Hanok Maeul, February 2015. One of my favorite things about travelling is when you rock up in a wildcard location you don’t know much about, an unknown quantity; a place that’s somehow remained under-the-radar with international travellers despite having so much to offer. The Korean city of Jeonju, completely unknown to me prior to my trip, definitely falls into this category. As the capital of Jeollabuk-do province, Jeonju is famous for being the home of Bibimbap (a tasty rice, meat, egg and vegetable concoction). But the city’s major draw is its historical folk village and the hundreds of hanoks (traditional wooden homes) that line the sleepy streets. Hanok Maeul is Jeonju’s charming historical quarter and Koreans come here from all over the country to unwind and experience a simpler way of life.
Hanok Maeul Bakery, February 2015. Jeonju is all about chilling out. There are more bicycles than cars; things don’t get started until late morning and in the evenings the place can feel like a ghost town. Even the bakeries take a stripped down approach, with their wooden shelves of sparse, uniformed nibbles. Ordering a heavenly chocolate mint latte, I decided on a breakfast of fried cheese sticks, sweet potato bakes and pumpkin balls. I have no regrets!
Girls In Traditional Costume, February 2015. Traditional Korean costume, known as Hanbok, is also a big thing in Jeonju. Characterised by vibrant colours, straight lines and pocketless seams; there were plenty of locals walking around showing off their beautiful outfits. I also spotted several rental shops where tourists can try something on for themselves. The going rate in one store was $10 for about three hours! I bumped into these girls outside one of the shops and they were more than happy to pose for a photograph, on the condition that I send one of them a copy by email.
Jeonju River, February 2015. This was my first ever selfie. I’d sworn that I’d never do it, but then the moment just felt right. I’d taken a walk out to the edge of the historical centre to check out the city river and suddenly there was nobody around. It was a touch chilly and the colours were equally crisp and wintry. It was one of those times when I suddenly realised where I was; that I was a long way from home in a place I never thought I’d see. Living the dream basically, as clichéd as it sounds. It’s so cool that I was able to bottle that moment, looking back on it always makes me smile.
Jeondong Catholic Church, February 2015. If someone had asked me to make a list of stuff I wouldn’t expect to see in Jeonju, it might read something like this:
- A gang of redheaded freckled bagpipers.
- A row of igloos.
- A statue of Kim Jong-un.
Obviously, such a list could go on and on. And while I was at it, I could easily add ‘a perfectly preserved early twentieth century redbrick Catholic Church’. And yet, sure enough, there it stands, the brainchild of a French missionary who built it to honor the city’s Korean Catholics executed between 1781 and 1803. Opened in 1914, Jeondong Catholic Church boasts a mix of Asian, Romanesque and Byzantine styles and is closed to the public except during mass.