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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
Our first stop in the morning was a bamboo museum which contained all sorts of objects made from bamboo.
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.
We also stopped by Metasequoia Path, which is a famous road lined with trees that aren’t native to Korea.
After a delicious lunch, we headed back to Busan. It had been a wonderful trip!
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.
That’s all for now. I plan to go shark diving soon, so check back for a report on that!