Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Ancient City of Jeonju

I took my second trip outside of Seoul. This time to Jeonju!

Jeonju is known for being a tourist city because of it's traditional buildings and food. It is 1/3rd the size of San Francisco but has 4/5th its population.

Starting from Seoul

It's a +4 hour commute from my house in Siheung so I had to leave at 5:30am.

Let me tell you, it is weird walking around my neighborhood at this time. I felt like I was running away from home. Although the streets seem deserted, there were a few people around.

My bus arrived at Bucheon Station. I've NEVER seen this station so empty.

At Sindorim transfer station. Still many people around at 6 in the morning;
they were either workers or hikers.

Finally, I arrived at my destination to take the express bus:

Korea in 8-bit

It's very strange to see the stations so empty.

There were NO foreigners in Korea this early in the morning. Some Korean woman actually asked me for directions.

The bus station (I have no pics) was a bit strange. Everything in Seoul is so modern and high-tech, but the bus station felt like it was out of the 1990's.

I would later meet my friend. We got our tickets, and it was time to depart. Tickets were only $11 each.

On the bus ride, I ate an o-musibi. Its a Japanese rice triangle stuffed with chicken + mayonnaise.
Very delicious.

Road trip! In the background are apartment buildings. I still find apartment buildings odd looking in Korea.

Jeongan Rest Stop

Halfway during the +3 hour bus ride, it made a stop at the Jeongan rest stop. This rest stop was the only piece of civilization around the area.

Parking lot.

Tons of people who need to take a stretch.

Many food places.


Like the bus station in Seoul, this place had a strange 1990's feel to it. Using the bathroom was also a strange experience. Let's just say I've never seen so many men and toilets in a single bathroom (baseball games included).

But it was nothing compared to the slow and long lines to the women's bathroom: 

After looking around a bit, we decided to buy a snack and then head back to the bus.

I don't know what the Korean name for this was so I'm going to just call it "potato balls".

On the road again. My friend said this was a giant marshmallow farm.

Taking the bus is fun when you have so many beautiful views.

Jeonju - Samcheon Area

+3 hours later from Seoul, and we were finally in Jeonju!

A preview of what was to come.

If this is just the toll booth, imagine how the rest of the city will be like!

It's like Jeonju's version of Seoul's Cheonggyecheon walkable stream.

Finally, we got off the bus. This station also had a 1990's vibe to it:

We walked around the neighborhood to look for a nice coffee shop to rest at. This area definitely had a "small town" feel to it. I loved it. It was a change of pace from Seoul.

This street made me think of Mission Street in San Francisco but with a 16th and Valencia vibe.

We settled on this place. The cashiers (two women) seemed happy that I could speak some Korean to them.

White mocha w\ cream. I almost always get this or green tea latte.

Drink up!

Next, we met up with another friend. She is a native to Jeonju and was going to act as our tour guide for the day. We headed for this restaurant:

You have to take off your shoes and sit on the floor.
I guess that's fun, but I always leave these places with aching legs and back.

Korean dish called Gamjatang. It was my first time eating it. Very good. My friend claimed it was the best.

The mess we made.

In one of the rooms, they had a bunch of mini arcade machines for children to play.
I wanted to play Tekken on the far right, but I would've looked silly.

Next, we headed to a nearby park\lake for a nice walk...

The park overall had a very natural and unkempt feel to it. Some parts of it looked very beautiful while others reminded me of someone's unmaintained backyard.

Makes me think of America, somewhere out in the countryside.

Beautiful shot of the plants with apartments in the background.

Ditto to this shot.

Nearby, I thought I had found a go kart racing course, but it was just a driving school lot.

That strange building on the right was a wedding hall.

Picture of my friends.

Now picture of the guys.

After, we grabbed a taxi and headed off to see the ancient city!

Click "Read more" below to see the ancient city...

Jeonju - Hanok village

Off the taxi, this was the first thing I saw...


Outside the village was a very popular Catholic church:

Many Koreans tell me this church is so amazing, but to me, it seemed like a normal church you'd find in San Francisco. What I really wanted to see was the Korean village!

Bibimbap restaurant just outside the village. Yes, this was just a restaurant!

Entrance to get in. Adult admission: $1!

Inside. Pathway and gate to more stuff.

Then we stumbled across a bamboo village, and I knew I HAD to take a picture there...

Ninja pose!

Suhyeon and Sah-moo had a more "normal" pose.

Pathway to more stuff.

You entered this building from under it.

I thought I was going to fall down the steps or hit my head. Inside was a mini-museum.

Next area was a large park...

Even the bathrooms were beautiful.

Out of focus shot of museum. Was very interesting but no cameras were allowed inside. =(

Back to the park area...

Information center?

The last shot of the village before exiting.

Jeonju - Taekwondo

Just outside, a crowd was gathered for a Taekwondo show.

Let me tell you, it was amazing! They were doing all sorts of insane jumps and stunts...

He did a flipping kick to break the board in the air.

This was epic.

And this too.

I joked to my friends that they were going to do the Gangnam Style dance. But moments later, that's EXACTLY what happened...

At the end, I asked to take a picture with them...

It looks like I'm their instructor.

Jeonju - Streets

Next, we took a stroll through the nearby streets...

This is just a convenience store.

Even the flowers look perfect.

Almost everyone around were Koreans.

The streets were so beautiful, clean, and unreal. I felt like I was walking through a theme park. Korea Land!

We took a brief detour to some parking lot area.

The last two shots make me think of a 90's video game level.

Back to the main street.

At the store with the 꿀타래 sign, a crowd was starting to build up.

I didn't understand what he was saying, but he was quite the showman.

We were reaching the end of the street and the base of some mountain... we decided to climb up these steps.

Jeonju - Mountain

Sorry, I don't know what the mountain was called, but the views were amazing...

I felt like I was in a movie.

The mountain pathways itself were also beautiful.

This is what is at the top of the mountain.

Structures like these are usually closed-off in Korea, but this one wasn't.

You have to take your shoes off in the front.

View from the pad.

Another view.

This was a great place for a group shot.

Time to leave...

...and head back down the mountain.

Jeonju - Final Stroll

Hungry for dinner, we walked down the fancy street again...

This restaurant was recommended to us:

No sure why it was called "Veteran".

I should have taken a picture of the inside.
It felt like the dining area and half the kitchen were one in the same.

Noodle soup with boiled egg bits. Its unique spices made it especially delicious.

After eating, we spotted a crowd gathering...

...they were listening to street performers. These students were performing for charity.
The same streets now lit.

Goodbye! My last look at the beautiful street.

Returning to Seoul

It was time to make the +4 hour trek back home...

Goodbye Jeonju!

1.5 hrs later, a night return to the Jeongan rest stop.

Hours later, I was in Gwangmyeong and just a 20 minute bus ride away from my home.

Back home to the busy lights of Seoul.

Jeonju was an amazing experience! Its sights, sounds, food, and atmosphere were remarkable. If Seoul is fast and modern, then Jeonju is relaxed and traditional. I will always remember Jeonju as a temporary escape from my second home of Seoul.

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