▲ Dragon Head Coast, with Sanbangsan as a backdrop, is just one of the views possible on this bike route. Photo by Brian Miller
A question Jeju residents often ask each other is, “where is your favorite place on the island?” Answers are understandably varied, but will probably include the usual suspects, such as the UNESCO sites, beaches or a favorite oreum.
Some Jeju Islanders however prefer a particular corner of the island, or a favored landscape, rather than a specific tourist spot. For these souls a trip out west is definitely recommended, ideally to the southwest corner, which boasts many of Jeju’s most idiomatic features.
Preferably any tour would start at the town of Moseulpo, Daejeong-eup.
Moseulpo is reached by the 1135 from Jeju City, or the 1132 from Jungmun and Seogwipo. It is often signposted and bypassed, but less often a destination, as buses and cars skirt its bounds on their way to sandier or busier locations.
Reaching it by bike may be a problem if you live in one of the bigger urban areas of Jeju, but once you are here the bike really comes into its own as a mode of transport. Within an easy 20 minute cycle of Moseulpo are numerous sites of interest, encompassing historical, cultural and natural spheres.
A perfect first stop would be the Five-Day Market at Hamo-ri, which is down by the harbor. Although not as bustling as the Jeju City equivalent; it makes up for it in good old rustic charm.
At this point it is time to head east, following the coast. First stop is the picturesque and quiet beach at Hamo, rarely busy and ringed by trees. Cycling through, the real target is Songaksan which, despite being a cratered oreum, rarely pops its brow above the skyline.
The name means “pine tree peak,” and some still remain.
Cycling up the sharp incline which hugs the cliff, the path leads up to paddocks where the bike must be dismounted. A short climb to the summit reveals views which are breath-taking, not only due to the scenery but the gusting breeze rushing off the sea, which makes the descent a test of concentration. The docile horses graze on the lush grass, beautifully framed by the oreum and seascape.
▲ Cyclist Darren Southcott.Photo by Brian Miller
The dialect for Songaksan is Jeoluli, which means ‘cry of the waves’ and the crashing surf below reminds you why. The coast here is the best on the island, so take a minute amongst the horses to survey Hyeongje Island to the southeast and Mara and Gapa to the southwest. Mara, as the most southerly point of Korea, is the only land between you and the Philippines.
Back on the bike and the eastward course is resumed, towards the more statesman-like Sanbang-san. The coast moves on past the brotherly islands of Hyeongje, which seem to paddle enticingly at sea, and moves into Sagye-ri and the shadow of the old man himself.
Sanbangulsa, the Buddhist grotto at the mountain foot, is a must-see for the visitor. From here the view down to Yeong-meori (Dragon’s Head) certainly has a spiritual aura, but it is somewhat marred by the Viking ride, perhaps in honor of Hendrik Hamel; who, according to legend, floundered nearby.
The brief scale and swift descent of Sanbang-san by road into Hwasun-ri reveals picturesque tree-lined avenues of traditional Jeju dwellings. Nearby at Anseong-ri is the historical home of Confucian scholar Chusa.
Cycling back toward Moseulpo, near the entrance to Daejeong Elementary School is Sanbang Restaurant, rumored to serve the best naengmyeon for miles. A meal here makes an excellent reward after a whistle-stop tour of this favored corner of Jeju.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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