The countdown to Jeju passed way too quickly- unsurprisingly so, as my time here seems to be constantly flying passed. I wake up on Monday morning and before I feel like one day is over, it is Friday and the weekend is here. As the holiday loomed nearer I worked (or should I say partied?) hard 3 nights a week in salsa bars trying to gain more confidence and improve my steps and gracefulness on the D-floor. (Anyone that knows me well will laugh at the idea of me being graceful…!) Didier was still helping me with some classes too which continued to be fun and invaluable!
Working on bank holidays had granted me some precious ‘in-lieu’ days which enabled me to spend four nights on the beautiful island- plenty of time to explore during the days and dance away the nights; which is exactly what I did. Yirak, Nami and Gwon (our personal driver and photographer) were the most fantastic friends to go away with, and I have to admit that I was absolutely useless the entire trip. I simply tagged along as they researched everything we did from finding the most delicious breakfast to perfect viewpoints. I hope they know how grateful I am- I certainly wouldn’t have had half as good a trip without them!
Yirak, Nami and I arrived on the Thursday evening. We stayed in a little hostel a 10 minute walk away from the beach and hotel where the congress was taking place. I made sure to memorise the route home, with its gazillion left and right turns on the winding roads which cut through the small town that lay in-between our hostel and the beach. I knew this would come in useful on the way home! We headed out for dinner and drinks in a quaint little bar before having the only early night of the holiday.
A day relaxing on the beach was in order on Friday as we waited for Gwon to arrive. Despite being really crowded and lifeguards stopping anyone swimming out too far, it was so lovely to see the sea and be able to swim in it without being cold! In the late afternoon we headed for a walk in a forest (whose name escapes me…). The open green space and the trees that crawled up the mountainside made a wonderful change from the concrete jungle of Seoul. We even saw deer! We had the most delicious fresh seafood for dinner, so fresh that the shellfish actually arrived at the table alive and were boiled in our stew in front of us… that was a first for me!
That evening we headed to the hotel to dance. I didn’t know what to expect but I was still surprised when we arrived. The salsa room was in the downstairs lobby of the hotel and felt far too bright to be a party- that lighting was not going to hide my mistakes! Nevertheless, there were so many people dancing I hardly had the opportunity to dance with the same person twice! It was great! There were also some fantastic performances. Before I knew it 3am crept up on me and I had hardly stopped dancing. I decided to call it a night, knowing I had two more left that I had to save some energy for!
It was a slow start to the day on Saturday but we started well with some of the most delicious waffles and drinks. It may have taken over an hour to finally get all the food and drinks we ordered, despite being the only customers in the restaurant, but the wait was definitely worth it! We headed to Manjanggul cave, after getting lost for a while, and sought refuge from the sun in the cool 1km long lava tunnel underground. Leaving it and coming back to the outside temperature was hard!
In the evening we headed to the beach to enjoy some performances and the live salsa band. Dancing to live music on the sand with some great company- what more could you want! We headed to another seafood restaurant for dinner. Again so fresh that this time the raw squid continued to move on the plate for a while despite being cut up! A few drinks and off we went to the hotel to enjoy another night of great music and dancing.
On Sunday it was difficult to shake off the tiredness! Two late nights and busy days would take it out of most people! But still we soldiered on to some beautiful waterfalls. Hiking to them in the middle of the day had us all dripping in sweat and in desperate search for shade! There is nothing better than watching the water falling endlessly over the edge of the cliff and into the river below, had it not been for the heat I could have stayed there all day. We headed to Camilla Hill Flower Garden afterwards. This really was a haven for the selfie-stick with specific ‘photograph routes’ and pairs of chairs set up under ‘cute’ bunting for people to take photos. If this was not the lamest, most organised fun ever, I don’t know what is. Nonetheless, we still found some pretty little spots to appreciate the beauty of the open green space under a striking blue sky. We headed to a view point to appreciate the spectacular Daepo Jusangjeolli cliffs before racing back to catch Didier’s performance; we made it by the skin of our teeth.
The last party of the holiday had us dancing until sunrise. We made it back as farmers started their morning work on their lands surrounding our hostel. Needless to say Monday was a slow day. We made it to Udo island after taking the short 15 minute ferry trip from Jeju. However we didn’t get past the beach… after truly burning the candle at both ends, all the partying and exploring was taking its toll and we were more than happy to enjoy the sun, sea and sand one last time before our flight home that evening.
We touched down in Seoul with just enough time to get the last metros home. Despite the tiredness I couldn’t have felt happier. Dancing salsa for three days had left me on a high and so proud of myself for how much I have learnt and improved since I arrived.