Jeju Island!! Thirteen hours, three planes, a couple of taxis and I have found myself on Jeju Island, Korea. An interesting little island off the southern coast of Korea, kind of in line with the southern tip of Japan. Jeju is one of the major honeymoon destinations for Koreans and the Japanese. Basically an island surrounding one massive volcano in the middle, Jeju is again the location for Ironman Korea, 2011. I say again because there has been a five-ish year hiatus here for Ironman due to swimming conditions. This has been solved in the form of a protected swimming area and it shows all the promise of becoming one of the bigger Ironman events in Asia.
So far Jeju has been the source of many surprises and some not so surprising. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but I had it in my mind that it would be a fairly quiet, seaside, shanti-ish, under-populated island. Boy was I wrong! As you can see from the above photo, taken from my hotel room on my first night, it is heavily populated.
It appears that the main source of income for the island is fishing and a walk along the foreshore last night found me immersed in seafood restaurants. Not the ordinary type of seafood restaurants but all raw sliced seafood. Did I try it? No. Why? There is NO english anywhere, well almost none. No english speaking, no written english and unfortunately no menus with pretty pictures, so typical to the Asia I am used to, depicting what you are about to eat. Call me chicken but I just wasn’t up for a case of salmonella last night!!
As the sun went down, I noticed bright lights coming from the streets away from the foreshore. Like a moth travelling towards a bug zapper I wandered over to find that there was a major shopping precinct carrying across a number of city blocks. I have never seen so many sporting and adventure wear shops in my life! All the normal ones like Nike, Adidas, Fila etc were there as well as a number that I have never even heard of. Apparently Koreans have a major fetish for sports and adventure!!!
Whilst wandering around in awe of all the pink and purple hiking boots, fluorescent running shoes and unbelievable numbers of rain jackets, I happened upon a rare english sign indicating that there was another shopping mall underground. Following the stairs, I was amazed to find a further shopping precinct covering the same city block distance completely under the streets of the island. It was very other worldly and almost clinical in nature; bright white tiles surrounding the walls and floors, fluoro light fixtures and then just an abundance of clothing hanging all over the place.
It has been fun so far though and I am looking forward to doing a bit more exploring to see what other surprises the island has for me. Tomorrow brings course planning with Robbie and prep for the arrival of our team on Saturday. Hopefully the rain that has been so abundant today holds off for the race on Sunday!