I can wax poetic about a lava tubeÂ all day long. Thereâ€™s just something cool about walking where glowing lava once flowed.Â When I found out there was a lava tube on Jeju Island in South Korea, I had to go.
The quest to find Manjanggul Lava Tube is why Sarah and I took a city bus out into the countryside of the island known as the Hawaii of South Korea. We hopped off the bus and two miles up a road. We left the sea behind and headed into a forest of shady trees and huge spiders.
And lava tubes. Lots of them, only a few of them fully mapped and likely many left undiscovered.
But weâ€™re headed to one thatâ€™s certainly well discovered. Manjanggul is a well-known attraction, judging from the steady flow of traffic along the road. Taxis honk at us, hoping to take us the rest of the way. But weâ€™re walkers – we decline every few moments with what we hope is a polite head-shake and wave.
And we come to the parking lot. We pay an entry fee of less than $2 – a spectacular deal for a 30-minute walk underground.
By this time, Iâ€™d been in South Korea long enough to expect even a lava tube to be a bit well-developed. As I feared, Manjanggul is a bit too regular, tame and paved to slake my thirst for the shadowy depths of a former volcanic hot spot. Itâ€™s certainly nothing like the Ape Cave lava tube in Cougar, Washington.
On the other hand, Manjanggul is grand, with a ceiling that arches high above. So far, researchers have plumbed about 50,000 feet of it. Only about 3,500 feet are open to the public, though.
Itâ€™s nice and damp inside Manjanggul, with some nice lighting effects. The flow of traffic never seems to stop, so you wonâ€™t experience the solitude that you can in more rugged, remote lava tubes. But the grandeur that earned Manjanggul status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site makes it well worth the trip to South Korea and to Jeju Island. If youâ€™re creative with camera settings, you can also snag some nice photos.
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