Jeju is often referred to as "the Hawaii of Korea." However, except for both places being windy volcanic islands and vacation destinations, the two have nothing in common. The biggest difference, aside from culture and size, is the weather. Jeju, being located much further north that Hawaii, has distinct four seasons, and the winter season can be quite brutal (though not nearly as brutal as on the mainland). Winter winds are bitter cold and snow covers Mt. Hallasan. The seas are rough, and the cold, moist air often brings some snow to the coasts as well. Therefore, many of the expat teachers will leave the island during their winter break and head for warmer destinations. This winter, I decided to do the same.
I spent the majority of the winter break at home in Kentucky with family and five fuzzy fur babies (cats), but on the way back to Jeju, I decided to make a short stop in Oahu to soak up the warmer weather and see a few friends. The archipelago did not disappoint. In fact, by the end, I was wishing I'd had more than just a few days to explore.
My trip started out with my wonderful friend, Kathy, picking me up from the airport and taking me to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, which I hadn't been to in 7 years. The next day, we spent the day soaking up natural beauty at Makapu'u Lighthouse, Nu'uanu Pali Lookout, and Kailua Beach. The day started out rather sunny, warm, and windy, so, naturally, I got sunburned. However, the afternoon was more overcast. In between one ocean scene and another, we stopped for an acai bowl lunch.
On day two, we drove out to the North Shore to eat the famous shrimp and visit the Polynesian Culture Center. This was probably my favorite day of my visit, as it hit two of the things I love most about traveling: trying new and delicious foods, and learning about different cultures. I loved learning about the island cultures of Samoa, Aoteaora, Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga, and Hawai'i. It's always fascinating to me to see not only how wonderfully varied and diverse human cultures are, but also how interconnected we all are.
For day three, I arranged a whale watching tour and lunch with a coworker from Camp Fulbright, Quinne. It was great to catch up and her about her experiences in college. As for the boat ride, the sun was out and it was all very lovely, yet there were unfortunately not any whales. There was, however, a very friendly sea turtle!
All in all, I had a great visit and a lovely time relaxing before heading back to a grim January on Jeju.