Jeonju. Oh, Jeonju.
When Korea does a grand sale, they really do mean a GRAND sale. Discounts on everything from retail shopping, grocery shopping, accommodation, attractions, even trips and luck for us tourists, we got our round bus trip to Jeonju for free. For FREAKING FREE!!! DAYAM, service!
But, unfortunately because of silly me I screwed up our dates so we departed on the day period were the bus service had a break for New Year’s holiday making us have to pay our trip back to Seoul which was around $16 per person. Never again will I be without a smartphone! E.V.E.R! It’s so easy to forget about time and dates when traveling and definitely a number one rule for me to remember when going traveling from now on. Also, I can’t handle being stuck in Seoul peak traffic (and paying for it). The 3 hour trip easily became a 5 hour bus ride with painful bumper-to-bumper stopping and going blehhh.
For the free shuttle service, you can pick from two places: Jeonju and Busan. In retrospect, we probably should have picked Busan seeing as it is one of the main three places to go to in S. Korea (being Seoul, Busan, Jeju) with more things to see and do as a tourist. But, seeing as Jeonju is only 3 hours, we thought maybe we’ll be awesome and go down the road less taken. Ah hah we’re so travel savvy~
Jeonju is more of a country town city that is famous for its Hanok Village which is located near the heart of the city. It is also host to the prestigious Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) during Spring time.
It seems that everywhere in S.Korea is famous for something. Wherever you are it is famous for either this or that, particularly food. Jeonju is famous for its bibimbap, affectionately called ‘Jeonju Bibimbap ‘and when you tell a local Korean that you went to Jeonju, the first thing they will do is: one, be surprised that you have actually been to Jeonju and two, ask if you have eaten Jeonju Bibimbap (I know because I tried it already :) lol). Resturants in Seoul also use the name Jeonju Bibimbap to show how exotic and special their bibimbap is. That’s how famous it is!
Definite eats for Jeonju Bibimbap is at a place called Gajok Hwegwan (가족 회관).
But you know, Talyssa and I can’t just have a BOWL of food. We planned our first meal in Jeonju to be glorious…
Ok enough food. Time for some sightseeing. Though Jeonju is a city, it is a still a very traditional city. Traditional architecture and landmark buildings from its past is still kept in the modern-scape of the city and are National Treasures. The good thing also is because it’s a small city, all the touristy things are all in walking distance of each other.
Situated just a 5 minute walk is the Gyeonggijeon Shrine which also has an elementary school next door. Since we arrived around the afternoon a lot of kids went to the nearby convenient stores to buy snacks and left me dreaming about how awesome would it had be to go to school in such a picturesque environment!
The Jeonju Hanok Village is the main tourist attraction in Jeonju consisting of 800 traditional “hanok” style buildings! It’s pretty huge and despite the fact it began to rain a bit, it was just so peaceful to walk through the cobblestone streets and looking at the houses. You can find traditional tea houses, museums, restaurants and shops all with their unique exteriors. Some cafes are actually quite contemporary with large glass windows and concrete floors but somehow they just fit in with the rest of the scenery. Gahhh I wish Sydney had something like this. Sure, some of the best coffee comes from small shoebox cafes but seriously, if I have to sit on an uncomfortable milk crate with a burlap sack to rest my behind on while trying to enjoy coffee with the feel of having holey hard plastic digging into my butt, that’s not hip. Or worst, the new trend of sitting like a hobo on the curb on the street 0.0! No.
OK, so now comes the first bad experience of our Jeonju trip. Cause here on this blog, we keep things real. When we were planning our Jeonju trip we were under the impression that the Hanok Village was a site that had been established for a long time. And although there were many buildings which allowed you to go in and have a look see, there was plenty also that had their doors shut and not opened for business as well as a lot of construction of new hanok buildings being built. Some were even vacant for the two days we were there. We aren’t sure if it’s because LNY was coming up, but it definitely limited our exploration and our two day plan really should have been a day. Also, finding a guide or person who can help guide you through the building was very limited to just the souvenir stores. It’s very much a go-alone experience. Which is fine. But sometimes you need a presence to help and the tourist centers are too far and not always opened we found…
So what can you do at a Hanok house? Most let you walk in and have a look around while others have activities like traditional games which the general public can play around with and enjoy the setting.
