Monday, January 16, 2012


Because I don't celebrate Christmas or New Year, I usually get annoyed around that time of the year when the Western world shuts down and less work comes my way. This problem wasn't so severe in Korea (or in Taiwan the same time last year), but to curb any remaining Scrooge-style festive frustrations, I gave myself permission to take a holiday in the last few weeks of December. Everyone else bloody does.

Let's be clear that all this travelling around Asia and a couple of other places over the past sixteen months hasn't been a holiday - I've still been working as much as I can, and between work, blogs and the day trips necessitated by the blogs, there hasn't been much time to relax. I don't think I've been on what could be accurately categorised as a holiday since a weekend break to the Lake District in 2009, which was extremely rejuvenating and put me in a great mood for a long time after. I understand the value of holidays, I'm just not very good at taking them.

So last month I informed my editors that I'd only be able to do about two hours of work per day. I'm on holiday. And I had to be careful with my money due to an impending, whopping tax bill. Holiday. And I'd still be spending more hours than you think writing these blogs, of course - otherwise, what's the point of going anywhere? I'm on holiday. Then Kim Jong-il died and South Korea declared a state of emergency. Holiday.

Jeju Island

My holiday (which I appreciate may seem indistinguishable from my regular life, but you'll just have to trust was slightly less stressful behind-the-scenes) began in Seoul and would continue to Busan, but Jeju Island was the highlight. I visited plenty of islands in 2011, but Jeju might have been the best. Though like Bali, it is cheating a bit by being massive. The climate was warmer than Seoul (bordering on T-shirt weather in December) and there was some insanely good seafood.

Before and after

Cheonjiyeon Waterfall

Like when I visited Florence and Athens, I accidentally timed my visit pretty well - entry to the best stuff was completely free, thanks to Jeju being arbitrarily recognised as one of the world's seven natural wonders. Which either means millions of voters felt the island deserved the accolade, or that Korea's tourism industry incentivised workers to text in their votes to the extremely fraud-vulnerable contest. I'm on holiday, let's leave cynicism at the airport for a change - look, some pretty waterfalls.

This isn't Cheonjiyeon Waterfall, but this would be good enough for me. It's been a long time since I saw trees that didn't have coconuts in them. Some of those leaves aren't even green!

Cheonjiyeon Waterfall and some ducks. I didn't realise how much I missed these guys

Apparently, some people see a face here. There is no face here, just like there was no man in the church wall, bear in the tree, cock in the rock or queen in the limestone

Similarly, some people report seeing a guy standing here


They built this bridge just to connect a tiny, insignificant bit of land to the harbour. I'd normally criticise such a flagrant waste of finances and resources, but I'm on holiday so I enjoyed being able to visit the mini-island without having to get all my clothes wet

Red lighthouse and Halla mountain (the big mountain)

World Cup Stadium and a smaller mountain (I don't know its name).
And a seagull (I don't know his name either)

More pareidolia! Spot the grandmother in the Grandmother Rock? Me neither

Mysterious tunnels. Possibly not so mysterious if I could speak Hangul and understand what the captain was saying

More intriguing tunnels - spot the fisherman.
(What is this, 월리를 찾아라?)

Red and white lighthouse apartheid and some over-optimistic seagulls.
Oh yeah - I took a boat trip. Should probably have mentioned that

They really love Pepsi in this country, even incorporating the logo into their flag.

In spite of this rubbish joke, they actually really do like Pepsi in Korea, which I like to imagine is due to this coincidental similarity. Though they also bloody love Starcraft, which I can't explain. This country is so objectively strange, I love it