Waterfalls for Melissa

The winter I was 21 I backpacked through Southeast Asia for two months with three other girls, my old Pentax K1000, and a second-hand guitar.  We landed in Malaysia, wove north through Thailand, and after boating down the Mekong River to a town called Champasak, parted ways in Southern Laos, from which I ventured to Vietnam alone.  Two weeks later we met back up at the airport in Kuala Lumpur and flew to Melbourne. 

The trip remains one of the larger landmarks in my life, shooting up out of the memory plains like a mountain.  Leaving Vietnam I wished more than anything I could stay on and go through to Cambodia.  But the money had dwindled to very little, our two months was up, and my passport held a work visa for Australia.  Time, as it continues to do, required that change occur.

One of the girls I traveled with was Melissa, my best friend since the third grade.  Through the bus rides and boat trips and jungle hikes and dirty-floored hotels and green fields and dust it was clear that traveling had struck us both in the bones, where it stays.  

We spent a lot of time outside.  More than a few times during a hike or while reading a map we came across a sign or mention of a waterfall ahead.  Excited, we’d continue on, but it seemed that always when we arrived the “fall” was a mere few drops against a minor rock, its sound less a rushing of water than a thin trickle into a small pool.  One day when this happened in a place I can’t remember, Melissa said something along the lines of, “I’m tired of these fake falls.  I want to see the real thing.”

I remember laughing because it’s one of those ridiculous things people say when they’ve had the privelege of spending weeks doing nothing but sightsee, but I also had to agree.  I wanted to see a real waterfall!  The kind that thunders down and makes you lose your gaze in its sheets.  I’m sure these exist in Southeast Asia, but we never did find one, and in truth we didn’t make a point of searching.  It was just something we hoped to come across.

Ten years later, I found it on Jeju.

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Actually, I found three.  They’re called the Cheonjeyeon Falls, and they drop into a rocky river on the Southwest Coast of the island, which runs to the Pacific and a gold-sand beach called Jungmun. This is the first one…

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and a glimpse through the trees where the second begins.

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The walk from fall to fall held surprises, like the mossy staircase lit with sun…

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and after viewing the first two, this was a sign I could trust.

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Melissa, I wished it was you sitting with me on the rocks at the edge of the emerald pool instead of these random Korean kids…

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and on the bridge after, where I peered down to the river and across the trees, missing the Asia with you in it.

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Come visit!

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Get there: Take the Route 95 or Route 99 bus to Jungmun from Jeju City.  I’m not sure if it takes you directly to the falls or not, as I hopped off and wandered there based on a few points and nods from Koreans in the area.  In any case, once you’re in Jungmun, you’re close.  Judging by my Rough Guide map it looks like you could bus to the falls from Seogwipo as well, taking Ilju Road.

Price: W2500

I recommend.

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One thought on “Waterfalls for Melissa

  1. Dear Courtney,
    I absolutely loved your waterfall blog, and I wish Mellis could have been there with you too! Hard to believe how
    fast time flies, and you have been 6 mos.

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