Guest Post by Leah, The Vegetarian Traveller:
Korea is a curious place. Sometimes, things that go on here just can’t be explained logically or rationally; sometimes, they’re a bit too logical. Living on Jeju-do allows me to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful nature that Korea has to offer, making it a typical tourist hotspot for Koreans and foreigners alike. However, there is more to Jeju than awesome hiking and strange museums, and I was completely unaware of it until a few weeks ago. On my birthday, I wanted to do something out of the ordinary. A few co-workers and I read some rumors about several eerie abandoned places on the island so, naturally, we hopped into a friend’s minivan and decided to search for them.
The first place that we ventured to was the Romantic Orange “Hotel”: I use the word “hotel” lightly, as this estate was created solely for the purpose of filming a Korean drama. Although it was only made for a few months worth of shooting, it’s obvious that more thought, design, and artistry went into this building and grounds than most other places I’ve seen in Korea. You feel more like you’re in a nouveau-European castle than on a Korean island. Just a 15 minute drive outside of Seogwipo-so, you’re greeted (after making a detour around the barbed wire fencing) by sprawling grounds boasting Venice-esque canals and bridges, with a romantic pavilion meant for a lover’s kiss. I know: it sounds cheesy and dramatic, but it’s is the most accurate description of this bizarre place. What appears to be a multi-million dollar investment is all for show. The grandiose fountains and exterior lead to a gorgeous interior, complete with a fully-set dining room, reception area, bar, and old-style powder area. The elaborate great hall boasts loads of awesome props that were carelessly left behind after shooting wrapped, including stage mirrors that are perfect for checking yourself out celebrity-style and a traditional Victorian couch fitting for super-diva poses.
Next we headed to the abandoned circus next to the Saebyeol oreum, just off the 1135 road, thirty minutes southwest of Jeju-si. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was pleased with how much was left to the imagination; anything that is preceded with the word ‘abandoned’ is bound to be creepy, but this is even more true when a circus is concerned. Based on the dusty photos clinging to the walls, this place used to be a happening venue for families and tourists alike. The company seemed to pack up and quit out-of-the-blue, as so many things were simply left in their regular spaces: costumes still pouring out of crates, props standing against walls, shoes left under a computer desk, and even a woman’s handbag left at her workstation. It was almost as if the cavalry were approaching and everyone ran for the hills. Channeling my inner five-year-old, I relished at the elaborate head pieces and dress-up options.
For those without access to a car, check out the Paradise Hotel on the Olle 6 in Seogwipo-si. Granted, you might have to dodge CCTV or some security guards, but this hotel is seriously weird. A sign outside the main entrance claims that the resort is “under construction”, but it’s pretty obvious from the inside that there are no plans to restore it. With stunning sea views and suave island architecture, it’s hard to understand how this place could have ever gone under. The compound features several large empty pools, a ballroom, a gorgeous stained glass ceiling, and more mould than a normal person could fathom.
Probably the most creepy place on the list, though, is the Noble “Haunted Pension”. One look at the outside of this building will send chills up your spine. The steps to the entrance are manned by an array of odd naked statues. Upon entering the building, you’ll find a strange array of rooms containing graphic graffiti, glass, and seemingly out-of-place trophies. It seems like a building-turned-squat for creatives. However, after visiting the place, we were informed that it might actually be the home of an artist who frequently travels- a pretty awkward revelation. People have clearly visited this place before, as it’s featured on the abandoned places list, but I heard a story about a couple who met a naked child running around in the garden. Basically, proceed with caution and expect the unexpected.
***It has come to my attention that this is private property and there are residents here. They kindly ask that you respect your privacy. Thank you!***
Jeju-do has so much to offer, and it’s obvious why it’s the tourism capital of Korea. The island is filled with museums, hiking trails, and natural wonders that are all amazing to visit. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to take the road-less-traveled. Next time you have a spare day in Jeju, leave some time to check out some peculiar sites. In Korea, you never know what to expect.
About the Author:
Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Leah lived a very average American life. A few years ago, she quit her job and her life in search of something that made her feel alive. Her passion for travel flourished while hitchhiking, cycling, and rafting around Europe. After some major life changes and a new free-spirited outlook, she became determined to be a, “Yes” person and to experience all that this crazy amazing world has to offer. She now shares her adventures and culinary experiences on her website, www.thevegetariantraveller.com. Leah is currently teaching English on Jeju Island and is planning to hit the road again in November 2014.