[Jeju Nature] The ancient Gotjawal forest is a uniquely Jeju Island experience

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Anywhere you go here drips with beautiful nature, but I think this place is the best place to experience Jeju Island’s beautiful nature.

This place being the Gotjawal forest.

Why?

Because it’s the only place in the world you can experience  it.

But before you head off to explore this mystery of nature, let us furnish you with some facts.

The Gotjawal is found on the northern and southern sides of the island.

The temperature stays pretty constant all year round due to the underlying ground being made up of lava rock.

Small holes between the rock function like a lung circulating air around. Water flows from these holes and the moisture evaporates.

That is why the Gotjawal offers a cool summer refuge for visitors as well as a place to enjoy relatively snow-free in the winter.

Look at these trees below. A little unique right?

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Usually trees spread their roots under the dirt to absorb nutrients, but these trees can’t do that because the dirt is rock.

It looks like the trees are holding the rocks with their roots to sustain their body. The roots get thicker.

As this forest has many unique and rare specimens it is protected by the government’s environment department.

This ecological depository saw further protection in 2007 with the establishment of the Gotjawal Trust. The trust is attempting to buy land up from private owners so its survival is guaranteed for the future.

The Gotjawal is found in four major places on Jeju Island as this picture illustrates.

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There is one place in particular I want to focus on. That being Hwansangsup Gotjawal in Jeoji-ri.

Hwansangsup is actually a private part of the forest owned by 53-year-old Lee Hyeong-cheol.

Even though it is in private hands, it is being preserved.

Lee, along with his 26-year-old daughter, Ji-yeong, offers guided tours to visitors.

You’ll learn a lot of things thanks to the Lee’s.

This includes seeing two trees which intertwine together via trunk and also branches. Usually these two type of trees fight for the best space, so it is rare to see them get along with other.

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Statistically speaking, the trees with intertwined branches are rarer.

They are often compared to couples who love each other a great deal. But honestly, are they loving or fighting? Nobody can know for sure.

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These trees which twist with each other are called arrow-root, which is pronounced gal in Chinese character. The other one is the wisteria vine, which in Chinese character is deung. The arrow-root goes anticlockwise while the wisteria vine goes clockwise. Thus they grow and compete at the same time. The Korean word gal-deung originates from this meaning ‘conflict’.

Below we see a pine tree which has succumbed to the vine’s power.

At one point Lee did try to cut the vines back, but eventually gave up, allowing nature to take its natural course.

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 The flower in the photograph below is famous for having a scent which goes over a long distance. The original name is Baekseohyang. It grows short and if the flowers don’t bloom it is hard to recognize.

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Isn’t this flower unique and pretty? It is the flower from a silk tree. The leaves come together as the sun goes down so it is famous among couples.

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In the day they spread out away from each other, but at night they return with closeness.

So these just some of the many types of special things the Gotjawal forest has to offer and I really recommend having a tour with the Lee family at Hwansangsup. It will add so much to your experience.

Information

Address:  Hangyeong-myeon, Jeoji-ri, 2848-2 , Jeju-do

Telephone: 064-773-2488

Admission Price: Prices vary depending on the program you select as do tour times.

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