Sunday, April 15, 2012

Jeonju Weekend

An awesome friend of mine that used to teach in Korea, Andie, was visiting this past week so we planned a trip to the city of Jeonju and the green tea fields of Boseong. It was a pretty great weekend and nice to get out of Seoul. Kaleigh joined us to make a trio of travelers.
The two-and-a-half bus ride from Express Bus Terminal brought us to the express bus terminal in Jeonju and then a cheap taxi ride later we were in the Hanok Village (한옥 마을). Hanoks are traditional Korean houses with in-floor heating. Although we had planned to stay in a hanok, they were more expensive than my guide book had informed me and way more expensive than the hanok we stayed in at Gangneung. We ended up staying at Jeonju Hostel near the hanok village which was nice, and had beds, which were probably more comfortable than the floor of a hanok. Also, the hostel had once had some Minnesotan guests, so that made me happy.

Saturday morning we wandered around the village and took a bunch of pictures. Unlike other hanok villages, Jeonju's is not just a tourist attraction; people continue to live in the traditional housing. This meant that some paces were inaccessible, but we were still able to peak over people's walls and see their beautiful yards. Jeonju has a lot of flora, and it was great to just wander and get lost in the narrow streets.
Pungnam Gate

Someone's backyard

One of the more interesting buildings is the Jeondong Cathedral. Built in the early 20th century, it was the site of the first Korean martyrs back in 1781. One martyr was decapitated and his head was displayed at Pungnam Gate to set an example.

After our wander, we continued on to Nambu Market (남부 시장) to see all the fresh vegetables and very Korean products for sale. I thought that there was a good place to eat bibimbap in the market, but apparently I was wrong. Time was running short, so we took a taxi to get a bus for the green tea fields of Boseong.

For some reason, I was being a rather bitchy person on Saturday. Andie and I had planned to go to the tea fields way back when, but I did not want to get on a bus for a long journey to see something I had already seen. In hindsight, I realize I was being rude and a bad host, but at the time I wasn't thinking clearly. Although I feel bad about this decision, I split up with Andie and Kaleigh. They continued on to Boseong and I stayed behind in Jeonju and looked around for another six hours.

Admittedly, I regretted leaving Andie. Nonetheless, I had a great time wandering around Jeonju. From the bus station, I decided to walk back to the city center and saw parts of the city that demonstrated the poorer side of Jeonju. While it is definitely a developed city, historically funds have tended to go to Gyeongsang-do rather than Jeolla-do, and I could see it was a little less developed than the cities I have seen in Gyeongsang.

Backyard cabbage
I wandered on to the Jungang Market (중앙 시장) and eventually to the modern Daegu-esque city center. Jeonju is home to JIFF: the Jeonju International Film Festival. It opens in two weeks, but there is still a street in the center with many movie theaters and street art with histrionic themes.

After walking down Film Street, I continued on to what was referred to on my map as the "Street that's desired to walk". A pedestrian-only area, the street was a nice walk, but a little too crowded for actual sight-seeing. At the end of the street was the Jeonju Gaeksa, which is a pavilion built in the 15th century that is now used to just relax and catch up with friends.
Unfortunately, most Korean architecture looks exactly the same
The walk continued through China Town (more touristical than ethnic Chinese) and then a walk along the stream that flows through the center of the city. As I was walking, a man approached me with a friendly smile and joined me on my walk for a good hour as we chatted back and forth in a mixture of Korean and English. It was a very random experience, but I learned about this guy's life and family and we actually talked a bit about politics in Korean, which made me happy. When I was leaving, he told me that I need to study more grammar. He's correct. It is so hard to make a sentence in Korean.
Maybe modeled after Seoul's Cheonggyecheon?
The walk up the stream brought me to Deokjin Park, where there is a lake pond crowded with couples. It was quite a romantic spot. Alas, I was alone.

The walk finished at University Street (대학로). Like any university area in Korea, the area was buzzing, and while before I wasn't that keen on Jeonju as a place to live, I realized I would enjoy life if I lived near University Street. It had all the restaurants and coffee places, both independents and chains, that would make my life pleasantly comfortable. Maybe I should look into teaching positions at Chunbuk University...

My type of street
Overall, it was a good Saturday. I still feel bad that I ditched Andie and Kaleigh, but I'm also happy I had a chance to see more of Jeonju. I might head back, as it is under three hours from Seoul. But next time, I'll make sure to actually spend the night in a hanok!

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