Editor's Note: The second trail run of this Jeju City Bus Tour will begin March 2, 2012. For more, click here.
The first month of the initial two-month long Jeju City Tour Bus trial-run service came to a close at the end of October and The Jeju Weekly was there on Halloween day to document the ride.
According to the Department of Transportation Administration, the idea for this 16-stop Jeju City Tour Bus was initiated on July 11 when Governor Woo Keun Min asked the department to come up with a bus tour for a staff conference. From there, the idea evolved to offer tourists a convenient way to see the city, while also offering Jeju citizens cheap transport to culture and hiking locations.
I picked up the Jeju City Tour Bus from in front of the Jeju City Bus Terminal. The bus leaves every hour between 9 a.m., and 6 p.m., and for 5,000 won passengers can get off at any of the 16 tourist spots on the route and get back on at any time to continue their day’s journey. The round trip takes approximately an hour and a half.
▲ Passengers exit the tour bus at one of 16 stops. Photo by The Jeju Weekly
I was surprised to find that a regular city bus is currently being used for this service. The only differences being an exterior paint job and banners lining the inside of the bus showing images of the 16 locations at which the service stops. The bus is not exactly comfortable, one of the complaints the Department of Transportation Administration has received in its first month of the trial run, and if you are expecting a leisurely tour of the city, you will be disappointed.
The bus is not only uncomfortable as it proceeds through the route, but picks the least beautiful roads, preferring directness and efficiency over leisure. The bus was remarkably always on time, but for those who suffer from motion sickness be forewarned — the trip is somewhat rough.
In the month of October 1,816 people used the service, an average of 59 people a day. During our round trip, of the 15 people who got on, there was only one Westerner, Paul Carty of Australia.
“For me I’m staying in a place that is not exactly accessible to [tourist sites] so this is a bit of a godsend,” he said.
For Carty the bus offered an “easy way to get around,” while showing him some of the lesser known sites that Jeju has to offer.
“I think that [the Jeju] Stone Park yesterday was quite surprising,” he said. Admittedly, he said he didn’t do much research before he came, he continued that “I didn’t know about it at all. Architecturally, the way it was put together, just visually … I was a bit surprised. But the story behind it all, with the story behind Jeju, it was really good to learn a bit.”
The only complaint Carty had was that there were no Jeju culinary spots on the route, which is also something the department has recognized. They said that for those who visit Saryeoni Forest Trail and the Jeju Stone Park they are left without options for food until the bus reaches Dongmun Market. The department is currently thinking of solving this problem by finding a site which allows passengers a chance to eat.
▲ The tour bus route. Photo by The Jeju Weekly
The sites included on the tour were chosen due to their limited access to public transportation. During the trip the bus surprisingly passes the Jeju National Museum, which would seem like an ideal addition to the tour service. The department said that it was left off the route due to a dangerous u-turn that must be made to give passengers proper access to the museum.
Even still, a wide variety of stops are included, giving passengers an intimate look at Jeju.
“You hear about Jeju ... there’s hiking, it’s a beautiful place … but I think the thing is getting around it without a car, that’s the challenge,” Carty said. “If [the government is] going to get people here and leaving with a real positive outlook ... I think a facility like this is just essential.”
The first phase of testing will continue until the end of November with the second phase starting in March and running until May. The route includes sites like the Jeju Starlight World Park and Planetarium, Jeju Stone Park, Roe Deer Observation Center, and both the Jeju International Airport and Jeju Port for travelers convenience.
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