Monday, December 25, 2006

More on Jeonju

Overall I liked Jeonju more than I expected. People told me before I went that Jeonju was a small city, almost more like a large town, but I never got that impression. My hotel was located about 2km from the parts of Jeonju of historical interest, but while I walked I never got the feeling that I was transversing most of the city. The reference books say that Jeonju has over half a million people. I could believe it. There were numerous apartment buildings off in the distance in every direction. As my bus left the city it went through entire teeming commercial districts that I never visited. Jeonju's not as big as Seoul, but it's a decent-sized city.

I regret not taking more time to explore rural provincial Korea. I liked the intercity bus terminal in Jeonju. It was a dismally lit, slightly grimy building, very long and very busy, with buses continually departing for the small cities and towns of southwestern Korea. It was lined with maybe a dozen cheap places to eat, and the whole terminal smelled of cheap street food, particularly the big pot of bundaegi that one vendor kept ready. It's the kind of place I don't get to go to often in Seoul, where the major train and bus terminals tend to be more modern.

The most famous culinary aspect of Jeonju is its bibimbap. Bibimbap is cooked rice, raw vegetables, spicy sauce, a fried egg, and sometimes meat, that you stir together in a bowl. I'm afraid to say that I had bibimbap in two different locations in Jeonju, and in each location it tasted basically the same as bibimbap in Seoul. I don't know if I chose the wrong places to try the famous bibimbap, or if I am just too culinarily unrefined to tell the difference. What I had wasn't bad; it just wasn't special.

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