▲ The Factory holds many themed nights. Image courtesy The Factory
Ask a tourist why they have chosen to visit Jeju Island and it is unlikely they would say to explore the island’s nightlife. With many tourists focusing their visit upon physically demanding daytime activities, tourists might neglect the bars, restaurants and nightclubs that the island offers.
The pick of the nightlife is to be found in the City Hall area of Jeju City, in the north of Jeju. A short 10-minute walk east of Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal, the area is but a stone’s throw from some of Jeju’s finest hotels, such as the KAL or the Ramada, as well as many guest houses.
Venture through the streets after dark and you will find a bustling, vibrant atmosphere with young Koreans socializing and enjoying their weekend alongside tourists and expats. Be warned: a common complaint amongst locals is that the streets have a vortex-like effect after sundown, trapping you until the dawning of a new day.
▲ Meat, garlic and pepper - the ingredients of a Friday night on Jeju. Photo by Ahn Hyun June of Jeju Sori
Round one normally starts with some of Jeju’s famous pork at Daehan Sanghoe. You can easily spend three hours here, enjoying the fine cuts of samgyeopsal (pork belly), whilst delving into an array of complementary side dishes, swilling back soju and soaking up the bustling atmosphere. Stripping your wallet of just 12,000-20,000 won, there is no better way to line your stomach and prepare your psyche for the night ahead.
Round two is drinks at The Factory, a bar/arts venue named after Andy Warhol’s New York studio. This is a social space where local artists display their work in the form of paintings, “open mic” nights or eclectic sets by local DJs. One thing that all visitors are guaranteed is a warm welcome from regulars and staff and a range of drinks at a price kind to your pocket.
If you have no time for the local bohemians and simply want to drink and chat in a straight-up pub, then The Bar is for you. The interior is reminiscent of a traditional North American drinking hole: a big pool table, a darts board, sport on widescreen, and rock music in the background; all of these can be utilized as punctuation marks between rounds of drinks.
▲ Few things beat two cold ones of a Friday night. Image courtesy Alpha Newberry
The Bar offers a range of domestic and imported beers, with prices starting at 5000 won. There is also a shelf full of spirits to delve into at liberty. Warning: The White Russian that is served at The Bar is infamous amongst locals. It has acted as a springboard to many a reveler’s night, whilst for others it has led to a lumbering search for a taxi and the refuge of their pillow: don’t fall into this trap.
Whether you’re now on round two, three or four, there really is no better place than Island Stone. This is an extremely popular bar with both Koreans and foreigners and would not feel out of place in downtown Hongdae. The music is a mixture of chart and electronic music and the bar staff take personal requests: this often leads to bumbling, mass sing-a-longs to classics from Queen, Weezer and Frank Sinatra.
With a range of promotional drinks on offer, friendly staff and good company, Island Stone functions as the ideal bridge between eating in a restaurant and dancing in a nightclub. The ‘Island’’ family has recently opened Island Vamy on the third floor of the same building. Intended as a social area for people who feel the need to take the sting out of their partying, there are two darts boards, table fussball and a Playstation 3 for gamers to embrace.
▲ Many artistic scrawlings cover the walls of bohemian The Factory. Image courtesy The Factory
A Korean night out wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the karaoke and Nix and Nox Norae Jujeom hits the right note, even if you don’t. This spot is less sleazy than many back-alley options and should suffice whether you’re belting out your respective national anthem, or reliving your youth with a bit of Take That. The owners may even tolerate one among your group bedding down for the night.
By this time you have lost count of what round you’re on and are eyeing up dancefloors. There are two popular nightclubs in the immediate vicinity: Jane’s Groove - popular with university students and expats - and Larva - slightly more upmarket and for the trendies.
Upon entering Jane’s Groove - after paying 8000 won and receiving a “free” drink - you might feel disorientated. Clouds of smoke are pumped onto the dancefloor and revelers might be spotted pole dancing through the haze - give it a try! The music is a mash up of epic proportions and trying to second-guess the DJ is a futile task; expect him to flit between a myriad of seemingly random, but surprisingly enjoyable sequences. Experienced revelers cite “the Groove” as bringing on bouts of serious kalopsia in punters.
▲ Things quickly get blurry in Jane's Groove. Image courtesy Alpha Newberry
Larva is a newly opened, hipster-friendly nightclub that is slightly more refined than Jane’s Groove: think slick electro and a long list of cocktails. Expect the cover charge to range between 10,000-15,000 won with “free” drinks upon entrance.
The night is nearly over, but don’t be too eager to stumble into a taxi home, as preventative measures must be taken: a Korean night out always ends with a final round of haejangguk (also known as hangover soup). Its restorative effects are most potent at sunrise and Jomaru Bbyeodagwi offers these bowls of pork, congealed cow’s blood, cabbage, bean sprouts, garlic and an oily red pepper base for around 7000 won, 24 hours a day. Koreans swear by its health benefits after a heavy night so don’t be squeamish: “When in Jeju City…..”
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