Jeonju’s Hanok Village

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The Hanok Village is one of Korea’s best sites, tucked away in the heart of the Jeollabuk-do region in Jeonju.  It features one of the highest concentrations of traditional houses, known as hanok.  It also has a few beautiful historical sites, such as the Jeondong Catholic Church, Gyeonggijeon Shrine, and Jeonjuhyanggyo, an old Confucian school.

I’ve been to the Hanok Village too many times to count.  Yet every time I go back I feel like I’ve never seen enough of it.  Amazingly, I always see something new that I somehow missed that prompts me to grab my camera.  And even if you don’t enjoy photography, there is plenty to do.  It houses quite a few coffee shops and teahouses, places to buy traditional paper products and souvenirs, and it has some great restaurants.  There are also many cultural centers and events held there if you are looking for cultural experiences.

The best aspect of the Hanok Village: its countless alleyways.  You can easily spend an entire day getting lost in them. The best part is that the alleyways are relatively quiet compared to the open roads that run throughout the Village, where most of the souvenir stands, food vendors, crowds, and cars are concentrated (you can, for better or worse, park practically anywhere in Korea).  If you need some quiet or peace, you can easily slip away into an alley and watch the crowds melt away.  Poking your head into doorways, walking into random shops, and peaking around corners to see what’s next is only half the fun.

Finding out where you’ll end up is the best part.  You may find a seemingly hidden, “lost-in-time” traditional teahouse that allows you to forget your worldly cares and enjoy a serene moment alone or with others.  You could meander into the wide-open grounds surrounding Gyeonggijeon and sit under a tree outside its lush bamboo grove.  Or you could find yourself exiting an alley and ascending the stairs to the top of the hill overlooking the village, taking in an amazing view of the hundreds of hanok rooftops and the city skyline beyond them.

Another important highlight of the Hanok Village is that it is right next to the city’s river.  Both of the city’s bus terminals are located on the river.  So if you travel to Jeonju by bus, you can easily hop off, head across the street to the river, take a relaxing stroll down its calm paths, cross the traditional hanok-style bridge, and step right into the village without having to set a foot in the rest of the city.  If you need a place to stay, you experience traditional Korean life by finding a traditional hanok-style room to stay in for the night (but be warned: doing so could cost around W100,000).

No trip to Korea is really complete without a visit to the Hanok Village.  Even though it isn’t conveniently located near Seoul or Busan, it is definitely worth building into your trip if you are traveling to or from those places.  That way, once you’ve exhausted yourself in those places, you can have a day to relax and it take it slow in the Hanok Village.

Tip 1: Getting to Jeonju is incredibly easy from Seoul and it is definitely a good stop on the way to Gyeongju or Busan.  You can reach Busan from Jeonju’s express bus terminal.  You must go to the intercity bus terminal (the one closest to the river) to reach Gyeongju (daily bus schedule as of 11/4/2012):

경주(Gyeongju) → 전주 (Jeonju)  10:10 / 12:10 / 16:10 / 18:10 \16,200원 (won)

Ideally, you could go to Seoul, take a bus to Jeonju for a day, then take an early bus the next morning to Gyeongju.  From there, you could take a train or bus to Busan and head back to Seoul on the KTX train.  Alternatively, if you need somewhere to go on the last day or two of your Korea trip, you can take a limousine bus from Jeonju directly to Incheon International Airport.  You can visit the “Jeonju Hub” link for more details.  The trip does take three to four hours, so keep that in mind!

Tip 2: There is an excellent tea house I’ve visited with a few friends over the past year.  It only has a few rooms and it is never crowded, and that’s the way it should be.  The tea is excellent and the man who runs it speaks English.  He also shows you how to make the tea.  It is best to visit in the spring.  The garden outside the windows is beautiful, as is the small garden across from the entrance.  When you finish, you can walk up to the hill just behind it and take a look at the Village from there for the perfect ending to your day.

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