Oh shit you guys, I can’t even tell you how stoked I was for our Jeonju day trip! It almost didn’t happen though because Henry went online to get train tickets the night before and they were all sold out because it’s a popular daytrip destination. But then the next morning, Henry found seats on a different train which were a little more expensive because it’s a sightseeing/tourist train, but YOLO right, guys? I was excited to go to Seoul Station and go down to the train platform! I’m a little kid when it comes to these things so I get easily excited and giddy.
GIDDY ON THE PLATFORM.
Since it was a tourist train, it went a bit slower than the KTX…but it was SO PRETTY!
Highly recommend this train for your slower-paced sightseeing needs.
Chooch was repulsed because I got a pack of chestnuts for my train snack but hey, it’s a popular Korean snack so don’t knock it.
The day started out all gray-skied and sprinkly again but this was really the only day we had available to make this trip so RAIN OR SHINE, MOTHERFUCKERS. I still enjoyed looking at the Korean countryside on the way there. Mountains galore! Henry sat behind us watching boring Middle Aged Man shows on Netflix (probably something about cops) and Chooch alternated between watching dumb YouTube videos and reading. Me? I just observed the people around us (this one guy brought corn on the cob for a snack and he ate it with such confidence that I decided I wanted to live my life like that guy, although it’s been a month and I still haven’t eaten corn on the cob on public transportation. Maybe I’ll whip one out on the trolley this week.
We arrived at the Jeonju train station around 11am and took a taxi (our first Korean taxi!) to Jeonju Hanok Village. It was about a fifteen minute trip and easier than trying to figure out which bus to take.
The Hanok Village here is one of the largest in Korea and if you have learned anything about me from (pretending to) read these Korea recaps, it’s that I love me some hanok. But the main reason why I wanted to go is because it’s also the birthplace of my favorite Korean dish, bibimbap. This was the first Korean food I ever had, decades ago, and likely didn’t even realize I was eating Korean food at the time. I had a friend (emphasis on “had”) whose family friends owned a Korean restaurant here and sometimes we would go so she could visit with the daughter who was around our age. Being a vegetarian, I always got the same thing: bibimbap. I remember loving that it came with a fried egg on top, and that I could NEVER remember the name and always called it “that beebop thing.” Oh, what a long way I’ve come!
It’s funny how exciting a travel day within a vacation can be! There are still thousands of things we have left to explore in Seoul alone, but that city still feels somewhat familiar to us, so getting away for a day to traipse around a quieter, smaller city was thrilling. I was so happy to be there! Even though Jeonju’s hankok village is a popular tourist destination (even for domestic travel), it was still so much quieter and slower-paced than being in Seoul.
Chooch was starting to get his hunger-attitude (note the forced smile) so after a brief walk of the area, we decided it was time to find a bibimbap place, and fast. Luckily, there were a ton to choose from.
Henry was already walking so far ahead of us because we get on his nerves, I guess. THAT’S FINE. It’s easier for us to make fun of him this way. And oh, the fun we made, folks. OH THE FUN WE MADE.
We chose this cute little spot for our bibimbap lunch. Except that Henry doesn’t like bibimbap and got something else.
Doesn’t he just look so wonderful to be around? Luckily, the food really gave him life.
The best thing about Korean restaurants is that even though you typically get your food really fast, you’re given an array of banchan (side dishes) to share before your main meal comes out so any present HANGER is sure to quickly subside almost immediately after ordering.
Plus, the banchan is usually an assortment of kimchi and other vegetables, so it’s not like filling up on mozzarella sticks and loaded potato skins. It’s a healthy yet delicious pre-game! Also, most restaurants give free refills on the banchan too! You’re lucky if you can get free drink refills in most American restaurants these days.
THE MAIN ATTRACTION: Jeonju bibimbap! It was very satisfying and filling without making me feel like I had a rice-brick in my stomach, which is how I sometimes feel after eating bibimbap in America. This one was light and had an interesting variety of vegetables not usually found in Western bibimbap, like fernbrake, a walnut, something that I believe was a gingko nut?
Another must-do in Jeonju is PNB BAKERY! It claims to be one of the oldest bakeries in Korea, but also the originator of the famous choco pies, which have become mass-produced by companies such as Lotte and Orion. North Korea banned them in 2014 and they have since become a hot commodity on the black market. The NK soldier who defected last year requested a choco pie when he was in the hospital and Orion gave him a lifetime supply.
Choco pies are NO JOKE in Korea. We buy boxes of them sometimes at the Asian market here in Pittsburgh, but like anything else, they taste so much better in Korea.
But these ones from PNB? Holy goddamn shit, next level. They are, obviously, unbelievably fresh and come in 6 varieties, and instead of a marshmallow filling like the ones from Lotte and Orion, these ones are stuffed with fresh, smooth cream.
Hold on. I’m choking on my saliva at the memory.
We each bought one to eat while we were there, and then stopped back to get a box before going back to Seoul, and believe me — we tried to make them last as long as possible once we got back to Pittsburgh, but it was tough. These things are legit.
I have to see if I can buy them online…
Hanok Village has lots of soothing fountain and water features throughout, and the main drag is even divided by a little stream which was delightful to walk along. You could also rent these little electric car things which were kind of golf carts but cooler and Chooch was begging us to get one but only because he wanted to drive it and there was no way that was happening. Those things were a hazard with OTHER people driving them, I can only imagine the devastation that Chooch would leave in his wake.
We almost got flattened several times by those things.
We went inside this nice (TOO NICE) boutique of local crafts and tea sets, but pretty much everything was well out of our budget (and probably most people’s budgets, if we’re being honest – Chooch’s eyes bugged out at some of the price tags). There were things in there that I could definitely imagine my grandma making my pappap buy though.
So, you know. It was like THAT.
One of those OMG DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING shops.
It sure was pretty though.
A lot of the shops and restaurants were just in Korean so it was another time when it was helpful that I could at least read it. I’m pretty much map-illiterate (I couldn’t remember the word ‘illiterate’ and had to google it, I swear the only thing that has changed about me since turning 40 is that I’m getting dumber quicker), so I’m always happy to have some other useful skill while traveling, lol. Because aside from that I’m W-O-R-T-H-L-E-S-S.
Just like my daddy used to always say!
Remember when I said I’m obsessed with hanok?
More dumb poses.
Then we were like, “WHAT IS UP THERE I WONDER” because we some people climbing the steps so we followed like lemmings and that is how we exactly found the MURAL VILLAGE which is coming atchu next time, let a girl rest her fingertips. Ouch.