Saturday, May 10, 2008

Jeonju 전주시

Jeonju is the capital of the Jeollabuk-do province, which is located in the south west of Korea. It is known for its food (it's the supposed birthplace of bibimbap), traditional crafts and historic buildings.

I first met Kylie, a soon to be British university student, on Jeju and we traveled together for a day there. I was able to meet up with her again on Friday to go to Jeonju in order to see the Hanok village. The Hanok village is a section of Jeonju city filled with traditional homes. My guidebooks don't even or barely mention this area of Jeonju, but it was wonderful! A lot of the homes have been newly built, but it's still easy to appreciate the simplicity and elegance of the design. There were many small cultural centers scattered within the village; we went to an oriental medicine museum, a handicraft museum, and a traditional wine museum. We also saw a woman making hanji, the traditional paper made from the bark of mulberry trees. After walking around for awhile, we went to a traditional tea house. Walking around the Hanok village gave me a better appreciation and understanding for how people traditionally lived in Korea; I'd add it to my (not yet written) "best things done in Korea" list.

inside Gyunnggi Jeon, a portrait of Lee Sung Gye, founder of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910)
traditional style house
notice all the kimchi pots
a house in need of renovation

A local woman directed us to this famous bibimbap restaurant

some kind of jelly
marinated sweet potatoes- delicious!

Some of the special Jeonju bibimbaps boast over 30 ingredients. I didn't count, but this certainly had more than the normal selection of vegetables.

Damyang 담양군

Damyang, a city famous for its bamboo production, is located in the Jeollanam-do province, the Southernmost province on the mainland. To get there from Jeonju, I had to take a 90 minute bus ride south to Gwangju and then a 30 minutes bus ride back north to Damyang. I went to the Bamboo Museum, which included many examples of how Koreans have traditionally used bamboo, and then I went to Jooknokwon (죽녹원), a bamboo park.

A small road off the bamboo forest walking path led to a "bamboo living experience center". I'm not sure what this experience center is supposed to be, but there were lovely (new) traditional structures, some gardens and a few ponds. I enjoyed this quiet area especially because I was the only person there.

for comparison, a bibimbap in Gwangju


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