Since living in Korea over the past two years, I’ve visited cities like Seoul and Boseong and have enjoyed weekend trips to islands like Jeju and Geoje. But that’s just a tiny fraction of where I’ve been in Korea; there are so many nooks and crannies of this country to be explored! So when I was invited by the Jeollabukdo Tourism Board to visit Jeonju, Buan and Jinan, three cities in the province, I was ready for my adventure!
Jeollabukdo is a province in the south west corner of Korea. It’s still considered a lesser-known locale for foreigner visits but in no time, this area will be on the radar of every traveler passing through Korea. After reading this post, I hope it’ll be on yours, too!
There’s lots to see and do in Jeollabukdo Province. Here are some things you can do when visiting Jeonju, Bunan and Jinan.
Get your culture on at the Hanok Village
Jeonju is a remarkable place that is quite different from other cities I’ve visited in Korea. Not only is it famous for its delicious bibimbap; but it’s also known for its stunning old-style architecture.
There’s no better place to get a cultural experience than at Jeonju Hanok Village. See how Koreans once lived in this unique neighbourhood comprised of over 600 traditional Korean houses called hanok. Walk the cobblestone roads and wander around the preserved village. Make sure you see Gyeonggijeon Shrine, Jeondong Catholic Cathedral, and Pungnammun Gate while you’re there.
Stroll through Nambu Market
Prepare for a sensory overload with all of the sounds, sights and smells of Nambu Market. This large outdoor market has over 800 vendors that sell fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, textiles and other goods. Nambu Market is open in the day time but we all know things get more exciting when the sun goes down! You may even see some performers singing to a dancing crowd!
To escape the market madness, make your way to the second floor to Nambu Market’s Chung-Nyun Mall. This section of the market has the cutest boutiques and eateries.
Sleep at a hanok guest house
Back in Canada, I never considered sleeping on the floor (unless I’m camping in a tent). But when in Korea… do as the Korean’s do! On my first night in Jeonju, I stayed at a beautiful traditional-style guest house called Hakindang House right in the Hanok Village.
The Hakindang is a modernized hanok that was constructed in 1908. Its intended usage was to host musical performances since the owner, Baek Nak-jung, had a love for Korean traditional music. Today, it is a beautiful guest house comprised of a main house (Hakindang), a detached house (Jinsuheon) and a detached outer quarter (Yejiheon).
When you enter the grounds through the big front gate, you feel as though you’ve been transformed back in time to a fairy tale.
Before you enter your hanok, you must remove your shoes and keep them in the front hallway, as per Korean customs. Each room is different and unique in its own way. However, all rooms come with a floor mattress, blankets and pillows (remember, you’re sleeping on the floor – no beds here!), television set, mini fridge and private washroom.
The rooms are nice and warm, which makes sleeping on the floor very comfortable. In fact, it was one of the most comfy sleeps I have had in a while! I think all of the warmth from the floor sent me into a peaceful snooze to la la land!
The next morning I ate a traditional Korean breakfast complete with all the side dishes you can imagine! This is what I love about Korea: the abundance of side dishes to keep you satiated and energized to start the day. Before my group and I headed off for a day of exploring our next city, we participated in a tea drinking ceremony with the owner of the guesthouse.
Interesting tip about drinking tea: pour with your right hand and then pass the pot to the person on your right. Make sure to drink the tea in three sips. Don’t down the drink all at once (that would be too hot anyways).
After that, we were brought into the secret room of the Hankindang House that holds many treasures from past generations. It was really neat to see family heirlooms of the ancestors that once lived in these houses.
Get your hands dirty at Buan Celadon Museum
Celadon is a precious type of ceramic that is known for its beautiful green hue and decorative detailing. The Celadon Museum, which is in the shape of a ceramic bowl, includes three floors of exhibit space plus an experience centre. At the centre is where our group was able to make our own ceramic mug or bowl. I was in awe watching our instructor show us how to take blocks of clay and turn into works of art. It’s definitely not as easy as he made it look but it was fun! I felt like I was in art class again!
Wander through Naesosa Temple
I’ve seen my fair share of temples in Asia and Naesosa is something special. It is one of the only temples in Korea to have never been affected by forces such as bombs, fires or natural disasters. Some of the structures are left completely bare, which is different compared to the bright colours we normally see. This was certainly one of my favourite temples to explore.
Drink tea with a monk
On this trip, I’ve grown an appreciation for tea and learning the cultural significance it has in Korea. At Naesosa Temple, our group had a tea drinking ceremony with one of the very friendly monks. It was interesting to learn about when and why people drink tea and the different batches of tea leaves that are drank at different times of the year.
Take a walk on the rocks at Chaeseokgang Cliff
If you need some time to unwind on your day of sightseeing, then make sure you check out Chaeseokgang Cliff. Walk along the big layers of rock (be careful!), explore some of the surrounding caves and take some lovely sea-side pics!
Watch a spectacular sunset at Pine Island
No explanation needed.
Make a wish at Maisan
Mount Maisan is a popular gem of Jinan among locals and foreigners alike. The main attraction is a mysterious temple, where interesting things have said to happen. There are over 100 large pagodas constructed by smaller rocks that are several feet high. No matter how crazy the weather gets (e.g. heavy winds and rain), the pagodas will not budge. When you walk up the winding steps to the top of the temple, make a wish and leave a coin against the rock. Perhaps your wish will come true!
Taste the grapes at Meoru Wine Cave
Muju is a smaller city east of Jinan where wild grapes, meoru, are grown here. When visiting this quaint part of the province, make sure you visit the Meoru Wine Cave, which houses over 20,000 bottles of wine! Inside the cave you can sip on varieties of wine that is brewed and bottled in Muju. Or give your feet a little taste with a wine foot bath. Yup, that’s right! You can soak your feet in wine (mixed with warm water), which will soothe your aching feet.
When you make it to South Korea, I highly recommend getting out of the bigger cities and visiting Jeollabuk-do province. It’s the perfect weekend getaway to get a glimpse into traditional Korean culture.
Disclaimer: I was invited by the Jeollabukdo Tourism Board to attend a press trip so I can write about my experience with you all. As always, opinions are my own.