A Tase of Jeolla-do

Recently I had a trip to the Jeolla province, sponsored by the Busan Office of Education. About forty EPIK and TaLK teachers joined in the trip. We took a three-and-a-half hour bus ride to the city of Jeonju, where we first stopped at a traditional Korean village, which is constructed in the same way that villages were hundreds of years ago. One strange thing at the village we visited was the placenta chamber of a certain king. Traditionally after a king was born, his placenta was buried inside a special chamber which was then placed in the ground. Quite strange! Nearby the village was Jeondong Catholic Church, known throughout Korea for its architecture and beautiful interior.

A temple in the middle of Jeonju city.

The traditional village that we visited.

Bamboo!

The king’s placenta chamber!?!

Jeondong Catholic Church.

After visiting the village, we had traditional Jeonju bibimbap for lunch. Bibimbap means mixed rice and the Jeonju variety contains raw beef. The uncooked meat was a bit unusual, but overall the dish was delicious. Jeolla province is known for its delicious food, and I certainly had plenty of it while I was there!

Side dishes at lunch.

Bibimbap (mixed rice) with raw beef.

After lunch, we stopped by a paper factory where we saw a demonstration of how traditional Korean paper is made. The museum had all kinds of things made from paper on display, everything from lamps and fans to furniture and clothing.

Traditional Korean paper being made.

Paper lamps.

Paper fans.

Our final tour stop for the day was Baeyang Temple, a beautiful temple beneath a mountain. By this time in the day it was getting quite cold…it was much colder in the Jeolla province than in Busan and I didn’t have clothes that were warm enough. Thankfully, we soon headed off to a nice warm restaurant for dinner.

Near Baeyang Temple (that’s not it in this picture…those are bathrooms!).

Part of Baeyang Temple.

Approaching the temple as the sun is setting.

Inside the main temple building.

The elaborately decorated ceiling.

Over the water and back to the bus.

For dinner, we had a Japanese dish called shabu-shabu, which is basically an assortment of vegetables, meats, and seafood boiled in one of two broths (one is spicy, one is milder). There is a pot in the middle of the table and you basically cook the food yourself. The word shabu-shabu is actually onomatopoeia for the sound when one of the ingredients is put into the boiling water. It was quite delicious! Along with this, we also had cold kimchi soup, which was actually pretty good!

Ready for cooking shabu-shabu.

Some of the ingredients…squid, octopus, muscles, and shrimp!

That night, we slept in a hotel in the city of Gwangju. We stayed at a Holiday Inn, but it was unlike any Holiday Inn I have ever seen in the States. It felt like a four- or five-star hotel! In the morning, we had a delicious and humungous breakfast buffet. It was my first western-style breakfast since leaving the States!

The really nice bedroom…

…and the amazing bathroom (with a real shower!).

Our first stop in the morning was a bamboo museum which contained all sorts of objects made from bamboo.

Bamboo screens.

More items made from bamboo.

A diorama of a traditional Korean bamboo market.

A statue outside of the bamboo museum.

Up next was an ancient garden called Soswaewon, which was built as a retreat for philosophers and scholars. It was quite peaceful and beautiful, even though it was a cloudy winter day.

Soswaewon Garden.

We also stopped by Metasequoia Path, which is a famous road lined with trees that aren’t native to Korea.

Metasequoia Path.

After a delicious lunch, we headed back to Busan. It had been a wonderful trip!

Rice steamed inside bamboo along with some nuts and fruits.

Another delicious meal.

Back in Busan…greeted by a beautiful sunset!

The next week it snowed! I was at school and all of a sudden huge snowflakes started coming down…some of the biggest I have ever seen! Many of my students came to class late because they were playing out in the snow. Some students never came at all! The other provinces of Korea had already gotten lots of snow but Busan is so much warmer that this was our first time. By the next day, most of it had melted but up in the mountains there was still some left.

Snow at my school.

Kids playing out in the courtyard.

That’s all for now. I plan to go shark diving soon, so check back for a report on that!

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