Two Savages in Southeast Asia


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LEDs light the
Night, floating in air and sea
While a crowd listens

A tiny bit refreshed, though strangely not as much as we’d hoped, we started the day with a boring but solid breakfast of instant rice porridge kits and hard-boiled eggs, along with a trio of juice boxes. We set out just before six, reminding our brains as we found the path that blue arrows were the currency of the day.

The Olle route led us over a pair of oreums pretty early on, and we topped them with ease. Today was overcast, much cooler than the other days we’ve hiked, and we were grateful for some respite from the punishing heat. It’s hardly a wonder we haven’t met more hikers…

Atop one of the oreums, we sat for a while and dreamed and talked. Far beyond us, we saw the shadow of Hallasan and some menacing clouds rolling in. In the distance, on the coast, we saw a preposterous array of buildings that could only be a beach resort hotel.

The halfway point of trail 3 is located at the Kim Young Gap photography gallery. This building, and its grounds, were converted from an abandoned elementary school, which conversion was apparently directed by the artist himself. His studio is still preserved inside, although he passed away in 2005. Jeju is very proud of him, and all his works strive to capture the spirit of Jeju and its winds, crops, skies, and seas.

Only mildly refreshed, we continued the trail, following it along the seashore, through a ranch, and into a forest. Eventually, we emerged into town and made the trail’s final stretch, a crossing of a white sand beach that only exists at low tide. At high tide, it’s all covered in water (as we found out later), but when we crossed it was being used as the site of a kids’ soccer tournament.

We met a cyclist during our last stretch who called to us, in very good English, asking us how we were and laughing when we responded that we were tired. We actually bumped into him again at our post-lunch cafe stop (lunch was kimchee and pork hot pot, which was just called kimchee hot pot… somehow, pork is implied by and comes for free with kimchee?). We chatted with him for a while, glad to have someone else to talk to. He mentioned the White Sands Festival, which was being celebrated this weekend, and suggested that we show up for the concert at 8:30 or the fireworks at 10:30. We were excited, but it dawned on us that we might have a pretty tough time getting a hotel in a place holding a festival.

There is a Jeju Olle office in town here, and we called the number. The woman on the phone seemed to know a bit of English, but not a ton, and she asked me to wait a moment while she got someone who could speak to us better. Just then, a woman on a cell phone came racing into the cafe, and it took her around a minute to realize that I was the one she was on the phone with. Evan and I managed to convey what we wanted to her and the “translator” at the cafe, and they found us a room at a guesthouse about 3km out of town.

The owner came and picked us up, giving us a free ride to her place. Our room is on the second floor, overlooking the sea just across the street, and we have a kitchen with a stove and microwave, as well as a fridge, TV, and HOT WATER. Holy crap, sometimes it’s nice to have hot water. Even when it’s hot, nothing soothes aching muscles like a warm shower.

Later we headed back into town to acquire groceries for breakfast, snacks for the hike tomorrow (I’m afraid we have 48km to go in 2 days…), dinner, and to see the show. Dinner was, as is now usual, by the sea, and we had sea urchin porridge (I think). Google translate on our phones now offers offline language packages, so we downloaded the Korean one which lets us translate English to Korean (and vice versa) at any time. So handy, except the translation quality for sentences is really low, but single words are alright.

Our bellies full and warm, we stepped into town, bought some snacks, and settled in to see what the White Sands Festival was all about.

We sat on great stone steps overlooking a portable stage, with row upon row of folding lawn chairs stretching from us to it. The sky and sea were alight with LED balloons, changing colors randomly, that had been released by their owners into the night. A man off to the side, peddling light-up things, kept flinging various blinking gadgets into the air, frequently hitting annoyed festival-goers. On the stage, a karaoke concert featuring people apparently from the area was taking place, interrupted on occasion by the emcee trying to give away prizes (he drew four absent people’s numbers for every successful giveaway) or, in one memorable instance, what appeared to be the middle-aged women’s dancing club performing to “Sex Bomb.”

We passed a perfect, warm, contented few hours there, and now we’ve returned home before the fireworks. We’re just not the party animals we used to be, possibly because we keep waking up at 5aam…