This weekend my family will take our long-awaited trip to Jeju Island, the "Hawai’i of Korea" (except when it’s snowing). No person in their right mind who has been in Korea for any extended period of time would miss out on visiting Jeju Island. Jeju is Korea’s largest island located off the southern coast of Korea to the west of Japan. Why did we wait 1.5 years to visit one of Korea’s biggest attractions? We couldn’t find a good three-day weekend to visit it. It takes at least three days to enjoy Jeju by air, four days by car/ferry. It isn’t very nice in the winter, and in the summer Koreans converge on it. There’s only a few holiday weekends that are ideal for travel around Korea, and these are American holidays–namely Memorial Day in May and Labor Day in September. Last May, we didn’t go anywhere because we had just returned from our visit to the states. Last September, we visited the other must-see natural wonder of Korea, Seoraksan National Park. So, here we are visiting Jeju just a few months before our departure. Better late than never! We thought about going someplace like Thailand but knew we should exhaust our travel here before visiting Southeast Asia.
Not only is it much cheaper to travel during the off-season, but we don’t have to fight the crowds. Koreans tend to go on vacation during specific times of the year, namely mid-August, when they converge on many of the same popular destinations around Korea and favorite international destinations such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Thailand. Each year the newspapers publish a photo of the beach at Haeundae (near Busan) in August when thousands of vacationers descend on the beach. It’s absolutely insane. Who wants to spend hours snarled in traffic just be lie wall to wall with other people? We would rather go when there are far fewer people and the rates are cheaper. Of course, it helps immensely that Korean children are now back in school. Koreans are far less likely to take extended trips to places such as Jeju Island during the months of September and October (or in early spring), because children usually attend private academies in the evening and school on Saturdays. That inevitably keeps Korean familiess closer to home. So we’ll go to Jeju Island when they ain’t.