I had never been to a place that actually took my breath away until I set foot on the edge of the Jusangjeolli Cliffs (주상절리) in southern Jeju. The cliffs were created by lava pouring into the ocean when the volcano that is now Halla Mountain erupted 250,000 years ago. The lava hitting the cold water made unique cubic and hexagonal pillars that eventually formed these stunning cliffs. The waves throwing whitecaps against the black rock is truly mesmerizing.
Staring down at the crevices, I had an undeniable urge to dive in and thrash around like a sea creature. This, coming from a person with a fear of swimming in open water, says something about the tranquility that overcomes you in this place. Despite the throngs of people on the walking path, it felt like I was alone with the waves.
Not far from my new personal paradise was a Mahayana Buddhist temple called Yakchunsa (약천사) at the base of Halla Mountain.
The temple name translates into “temple of medicine stream” because the pure spring water that runs there is said to cure illnesses. Construction on the temple grounds began in 1981 so it’s new compared to the ancient temples most have come to expect in Asia.
The Hall of Great Peace and Light is said to be the largest Buddha Hall in all of Asia which draws many tourists all year-round. The Great Hall stands at 29 metres (95 feet) high and houses a 9 metre (29 foot) statue of Vairocana (a.k.a. the visualization of Buddha in spirit form).
Yakchunsa is also famous for housing the 500 Arahat, which are little statues made in the image of past Buddhist monks from the time of the dynasties.
As my adventure in southern Jeju came to an end, it was time to get back up north to Jeju City where I was staying. I caught an airport limo bus from outside the temple and paid the base fare (approx. 1.50 CAD) to get to the Sweogwipo City bus terminal. From there I was going to grab another bus north. Turns out the bus driver was from a town not far from mine back in Namyanju City in Gyeonggi-do and he was happy to meet someone from back home. He’s been living in Jeju for 6 years and now speaks the Jeju dialect with ease. With my Korean skills put to the test, we hit up a little friendship. His bus route went all the way back up to Jeju City and he offered to take me there at no extra charge because we were “Namyangju chingus” (Namyangju friends). What a lovely way to end my day and my adventure on Jeju Island :)