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Therapeutic Jeju Island

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A trip to Jeju is a treat for all your senses. Here are three types of therapy available there that can rejuvenate them all.

For close to two years, lockdowns and infection control measures due to the global pandemic have hindered international travel. Lucky for South Koreans, they could seek respite in their very own beautiful Jeju Island.

The boom in domestic travel has led to the development of new tourist attractions in Jeju, some of which I had the opportunity to explore when I was invited to join the AUTOVENTURE™ trip in November last year, courtesy of Automobile Association of Singapore (AA) and Jeju Tourism Organization.

For those planning to visit South Korea and Jeju Island via the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL), bookmark the following places to get the most out of your trip!

Battered by the constantly evolving COVID-19 situation and restrictions, many travellers are now seeking “healing experiences” as part of their journey. This has boosted the growth of myriad wellness tourist attractions (places where people can improve their fitness, health and well-being while travelling) on Jeju Island — the ideal destination, given its splendid weather, vast spaces, and slower pace of life.

The day of my wellness tour started with a rejuvenating morning yoga class and meditation session at Jeju901. The facility is home to a fitness centre, vegan café, and guesthouse, with clear views of the majestic Hallasan Mountain. After a good stretch, we adjourned to the rustic cafe for a plant-based meal comprising a sandwich, salad and detox smoothie — I never knew vegan food could be so tasty!

Jeju901 is a one-stop wellness centre that specialises in enhancing the physical and mental well-being of its visitors.

With our tummies satisfied, we headed to WE Hotel, a health resort located on the southern slopes of Hallasan Mountain. Surrounded by greenery and fresh air, it is the perfect getaway from hectic urban life. Within the hotel is the Wellness Center, which offers a range of therapeutic services and programmes.

I had the chance to go for a hydrotherapy programme conducted in a dome-shaped pool filled with warm water. Targeted at relieving muscle tension and stress, the one-hour session included stretching and massage manoeuvres guided by a trained instructor — all I had to do was to lie on the water (supported by neck and leg floats)! The wholesome experience was completed with a sweat-out in the sauna, as well as dips into the hot and cold plunge pools for muscle recovery.

Hydrotherapy programmes are conducted in this dome-shaped pool inside WE Hotel Wellness Center.

Revitalised and recharged, we arrived at the last stop of the tour — Seogwipo Forest of Healing, a park consisting of 10 barrier-free walking trails spanning more than 11km in total. Each trail is between 0.6km and 2.1km long, and is themed based on Jeju’s history and culture.

Hydrotherapy programmes are conducted in this dome-shaped pool inside WE Hotel Wellness Center.

There are many rest areas nestled within the walking trails at Seogwipo Forest of Healing for visitors to relax and immerse in nature.

Lined with towering cypress and cedar trees, the park contains many rest areas for visitors to relax in the shade and soak up plenty of phytoncides. In fact, it is the site of the intriguing Space Out Competition (also known as “do nothing” contest), where the winner has to literally do nothing and maintain the most stable heartbeat for 90 minutes. This annual event to promote genuine rest has been covered by the international press, such as The Washington Post. The next time you visit Jeju, don’t forget to check out this enthralling forest!

For foodies like me, good food is “healing” in itself. Speaking of Jeju, most people would have heard of must-try dishes like black pork barbecue, abalone porridge, and seafood hotpot. As a frequent visitor of South Korea before the pandemic, I have tried various renditions of seafood hotpot in different cities, but the ones in Jeju remain unparalleled because of the freshness of ingredients.

An abalone feast, consisting of grilled abalones, abalone porridge, seafood pancake and more, at Chakhan Jeonbok
Spicy seafood hotpot at Yeonbukro Haemultang is packed with ingredients like crabs, abalone, octopus, squid, scallops and prawns.

Native to Jeju, Hallabong tangerines are a citrus hybrid that taste similar to mandarin oranges. It is Jeju’s most iconic product and has been incorporated into items such as juice, chocolate, tea, and even alcohol! For those enjoy a tipple, Hallabong makgeolli (sparkling rice wine) is well worth a try.

AA Members were in luck, as November to February is prime orange season in South Korea. There are a couple of great visitor-friendly orchards around Jeju, and they had a first-hand experience at picking and bringing home these juicy fruits.

AA Members tried their hands at picking oranges and brought home bags of the juicy fruit.
Another popular food in Jeju is galchi (beltfish or hairtail fish), largely due to the island’s proximity to the sea, as the fish is difficult to catch and its freshness challenging to preserve. Often served grilled or as a spicy fish stew, galchi can be costly — but certainly worth it — to eat in restaurants. Chunsimine is famed for its hairtail dishes — you must order the savoury stew, as the fish bones have been picked out!
AA Member SK Tang posing with a plate of grilled hairtail fish, which is commonly around 100cm in length.

As a coastal island, Jeju’s biggest charm is its awe-inspiring sceneries. Especially for city dwellers, it feels extra invigorating to be closer to nature and its marvelous creations. And these sights are often best seen at your own pace.

That is why AUTOVENTURE™ self-drive holidays are so convenient, as the cumbersome nitty-gritty of travel — paperwork, itinerary planning, booking of facilities, etc — are well taken care of; furthermore, participants still get to enjoy a fair amount of freedom during their trip. This is why such holiday packages have remained a popular travel option for AA Members over the years. Indeed, one of the most exciting experiences I had this time was riding the car onto a ferry to Udo Island, which felt almost like an amusement park ride!

Taking the car onto the ferry to Udo Island is an experience not to be missed when on a self-drive trip.

From the vast tea fields at O’Sulloc Tea Museum to breathtaking views at Jusangjeolli Cliff, Sunrise Peak, Sinchang Windmill Coastal Road, Hyeopjae Beach, Cheonjeyeon Waterfall and more, Jeju has no lack of photogenic spots.

Cheonjeyeon Waterfall, which means “The Pond of Emperor of Heaven”, is one of the most famous waterfalls on Jeju Island.

For those who love flowers and plants, Hallim Park has nine themed gardens and a folk village. If you are visiting in April, you will get to see enchanting cherry blossoms; and during autumn, expect to witness spectacular fall foliage. Highlights of the huge park also include the Hyeopjaegul and Ssangyonggul caves, known to be the only two-dimensional caves in the world. Interestingly, they have unique features of both a lava tube and a limestone cave.

Beautiful fall foliage can be seen at Hallim Park during autumn.

Judging by how there is always something new to see and experience each time I return, Jeju has plenty more to offer and the above-mentioned recommendations are just tip of the iceberg.

Coming this March, AA Singapore will be organizing a 8D7N AA Fly Drive to Jeju Island trip from 29 March – 6 April 2022 and registrations are still open – so for readers who are interested, do not miss this opportunity to experience Jeju Island with AA Singapore!

For more information on upcoming AUTOVENTURE™ holidays in 2022, click here.