An early start as we catch the KTX, Korea’s version of the French TGV, to Jeonju in the southwest of South Korea. Our first seats were perfect, but we have to change trains at Gwangmyeong after twenty minutes and we now faced backwards without much of a window and those who had closed their blinds.
Fortunately, the blinds are a mesh fabric which gave some view of the wonderful scenery outside.
From Jeonju station we catch a taxi to our accommodation, a hanok house named Nadlebang (or Nadeulbang).
A hanok area is a preserved historical neighbourhood with old wooden houses and winding paths. Our cabin is simple and we lie on thin mattresses on the wooden floor. Not as nice as a Japanese ryokan with its wonderfully scented straw tatami mats. The floor is heated, however.
After dropping our bags we set out to explore the area, which has been beautifully preserved and now houses shops, galleries, restaurants and accommodation like ours.
There are crowds of tourists out enjoying the perfect weather. We buy a pancake biscuit of about 15 centimetres across stamped like a ten won coin and filled with mozzarella cheese.
We buy three more through the day.
There are retro arcades with BB guns and old video games. Alex has a few goes on the latter.
We continue to wander the streets, looking for lunch. At Kiwa we have a lunch of bibimbap, a dish where you blend thinly sliced meat and vegetables together with rice and sauce. I enjoy it, once I remove all the mushrooms. The grilled pork is also really delicious.
Nearby is Omokdae, a monument and wooden pagoda up the top of a forested hill. There are views across the hanok, but the nicest thing is taking off your shoes and relaxing on the pagoda platform.
On the way down we hear drumming and traditional music and rush back to the centre of town, where there is a big performance happening, including balancing spinning plates and twirling heavy flagpoles to the sound of traditional rhythms.
We return to the cabin for an afternoon nap, then walk out towards the Pungnammum Gate and the Nambu Markets for dinner.
The markets, a maze of tiny clothing stalls, is mostly dark and closed, but a few odd restaurants remain open, many with long queues. There’s sundae (blood sausage, not ice cream), street food, mandu dumplings, soup and fried chicken. But none of it works for us.
Going out we eventually find a restaurant that has gamjatangttugbaegi, a beef bone stew for B and the Korean equivalent of tonkatsu on the menu for the other two of us.
Except they don’t, so we order two stews and another bibimbap for me, a vegetarian version.
It’s okay, but I’m getting sick of the flavours.
It’s not until we are back in the hanok centre that we realise we need more cash.
Searching for an ATM takes forever. The streets are still crowded and lively. If it wasn’t for the fact we need to go to bed early for an even earlier start tomorrow we would be out enjoying them too.