First of all, feel free to skip all the drama and go straight to my watered down, important only deats about Jeonju Hanok Village. But if you have nothing better to do than read what happens to a girl traveling with a period then by all means read the next paragraph.
I wake up to my alarm at 9AM, with the sun peeking out from the curtains. What a surprise, it has been raining in Seoul for the past couple of days. Last night I told the universe that if the rain doesn’t stop, I won’t go. No excuse now.
I drag myself out of bed and tiptoe my way through breakfast and bath. Looks like my housemates won’t be getting out anytime soon. Why couldn’t I just stay in one place like them? By 10:50, I’ve ran out of non-sense chores to slow me down, and anyway check-out time was 11. I go out to bright skies and a rare summer breeze. It would have been a great day for a morning walk, but my hormones wouldn’t let me enjoy it.
I reach the Nambu Bus Terminal with a heavy heart. Do I really want to do this? Leave the comforts of Seoul to parts unknown? I tell myself I can still back out as my feet walk to the ticket counter. I pay W12,500 won for a one-way ticket to Jeonju. The bus leaves in 30 mins. Great, enough time to get food. Plenty of choices at the terminal – bread, hotdogs, donut, rice – but the hormones said: you don’t want any of that. Why did I have to get my period this week?
I got to my bus around 10 minutes before ETD, to find my assigned seat – a lone spot by the window – already taken. I debated for 10 seconds whether I should confront the harabeoji (grandfather) about it, but what kind of heartless person would do that? So I slumped on the first vacant (isle) seat I could find, itching to throw a tantrum. It’s definitely not my day.
I fall asleep even before we left the city, occasionally waking up to endless green fields, throwing longing glances at my stolen seat. I wouldn’t have slept so much if I was seating there. But the harabeoji seemed to be enjoying the view too, that’s nice.
It was only when I arrived in Jeonju that I realized I had no idea how to get to my guesthouse. Why couldn’t they send a map like guesthouses in Seoul do? I looked around for someone to ask, but everyone seemed to be busy on something. I hate being a bother.
I was never one to stay in one place. From the bus stop, I turned right to nowhere. What was I thinking? Wandering around, wasting more time when I only had so little? Well, I wasn’t. I usually… Don’t think.
My stupidity brought me to the tourist center booyeah! The first real ray of light that penetrated my gloomy soul. I met a kind lady who spoke perfect english, and told me a very detailed way to get to my guesthouse. THANK YOU SRSLY YOU SAVED MY SANITY.
Several bus stops later, I found my house for the night. It’s a small but cozy guesthouse near the Hanok Village. I will talk about my wonderful experience here in another post.
With a map and a couple of instructions from the housesitter, I set off for the Hanok Village. But I was still so out of it and I was so confused about everything that I had no idea if I was going the right way.
The sun was slowly setting, and I was partly afraid I wouldn’t be able to see what I came here for. But I was also enjoying looking through all the Hanbok shops and watching people go through their daily lives so much that without even realizing it, I’ve reached the Pungnammun Gate.
There’s a certain sense of achievement in finally seeing in person what you’ve only been repeatedly checking out online for months, and realizing that it’s so much better than any photo. My hormones almost made me jump with joy.
I spot the Jeondong Cathedral across the street, which means Hanok Village, finally.
It was like entering a whole new world.
Everywhere I looked, people were walking around in beautiful hanbok, unlike any I have seen in Seoul. Backdropped by renovated houses of eras past, it really was like going back in time. I was so mesmerized I didn’t even realize I was lining up for a ticket to the Gyeonggijeon Shrine. I debated for 2 seconds whether I had enough time before closing to tour the grounds, then decided I didn’t care, I was getting in no matter what. Best decision ever.
I was soon lost in the magic of the place. Wooden gate after wooden gate, I found myself wondering if I was still in the real world. Day turned to night as I set off deeper into the palace. It was so big that I was alone more often than I wanted to. I have to admit it was a bit creepy, but also a lot of fun.
