Well, I'm back! We've been dealing with sickness on and off since mid-January and it has taken all my time and energy just to keep everyone alive and the house clean! Anyone else? I feel like whenever I talk to someone about it I find that we are in the same boat. I guess it's just that time of year. We are all finally healthy, though. FINALLY. So we are up for more adventuring this weekend! I am dying to explore a handful of specific places this year and also looking forward to our spontaneous weekend day-trips. All this spring weather has me thinking about our adventures last spring. I hadn't had a proper spring in five years because I keep living in places with two seasons. So I was sooo excited to finally have all four seasons. Spring is so much sweeter when it comes after such long months of cold and bare branches.
Last year around this time we visited Jeonju-si. I’ll be honest: the Jeonju Hanok Heritage Village (JeonjuHanokVillage if you’re looking on Naver) charmed the pants off me. This makes sense as Jeonju (전주) literally means “perfect region.” We weren’t sure what to expect going here. All we knew was that it is a village of some-odd-hundred Hanok houses filled with restaurants, cafés, shops, etc. In reality it is a place where city mouse meets country mouse. It all blends together well and seems to work harmoniously.
Arriving by noon made parking easy. It is located right at the entrance to the village with restrooms, free maps and post cards, etc. They also had some cultural and historical information on the area. If you didn’t know, Jeonju is where a popular Korean dish called “Bibimbap” was created. So, as you would guess, it’s for sale EVERYWHERE. There is a lot of history here.
Walking through the village there are murals everywhere. They are so beautiful and make it more of an experience. I love the way Korea tries to take care of their cities. They are cleaner and have been hard at work making things more beautiful. We skipped the shops at the entrance and walked a while through the maze of houses and colorfully painted alleyways to find some lunch. I’m honestly not even sure where we ate lunch. We were so hungry, the kids were bouncing off the walls and we had only been here a few months at that point. We were still very overwhelmed with the culture and language barrier. Anyway . . . we happened upon a nice place that smelled good, had a beautiful garden-like entrance and calming music. It was exactly what we needed.
We ordered a Bibimbap meal, trying our best to pay close attention to the fine print that was (thankfully) in English. Our meal soon arrived and we loved everything. (Korean food is so good!) After a few bites, though we realized something seemed off with the texture. We did some digging and realized we had accidentally ordered raw beef bibimbap. Totally normal uess your American and used to getting your meat cooked to the FDA standard temperatures. I got a good laugh, The Babe felt nauseous and we decided to eat what we could and get on our merry way. Honestly, it was pretty good. I just couldn’t get over the mental block once I realized what it was. That was the beginning of our adventure.
We, of course, fell prey to the Hanbok rentals. Although, maybe I should say that I did and The Babe humored me. They are everywhere here. We wandered a little while into the maze of hanoks to get away from the eager sales ladies near the front of the village. All the couples are doing it, guys. Just do it. It’s so fun. G didn't want to put on hanbok and I was afraid A would get it dirty and we'd end up paying extra. So, it was just The Babe and I, but the kids didn't seem to mind at all. You can pay extra for shoes and such, but we were happy with the main parts. I took FOREVER to find a skirt. Everything was so pretty! They even sat me down and did my hair in a quick bun with some jewels. I felt a bit pampered which was nice.
We had fun exploring in our rental outfits and feeling like we were a part of the history. We even had a traditional portrait taken. In my opinion this made the experience. It added a little flavor being in Jeonju.
There are quite a handful of historical landmarks to visit and activities to do here, but only a few of the ones near us were currently open. Due to Covid, seasonal or weekday closures I couldn't tell you. If you go anywhere in Korea on a Monday - check the hours, because a lot of places aren't open Monday's. Also, any Korean holiday is going to be suuuuper busy. It's just all a part of the fun. There is so much to do here, though. It took our whole day to just wander around and eat yummy food.
After we turned our hanbok in we decided to head to a different part of the village. We happened upon a wall while we were dressed up and discovered it was a shrine that houses the portrait of King Taejo. He was the first emperor of the Joseon Dynasty. This shrine has been around since 1410, was partially destroyed in the late 1500s and again restored in 1614. It feels surreal seeing everyone dressed in hanbok while walking through the grounds.
Near the front of the shrine we were meandering with A while G was running amuck. As we rounded a bush a man stopped us to chat. We found ourselves surrounded by paparazzi and noticed he was dressed nicely in a golden-yellow hanbok. After a few seconds of confusion and surprise and a quick introduction in Korean by another man, he introduced us with his name and informed us that he is the last Imperial Prince of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897). Once we learned his identity, I'm sure we looked like idiots as we tried to bow politely and address him properly (silly American tourists. Haha). He was very kind and warm and was soon on his way. We wanted a picture but didn't want to offend as this can be frowned upon in some cultures and we were on unknown ground. It was surreal and was the icing on the cake for the day. Later, I googled him and found pictures and information to understand better who he was. King Yi Seok is his name.
We finished our self-guided tour of the shrine and looked upon the portrait of King Taejo with new eyes. We later left the shrine and enjoyed watching the night come alive with people and smells and lights. We didn't know which way to go or what to look at. It was overwhelming and also so alluring.
Smoothies beckoned, so we made our way to a cafe that seemed promising and found ourselves some. If you wander into any cafe or bakery, chances are you'll find smoothies. Its a life saver for families who have picky eaters or if you're wanting something light. We left late in the evening and have been wanting to go back ever since! Crossing my fingers for this spring, but there are so many places to go and so little time! All in all - definitely a day to remember.