Jeju is a volcanic island, meaning at some point in ancient history it erupted out of the sea in a big flashy show of lava and rock explosions. Consequently, the Jeju landscape is a bit crazy. There are craters, mountains, lava caves and big rocks spastically jutting out everywhere – bam, bam, bam, a thousand year slow dance, limbs everywhere.
Unfortunately my crip-side has restricted me from traversing some of Jeju’s more famous and epic peaks* but today I at least managed to scale this nice sea-side hill.
On the cliff side the water is clear and slightly fluorescent like a luxurious hotel pool while the rocky shore line is charcoal black and jagged. The land side shows off a cascade of shrubbery with more hues of green than a rainforest in the matrix*. There are spring flowers happily looking around and a bunch of irregularly erect erect volcanic mounds. It all combines to make a rather lovely and epic piece of land.
During last night’s BBQ meat feast we met Bap Jo*. He’s 28 and handsome. He’s fallen for an older woman and he says thinking about naked women helped his hair grow long. He works at the nice hill* making traditional Korean desserts and churning Turkish ice cream.
Nicole and I thought we should drop in on Bap Jo and who knows, maybe we could get some free ice cream?
Turns out Bap Jo is as generous as he is handsome. As soon as we arrived at the stall we were showered with gifts. First some ice cream – chewy and light, like a gummy soft serve. Then some Korean desserts. I only the Chinese translated name as dragon beard candy – it’s a fairy floss like dessert made with honey and a thickener that comes from a local plant. The almost solid honey is thinned into web like strands and doused in cactus flower powder, then wrapped around some candied sesame and peanuts. The resulting treat looks like a brightly coloured silken worm with saw dust spilling out it’s ends. The wrapping strands are chewy but melt to the heat of a tongue, which makes the insides spill out into your mouth. Textural and delicious.
He made us some dragon beard fresh, giving us the whole explanation of how to make it (he was incredibly dexterous), then gave us some cold for comparison. We enjoyed them so he gave us two boxes worth $20 on the house.
We returned to Bap’s store after our short hike to say thank you and to ask where to get lunch. He invited us into his stall and fed us the best ramyeon we’ve eaten. I still can’t believe it was only instant noodles. He must have put some magic shit in there because It was fucking good.
Now Bap Jo and I have a foetal plan to meet in Turkey in July.
“Do you have no money?” A short woman with school boy hair and large pants approaches us. We’re hitchhiking at a bus stop, I guess that’s a pretty fair question.
“The bus is no fun.” I reply. We explain to her that we’re perfectly capable of paying $1.50 for a bus ride but we’d rather hitchhike because it’s more fun . . . and free. She looks pretty alarmed.
“I’ll join you.” She says surprising us both. She immediately hops onto the road and starts flapping her hand like a hungry restaurant patron. Nicole and I laugh and raise our thumbs behind her. Two minutes later a car stops. Our new friend yelps with excitement and bundles into the front seat without even saying hello.
We try to ask the driver to drop us off at some street food markets but our companion, being far more fluent in Korean, takes control. We get dropped off at a seafood restaurant run by our friend’s high school mate.
Crispy skin grilled mackerel. Crab, clam, abalone and crayfish miso soup with chilli and onion. Pickles. Fermented fish, soy bean and chilli sauces. And a group of intensely flavoursome side dishes. All fucking good and all for free.
After the meal our new friend tells us she actually needed to go to the other side of the island but she just joined us for fun. She drops us off at bus stop, gives us directions to a jimjilbang and says goodbye. No hugs and no ceremony. A wave and she’s off.
*There’s a giant volcano in the middle of Jeju and on the Eastern coast there is a giant forest filled crater.
*Everything in the matrix films that were set in the matrix itself were toned green. I imagine a rainforest within the matrix would be REALLY green – one of the greenest things.
*Bap Jo means give me rice. He has a different name in Korean but he chose that as his english name. He pronounces it differently. Nicole reckons it’s Bob but I’m sure he said Bop.