I was surprised to find that this building was open to visitors, but maybe not as amazed with my courage to enter it alone. I found out later it was called Jeonju Sago, where annals from the Joseon era are kept. The whole time I was up there I thought some Jeongno era warrior would creep up at me in full gear. Needles to say I lasted less than 5 minutes.
By the time I got out, darkness has completely taken over. I wondered once again if I was still in 2017, and vaguely remembered how my older brother used to tease me about time portals (srsly I had a phase when I would ask my playmates every 5 minutes what year it was). But then an ahjeussi called me to tell me it was time to go out (at least that was what I think he told me considering I was the only other person left in the area).
I was almost sad to leave the palace, until I saw what was waiting outside. The heavy feeling I have been carrying since I woke up was completely forgotten as I stared at the magic before me. My journey back in time was far from over.
I’ve read a lot of blogs talking about day trips in Jeonju I forgot to consider, it has a nightlife, and it’s amazing.
Again I was amazed at how Koreans spend a ‘normal’ night. It was a Thursday but families were hanging out as if it was a weekend. No wonder they have such strong bonds. I wondered whether they were in Jeonju on vacation, or if they actually lived there. Do they love it, living in such a slow city, far different from the country’s capital? I hoped they know how lucky they are, to be far away from from all the hustle and bustle of the metro.
I walked until there there was almost no one there to walk with. Not because I was scared, but because I wanted to have time to bond with my guesthouse. That was my greatest mistake. I still cringe every time I remember, that if only I walked a little farther, I would have reached Omokdae, the hill I really wanted to climb but didn’t know where it was (why are useful blogs not available before my trips?).
On my way back, I passed by a small gathering of people. Apparently there was a street performance happening. His voice was so beautiful I wondered if I’ve heard him somewhere, I Can See Your Voice? Fantastic Duo? I stopped by for a bit and enjoyed watching one of the toddlers watch the performers up close, too close actually, to the embarrassment of her father haha! But we all thought she was adorable.
I head back to my guesthouse around 10pm, debating whether I should find a restaurant serving bibimbap, which originated from here and supposedly tastes the best here. But the hormones said no, go straight home.
I spent a lovely night, mostly alone at my guesthouse’s quiet lounge. My hormones finally gave up to the temptation of bread and coffee. I’m still not sure if we were allowed to get those beyond breakfast but there was no one there to tell me no so I snuck some. Sorry!
The next day I woke up a bit late, but with plenty of time to enjoy breakfast. I always allot time for breakfast it’s my favorite meal of the day FYI.
The plan was to leave before lunch for Suncheon but I was distracted by the shopping street haha! I bought just a few irresistible items (because I was not ready to bring out my duffel bag yet) then headed to the bus stop. Goal was to take the 1pm-ish KTX to Suncheon. But apparently buses to the train station are not as common in this part of South Korea, I had to wait for around 30 minutes. Good thing there was another train leaving at 2:30-ish.
I wonder if there’s still anyone reading at this point even I am tired of writing this never-ending story. Almost there!
So anyway I got off at the wrong bus stop, which was a park in front of Jeonju Station. A lucky mistake! There were speakers everywhere and I felt like I was starring in a music video as I made my way to the station.
Because I had some extra time I finally got to taste Jeonju’s famous bibimbap! Not even the authentic one, just from a fastfood but it was still deliciousssss.
With my tummy finally happy, I made my way to the platform. It was my first time taking KTX after watching Train to Busan, and I couldn’t shake up the feeling that a zombie would creep up anytime haha! It was quite strange really, especially when passing the tunnels hahaha! Other than that, it was a very beautiful ride.
I missed a lot of important sites in Jeonju, but apart from Omokdae, I did not have any regret. Traveling back in time was a reprieve that my heart and soul badly needed, and I couldn’t have picked a better place to kick off my soul searching other than this so-called Slow City.
I wonder if anyone was bored enough to read up to this point. Let me know, will you?