Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Jeonju-si: Bingsu, Bibimbap, Besties

This past weekend was a long one--I had yesterday (Monday) off for what is essentially Korean Memorial Day (현충일, Hyeonchongil) . One of my coolest/best Korean co-workers, On Chu, generously invited me along for a trip to Jeonju, with her and her two close friends from graduate school. Jeonju is about three hours away from Seoul--look here:


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Jeonju is an important historical city: the spiritual capital of the Joseon dynasty. It has loads of museums, relics, and is most importantly where bibimbap (비빔밥)--Korea's famous mixed rice dish--originated.

I also invited one of my foreigner besties--Leah--along for the trip. FUN FUN FUN.

Looking at the Korean Tourism Organization's page on Jeonju, I thought we were going to be doing a lot of "old" Korean stuff--visiting temples and shrines and stuff. Since we were in such a rural part of the country, I figured everything would be extremely old school--no fancy pants cafes or chain restaurants to be found anywhere. Not to say there weren't temples:





Leah makes this temple a lot sassier, that's for sure

Or old Catholic churches:




But the Hanok Village where we stayed was also filled with cafes, art galleries, and hip little shops where you could buy both traditional and more modern Korean art. We had breakfast at a cafe filled with gorgeous, contemporary multi-media:







My beautiful, delicious carmel maccihato. You CAN get fancy pants coffee outside of Seoul!

The "village" felt really chic: there was nice landscaping that reminded everyone of Insadong, the super-touristy "traditional" neighborhood in Seoul:







The gang outside of the minbak where we stayed

But who am I kidding: this trip was really all about the food, and eating pretty much constantly. We had Jeonju makgeoli, which was served with a bunch of delicious farm-style, rustic side dishes (my favorites being delicious, steamed peas and perfectly grilled, sweet perch):


Then, there was the bibimbap. We waited in line for almost forty minutes to eat bibimbap at Ga Jok Hoe Gwan--a famous restaurant where bibimbap is prepared by a chef who is considered something of a national treasure in Korea:




Taken while waiting in line, this is the face I make when prompted, "Look bored and impatient"


Leah looking more sad than than bored/impatient


It was worth the wait. It was by far the most delicious bibimbap I've ever had. The ingredients tasted so fresh, and it was spicy and delicious and didn't taste overwhelmingly like salty red pepper paste.


The 계란탕(gaerang tang--egg soup) sreved on the side was also the best I've ever had. It was creamy, fluffy, and delicious.


On Chu Teacher digs into the side dishes that came with our bibimbap. This is probably a good moment to expouse about how cute/funny/intelligent/great On Chu is/was for taking me and Leah along with her awesome, well-mannered, smart friends for a super duper fun weekend getaway.

We skipped dinner after a massive, post-lunch bowl of delicious patbingsu (팟빙수). I once blogged about this and refereed to it as the weirdest food ever. I still think it is weird but it is also insanely delicious:


It was great to spend a lot of time with/take lots of goofy pictures with one of my favorite people ever Miss Leah:







Overall, a great weekend in a great part of the Korean countryside that I had never been to before!

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