Jeonju

While I was hunting around online to find out information before I went to Korea, I came across a promotion being put on by the Korean tourism people.  The Visit Korea Year campaign gives the chance to ballot for free shuttle bus tickets to Jeonju and Busan.

If you are planning on visiting Korea, it's definitely worth checking out.  I just noticed they have discount vouchers for a heap of shops too.  Could have used those while I was there.  And a 30% discount on the trains.

Anyway, I applied and got tickets for a free day trip to Jeonju.  I didn't know much about Jeonju at the time but I figured it was too far to go to Busan just for the day.

I got up bright and early to catch the bus.  At this stage, I'd only got about 4-5 hours sleep for about 3 nights and, the night before the bus trip, someone either at the hostel or nearby had a baby who cried all night.  You can imagine how jolly I was on that bus trip.

It was actually good to sit on the air-conditioned bus for 3 hours and get some sleep. 

Even though I'd had to ballot for tickets, the bus wasn't even half full so I think a lot of people don't know about the free bus.  But I had a seat to myself and that ruled.

Jeonju is the old capital of Korea but, what they don't tell you (well I think they don't tell you) is that most of the "old" stuff is actually pretty new.  By that I mean construction was going on while I was there.

I guess you get the feel of what an olden days Korean village looked like and it'd be interesting if you were really into Korean history. 

All I know about Korean history is from watching Hong Gil Dong which isn't even real history because he was a fictional character (kinda like Robin Hood).  I just remember that all the sons of rich families had to sit a test to get government jobs but they were all dumbarses so paid other people to sit the test for them.


Some of the "old" buildings in the village had museums about aspects of Korean life and some had offices and shit in them.  It was a bit of worry that you might wander into the wrong one.

Oh yeah, and an important aspect of Korea that you really need to know if you travel there.  Don't take toilet paper for granted.  Keep some tissues in your bag.  I found this out the hard way in Jeonju.  Let's just say that tourist map really came in handy.


With what was left of the tourist map, I tried to find my way around town.  It was very quiet and lacking in tourists except for the other people on my bus.

I kinda got disorientated.  Actually I got disorientated a lot in this town.  Even though I posted last week about going to Cat Town, this place felt more like Cat Town in that no matter what direction I walked, I ended up in the same place.

So, after getting lost, I ended up at a bridge.  I couldn't work which bridge because all the street names were different to what it said on my map.  The river area was really pretty though.

At this point, I was tempted to head for one of the makegeolli drinking streets.  There are a few of them in town and you get a big kettle of makegeolli and about 30 side dishes to go with it for really cheap.

But I had my eyes on the prize.  See the most famous dish of Jeonju is bibimbap.  It's where bibimpap originated.

Now, this story gets very sad here.

See, we'd been told on the bus that the town was FULL of bibimap places.  We'd see them everywhere.  That might have been true but buggered if I could see them.

I wandered around in the stinking hot midday sun.  It must have been in the high 30s and everyone else in town was lolling around under shady pavillions.

I knew there was bibimbap somewhere but all I could see was coffee shops and burger joints.

The tourist map had a whole blurb about bibimbap but it was all in English and didn't say the hangul for it.  I could have walked by hundreds of places but, unless they have up a picture or an English sign, how do you know?

Finally, sweaty and tired and close to defeat, I found a place that had a banner outside with a photo of something that looked a lot like bibimbap.  I walked in and asked "bibimbap?" and they indicated a seat at a table.

I took off my (sweaty) shoes and managed to lower my none too flexible body down to the traditional Korean table on the floor with everyone in the place watching and whispering.

The girl bought over an ice cold glass of water, all frosty with condensation forming on the sides. I wanted that glass of water maybe more than I wanted the bibimbap even.

Then the owner came running over and told me they had NO bibimbap.  The girl took the glass of water away and I put on my shoes and headed in the direction he pointed for the place "40 metres down the road".

Of course, I couldn't find it.  I have no concept of 40 metres.

I walked along the road, feeling utter defeat.  This is the home of bibimbap and I couldn't even manage to find it.  Not only useless at finding bibimbap, I was tired and sweaty and dusty and gross. 

At that point, I was very, very close to tears.  Hell, I was close to just rolling up a ball on the side of the road and quivering like a baby.

Screw it, I thought.  I'll just go find one of those burgers places.  Who needs bibimbap anyway?

So I headed along a street when I saw what could have possibly been a mirage... but no, it was real.  Not just a bibimbap place but one that had a big menu with PHOTOS and ENGLISH.

I nearly hugged the entire building.

I got bibimbap, I got cold water.  I got delicious side dishes and I got cute Korean boy waiters.  Ahhh, happiness.




It was the best bibimbap ever!
I want one of the stone bibimbap bowls cos it's not the same if you don't get the crusty rice on the bottom.  I figured though it's better to buy one at the Asian stores back home than cart a stone bowl around with me.

After that, I went to look for the street "that is desired to walk along".  How could you not want to go to a street with a name like that?

If you ever go to Jeonju, don't be fooled though.  It's nothing special.  Just more shops selling BB cream.

I think I drank about 10 iced coffees during the day and yeah, kept ending up at the place with the Catholic church no matter what.

Then decided to check out the traditional wine museum.


At the traditional wine museum, they DON'T give you tastings.  What the fuck?  There were lots of dioramas about making makegeolli but who cares???  I wanted wine tastings.  You'd get strung up in Australia for that kind of thing.

At least I know how to make makegeolli now.  It's dead easy.  I'm going to try it.  By that, I mean I'm going to get my friend who loves futzing around making preserves and home booze to try it and I'm going to drink it.

Traditional Korean house building techniques
All up, I was a bit disappointed with Jeonju.  Maybe I'd have enjoyed it more if it hadn't been so hot or maybe if I'd just sat myself down with a huge jug of makegeolli instead of trying to sightsee.

But I had another 3 hours on the bus back to nap.



More Jeonju photos --> over here.
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