One day, Mike went to go hiking at Mount Hallasan and I went to Udo Island on my own, which was one of my favorite places to visit on the island except for one thing…
Everything I had researched about Udo Island made it seem so pure and scenic with its crystal clear blue waters and natural beauty. Visiting an isolated islet felt romantic, even when embarking on a solo trip for the day.
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Caught in a Tourist Trap
However, when I got to Udo Island, it wasn’t isolated at all. It was overcrowded and noisy from the public bus and ferry ride there to the attractions along the outer trail of the island. My skin started to crawl with discomfort as I wanted nothing more than to escape the tourist traps of the so-called isolated island. How spoiled rotten was my attitude? After all, I was lucky enough to be in Korea.
This need to escape happened the second I got on the hop-on, hop-off bus (₩8,000). I chose this option thinking that the 90°F (32°C) heat and my lack of health would make it quite exhausting to explore the island on a bike, and I didn’t have a license to get a scooter or quad, but obviously I picked the wrong mode of transportation for myself. As the bus drove towards the first tourist attraction on the island, I stared out the window wistfully wishing that I was riding through the peanut fields in open air and able to capture them without the reflection of a scratched glass pane.
I got off the first stop at the black sand beach excited to be off the bus but was very underwhelmed quickly. The beach was littered, and there were hordes of people around waiting in line for peanut ice cream and taking selfies rather than enjoying the view. I didn’t even bother going down to the beach based on how it looked and joined the crowd for peanut ice cream as the peanuts are locally produced in Udo Island. #wheninrome The ice cream was good but overhyped.
After that, I went back to the bus stop hoping that the next attraction would be better but ended up having to wait 30 minutes in line for the next bus because of a traffic jam in such a small area. I was both amused at seeing people in their scooters and quads not being able to get around the traffic and frustrated that I wasn’t able to leave freely. I had a battle going on in my head between the selfish, whiny voice who wasn’t happy with the ever-so-lucky opportunity of being in Udo Island versus my self trying to be the better person.
My selfish, whiny self won!
Once the bus finally pulled in, I rode it around the whole island. I sat there while everyone else was getting on and off. The bus driver kept looking at me like I didn’t know what was going on, but in the end, I got exactly where I wanted to go to– back to the beginning!
The Electric Bike Saves the Day
Then I found the best mode of transportation for me– an electric bike! I didn’t need a license and wouldn’t have to exert much energy to get around. Win-win. I put on my yellow helmet, which the store owner called cute, and “sped” off. I had complete freedom of where I could go now and was so much happier!
I skipped the tourist attractions listed on the map and went into the center of Udo Island where people live and no restaurants or tourist attractions exist. My mood changed instantly.
With a slight breeze on my face from biking, the sun shining on my back, and wide, open roads with no one around, I was in my element.
The Lesser Seen Side of Udo Island
Biking around was quite tranquil. I stopped and stared at whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Isn’t that one of the perks of traveling by yourself?
I checked out the agricultural fields, weaved in and out of small dirt roads, and even found myself in awe of these pretty average rock walls.
I loved the different colored rooftops of these homes around the island. They added a spark of personality to the neighborhoods.
When I saw that flag, I got a bit prideful about standing in the country that my parents and grandparents came from.
I especially loved watching these ajjumas (old women) planting peanuts. It made me wonder if this is what my grandma did in Korea, and sure enough, she did. When I went back to New York City, I showed my grandma all my photos from Korea. She said she used to work in fields like this and noted, “No way do I miss that type of work.”
Because they reminded me of my grandma, and it was something so different than I’m used to as a city girl, I wanted to go over there and ask them if I could help out, but I quickly stopped romanticizing this hard labor and moved on.
I don’t know what it was about to broken home and piece of sh*t mess, but I must’ve been on a high from my bike ride because I thought something about it was quite beautiful.
Towards the end, I finally saw some life besides the field workers– this cow! I also saw Seongsan Ilchulbong from a distance. I had climbed up to the top of this crater formed by volcanic activity right before coming to Udo Island so it was cool to see from a different perspective.
Lastly, I went to see what I came here for– the pristine blue water at what they call “Popcorn Beach”. Can you see why they would call it that?
I headed back to the ferry for Jeju Island, but before I left, I made sure to get some local peanuts from these hardworking ajjumas as an addition to the stories I would tell him about my day.
They were absolutely smitten with my American-accented Korean and told me how polite I was. I was absolutely smitten with their kindness and their OG field worker status, which you could tell from their skin color.
All in all, I had a wonderful day and am so happy I escape the tourist attractions and found my own path. I hope you do too if you visit Udo Island!
Must-Haves for Udo Island
The sun is quite strong, there’s no electricity to borrow, and exploring away from the tourist attractions means less accessibility to water so prepared, and bring all these things I brought!
It’s quite funny about the one-piece though. I was probably the least dressed person there wearing this one-piece bathing suit. Most people in Korea like to be covered fully for sun protection. I definitely knew where they were coming from! The sun was so strong, and I lost my sunscreen so by the end of the day, I had a black long sleeve on to prevent sunburn, which is something I would NOT do in the US or Europe.
Have any other suggestions on lush islands with bright blue coastlines? Let me know by commenting below!
Thanks for stopping by! xo.