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Thursday, October 11, 2012

WKB Tour 2012 - Historic Jeonju, Days 1 & 2

Front to back, left to right: Me, Dorothea, Annabel, Ema;
Maria, Gisela and Yeon enjoy dinner in Jeonju

In January I was selected to contribute to the second round of the Korea Blog, and in September my blog was chosen for a special reward trip! I joined six other Korea enthusiasts known as the WKBs or "Worldwide Korea Bloggers" on a wonderful trip through Seoul, Jeonju, Seonyoudo, and Gunsan. Today, I'd like to tell you about our trip through the historic Jeonju city in North Jeolla province.

After our welcoming dinner in Seoul on Thursday evening, our WKB Team assembled on Friday morning at the Nambu Bus Terminal. Along with our Korean tour guide Grace, Annabel and EmaGiselaMaria, Dorothea and I quickly our photographer Han and two-man camera before boarding our bus to Jeonju.



We arrived in Jeonju just in time to lunch on the region's famous bibimbap, or mixed vegetables with riceWe were joined there by a local bibimbap expert - the art of Korean food is serious stuff! He told us that Jeonju is famous for its traditional foods due to their perfect blend of colours, taste, aroma, and texture. Of course after he told us that, we couldn't wait to start eating. We happily sampled the hanjeongsik, a spread of up to 30 side dishes that cover the table!

Eating until we could eat no more, we pried ourselves from the chairs to waddle off for a guided tour of Jeonju's famous hanok village. Our guide explained that a hanok is a Korean traditional home, known for its beautiful sloping tiled roof and airy architecture. The Jeonju hanok village is comprised of over 700 hanok homes that sit on picturesque cobblestone streets.


Overlooking Jeonju's hanok village, made up of of over 700 traditional-style homes

Our guide led us to National Jeonju Museum and palace and the elegant Jeondong Cathedral.  We also snacked on some patbingsu or red-bean shaved ice from a trendy local spot before saying goodbye to our guide. 


Jeondong Cathedral, one only three cathedrals in Korea
Enjoying your patbingsu, ladies?  :)



We then had the chance to try some experience programs. We hand-dyed some handkerchiefs and then we learned about the traditional tea-pouring ceremony, one of my personal highlights from the trip. 


We hand-dyed handkerchiefs in the traditional way, using natural materials 




All that creativity worked up an appetite, so we enjoyed a bimibap and galbi dinner, and we toasted to our health with makkeolli or rice wine, and moju, a local drink known for its smooth, sweet taste. 





We finished off our day by watching some pansori. Pansori is an evocative musical performance that has been named both a Korean National Treasure and a UNESCO World Heritage art. We listened as the pansori singer lilted, bellowed, and whispered her way through a melodic story to the beat of a single drum. After that, Asif finally arrived and our group was complete. A few of us went for a Jeonju-style nightcap, enjoying more makkeolli and yet another round of hanjeongsik. How do Koreans stay so thin with all this delicious food around??? 


The pansori singer uses her emotions to tell a story

Bellies full again, we walked to our accommodation. We spent the night in our very own hanok home, Hakindang. We slept on the cozy heated ondol floor, surrounded by darkness and silence in the center of the city. In the morning, Hakindang's owners gave us a tour and showed us into their own home,  which was built with the same wood and by the same designers who built Gyeongbukgung in Seoul! The wood came from Baekdusan, the most famous mountain on the Korean peninsula. Their home was a treasure trove and their attic neatly filled with various curiosities and Koreana. The antiquities were a delight to behold before bidding our hosts farewell.


Our homestay, Hakindang
Our home-stay offered serenity in the city

We set off next for the Jeonju Film Studio. Led by the studio manager, we learned how movie sets are built and how special scenes such as raining scenes are shot. We got to see sets being built and even play with some of the props and costumes from famous Korean movies! We posed with catapults, thumbed through original scripts, and tried on some costume pieces. 
Out and about at the Jeonju Film Studio complex
Dorothea tries on some costume pieces

We stopped for one last coffee break before continuing on to our next destination, Gunsan city and Seonyou Island. As we left Jeonju, I quietly began plotting my return. I know now that this beautiful city has so much more for me to explore, and that one weekend simply wasn't enough.


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