Hiking? I’m not even sure if I should call this hiking because it did not feel like it at all. It was more like an amble at Songaksan. A very peaceful, revitalizing stroll up and down the gentle slopes of this mountain that pushes itself closer to the sea.
Songaksan is in the southwestern part of Jeju island and is one of the most popular go-to mountains in Jeju along with Hallasan and Sanbangsan. Songaksan is a small mountain/volcano that from a distance looks more like a rugged cliff.
It was about an hour of bus ride from my hotel in downtown Seogwipo (it was my second hotel after Aewol Sea Palace Pension). I passed by Sanbangsan first, and then Sagye Beach, which particularly struck me with its many cafes lined up on one side of the road and a view of the beach on the other. I made a mental note to stop by this place on my way back.
Preamble: Exploring Around Songaksan
Looking back, I’m glad I made the choice to hike at Songaksan first (later, I didn’t have enough time to hike at Sanbangsan). Songaksan is closer to the sea and easier to hike compared to Sanbangsan.
The few-kilometer stretch of coastal road leading to the trail of Songaksan is lined with restaurants and cafes, big and small. I felt a bit bad for those on the farther part because they probably get less customers than those closer to Songaksan. I saw one spacious, opulently-designed café that seemed to be closed when I passed by—it was around noontime. I wasn’t sure if it was a lean time, but the closed and empty café kind of gave off a somber feeling. From the glass walls, the flowers and ornaments that embellish the interiors were draped in gray shadows. I felt sad looking at this empty place. Well, I hope they were just closed for a break—I could just be overthinking!
Not far from that café is a small Italian café called Ten Pizza [텐피자] run by a Korean auntie. It was open but also empty at the time, and the Korean auntie was alone inside fiddling with her phone or some notes, I think. I decided to go in and give her a bit of company as a dining customer.
(Wow, I feel really emotional recounting this! I guess, because I love Jeju, I also love the people there, and I feel so much compassion and tenderness toward them. As a coffee lover, I am very thankful that Jeju has a prevalent food and café scene. I am thankful for the many coffee shops I could go to, and I just wish I could support all of them!)
There is also an e-bike rental shop close by. I am not even sure if there are other bike rental shops in the area, but if you search for a bike shop or bike rental shop on Naver Map, Songaksan Wangbaltong & Electric Bicycle is the only one that turns up within the vicinity.
There were two guys when I got to the shop. One was friendly, while the other had a smug vibe to him, but the latter was the one who arranged the e-bike rental for me. The friendly one chatted with me a bit; he shared that he was going on a long-term trip to Manila. I regret that I didn’t catch his name.
I wanted a regular bicycle, but the shop only offers e-bikes. I think I saw some other tourists renting hoverboards too. I got an e-bike for KRW 10,000 for 1 hour.
On hindsight, it was actually good to rent an e-bike because your leg muscles would be doing hard work pedaling a regular bike on the sloping roads around Songaksan. I biked west past Songaksan and reached a remote area with hardly any vehicle passing on the road. The breeze was strong and cool.
I reached a secluded little park called Pacific Rim Park, and across the road is, to my wonder, a lone coffee shop amid a vast grassfield, which, thinking back, might have also been an inn. Do they really get customers over here?
I was the only one there. I parked the e-bike and sat on one of the big stones lining the breakwater. The view of the ocean is vast, and, sitting alone in this isolated spot, I got the view of Songaksan exclusively to myself. The salty wind blowing from the sea. The sound of the waves breaking with such heart-pounding intensity, all to myself.
I would have been content sitting there all afternoon if it weren’t for the time limit of my e-bike rental. I am making a mental note (well, I guess now it’s written) that I should go back here and definitely spend a whole afternoon, or even a whole day, maybe just reading a book or doodling on my journal.
The Amble at Songaksan
After I returned the e-bike, I was now back on foot, heading to Songaksan. There are two trails, one coastal trail that goes around it and another that goes around the crater. The coastal trail is understandably more popular. You get the best of both worlds, the sparkling sea and Songaksan’s attractive landscape. Plus, it’s got views of the city and Sanbangsan.
I love Songaksan. It has its own charms unique from Hallasan. For one, Songaksan is kind of like your girl next door, affable and easily approachable. By comparison, I’d say Hallasan is the school muse, with an intimidating gorgeousness and intelligence, but you later find out she’s actually cool and easy to get along with.
During the cool autumn season, around the end of October, the rolling landscape of Songaksan is dyed with a palette of dark green, mustard, and rust. Personally, I think the colors of the meadows during this time are more alluring and picture-worthy. There’s a melodramatic feel to it.
And then there’s the sea. At Songaksan, you can’t not look at the hills without looking at the ocean. The waters and the landscape are intertwined. They make up the character that best represents Songaksan.
Songaksan is so close to the ocean. If you look at it from a distance, the mountain with its rugged cliffs is protruding from the coastline, as if it’s reaching out to the heart of the ocean. And when you walk on the trail along the edges of Songaksan, it’s like you’re being brought closer to the ocean too. The breeze is strong and audible. The scent of the sea is as potent as ever. The cliffs and the waves push toward each other. The face of the cliff was shaped by the ocean, and the surf gets its form by hitting the cliff.
It’s nice to be aware of these things. Nature. The smell, the sounds, the shapes. I think nature likes it when you pay attention to it. And it deserves all the attention. Nature is beautiful.
The coastal walking trail extends for about 2.8 km, which is possible to traverse in less than 2 hours. It took me much longer because I made a lot of stops, sitting on a bench or just on the boardwalk and zoning out.
Songaksan is a beautiful zoning-out zone.