Budget Travel Korea | Jeju | Raw Seafood & Haenyeo (woman diver) @ Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak

If you read my post on Seopjikoji and Hanhwa Aqua Planet, you'd find out  that we were planning to make it to Seongsan Ilchulbong on foot from there; well, that did not materialize though coz we took a cab instead from Hanhwa Aqua Planet ha ha. It was a pretty short drive; the fare was something like KRW5,000-ish. 

When we reached this place otherwise known as the Sunrise Peak, there were crowds of people and the time was around 2.30pm. Most of them came with big tour groups; I could tell from the buses parked in the lot.

However all that didn't take away the beauty of this inactive parasitic volcano. The site was huge with meadows of grass and little pink flowers all the way from the carpark leading up to the staircase on the vertical cliff going up to the peak.

We paid the entrance fee for two at a counter in the middle of the wide pave-way and walked uphill until we reached a junction;

My primary mission for coming to Jeju was to meet these legendary freedivers ^^
We wanted to watch the 3 pm haenyo performance first, so we took a left turn there and continued walking near the cliffs and down the stairs towards a beach. 

The view of the beach with the turquoise crystal clear water against the dark cliff of this Jeju World UNESCO Heritage Site was just amazeball (quoting +Giuliana Rancic there he he) .. 

When we reached the beach, there was a seafood restaurant. The haenyo(s) were apparently working there too as cooks and waitresses .. in their wetsuits :D 

While waiting for the show to begin, we checked out the beach and what's cooking.

The seafood restaurant is tucked in the corner of the beach (right) near the bottom of the staircase
Blackish sand on the beach
The Seongsan Ilchulbong peak was formed as a result of an underwater eruption around 5,000 years ago on a shallow seabed. It is actually a 182 meter high cone with a 600 meter in diameter crater and the presence of volcanic rock, soil and hardened lava is evident everywhere;

My face when I found out how ice-cold the water was, my feet went numb just in seconds

At the restaurant, live sea creatures were displayed; the seafood was either served raw or blanched at the most =D

A haenyo cutting up the live sea creatures, the one in the black wetsuit
I only recognized 2 things; abalones at the near  end and sea cucumber at the other end

She looked pretty tired though..
I can see most of the haenyo loked tired and weren't smiling. I could understand that because these iron ladies are between 40-70 years old. However I managed to convince a haenyo halmoni to take a selfie with me; as a beginner freediver, this moment was very precious for me he he ^_^

Serving people with the classic round mask pulled up in a wet wetsuit =D

And later, the haenyo show started. They gathered on the beach and sung a ritual folk song before getting into the water with each holding a float and a net to keep their catches. 

Here's a video I managed to record before my phone died..

Check out those lead weights around the waist, some of them used more than that to keep them neutrally buoyant in the water. Those wetsuits they were wearing were thick suitable and for cold waters like that and they'll keep you afloat, so lead weights are needed to submerge easily into the water.

After 10 minutes, they swam back ashore; none of them brought any catch except for a bunch of seaweed. It was then I realized that this was after all just a show, and what I heard from a local about Jeju's natural sea life could be true; that they  have decreased in number and most of the haenyo can't make a living out of their traditional way, instead they become workers and performers like these ladies. I wished it wasn't true but what I saw there sort of partly confirmed those statements T_T

I think I got it .. these women work day in and day out like this, diving in the cold water twice a day and then serving and cooking at the restaurant. I could understand why none of them were all smiley.

Whatever it is, I still love these ladies, the work they do, the skills they posses, they are the real freedivers, the mermaids. 

After the show, we tried raw abalone with blanched octopus and seaweed for KRW20,000 a plate.

The abalone (on the left side of the plate) was still moving even though they have been sliced! Eeeerrrgghhh I was only able to eat one piece of each just for the sake of trying. I couldn't tolerate the utter fishiness of this meal, sorry.

That said, I did try a sliced raw sea cucumber also caught by a haenyo during my visit in 2001 and I remembered the taste was more acceptable than this dish :P I never heard of freediving sport then either, so eating something that was freshly caught by a haenyo  in the sea and served raw on a plate didn't seem significant to me as I experienced this time around :P

After the meal, we headed back up to the grassy hill and lied in the middle of the field while taking selfies before the caretaker called us off the grass; we didn't see the do-not-step-on-the-grass sign he he ..

Seongsan town down the hill

and guess what? We did not climb up the Sunrise Peak because we were running out of time  and had to visit one more location - the Manjanggul Lava tube.

We left this place at around 4pm+.

Getting here:
The easiest way here is always by taxi or drive on your own ^^ or check out the official Visit Korea website to go by bus.

Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak located on the most eastern tip of Jeju island

Admission fee:
Adults: KRW1,600
Children & Teenagers: KRW800

Car park (269 spaces, KRW1,000-2,000)


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