April is a busy month for most of us. Our work and school schedules are full. Yet all the while, the sweet scent of spring wafts over us. If you can spare a few days this month, Jeju Island is a restful, cozy place where you can recharge your weary body and mind. How about taking a trip with us and temporarily leave your hectic daily life behind.
If you need to refresh your body and mind with spring energy, dive into a sea of canola blossoms like the ones that fill the village of Gasiri with their scent. Alternatively, canola flowers and cherry blossoms thrive at Noksan Road in the east of the island. This year's Jeju Canola Flower Festival will take place from April 7th to 15th at both Noksan Road and Jeju Horse Park. Beginning with a canola flower parade, this cheerful event has music, busking, food and many more fun events to experience as you savor the natural beauty of the area. Gasiri village, for example, has some 600 years of ranching culture to see first-hand. If you pre-register with festival organizers, local guides can take your group on a tour of the area. Catch a glimpse of spring by the sea here in all of Jeju’s splendor.
This year is the 70th anniversary of the Jeju April 3rd Incident, an internecine conflict that ignited in the wake of the Japanese occupation and lasting through the chaos of the Korean War. If you haven’t seen it yet, a 2012 award-winning film about that time titled “Jiseul” is worth a viewing. If you’d like to see some of these locales like Keunneolgwe and Doetgwe for yourself, there is a 6-kilometer 2-hour-long excursion (round trip) that starts from Donggwang-ri Community Center in Andeok-myeon. There’s no better way to honor the April 3rd victims and Jeju history than to experience this walk first hand. Note: On this month’s list below, No. 8 is also related to the topic of the Jeju April 3rd Incident.
These Jeju volcanic cones are spots that greet you time and again like good friends. Andol and Batdol are side by side in an area of Jeju famous for its oreum — Songdang-ri. Andol Oreum, which is on the southwestern side, gets its name because it stands inside, and it is possible to reach the volcanic cone by going around into Songdang Cemetery from Utsongdang. The northwestern peak of Andol Oreum is its summit. A horseshoe-shaped crater that is open to the east is formed between the northwestern peak and the southeastern peak, with a thick forest growing only where a valley has been opened on the crater’s inner slope. All other slopes are covered in smooth grass. Wildflowers, cedar groves and breathtaking views of Udo Island and Seongsan Sunrise Peak await.
Given that Jeju is the southernmost province of Korea, the island’s cherry trees blossom here first. April, as it happens, is the best time to visit. There are many great locations to view this marvellous natural spectacle, but of those the most famous spots include Jangjeon, Wimi, Jeju National University campus and Jeongnong-ro. There are places to view the cherry blossoms in the warm night breeze here too, like at Hyodon-dong intersection in Seogwipo. The old farm houses and beautiful tree lined streets evoke a unique and unforgettable Jeju sensibility. Another spot to put on your list is the road leading from Bangseonmun Valley to Ora Country Club. It’s not as crowded and a great place to photograph these pink marvels in peace. The cherry blossoms should be full until the end of April.
The green of spring is sure to soothe your tired body and mind. Enjoy a refreshing glimpse into island life by way of “color therapy” ... in this case in the form of the thick green barley fields which thrive in Jeju’s bright sun and clean air. Located in Aewol-eup, Jeju City, there is plenty of green barley to photography freely at the Hangpadu-ri Hangmong (Anti-Mongolian) Historical Site. Another off-island spot is Gapado, the flattest of Jeju’s regional islands. It hosts an annual green barley festival, which this year is from April 10 to May 10. Its verdant fields cover the area and given that it is so flat, the Olle walking trail 10-1 is an easy, pleasant 90-minute round trip stroll or rented bike ride.
A sure way to shed the accumulated stress of your crowded urban life is to take in the vast, empty expanse of the ocean. The beautiful 1.5-kilometer-long coastal promenade at Namwon Keuneong fits this description perfectly. Its rocky, black basalt volcanic cliffs are scenic and filled with local color. Eongi, for example, means hill in the Jeju language. Namwon Keuneong gets its name from the fact that there is a huge rock that looks like it is opening its mouth to swallow the entire sea. The 200-meter coastal cliff is made of lava chunks that resemble a turtle’s shell. The area is a must-see photo zone and Jeju Olle walking trail No. 5 passes through here as well.
In Professor David Le Breton’s tome titled “Praise of Walking”, he asserts that “humans regain their happy existence” this way. An 8-kilometer-long route famous for this is the Sutmoreu Cypress Forest Trail. On it you explore Halla Eco-forest, Jeolmul Natural Recreation Forest, Gaeori volcanic cone’s cypress grove, and Geochin volcanic cone’s Dullegil Trail, among other marvels. As you move step by step through this region, you’ll slowly but surely become one with nature. The 2 hour and 30 minute to 3 hour hike will have left you refreshed, healed, and ready for anything. It’s well worth a visit.
The seasonal red camellias have blossomed 70 times since the beginning of the Jeju April 3rd Incident, but the painful memories remain in the hearts of the Jeju people. This year the 70th anniversary of the beginning of this internecine conflict will be commemorated in a number of cultural and art exhibitions dedicated to the victims, their families and to peace. At the Jeju Culture and Arts Center, exhibitions will be held under the theme of '4 · 3 In Their Memory', while at Art Space C, a number of artists will bring their understanding and art to bear on the subject (titled ‘Forged into Collective Memory’) in the lead up to the anniversary and then on to the end of April. Events in cultural spaces in Seoul are also planned. If you’d like more information in English, please refer to 43jeju70.net which has a PDF document and a comprehensive timeline on the history and of the Jeju April 3rd Incident and its 70th anniversary.
You’ve heard of recycling — but how about upcycling? On Jeju, it’s a movement to make use of its natural by-products (driftwood, seashells, small volcanic stones) and marine waste materials (wave-worn glass, plastics). You can bring your own artistic sensibilities and creativity to bear when making your own Jeju souvenirs. Handmade and unique to you, these sorts of souvenirs allow you to bring the memories of your trip to life and in physical form. Artist workshops and other venues like the Jejudojoa, Badasseugi and Jejuseureon to give you the chance to try upcycling, commemorate your visit, and make and take something with you from the island that does not consume the island’s limited resources.
In April, Jeju is a bit more fertile. Not only does it produce yellow canola flowers and pink cherry blossoms, but green and brown bracken ferns spring forth from the earth. Harvesting these wild ferns by hand is a backbreaking but treasured tradition of the people of Jeju Island. They will wake up early in the morning and head out to the mountainside with a thermos of hot coffee or tea at the ready. Jeju bracken is greatly sought after for its excellent taste and fragrance, one that for centuries was sent to Korea’s royal court on the mainland. These days people boil or fry the bracken, or combine it with other dishes like barbecued Jeju black pork and spicy beef noodle soup, among other delicacies. From a health standpoint, eating gosari can reduce one’s blood pressure and improve one’s metabolism. On April 28th and 29th at the Hallasan Clean Bracken Festival, visitors can taste bracken and experience picking the fern in its natural habitat for themselves.