If you’re pretty handy at arts and craft, majority of the museums and recreation centers are hanji and craftwork related. There is sooooo many craft studios and hanji shops but there is also wine, literary and memorial history museums to explore, as well as “culture centers” to experience traditional activities.
OK predicament number 2! Long before going to Jeonju I researched many of the ways Talyssa and I could experience a tradition Korean tea ceremony and maybe some hanji paper making on our visit but the most hardest thing of all was to try and book accommodation at a Hanok House! OMG so stressful, might. kill. myselffff
When planning to stay at a traditional Hanok (Korean house) you need to book in advance but ALL the websites for Hanok stays are in full Korean. Some sites have an English version but it’s hard to understand plus, they take forever to load the page. Slower-than-a-snail webpage load is death! The Traditional Life Experience Park website doesn’t even work?! Also, you need to pay ONLY with a Korean bank account with no international credit card option and they will not accept walk-ins due to high demands for their rooms. BLAH! Screw that! Plus not all Hanoks have a heating system (ondol) or heater available in all their rooms. So sad :(
Luckily, we decided to go to Jeonju Tourist Hotel. The staff were really friendly and helpful as they could speak pretty good english, rooms are very affordable and are a nice size, totally recommend them for anyone who wants to stay in Jeonju!
The other thing that was sooo disappointing was the cultural activities we wanted to do because… we weren’t able to do ANY of them! The Jeonju Korean Traditional Wine Museum didn’t have any soju making program on the day and all places always have no website reservations available, only bookings made through the phone. Do you know how hard it is to find a payphone in Seoul let alone how to use it if you don’t know the Korean language?! Tourist friendly much?? The handicraft workshop Kkotsugee Gongbang (숙이공방) where I heard you can make Korean paper dolls was no longer there and when we kept on asking people where we could do Hanji making, the places they told us were Hanji product shops that weren’t for classes. Pretty much all the things we thought we could do listed here we couldn’t. WHYYY I don’t understan~d *RANT*
It was that point on that we realised two days was just too long to stay in Jeonju for what we “planned.” Who knows, Jeonju might have changed since the 10 months we’ve been there or maybe it was the winter season… but I think if you definitely want to have a touristy experience, book through a tour.
Gah totally needed to walk off all this bad energy! The walk to the Omokdae was definitely refreshing and rewarded hikers a complete view of the Hanok Village and business area of Jeonju.
I feel like I complained a lot during this post but we did find some gems and good times at Jeonju. I think it just came down to high expectations and over preparing for something (everything!) unexpected. Which leads to Talyssa and Siree being very disappointe~d! We are very similar that way. Maybe because we both had event management experience in the past… STRESS, Y U NO LEAVE ME ALONE?
So through all the ups and downs we experienced, we did walk away with some good memories and also bad. So, we leave Jeonju with this final photo of cuteness…
We used the Free Bus Shuttle to travel to Jeonju. Bookings are essential.
If traveling with normal bus services, an express bus to Jeonju from Seoul’s Central City Bus Terminal is available. Use this website to plan your transport. In “origin,” choose Seoul/all, in “destination” choose Jeollabuk-do/Jeonju-si. Vice versa to find the opposite way back to Seoul.
It comes every 10 minutes and is ₩11000~16000 per person.
Jeonju Tourist Hotel
28 Dagagong 3-ga Wansan-gu, Jeonju city
- Eat Jeonju Bibimbap!
- A single day is suffice. Truly, you can see most, if not all the sites to see in Jeonju in one day.
- Make sure you write everything in Korean or have the address in Korean. As Jeonju is not a major city like Seoul you will find that the locals (especially taxi drivers) will not understand English/ English written Korean Hangul. Maps in both English and Korean will help you navigate around.
- If you think that Google Maps will help you find your way around S.Korea as an non-speaker think again! It also uses full Korean Hangul so even though you type in your address in English Hangul, the street names will still be in full Hangul.
- If you have to catch a normal bus to get to Seoul from Jeonju, there is two bus terminals and only one of them goes to Seoul. Make sure you tell the taxi driver you want to go to Seoul so you aren’t in the wrong place.