Bonsai Gardeners with warm toasty hands…

Jeju diver

Korea’s jewel island, JEJU, is home to the most exquisite sights. From the famous women divers that use no breathing apparatus to the thousands of Goddesses that protect the island, every step is magical. Near Sunrise Peak you can catch the women divers coming to shore after a day diving the shallows for seaweed, mollusks, sea urchins and the odd octopus. They are hardy women that used to train from an early age and earn a living from the time they were fifteen. Nowadays, these gorgeous mermaids with beautiful complexions are all over 40 years old and some are in their 70s. Their daughters will not follow on their footsteps, so catch the mermaids before they hang up their diving suits and fins and disappear from the shores of Jeju Island. Do not miss the Museum of Women Divers nearby. It has lots and lots of artefacts relating to diving in the old days and a reproduction diver’s house. Also films of earlier days in the life of mermaids.

Sunrise Peak

The Olle hiking trails are a dream come true for  the editor of a news magazine who, after completing the Santiago the Compostela walk in Spain, wanted to do something similar in her native Jeju. Ms Myungsook Suh and a band of volunteers went on to unearth paths that time had forgotten, linked them, marked them and made them available to all hikers: 200 km of beautiful trails under the gaze of Mt Halla (1950m) which stands like a sentinel in the geographical centre of the island. Thank you Ms Suh!

The Spirited Garden, a world famous Bonsai Garden created by Mr Bum Young Sung is more of a park than a garden, a huge expanse of land which Mr Sung cleared by hand over 30 years of extreme hard work and dedication. The volcanic rocks he found, he built protective walls with for his trees, over 2000 specimens, some 300 years old. He still tends the trees daily, although he has a team of gardeners under his supervision. When he held my hand between his two in a friendly shake, I noticed how padded, callous and warm they were, just like toasty oven-mittens! He is the loveliest man I met. He says he “likes to learn from trees which live in harmony with each other”. He wears Gal-clothes, the working apparel of the Jeju people, made of cloth dyed with the juice of unripe persimmoms which give the natural fibres an appealing natural blush. You can buy the jackets as souvenirs on the island.

For more information on Jeju Island and Korea see:  www.visitkorea.or.kr

There are many Jeju flights from Seoul eveyday and it only takes one hour to get there.