- Jeonju Hanok Village (전주한옥마을)
- Jeondong Catholic Church (전주 전동성당)
- Maisan (마이산)
- Tapsa Temple (탑사)
The following day we headed to Jeonju (전주시), the capital of North Jeolla province located in the southwestern part of the Korean peninsula.
In the past, the area that included Jeonju was part of the Baekje kingdom and founded in 57 B.C. Our tour guide took us to the Jeonju Hanok Village (전주한옥마을), where Yi Seok, the last prince of the Joseon dynasty resided. The village itself is comprised of 800 traditional Korean houses and blends well with the modern buildings in the background. One can easily wander around the alleyways and discover various sights and delights, including a museum about the production of rice wine and rice cakes as well as the history of the village; and beautiful mural art.
We also had the chance to wear a sangmo hat, a round hat with feathers or paper streamers (known as pi-ji), and whirl around dancing with it. These sangmo hats are typically worn by performers in the Korean folk music performance called pungmul.
After visiting the village, we passed by the Jeondong Catholic Church (전주 전동성당)—one of the three Catholic churches of South Korea. It was built in 1914 and designed by Priest Poisnel.
This vast Romanesque church was built to commemorate the first Korean Catholic martyr, Yun Ji-chung (1759-1791). It is quite popular with the locals.
As a reward for the morning’s excursion, we tried the famous Jeonju bibimbap. Bibimbap refers to the “mixing of side dishes with rice.” In ancient times, this healthy dish was served to the high officers and nobles and only during February through April. About thirty ingredients are used and arranged according to the five colors and five tastes from the Yin-Yang and the Five Elements Theory. It was quite delectable!
After the meal, the tour guide took us to Maisan, a renowned mountain near the city of Jinan (진안군) east of Jeonju. These horse ear-shaped peaks are home to Tapsa Temple (탑사). Within the temple grounds, one can follow the winding paths to see the 80 stone pagodas that were built by retired scholar, Lee Gapyong, in the late 1800s. It is said that Mr. Lee collected the stones himself and built the pagodas at night.
The main pagoda is called Cheonjitap. It is comprised of two 13.5-meter tall towers that are placed in the north and south directions. It is truly awe-inspiring how these stone pagodas have not collapsed despite the strong winds in this area. According to the locals, during spring, Tapsa Temple is a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing.
After enjoying the tranquility at Tapsa Temple, we were given free time before having dinner and staying overnight at the hotel in Gwangju (광주시). During this time, we tried Jeonju’s specialty: handmade choco pies (초코파이).
“Oh my! The choco pies from PoongNyeon JeGwa (풍년제과), also known as PNB (est. 1951) are so good! They’re better than the ones you can buy at an Asian market.
Did you know? Choco pies are made of two chocolate layers with cream and jam filling. I couldn’t help but eat more than one! Haha!”
For a more insightful comparison of choco pies from different bakeries in South Korea, check out this delightful review by Twinspeak.
Jeonju Travel Information. Official website. https://tour.jeonju.go.kr/eng/index.jeonju
Tapsa Temple. Official website. https://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=825958
Twinspeak. An insightful review of the Jeonju Choco Pie. https://twinspeakeatgo.com/jeonjus-specialty-handmade-choco-pies-south-korea/
Wikipedia. More information about the folk art of Pungmul. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pungmul&oldid=1062720558