It has been more than half a year since I last visited Jeju (the island off shore the Southern tip of Korean Peninsula), back then testing my new hiking boots. This time on Mount Hallasan, no ice was on the summit, and just a normal pair of shoes were enough for the 1600 meter ascent. But this week the peak of the mountain kept itself mostly hidden in clouds. After leaving the forest, you cross a beautiful alpine landscape with a unique fauna and flora - many species indigiounous. Strong winds were driving patches of clouds over it and left a quick change of bright sunlight and whiteout. I was told that this is the environment surrounding immortals in Chinese believes. I always feel high mountains have something immortal, no matter of light. Perhaps, it is because we are closer to the sky.
Jeju is a sizable volcanic island, with Mount Hallasan as the major shield volcano. But there are many more volcanoes, tuff craters and lava tubes. A paradise for volcanologists. The coasts are mainly steep and rocky, and the few natural beaches are black sanded. The water of the natural springs tastes of different minerals, depending on the very specific location. Luckily Chinese tourists are absorbed by the Casino and the shopping malls and other attractions close to the airport, which preserves the rest of the places from their impact.
From Jeju's East coast there is a ferry connection to U-Do island, which takes about 30 minutes. It is a car ferry, which also carries the trucks transporting out the garlic harvest, which is a major crop there, and a fixture in Korean cuisine. Arriving U-Do you can rent a motor cycle and circumcise the island in less than an hour. U-Do is offshore-offshore Korea, and by this reminded me of Lamma Island, which was my home in the South China sea for five years, before I moved to Beijing. I know that for many people "offshore" is mainly related to a special kind of Financial Service industry which is making use of special rules away from major jurisdictions. But for me, "offshore" is a lifestyle away from the buzz of big governments and consumerism. It can be found on islands, in forests, on mountains and even in some cities - probably not in Beijing though.