It was a hot, very humid, summer day back in 2014 when I decided to plan my first 4-5 day out-of-Seoul backpacking trip in Korea. Being my first trip alone I decided to see most of the south-western, central, and eastern regions of Korea and travel through Jeollabuk-do, Chungcheongnam-do, and Gyeongsangbuk-do. Prior to my departure I received some advice from some Korean friends on what to see, do, and most especially eat during my trip. After much debate from received feedback I chose Jeonju(*located in Jeollabuk-do) as my first destination.
Around the summer period many foreigners/ tourists who come to Korea often visit for short or long-term vacations. Rising international popularity as a year-round destination the Korea Tourist Organization (KTO) in partnership with Korean provinces(i.e. Jeollabuk-do) began to introduce/offer (limited) free transportation services for foreign nationals visiting, touring, or residing in Korea & in-possession of foreign passport.
Discovering all of this information during my Jeonju trip planning I reserved a private coach bus ticket from Seoul to Jeonju(Hanok Village) via the Dongbu Bus Line(*a Jeollabuk-do run bus line). Registration and reservation on the bus website was quite easy and is highly recommended(*please note the Dongbu Bus Line provided free shuttle transportation during my 2014 trip, but currently the shuttle fare price is: 10USD(10,000won)). After confirming my registration I spent the night prior to departure receiving more advice from Korean friends on what to see beyond Jeonju’s Hanok Village.
On the first day of my trip I arrived in Jeonju around midday. Deciding to walk around and see Jeonju’s Hanok Village landscape I visited the visitor center office, picked up a few brochures, and headed out. Unfortunately, mid-July period is also beginning of monsoon season in Korea, so rain showers are frequent. Jeonju’s forecast that day I recall was on and off rain showers. But, the rain was a welcomed gift for offsetting the humid weather that day. In addition, thanks to the rain showers I was also able to tour some parts of Jeonju’s Hanok Village entirely alone, which provided great opportunities for photo shots.
After walking around the hanok village I decided to see the view of the Jeonju from park hills nearby. The view was very pretty. Compared to Seoul’s well-known Bukchon Hanok Village Jeonju’s Hanok Village is more traditional in perspective due to the larger number of preserved hanok residences present. Taking in the landscape I rested at a pavilion for some time and proceeded to make my way back down. Back within the hanok village I walked through the village to visit Namcheongyo bridge(*located on the outskirts of the village).
Built during the Joseon dynasty, Namcheongyo bridge, formerly known as Five Rainbow Bridge possessed a lovely view of the surrounding area and hanok village. Visiting the Namcheongyo bridge due to it being further away from other attractions I returned to the hanok village. The next stop on my itinerary for the day was to visit Jeonju’s Catholic Cathedral. As a Catholic church follower I included the cathedral as a special sight to visit to honor Catholic church’s history in Korea. Upon entering the church courtyard I was quite surprised to see so many Korean tourists taking pictures of the church, which boldly stood out among the hanoks. Once I had finished seeing the church I walked a few blocks more to see Pungnammun Gate (전주 풍남문). Almost as large in scale with Seoul’s Dongdaemun Gate (동대문), Pungnammun Gate, is Jeonju’s last remaining original city gate from the Joseon dynasty.
After seeing Pungnammun Gate I returned back toward the hanok village area to tour Jeonju’s historical archive shrine, called Gyeonggijeon(경기전). Considered a royal archive shrine, Gyenggijeon, is well-known for housing well-preserved portraits of King Tae-jo and other succeeding kings of Korea’s past. Spending nearly an hour walking around and even trying on royal clothing at a photo zone I decided to stop for a late lunch, which ended being Jeonju-styled bibimbap ｡^‿^｡ Once done with lunch it was almost 6pm. Not wanting to waste remaining daylight hours I walked around the hanok village again and decided to window shop for good souvenir stores.
Upon seeing a cute shop with many traditional Korean statues/ dolls I approached the window for a closer look at the display of items on display. Seeing my presence the store owner opened the door and ushered for me to come in and see the store items. At that time my Korean language skills were not too strong for carrying detailed conversations, so I did a lot of pointing toward items I wanted to see up close and hold. After checking out a number of set collections I finally chose one I liked the most and asked for the price. Unfortunately, the price the owner mentioned seemed a slight bit more expansive than the price the same item would cost in Insadong, Seoul. However, seeing as I was the only customer I agreed to pay the price, purchased the set, and left.
After browsing some more, but mostly checking out street food carts, I took out my brochure of the hanok village and looked for my guest house location. My check in time was for the evening. After walking around a few back roads within the hanok village I found the correct street and spotted my guest house. Reservations can be made online, in-person, or by phone. One day prior to my trip I made a room reservation by email.
Once checked-in I was placed into a four-person female room. Being the only female present I had the room for myself, and decided to take a nap before going back out to tour the hanok village at night. After sometime a young Korean woman also checked-in at the guest house and was assigned to the same room as me. Visiting Jeonju from Seoul, like myself, we chatted for a while ~introducing ourselves and talking majorly about our Jeonju trips. It was nice to chat with someone and make a new friend during my trip. Me and Youn Hee, my new friend, exchanged contact details and promised to meet up together back in Seoul. We did not plan anything together in Jeonju as Youn Hee was meeting up with her Jeonju friends and I had my own itinerary.
Later that evening I left the guest house to tour Jeonju Hanok Village one more time. Luckily, I stumbled upon the Jeonju Fan Cultural Center(전주부채문화관) still opened and toured fan gallery on display. After closing time I walked around some more to see the hanok villages night lit streets and returned to the guest house to have dinner. The following morning I got up early to have the free breakfast offered to guests. The guest house owner was very kind and offered me lots of food including some home-grown tomatoes he had just picked that morning(*that I packed to take with me). Upon asking me where my next destination was I told the owner that I would be heading by bus to Daecheon Beach(대천해수욕장) to attend the ongoing Boryeong Mud Festival(보령머드축제). While mentioning the festival to the owner another guest staying at the guest house chimed in that he too was heading to Daecheon too.
Sitting down together I met another new friend named Kevin, a Korean-Australian who was visiting Korea from Sydney. Like me Kevin was backpacking through Korea and had also arrived in Jeonju from Seoul, and just like me he was planning to attend the Boryeong Mud Festival. Deciding to travel together we left the guest house after I said goodbye to Youn Hee, and headed to Jeonju’s bus terminal.
The next stop on the 2nd day of my Korea summer trip was Boryeong/Dacheon on the western coast of Chungcheongnam-do.
(continue my travel story in following blog post K-Travel: Boryeong Mud Festival(보령머드축제))
*Note: All pictures posted are owned by the Yeppunshikan author, usage of these pictures without the owners consent is strictly prohibited.