Where the Lava Flowed: Manjanggul Cave

Ever since I found myself belly-worming through an increasingly dark and unexpectedly narrow crevice in a cave in Vang Vieng, Laos, a few years back, I’ve been sketchy about spelunking.  Something about the cold, damp walls pressing in on both shoulders and the inability of the local boys guiding us to clarify how far the exit was gripped me with my first-ever claustrophobic pang.  Probably the worst thing you can think of during a moment like that is the possibility of an earthquake, but that of course is what crossed my mind.

“Dude,” I remember saying to my friend Melissa, who was edging her way forward on the ground behind me, “I don’t like this anymore.”

“Me neither,” she said.  “Keep going.”

We emerged– filthy and with big grins on our faces once the light of day had returned to our orbit–but until recently, I avoided stepping inside another cave.  Have you seen the Planet Earth documentary where people go diving in UNDERWATER caves?  That might be the most insane thing I can imagine doing.  I would jump out of a plane first, in a second.  And that’s not high on my bucket list either.  Actually, that’s not even on my bucket list.

Luckily, Jeju’s Manjanggul–a lava tube formed some 200-300,000 years ago from underwater volcanic eruptions–has a high ceiling.

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A 1 kilometre stretch of this 9 km tube is open to the public, and for 2000 Won you can meander through the dark, cool passage and check out lava-ey stuff like flowlines and benches and shark-tooth shaped stalactites.

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There’s also a lava raft called Turtle Rock…

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and a lava column, formed by lava flowing down from the ceiling to the floor.  At 7 m, it’s known as the longest in the world.

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I made three new friends on the way in to Manjanggul: Taylor, Patty, and Meaghan, who I spent the rest of the day and evening with and who all live in Seoul.  If I ever move there, I’d be stoked to hang with them again.  I was definetely happy to find them that afternoon…

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because belly-worming or strolling and chatting, it’s sweet to have cave company.

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Get There:  Take the Route 12 bus from Jeju City and get off at the last stop leaving Gimnyeong–let the driver know where you’re headed.  From there it’s about a 2 km walk.  According to The Rough Guide a bus runs right to Manjanggul from Gimnyeon every hour or so, but finding out exactly when or from where might be tricky if you don’t speak Korean.  It’s a nice walk anyway, though sneakers are probably a better call than flip flops!

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2 thoughts on “Where the Lava Flowed: Manjanggul Cave

  1. Just put me in your pocket and I’ll be happy for the rest of my days. *sigh*

    I do however love the cold dampness of a cave. It might take a push off the boat to dive underwater into one mind you but there is something fantastic and scary and so exhilarating about opening your eyes as wide as they go, and still not being able to see any light.

    love your vaca stories. keep em’ coming!

  2. Dear Pic,
    I Love the fact that you were brave enough to go spe-
    lunking again, after Laos! I’m afraid, I wouldn’t have the
    courage to do that even after jumping out of a plane.
    Love, Mom

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