When you're a city bumpkin like me, being surrounded by nature and nature only is something to relish. The fact that you can breathe in air that smells of nature is itself a blessing. It's almost like medicine that takes away all the ills and strains that come from city life.
Jeju-do is abundant in untouched nature. I'll probably say this a million times over, but it is truly a beautiful island. Along with its numerous waterfalls, hills, caves, forests, and beaches, Jeju-do has volcanic craters here and there, among which Sangumburi (산굼부리) is the most famous. "Gumburi" means volcanic crater in Jeju-do dialect, and "san" is mountain.
To reach the crater you first walk through Sangumburi park by passing the ivy covered "Glorious Phoenix Gate".
Next to the gate is Jeju-do's traditonal stone "harubang" (돌하르방). Harubang is the Jeju-do dialect meaning "grandfather". Although the exact origin of the harubang isn't well known, they were set up at village entrances and fortress gates to act as a totem to ward off evil spirits and protect the people. In the old days, it also acted as a symbol of fertility; women who would touch the harubang's nose would be able to get pregnant easily. Somehow along the way this legend changed and now it's commonly said that rubbing the harubang's nose would give you a son.
The path up to Sangumburi was breathtakingly beautiful. It was a grey day that added to the ambiance, with the hills in the background peeking through watercolor clouds. The reedlike plants called eoksae (억새, flamegrass) swayed in the breeze, creating soft waves of sight and sound. We took a picture, of course.
(Links to everyones' blogs are here.)
The eoksae up close:
When you reach the top, you can look down into the crater that doesn't look like a crater at all, because of the foliage. It's like looking into a large sunken botanical garden. Photo from Korea.net's Flickr:
Also on the top of the hill is a deer statue:
Legend says the Jade Emperor of the Heavens ruled all the sky and earth, all the stars and galaxy. It came about that a star named Hangam fell in love with the third daughter of the Jade Emperor, which was forbidden. The two met secretly but were soon discovered and were banished to live on earth. They descended upon Jeju-do's Hallasan (한라산), rich in wildlife and plants. However, while the Jade Emperor's daughter relied on the bounty of fruit and vegetables the mountain provided, Hangam enjoyed hunting game and feasting upon the results of his efforts. This created a divide between the lovers and they went their separate ways. The Jade Emperor's daughter settled near a village with a hackberry tree (currently situated near the South Gate of Jeju city) and Hangam settled in Sangumburi to look after the wild animals. The statue is a tribute to him and the animals of the area.
The walk down is as beautiful as it was on the way up. The park is quite large and taking your time is definitely worth it. You can also enjoy frolicking on the empty ground like Eleonora:
So much greenery! Having rained a bit, the fragrance of the trees and earth and flowers and plants were lingering delicously in the air. Alex and I kept on saying we wished we could bottle it and take it home with us. The "nature fragrance" room fresheners smell so chemical and fake.
Me, being the dolly geek that I am, had brought along a Pinky Street figure to accompany me to enjoy the sights:
I also took a short video :
More of the Jeju trip to come.
And I know I've been blabbering about it all over the place, but it's the last day to vote for Jeju!
*Jeju-do trip sponsored by KOCIS, the organization running the Korea Blog.