Wednesday 25 September
We had a somewhat bumpy start, arriving at Yongsan station in Seoul with just 1 minute to spare before the KTX fast train left for Jeonju. Jeonju was a 2 hour train ride south of Seoul and is famous for its Catholic Church, traditional houses and food.
Catholic missionaries came from China at the end of the 18th century. The Korean government felt threatened by the break from Confucianism and the westernisation of the people, so some of the earlier converts were beheaded. Kim Yo-San’s head was hung from the ceiling of the Pungnammun as a warning to others.
The Catholic Church was built 100 years later, between 1908 and 1914. The inside is beautiful, with the arches and columns outlined in locally made grey and red bricks.
There is a rise in Christians in Korea. Our guide, Yoon told us the current ratio is 40% Buddhists (predominantly older people) and 40% Christians (predominantly younger people). It is believed that the number of Christians will increase in the future.
Jeonju is famous for the its traditional houses, and they are still being constructed. Wood joints are made without using nails and the roof tiles are layered with clay to provide insulation. The construction is off the ground to provide cool air in summer. In winter a fire is set in a very low hearth, with the smoke directed under the floor to a chimney outside the house, creating underfloor heating.
We wandered down Gingko Avenue and visited a traditional house. Rooms are sparse, with folded bedding in the corner and a wardrobe, and meals are brought into the room on a low table.
We drank tea in a beautiful tea house set in equally beautiful gardens. The tea was lovely, but sitting cross legged at a very low table was challenging. Perhaps we should try yoga!
We finished the day with a traditional meal from this area at the Pung Namjeong Restaurant. First course was the Korean pancake packed full of green onions and seafood. Afterwards we had Bibimbap – rice with seasonal stir fried vegetables (carrot, bean sprout, radish, spinach, zucchini.bracken), seaweed (gim), and hot pepper paste (gochujang) and a raw egg on top, in a hot stone bowl (dol sot). You stir the ingredients together and eat it with a spoon. Sort of a Korean paella.
After an evening walk through the old town and to a lookout, we finished the day in a Hanok (traditional house) style hotel, on an extremely hard bed.