▲ Soesoggak estuary is the perfect place to experience a ride on an authentic, traditional Jeju craft, the Tewoo. Photo courtesy Seogwipo City Hall
Although the largest island of the Korean peninsula, Jeju is a relatively small place. Travelling the circumference of the island can be completed within a day and a short road trip over the mountain brings visitors from the north coast to the south in less than an hour.
Although small, there is a wealth of opportunities for viewing the amazing landscape, or experiencing extraordinary cultural events, all of which have become a regular staple of island life for Jeju’s residents, Korean and foreign alike. It seems strange then, that a place could exist, in the popular area of Seogwipo on the south coast, that even natives of Jeju aren’t familiar with, especially a place with such incredible natural beauty as Soesoggak estuary.
On two Olle courses Originally called “Soedun,” which means “lying down ox,” the estuary later becomes known as “Soesoggak” which means “the pool that cows drink from” in old Korean. Many Jeju islanders are not familiar with the name, or the place itself, although it has recently been added to two Jeju Olle courses, courses 7 and 8, which has helped to raise its profile somewhat.
Among locals Soesoggak is becoming a popular place for dating couples to visit as its quiet, serene beauty lends itself well to the romantic evening. Its high lava-rock walls, almost canyon-like, seem to swallow sound so that all that can be heard during a gentle evening’s stroll along its path is the sound of the pine trees stirring in the late breeze and the occasional sound of a fish breaking the surface of the still waters.
During the day the waters appear a breathtaking turquoise color, almost iridescent, as they reflect the many different greens of the overhanging branches above. Visitors take a moment to relax on one of the wooden benches or the soft grass, some bringing picnics and others posing for photographs before the beautiful backdrop. To walk the length of the estuary takes only 10 minutes but although it is short, it is the pausing along the way that makes the experience.
Formed by fresh springs of underground water known as Hyodoncheon, the estuary begins quite narrowly and widens as it reaches the ocean. Here the fresh water mingles with the sea water providing the perfect place to bathe, close to the black sand beach but in water that is cool, crisp and fresh from the mountain.
▲ A traditional Tewoo raft floats on the calm waters of Soesoggak estuary. Photo by Cat Lever
Trachyte area Soesoggak also piques the interest of scientists as it is here that the oldest types of indigenous volcanic rocks, known as trachyte, were formed. Also nearby is the island’s main tangerine-producing district of Hahyo-dong and indeed Soesoggak is an ideal starting point for exploring many other interesting places.
A little to the east is Hae-shik-dong-gul cave, naturally eroded by the ocean. Explorers can walk through it, marvelling at the extraordinary rock formations inside, and then on to Yera-dong. Here, the natural mountain springs have been used to provide a freshwater bathing area where many Koreans bathe regularly, believing it to possess wonderful health benefits.
The main attraction at Soesoggak has, more recently, become Jeju’s traditional raft boat, the Tewoo. While not originally used in the Seogwipo area, the estuary provides the perfect place for tourists and residents to experience riding the boat and provides another way to appreciate Soesoggak's calm and tranquil nature.
While Seosoggak seems to have been a secret gem of the island for many years, it is gradually gaining the popularity is deserves, especially among those who love walking on Jeju. For those who enjoy peace and quiet and a comfortable place to reflect and shed the stresses of modern life, Soesoggak is perfect, although it would be wise to make the most of it before everyone learns its secret.
To reach Soesoggak take a bus from the Jeju City or Seogwipo bus terminal bound for Namjo. Get off at Harye-ri and walk for 20 minutes. The route to Soesoggak is well sign-posted from this point.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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