Why Getting Off At The Wrong Stop Just Might Be The Right Thing To Do

Jan 25, 2011 by    Posted under: Travel

I don’t usually do much planning when I travel. I may pick out a handful of sights I don’t want to miss but my usual way of operating is to pick a place or a direction and just walk to see what comes along.

This morning for some reason, over a hot cup of coffee (brewed coffee!), toast and eggs, I decided to plan my day out for a change. I picked out four places I wanted to visit, had the receptionist at the hostel write them in Korean for me, bundled up, and headed off the the bus station.

For the most part, it’s really easy to get around Jeju. The buses run regularly, taxis are cheap and walking is a great way to see the Island. I’ve been taking a lot of buses because they’re the cheapest and I’m so close to the bus terminal.

Wherever I am on the Island, I just ask the driver “Sin Jeju?” to see if it’s going back to my neighborhood. To get where I want to go, I try to have someone write the destination in Korean so that I can show it to the driver.

One of the best things about the buses here are that they have a recorded announcement before each stop in Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese. I absolutely depend on these announcements, even when I don’t know where I’m supposed to get off. I listen to what the next stop is going to be, find that area on my map, and make a quick decision on whether or not it is going to be the best choice.

My adventure today started when there was no recorded announcement on my bus. When the bus pulled away from what, a little too late, I realized was my stop, I figured I’d just get off at the next one and walk back.

It was a good plan in theory, only the next stop just happened to be halfway up Halla Mountain. At first I was working on calculating how much mileage was passing, but when I realized there wasn’t going to be another stop any time soon, I sat back and began to enjoy the view.

Halla Mountain, or Hallasan, is the inactive volcano in the center of Jeju Island and is the highest peak in South Korea. When I realized we were going up, I consulted my map to see what road we were taking.

We ended up traveling up her west side about, according to my map which may or may no be to scale, 1/3 of the way up. (UPDATE: It turns out it was only about 1/6 of the way up Hallasan.)

The view was spectacular, my first sign that I was supposed to miss my stop. It is preserved land so the only sign of humans is the road and occasionally a place for hikers to park their cars. And a couple of bus stops.

As I mentioned in my first Korea post, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, Jeju has gotten more snow this winter than anyone can remember. It’s common for there to be snow on upper Hallansan because of it’s elevation (6,398 ft/1,950 m), but I’m not sure if they usually see so much at the lower elevations.

I ended up getting an hour and twenty minute ride through the winter wonderland before the last stop in Seowgipo on the south side of Jeju. My map wasn’t detailed enough to tell me where in Seowgipo I was let off, so I just started walking.

It was about lunch time at this point, so I wandered into a little bakery looking for a nosh. Much to my surprise and extreme excitement, I found something had been looking for but hadn’t been able to find since the day I landed in Korea – sweet black bean paste filled mochi.

This was my second sign I was exactly where I was supposed to be. This black bean paste stuffed mochi also happened to be inside a doughnut. My taste buds are big fans if doughnuts but my stomach isn’t. However, I thought this occasion special enough to risk the upset.

Plus, if God is going to hand me mochi stuffed with sweet black bean paste stuffed inside a doughnut, I’m going to eat it.

I wandered around a little bit but didn’t come across a bus terminal and couldn’t quite get my bearings. Since I really wanted to get back to Jeju-si (Jeju City) and see some of the sights I had planned, I figured my best bet was to head to the bus stop across the street from the one I was let off. I knew that my stop was the last one on the line and that it was likely to head right back.

The problem that arose at this point was that the bus schedule was only in Korean. By looking at the bus schedule times and by way of deduction (I knew this particular bus left Jeju-si once an hour, on the hour and it took 1 hour 20 minutes from start to finish) I estimated I had about an hour until the next bus.

So there I was, freezing my ass off, happy but ill from the mochi doughnut, when a lady walks into the bus shelter looking at the schedule on the wall and muttering in Korean – sign number three.

I grabbed my opportunity to make sure I was in the right place and pointed to the schedule saying, “Jeju-si? Jeju-si?”. She confirmed my deduction was correct (go me!) and proceeded to share her homemade snacks, coffee and tangerine with me.

Her English was limited but good enough that I know that the snack she shared with me were glutenous rice balls (think mochi) made with some kind of green vegetable and stuffed with brown beans. The coffee came by way of a thermos and the tangerine felt good after the heaviness of all that mochi.

I believe in the law of threes, of being placed where I am supposed to be and that the best laid plans are only suggestions to the Universe. I know, without a doubt, that missing my stop this morning was no accident and I was right where I was meant to be all along the way.

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2 Comments + Add Comment

  • LOVE IT!!!

  • My wife and I were on Jeju (briefly) in the fall of 2012, and I agree, it’s a magical place. As for mochi of all kinds, you can’t get the good stuff very easily in North America, even if, as in Vancouver, there is a vibrant Korean community. I am looking forward to going back to Korea, longer this time, in a year or so.

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