It’s been a while since Jihye and I traveled around, so in February, while she had a break between school years, we decided to visit Jeonju. Why Jeonju? My number one reason was hanji. Beautiful, beautiful hanji.
That’s mulberry bark paper, the traditional paper used in Korea, for those not in the know.
Oh, and it has some landmarks, history, a touristy hanok village, and is also known for its food. Plenty of reasons if you ask me! Let’s see what’s in Jeonju already!
One can get to Jeonju a number of ways depending on how much time and money you are willing to spend. We decided to take the slow train (Mugunghwa) and ended up here at Jeonju Station! Since Jeonju is all about longing for the past, it makes sense the train station would be reminiscent of traditional architecture.
Now, if you want to go about and see the sites, you could take almost any of the buses that stop by the station. Or you could just walk. We decided to walk.
While it was a nice walk, it took us an hour or two to actually get where we wanted to go. But the day was beautiful and we had fun talking, so walking we did! We walked through mostly residential areas and schools, the highlight of which was a wonderful little market. Which we forgot to take any pictures of. Ah well!
After a while we finally started approaching the tourist, er, I mean city center. Coming in from the North, we first stumbled across the Jeonju City Hall.
I’m a huge fan of this one. Often I dislike hackneyed attempts at merging modern with traditional, but here I feel it works. The base evokes the Pungnammun gate, mirrored above by another more modern squared ‘gate’ which overshadows the traditional gate roof.
We started feeling hungry so we dropped by Waengi Kongnamulgukbap!
While Jeonju is most famous for its Bibimbap, it is also famous for many other dishes as well. Kongnamulgukbap is one of those. For desert we dropped by one of the oldest bakeries in Korea: PNB! We had to pick up a choco-pie or two.
No really. We only had one each. The rest we brought back to Seoul. Now for the touristy stuff. We dropped by Pungnammun, the southern gate of old Jeonju. Now it’s surrounded by a small traffic circle.
There are tourist walks that go through this area, but one of the things that struck me was not a tourist spot, but rather an open area that served as a local park.
Funky sculpture, younguns skateboarding, and if you squint, plenty of old folk sitting, jabbering and enjoying the day. This was a small look at the locals. But soon we were to dive deeper into the tourist zone.
Guarding the tourist zone was a giant nose turtle!
What sites can you see in Jeonju? Well, there’s the Jeonju Cathedral,
The first cathedral built in Korea. It’s actually called the Jeondong Cathedral, but call it the Jeonju Cathedral and I don’t think anyone will care.
This Romanesque structure is nice on the inside too!
Just across the street was Gyeonggijeon, a national shrine, a complex designed like a palace to enshrine a painting of the founder of the Joseon dynasty, Tae. You might ask why the shrine is here in Jeonju rather than Seoul, the capital. Well I would then answer that Jeonju was his birthplace, thus the shrine belongs there!
To my delight, on the palace grounds there was another giant turtle! This one was guarding something else…
What is that behind the turtle?
Okay, it’s the Taesil of King Yejong. What’s a taesil? It’s a stone structure that houses an urn which in turn houses King Yejong’s umbilical cord. Oh, right, that was a thing in Korea.
Back to the street we find… Oh my. Oh my.
WAY too many tourists. I kinda dropped the ball on taking photos at this point. We walked around, enjoyed the sites, went back to Jeonju Cathedral to see their mass and found ourselves hungry.
Well, all the famous places had lines. Crazy lines. One such place was Gilgeoria. It’s famous for its baguette burger.
Not interested in standing in line for that. We had some spicy pork hocks and ddeokgalbi instead.
We spent the night at a guest house named Doldamjip. The owner was quite kind and they had a large gathering of college freshmen enjoying their week before their first uni classes.
But finding it was terrible. If you’re in the vicinity there is a sign by the street implying where it is. But the actual place there was no sign. You would only know it is the proper house if you actually paid attention to the name. See it literally means ‘stone wall house’. And low and behold, it was the only residence on that street walled off with rough stone.
Ah, Jeonju, we hardly spent any time. We didn’t get to see even a third of what we wanted, but it was a nice relaxing walking sort of day and trip. Too bad I didn’t get to my hanji. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you up to date once I return!