Jeonju, S. Korea

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By Imokdae entrance

I have been asked countless times by native Koreans why on earth I like Korea, and why I would choose to live in its capital city.

I just took a three-day trip to Jeonju, famous for being both the ancient birthplace of the Korean Joseon royal dynasty, and also the creation of delicious Bibimbap. This mini trip neatly sums up what is generally attractive about Korea to expats like myself who originate from different cultures.

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Getting lost in the back alleys in the Hanok Maeul

I will focus on a few Jeonju highlights that I feel reflect Korea as a whole, and which keep me returning to this location year after year.

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Jeondong Catholic Church

I traveled to Jeonju with a Korean friend called Sue who had never visited Jeonju before. She wanted to discover what all the fuss was about  and why a Brit would bother visiting this place for a third time! We booked a hostel through Agoda (Jeonju Guesthouse Gosadong) in Gaeksa, the young, trendy part of town about a fifteen minute walk from the Hanok Maeul.

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I discovered that my hostel-stay owner, Mr. Che, Wo-Seung, is a talented and active sculptor and skilled in fine art.

I later discovered that our hostel owner, Mr. Che, Wo-Seung, is a famous, talented sculptor who studied in Milan for seven years, and while chatting together, he kindly gave me literature with prints of his art at various galleries.

The entire trip was blisteringly hot and humid, and Sue and I seriously spent most of our time dodging being outdoors. We met up with my University friend, Jo who lives in Jeonju and she watched Sue and I devour our lunch/dinner in a what only could be described as cave-women who had been deprived of food and lacked local decorum! Korean food is a huge attraction for westerners with an adventurous streak! We ordered dakgalbi and cold soba noodles!

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Way to many things to look at…

Later, we headed to the local shops, also one of my favourite pastimes here. We watched Sue purchase almost every cute scarf design available in order to gift these to her mum, and Jo and I took stupid pix posing with shop items to entertain ourselves.

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Shopping

 

 

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View inside the Catholic church

We meandered into the nearby pretty Catholic church entrance, pretended to be interested in the running church service and quickly made our escape.

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Painting hanji (Korean traditional paper) fans in a local crafts shop

We then stumbled upon a store where clients were setting petals onto local hanji (paper) fans to create custom designs while Sue bought another scarf. We watched kids play robots, in what reminded me of a reenactment of the bad Robocop from the Hollywood movie!

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Intense entertainment for kiddiewinkies!

We picked up some local makgeolli and headed to our hostel in Gaeksa with the intention of freshening up before heading out to lap up the local bar scene. Jo and I swung our legs upside down against our dormitory wall, and soon, we started drinking and chatting about cultural differences, fellas, Korean obsession with age and things like that. Jo soon discovered that she was allergic to some ingredient in her makgeolli, developed tingly lips and a puffy eye, and we had to leave quickly so she could get a shot at the local hospital!

 

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The Fan gift shop, beside the Fan Museum

Sue and I, however, soldiered on and headed to Gaeksa to discover the lack of night life. I joked with Sue, suggesting that we return to our local neighborhoods in Seoul to find some action. We came across a Union Flag, did a mini photo shoot posing beside it, and finally, grabbed some drinks at the local 7-eleven and went back to our hostel to drink on the patio. Sue hated the banana flavor makgeolli, but I thought it was okay. Several mosquito kisses later, we went to sleep.

The following day, Sue and I charged toward the Hanok Maeul as early as we could (around noon or so). Jo was busy on a day trip with her family so Sue and I were left to our shenanigans. We went directly to the Gyeonggijeon, located near the entrance of the Maeul as we wanted to see the famous portrait of King Taejo.

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Gyeonggijeon… located at Taejo-ro, contructed in 1410, and reconstructed in 1614

The setting looks like traditional Joseon dynasty palace grounds, and this particular venue attracts plenty of Korean ladies dressed in hanbok traditional dress who all want to get their pretty photos taken in a picturesque setting. I love to visit places like this. The  hanok buildings are often restored and provide a little snapshot of the past, so visitors (who are not consumed with taking selfies) can imagine what palace life might have been like several hundred years ago.

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The Gyeonggijeon library; now used to showcase the annals

Ironically, because the weather was so hot, pretty much all the ladies in hanbok had scowls on their faces while they took their selfies, and this was presumably because beneath these rented hanbok, they were sweating buckets! I felt bad for them!

We popped into the ancient library which now houses the Joseon annals, concise chronological historical records of  the Joseon Kings’ affairs. We also viewed the Taejo portrait copy, one of only two that exist today. The other is located in North Korea.

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The Royal Portrait Museum, located at the Gyeonggijeon… the museum has several royal portraits and displays of procession carriages, royal clothing and other items

Thereafter, we visited the Royal Portrait  Museum located under the main hall. It had several portraits of some of the well-known Joseon kings, as well as royal items that spectators can gawk at.

