Jeonju Style

Since I’m leaving in, oh, about two weeks, I thought it was high time I told you guys a little bit about the town I live in. The city is called Jeonju, the capital of the North Jeolla province. It’s located in the south western part of South Korea. It is famed for it’s cuisine, and for good reason. I’ve had food all over Korea, and it’s by far the best (And the cheapest, hurrah!). It is known for its bibimbap in particular. If you don’t know what bibimbap is, this is it. Actually, that picture doesn’t do it much justice. Check this one out. Alright, it turns out bibimbap doesn’t look that appealing. But trust me, it’s totally delicious. And Jeonju makes it better than anyone else. Word on the street is that when Michael Jackson had concerts in Seoul, he had his people bring him Jeonju bibimbap. That is a six hour round trip drive. For rice. At least that’s what I heard, anyway… There is a restaurant just around the corner from my place that makes the best bibimbap I’ve had. I frequently order take out from there. Unfortunately, I have no idea what my actual address is, so I have to go to the restaurant, order my food there and show them the slip of paper that has my address written in Korean. Then I go home and they bring the food to me. The ridiculousness of the situation does not escape me.

Jeonju is also known for it’s Hanok Village – a traditional Korean village. Many cities have these, but Jeonju’s is one of the best. It has over 800 hanok style buildings, tea shops, restaurants and souvenir shops. It’s a great way to spend a weekend afternoon, and I swear, I’m totally going to do a post on it soon. They often hold festivals there, which are always a good time. But the best thing about the Hanok Village is, far and away, the magkeolli man. Known to the foreigner community as Casanova, he plies us with alcohol whenever we pass by. Literally, if foreigners walk by he starts shouting, “Hey, foreigners, come here! Free magkeolli!” He lures you over and you think you’ll just stay for a minute. But four hours later, you’re still there and the group of foreigners has tripled. How he does this and manages to make a profit, I’ll never know. There are many rumors that have spread amongst the foreigners, each more far fetched than the last. But, this is Korea, so really, anything is possible.

That’s about all that distinguishes my town from any other town in Korea. They really do kind of all look the same. Any decent sized town is going to have an Emart, which is kind of like Walmart, and a Homeplus, which is kind of like Target. Most people do their grocery shopping there or at the street vendors. It’s kind of like a small scale farmer’s market that’s open every day. I prefer to get my veggies from there, because it’s insanely more cost effective. Every town also has street vendors selling chicken and pork skewers, deep fried tteok noodles (one of my personal faves), tteokbokkki, and deep fried corn dogs (Which are totally a heart attack waiting to happen. And for some reason, they just call them hotdogs.), amongst other tasty treats. These are great for eating on the cheap, on the run, or just for a quick snack. Cities here also have parks left and right, I imagine because most people live in apartments and therefor have no yard. It’s really awesome, but their parks are a bit different than ours. They still have the requisite swing sets, but they also have these giant, raised gazebos that old people just hang out on. Like all day. And well into the night. I’m not really sure what they do there. I think just wait until foreigners pass by so they can judge them. Also, the parks are pretty devoid of grass. There’s, like, shrubbery, and stuff. So there’s some greenery. But if you want to do cartwheels or somersaults or whatnot, you’re shit out of luck. Interestingly, all parks also have workout equipment. I mean, it’s cool that they’re all health conscious and stuff, but it’s still a little weird to see. Almost as weird as the ajumma’s doing aerobics to Kpop in the parks at night.

We’ve also got a zoo, a river that runs through town with a walking/biking path, an amazing park called Doekjin Park and, like any good Korean town, coffee shops and noreabangs on every corner. And dare I forget to mention the 7 story department store?! Sounds like heaven, right? Not so much. It’s crazy over priced and it’s really only good if you’re into Great Depression Chic. So, that’s my town in a nutshell. It’s a great starter town (not too big, not too small), but I’m ready for bigger and better things next year!

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Doekjin Park

A few weeks ago, my friends and I made our way to a place called Doekjin Park. There are small parks all over Korea; I have one almost across the street from my apartment. But Doekjin Park is much bigger than the average Korean park and known to be quite beautiful in late spring/early summer when the lily pads are in bloom. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. There was quite a lot to see and do there, and it was absolutely beautiful. Of course we had our customary traveling debacle, and only a moment after we arrived. Joe and I assumed (foolishly – you KNOW what happens when you assume) that there would be a multitude of places to eat near such a popular destination. WRONG! We ended grabbing some random snacks from a convenient store because there was zilch in the vicinity of the park. We joined our other friends who were smart enough to pack a lunch and had a picnic of sorts. Then we wandered around the park taking in the sights. First up was a walk across a small suspension bridge that took us to an island in the middle of the giant pond. Em’s not a fan of bridges, so she didn’t care for that quite as much. On the island, we discovered a tucked away picnic area hiding in a thicket of trees. We also discovered a restaurant, at which point we face palmed ourselves. The pond itself was full of the largest lily pads I have ever seen. It was really quite cool. Then we made our way over to the area where you can rent dragon and swan pedal boats and pedal them around the lake. The four of us got in a swan boat where I foolishly volunteered to sit in a pedaling seat. As we pedaled our way around the lake, we had many Koreans pointing at us and talking about us. Then we had a few trying to ram us. It was mostly instigated by children, but occasionally the parents were encouraging them. Trying to out pedal those devious children is probably the greatest workout I’ve ever had in my life. Once we’d made our way to safety, we stopped to enjoy the scenery and noticed some fellow waygooks taking a stroll in the park. We were staring at them, trying to figure out if we knew them and they, in turn, were doing the same.  After several minutes of this, I started laughing because I thought the whole situation was utterly ridiculous. And that’s when one of the unidentified waygooks said, “Oh, it’s Megan!”  Apparently I can be identified from 50 yards away by my laugh. Which then made our entire group start laughing. The waygooks on land, however, remain unidentified. I kind of expected someone to Facebook me about it or say something one night while I was out, but it has never happened. It remains a mystery for the ages. After our epic swan boat ride, we continued our exploration of the park discovering the random workout equipment that all Korean parks seems to have, the saddest little waterfall known to man , and several random, mostly depressing pieces of art spread throughout the park. We also found a super awesome, over sized swing. I REALLY wanted to ride it, but felt too guilty about potentially kicking some kids off of it to get a chance. Some of my other friends were not at all bothered by that prospect and took at turn. It looked like a lot of fun. Maybe next time… All in all, we had a really great day and I took a lot of great photos. I am looking forward to going back again because I hear there is a really awesome water and light show at night.  And that swing is calling my name…

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