Jeonju, Korea Rep.
Daegu to Jeonju on the bus. There are five express bus terminals in Daegu, though in fairness four of them are close to each other, serving different destinations from near Dongdaegu station. But there’s another terminal in the north east, and from there buses also go to Jeonju. Checking times on kobus, they leave at the same time from both stations. Eventually I ignored that seemingly improbable situation and went to Dongdaegu.
I’d got up for a run, hitting a 16 miler along the river. Fabulous, even in the drizzle. I passed a group of runners about to set out. Might have sped up a bit. Further along, a couple of them closed and passed, then slowed just as a third joined me. After a few more minutes the leader passed me again, but didn’t get away – I think they were using me as a target for intervals, which was a nice boost to my ego. My easy run pace, your pushing-it pace.
Post run I got chatting to a Danish girl back at the hostel over breakfast. There’s no shortage of traveller stories, but she had been going for 9 months so has more than some. From her, as from others over the last couple of days, the theme was “what no Indonesia?” in my plans, but I’m not changing them to fit in this recommendation, just slotting it away for future reference. I ended up packing up just after 10 when I’d figured I needed to leave before then to get to Dongdaegu for a 10.50 bus. But I wandered to the subway, wandered to the bus station the other end, bought a ticket and was on the bus with minutes to spare and no kerfuffle or rush.
Excellent, but hungry. Warning, minor peril! We stopped at services. I stocked. All was well.
The hostel in Jeonju is a couple of miles from the terminal, walkable but also a cheap cab ride away. I almost never get a taxi, so getting one is almost a treat in itself. There were no staff in attendance so I sat around chatting to Carsten, who was also waiting to check in. The place is big, with a comfy common room and that ended up as my base for a few hours, as people arrived and checked in – staff arrived eventually – and I had a couple of hours strolling round Hanok village. That’s the highlight of Jeonju for most, all traditional houses and one particularly beautiful street. There’s an old gate from a fortress and a cathedral, though the theme here is ‘reconstructed’ which to me and other europeans makes for a slight shrugging – so it’s from 1500, but was rebuilt in 1745? That’s not old. The cathedral is from 1905, so lovely – the loveliest in Korea, I read – but no great shakes if you’re comparing to others. It’s a picturesque spot to wander around, though, and there’s a hill overlooking the old part (though with so many trees that I only really had a view from the stairs on the way up), with Omokdae on top. That’s a large wooden pagoda in which people gather to picnic, chat and lounge. I did some of the latter on the Monday. Apparently it rained, but I didn’t even notice.
Sunday evening we had an American about to begin a year of teaching English, a Swiss motorcyclist travelling Spain-Australia and a Singaporean. Yan, the motorcyclist, sees a different side of places to us – Tokyo was a nightmare to get out of, for instance, Mongolia a tricky landscape of pebbly tracks. He could, if he wanted, do a good comedic turn on the perils of motorcycling – missing a turn on a mountain road, screeching to a halt with one wheel over the edge, starting with two iPhones only to find he only had one at his destination-vibration phone-dropper syndrome? – and showing the other one, screen laced with cracks, explained with “I crash all the time”.
Socialising was encouraged by the owner offering us all a beer, turfing Shayan off the computers to talk to us and generally jollying us along. Monday evening was the same, fewer people but that meant three Danes, German Sonya, Swiss Yan and Shayan heading for dinner. We failed to find bibimbap, ending with beer and chicken, using lots of hand signals and waving to order. Much more fun than it might sound.
So, after a lazy Monday – I managed a run, normally it’s my rest day so I only did 6k, promptly eliciting a “done with running already?” from Yan – with some walking up film street (there’s a festival there each year) and heading from the new and glitzy shopping area to the older, lower and muckier part of town, I was ready for Seoul.
Bus to Seoul on Tuesday. I expected it to be 18100 won, it was only 12800 (£7.50)-travel really is cheap here. Trains are cheap too, something like £35 from Busan to Seoul, but the buses go to more places and are even cheaper. The only catch I’ve found, and it’s barely a catch, is that the intercity buses can be quicker and cheaper than the express ones. Certainly from Jeonju to Busan that’s the case. On the subject of railways, I know now why Seat61.com says ‘you can get a rail pass for Korea, if you believe it’. Why yes, I thought when I read that, I do believe it, should it be hard to believe? But the point is, buses are more convenient, sometimes quicker, go to more places and are cheaper. With a rail pass you’d have to use it a lot, and barely stop in places, to save money.
Reading: Haruki Murakami, Hard Boiled Wonderland.
Epizeuxis, the repetition of a word for emphasis. Not to be confused with repeating a phrase for same, which is known as ‘bloody irritating’.