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Talented street artists…

Later, we visited a fan museum, watched artists draw clients’ portraits and we recovered in a local traditional restaurant packed with people. We had what is probably the best Bibimbap I have ever eaten and ordered Pajeon seafood pancake and makgeolli to go with it.

 

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Bibimbap at Gogung Suragan 고궁수라간 Eunhaeng-ro 31
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Fantastic restaurant for bibimbap in the Hanok Maeul: Eunhaeng-ro, 31/ 은행로

 

 

 

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Street art, in the Hanok Maeul alleys

 

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Recuperating in the Soju Museum courtyard… the sun and humidity was pretty crazy!

received_944382845685183We then wandered into pretty alleys with interesting street art, and stopped by the local soju museum to rest. Later, we headed once again for an air conditioned cafe (The Story cafe) to recover. It had a pretty brick wall finish, and I tend to visit this cafe on every visit as the location is quite central and convenient. The Art Market nearby was our intended destination. but the insufferable humidity made the tiny ten-minute walk there seem like climbing Mount Everest. The  Market is located by Pungnam-mun gate, and on the second floor of the Nambu Market. It was definitely worth the walk.

 

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Art Market 청년몰, near the Cathedral at the Hanok Maeul entrance… this art market on the 2F featured handmade crafts and art workshops.

Local artists sold their stuff there in tiny, wee shops… stuff like canvas bags with crazy designs, Thai-looking quits, jewelry, purses, workshops for painting designs on sneakers and clothing, and lots of cute restaurants and cafes. It reminded me of Hongdae. We finally visited PNB before Sue caught her bus back to Seoul.

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PNB choco pies..Probably the most famous shop in Jeonju!

When I returned to my hostel, I discovered I had two new roommates, a Korean teacher and a Korean police woman. I thanked the teacher for ‘warning’ me about her friend, so I would be on my best behavior! They seemed thrilled to share a room with a Brit. It was kinda funny.

Next day, Jo took me directly to Imokdae lookout, on the outskirts of Omokdae by Girin-daero.

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Omokdae lookout location and shelter, built during the Taejo period. It remains a popular place for locals to take afternoon naps during the crazy-hot summers.

Located there was a traditional shelter, dating to the early beginnings of the Joseon dynasty. People were sprawled out, napping, sharing picnics and staring at their phones. It was very cool, and located at the top of a mountain.

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Relaxation at Imokdae

After a rest, we crossed a nearby bridge and visited Jaman Mural Village. The paths snaked around the mountain face, and cafes and street art on the walls were dotted all along.

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Fantastic street art: Jaman Mural Village

We posed by a few murals and headed back into the Maeul.

 

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Jaman Mural Village… pretty painted alleys with adjacent cafes embedded in the mountain

We desperately sought a restaurant with cold soba noodles and mandu dumplings before picking up my last few gifts for friends before heading back to Seoul. We finally said our last goodbyes at a large, modern cafe with traditional decor.

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Goodbye tea with Jo

I’ll see you in a year’s time, Jeonju and Jo, but never again in August!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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11 thoughts on “Jeonju, S. Korea”

  1. Wow! I loved reading about your trip! Wish I was there with you, but maybe without the unbearable heat! Lol..
    At least with your blog I get a picture of what you are experiencing out there!
    would love to visit you whilst you live in South Korea
    Great blog, loved it! 😄👍

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  2. Wow! This review reminds me of our trip 🙂 Though it was a short trip, I was really happy to be with you and Sue!!! Especially, the fact that we met in Korea was meaningful to me. The world is so small, isn’t it???haha Next time, I will go to Seoul to see you and Buyeon😋

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  3. Looks like you had a nice little adventure. You use a lot of Korean words when you mentioned the food. I’m not familiar with these terms, so I think it would be an interesting idea to write a blog post about these foods, with a photo alongside. You can help advertise the cuisine of South Korea to people like me who aren’t familiar with it!

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  4. Jeonju is one of my favorite cities in Korea. Beautiful Hanoks and great food. I haven’t been at the church though. From your pictures it looks nice so next time I’m definitely visiting.

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  5. August is so humid and hot here in Korea but this spring and autumn would be a great time to be in hanbok. Good to read about your good time in Jeonju. And wasn’t it nice to bring a local tourist with you?:-)

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  6. Jeonju is the most underrated place for a weekend away! I love the hanok village and actually got to stay in one back in December. I need to go back and try those choco-pies, though!

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  7. Cool pictures!! We are heading to Jeonju either this month / next month, so your post has been really useful. I love makgeolli so I can’t wait to get my hands on some when we visit, those choco-pies look delicious too! Glad you enjoyed your trip, despite the weather!

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  8. I still haven’t been down there, but definitely need to go. It’s great that you were able to take a Korean friend that hadn’t gotten the hype before. I’ve found that I’ve seen far more of Korea than most of the Korean friends I have and that’s sort of funny. There’s so much to see here… but no one does it!

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