There were 12 million foreigners who visited South Korea last year and I am quite sure that majority of them only roamed the usual places in Seoul. Say – Gwanghwamun, Seoul Tower, Hangang River, and etc. Yes, Seoul has a lot to offer but wouldn’t it be nice to take that bus down south for a more authentic Korean Experience?
Just a 4-hour trip by bus from Seoul and you’ll discover a friendlier and a livelier Korea! Along with other Wow Korea Supporters, we embarked on a 3D2N journey discovering Jeollabuk-do Province and stuffing our stomach with exquisite meals only available in that region. Day 1 – Gochang October 3 was a holiday – and we all learned our lesson during our first day of the trip. Never travel on a holiday or else, you’ll add two more hours of the usual travel time. We were supposed to participate in a “갯벌 체험 – Mud Festival” but since we arrived too late at the place, we had to cut down the time and only checked the site and took pictures of it. It would have been a fun experience if we had played in the mud and collected shells!
Before heading to our next destination, we ate lunch somewhere along the way. It was quite sad to eat Shell Bibimbap because it reminded me of our cancelled activity. Nonetheless, the food was okay. I have never eaten a Bibimbap with shell meat in it.
The highlight of the day was Gochang’s Hanok Village. We were given a much unexpected warm welcome not only from the people who lived there but also from their mayor as well! Several booths were aligned and we checked every product that they were presenting. The products were purely Gochang produced goods (i.e. coffee, tea, wine) or locally grown fruits (i.e. melon, lotus fruit) – all of which were good for souvenirs.
We had 갈비 (Beef barbeque) for dinner. After which, we checked out the Gochangeupsong Fortress which is very close to the Hanok Village. Actually, this so-called Hanok Village is an accommodation itself. Imagine a hotel which rooms are separated into several bunks – this is exactly how the ‘village’ is. Nonetheless, staying in the Hanok Village was a wonderful experience as it made me felt a little closer to Korean culture.
Day 2 – Gimje
We started the day with a light trekking at Seonunsan Provincial Park. It was very cold in the morning (around 12~15°C) but the temperature suddenly rose to 27~29°C when it was almost lunch! Seonunsan means to practice Zen in the clouds. Well, true enough, while we were inside the thousand year old temple in the middle of a forest – it was indeed relaxing and it made you feel like you are one with nature and one step closer to the sky.
After a breathtaking hike at the provincial park, we ate our lunch at Omgeumjung. Our hunger was sufficed by a three-course lunch. However, it isn’t your most-awaited kind of course lunch. I was always astonished every time the staff served our food. This was because the food were, again, somehow exotic. Almost every meal were raw – raw beef, raw jellyfish, fermented skate, raw shell fish, etc. For a moment, it felt like I was in a reality tv show were I had to bear everything just to survive. Just looking at the fermented skate (홍어), which almost every foreigner in Korea avoid, I couldn’t help but pity myself. I’d rather go hungry than eat those food. I am sincerely sorry for not eating every item on the table that day.
The Gimje Horizon Festival was just 10 minutes away from the restaurant. We’ve been told that Gimje is known to be the place “where the sky meets the land.” The moment we stepped out of the bus, I was really excited to explore the festivity! It was, so far, the biggest and widest festival I have ever been in Korea. There were a lot of booths around the area and most of them are for cultural activities Our team were able to do three of them – making a pendant out of glass, sewing something for a mirror cover, and painting. Oh it was a fun day at the festival! There were a lot of kids playing, family strolling together, and various people having fun despite the prickling heat of the sun. Among the many activities at the festival, there’s this one thing that captured my attention the most – one guy flying this huge number of kites in the sky! One kite connected to another… then another.. then another.. he was probably flying 20 or 30 kites at once! Apart from that, there is also this one million dollar dragon masterpiece that is visible around the area. It looked really magnificent. We joined the torch parade that night and drove to Jeonju. It was a really long day.
Day 3 – Jeonju
This is probably something familiar among my blog followers – Jeonju ‘slow’ city. Despite a year of faithful posting about this enchanting city, this city has continued to develop. When I was here last 2012, there was almost nothing in Hanok Village. But now, there are too much new establishments. Cute cafés, good restaurant, and beautiful structures can be found here and there now. It would be nice to reunite with my Jeonju superstar friends!
We had one mission for that day – it was to try at least five street food in Hanok Village. I never knew Jeonju was famous for street food. I’ve always associated Jeonju with Bibimbap. Suprisingly, the once ol’ Hanok Village has become a mecca of really really delicious street food! Jeonju Hanok Village does not only satisfy your eyes but it makes your tummy so full yet you still want to try every delicacy offered there. It is a sad thought though that the food we’ve tried exist only in that particular area – I wished these kinds of food will reach other parts of Korea. Hopefully, somewhere that doesn’t need a 4 hour bus ride from Seoul.
Some street food are cheap (2,000~5,000원), some aren’t – but one thing’s for sure… it’s really delicious! I mean. Mouth-watering. Yes. Delicious! We ate a lot of chicken barbecue because we were quite hungry. Then we tried:
Cream Cheese and Honey flavored Hodeok (☆☆☆☆☆) Meatball kalbi (☆☆☆☆) fried vanilla icecream (☆☆☆☆) gorgonzola pizza (☆☆☆) octopus ice cream (☆☆☆) Dokk Kalbi (☆☆☆☆) Jeonju Bimbimbap (☆☆☆) and five kinds of tea!! (☆☆☆☆)
There are other yummy treats that you can find in Jeonju Hanok Village. Since I wasn’t able to try everything, you may want to check out other Wow Korea Supporters’ experience or review about the food they’ve tried 😉
Apart from the street food, there is one interesting tip here when strolling around Hanok Village – there’s a place at the middle of the village where you can rent hanboks (₩5,000 for 3 hours). Rent one and freely stroll anywhere with it. Some of the team members of our group did it. I did it. And it never felt more awesome than ever. That’s it for now.
How to get there:
1. Gochang: take a bus from Central City Express Bus Terminal. It is available daily and leaves every 40 minutes from 7 AM to 7 PM (Travel time: 3 hours and 45 minutes).
2. Gimje: take a bus from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal to Gimje Bus Terminal. Bus leaves at 07:40 09:50 12:30 14:10 17:40. Travel time is approximately 3 hours and 50 minutes. Bus fare costs 11,800 KRW.
3. Jeonju: Cheapest way is to take a bus from Nambu Bus terminal to Jeonju Shiwae Bus Terminal. Travel time is around 2 hours and 40 minutes. Price: 12,800 KRW.
1. Gochang Hanok Village – (063)563-9977
2. Benikea Jeonju HansungTourist Hotel