JEJU WEEKLY

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Filmstar folk villages and lavish lunchesA review of the World Natural Heritage Bus Tour (East) with Hana Tour
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승인 2015.05.01  15:34:43
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▲ Hana Tour's Jeju bus tours are social events. Photo courtesy Hana Tours

This is a promotional article written for Hana Tour.

This was the first time I had ever taken a bus tour so I had few preconceptions. I thought it would be great way to see the island while sidestepping the potential minefield that is communicating with bus and taxi drivers all day.

The Hana Tour World Natural Heritage Bus Tour (East) ticked all of these boxes, and even provided some interpersonal treats that could compete with the friendliest of taxi drivers.

The day started well as the bus turned up on time — 9am — at the Ocean Suites Hotel in Jeju’s Tapdong area.

I am not very good at catching buses on time — I had even missed the public bus to get down to Tapdong! — but the driver was used to passengers like me. He left us plenty of time to board and get settled in before pulling away.

I sat back and sipped on the complementary bamboo tea. My neighbor, Zhou from China, struck up a conversation in his broken English. He told me I was the first Egyptian he had met and we exchanged pleasantries on our nations’ respective glorious histories. He then told me some inside info on Jeju.

“Don’t buy the souvenirs down at the underground market. They will fleece you. And the black pork, it is not what the locals eat. If you want to see the real Jeju, hike an oreum in early morning.”

These were real gems that would stand me in good stead for my time on Jeju.

“This is my third bus tour on the island, too. They are a mixed bag,” Zhou continued. Pointing at the guide adjusting his mic he added: “He looks like he knows what he is doing though.”

“Good morning, ladies and gentleman. Are you settled in?” said the guide. “Our first stop is Jeju Stone Park where you will learn all about Jeju’s history. If you don’t like history, get off now,” he said in English and Chinese, with a smirk.

▲ Hana Tour's Jeju bus tours are social events. Photo courtesy Hana Tours

Zhou’s cynical-yet-well-meaning advice was nicely balanced by the guide’s chirpy observations. I did wonder, however, how I would feel come 6pm. The guide continued:

“Yesterday’s bunch were terrible, but I like the look of you lot. We are gonna have some fun. Let’s go and meet some Stone Grandfathers.”

There was no need for him to ham up our first stop any further, Jeju Stone Park.

Enveloped in mist, its mood was intoxicating. I was sure I had seen the traditional village in the movie Jiseul, and the Sky Pond was mesmerising. After digesting all of the historical and cultural facts in the museum it was time to reboard.

Next up was Seongeup Folk Village, with real people inside. I was used to folk villages being relics and ghost towns, but here it was like being on a film set. I heard that the residents get hefty grants for living there. They deserve it.

We had really worked up an appetite by now, although Zhou warned me not to expect much. “Bus tour food is usually average,” he said.

I was beginning to tire of Zhou’s jaded outlook and he was bang off the money, again.

As a Muslim, not only did I have no problem with the vegetarian bibimbap, but it was possibly my best meal on the island yet. Fried fish, rice, fresh veg and plenty of side dishes to charge me up for the remainder of the day.

We then drove on to the southeastern extremity of Jeju Island, for a haenyeo performance and brief hike up UNESCO-designated Seongsan Ilchulbong Sunrise Peak. I liked both, but it was (also UNESCO-designated) Manjanggul Cave which stole the show.

Lava tubes are pretty thin on the ground in Egypt, so this was my first. Some people had told me it was worth it; others (like Zhou) said don’t bother. I did, and I am glad I did.

Nothing can describe the quite unique experience of walking through a volcanic tube, knowing that once red hot lava carved out its sides. They were now cold and damp, as if the inner bowels of the earth were perspiring. It was almost worth the money alone.

I am not much of a shopper so the final stop at Shilla Duty Free Shop was a chance to wind down and browse. Although for some fellow passengers this seemed like the highlight of the day.

I was surprised to see Zhou among them, filling up his basket with cosmetics and souvenirs. “Best deals on Jeju,” he exclaimed.

Hana Tour bus tours clearly have something for everyone.

Hana Tour Jeju, 3328 1100-ro
064-713-9860 / www.HNTJEJU.com

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