Located in Jeollabuk-do, Jeonju was the birthplace of King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty, making it the spiritual capital of the city. While there covering the Food Festival, Jo and I decided to take in some sights and stayed one extra day. What better way to explore the city than to make it a day trip, enjoying the local culture and food. Unlike most of our day-trips, this one didn’t require traveling long distances between locations. Everything was located in or around the Hanok Village, making our major mode of transportation our feet.
The Jeonju Gaeksa is a large complex near the Hanok Village. Like many traditional homes, there are several rooms with central meeting areas for people to congregate and relax. This facility was used during the Joseon Dynasty to house visiting officials. Today, it’s a popular meeting location for locals and it’s easy to see why. The decks in front of the guest rooms provide shade in the summer and the enclosed walls make it easy to gather warmth in the winter.
From there we headed to the southern gate of the city: Pungnammun. While like other fortress gates, the interesting things about this one is that it is the only one left remaining in the city. Unfortunately you can’t walk in the gate, so most simply view it from across the street. It’s a two-story structure with a circular enclosure. Visitors to the city would enter through the outer doors and wait in the inner chamber before being allowed access to the city.
It was noon, so that meant time for lunch. This sequence of the video was actually shot second, since the restaurant was located a few blocs from the Gaeksa. While the restaurant was listed on the Hanok Village Map, the directions weren’t that clear and we needed a local’s help to actually find it. Thankfully, we arrived at the restaurant just in time, for by the time we were nearing completion of our meal, the line was out the door (as seen in in the video).
Jeonju bibimbap is the only variety that is considered royal cuisine. King Taejo, who founded the Joseon Dynasty, wanted a signature dish from his hometown to be prepared him. What makes this meal special is that it’s made with over 25 ingredients. When I traveled to Jeonju with Hana Tour, we had the chance to make this dish, and let me tell you – it’s bloody hard to get everything looking just right. This particular restaurant did it perfectly and that effort carried through to the taste. It came at a price, since the traditional bibimbap was W12,000 per bowl.
Catholicism came to Korea and the Christian faith has never left. When one loos around today, you’ll see scores of churches. On my block in Dongtan there are three. However, the Jeondong Cathedral in Jeonju is special. Even at the turn of the century, Confucianism was the state religion. Any variation from the norm was not accepted. So to have a fully operational Catholic church in the spiritual capital of the nation was a big deal. Many of the church leaders were killed for their faith during this time. An interesting fact about the building though: its cornerstone is from Pungnammun.
Talk about a massive complex! The Gyeongijeon facility, in the heart of the Hanok village houses the last enshrined portrait of King Taejo. During the Joseon Dynasty, when a king passed on, their picture was enshrined in memorial. At one time, five pictures of the fabled king were positioned throughout Korea, but the Japanese burned them down during various incursions. This is the last one to have survived. The entire facility is designed to be a Confucian shrine so that visitors can pay their respect to the founder of the Joseon Dynasty. When talking the grounds you can sense the history and on this fall day, it looked beautiful.
Our final stop for the day was the Omokdae. Of all the places we visited this day, this was my favorite. The pavilion was built to host state dinners with King Taejo returned home. Now it sits overlooking the Hanok Village, surrounded by Ginkgo Trees. Jo and I arrived at the right time, to see the leaves in full splendor. Because of its location, many enjoy today climb the small hill and picnic around the pavilion.
I had a little trouble ending the video here, since it was quite noisy. The end shot was taken a half dozen times before I got one that worked. In fact, we also shot one more with Jo’s camera, since I grabbed the wrong battery and had used it all by the time we got to this location. That will teach me never again to only bring one battery. I should really know better!
Of the places in the video, what’s your favorite? Have you been to Jeonju? What do you like to visit when there?