▲ Gilsup Nageune, in the village of Wasun, offers all the comforts of modern life within traditional exteriors built primarily of sweet-smelling Hinoki cypress. Photo by Cher Anne Tabuzo
Guests can experience the invigorating and healing fragrance of rooms built from Hinoki cypress as they arrive to the traditional comfort of Gilsup Nageune — a pension in the heart of Jeju Island. Originally, similar minbak or lodging houses were built from mud, hanji (Korean traditional paper) and stones, particularly on Jeju where stones are every-where, but when you enter these rooms you find the natural touch of the tree in every corner. Not only are the walls made of the wood, but logs, twigs and hand-crafts made of cypress also decorate the rooms. Pension owner Jeong Hoon Sung said the tree, which has the botanical name Chamaecyparis Obtusa and is called pyeonbeg in Korean, contains an element that can alleviate skin and respiratory allergies.
Jeong believes that the scent of the tree refreshes the mind and cures allergic reactions caused by many impurities in our environment. He previously lived in Japan, where the species originated, and was fascinated with the wooden houses he saw there. In building the accommodation complex, he wanted to preserve the natural character of the wood and to live in more environmentally friendly surroundings.
▲ Photo by Cher Anne Tabuzo
It took him five years to complete the buildings, including three years of preparation in which he cut and cured the wood. However, getting permission from the government to build was the hardest part, he said, and the construction took another two years. There are nine rooms available to guests at present and other rooms under renovation. Though looking traditional from the outside, the facility has all the modern comforts one could desire inside. Each room is equipped with a flat-screen television, gas stove, microwave oven, a small refrigerator, an electric kettle and a hairdryer.
On getting to our room, an overwhelming aroma greeted my husband and I and we soon found ourselves yawning and sleepy. We were so captivated with our surroundings, both inside and outside the room, that we began to cherish memories of our childhoods. As the night lengthened, we decided to retire to bed but not without first indulging in a do-it-yourself foot massage using a small wooden tub provided. When showering, I was at first anxious about wetting the wooden walls but found that, when wet, the wood gave off even more of its soothing scent.
In summer, although there is no air-conditioning, the temperature remains cool. A staircase to the second floor serves as a natural cooler and humidifier when the weather is hot and the rooms remain mosquito-free due to the strong aroma of the tree. An under-floor heating system keeps the rooms warm in winter.
We woke the following morning feeling renewed, and listened to the enchanting sound of chirping birds in the forest just outside the fences of the pension as we opened the windows wide.
While packing our bags, we already had a strong desire to visit again. Before we exchanged our goodbyes with the owner, a snack of boiled potatoes and drinks awaited us in the hallway and a wooden pillow was given to us as a souvenir before we headed home.
▲ Photo by Cher Anne Tabuzo
Gilsup Nageune is popular with foreign and local tourists to Jeju Island and golf players are also frequent guests. All are welcomed and treated warmly during their stays, with home-grown green tea served on request, which is especially appreciated in the cold winter months. A separate building houses the complex’s restaurant, offering a local menu with many of the ingredients grown on the premises.
Overnight stays costs 70,000 won for a family with two children younger than 12 years. Extra children are charged an additional 10,000 won. Reservations can be made by phone in Japanese and Korean only.
It’s easy to find Gilsup Nageune. Pick up services are available upon request or it is 25 minutes by car from the airport and 20 minutes by bus from Jeju City Bus Terminal, at the intersection of the 97 and 1136 highway. From the pension, it is only a 15 minute drive to Mount Halla’s Seongpanak and Gwaneumsa hiking courses.
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