Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Korea // That Time I Somehow Ended Up In Sunchang

I found a lot of recommendations to go to Jeonju while researching places to visit outside of Seoul. The Korean Tourist Organization offers a free shuttle service to Jeonju for foreigners so I thought, "why not?" As I tried to sign up online I noticed that for the weekend I wanted to visit only a Sunchang Gochujang Festival and Ginseng Festival were available. Thinking that both festivals were special events being held in Jeonju I signed up for the Gochujang one and proceeded to book housing and plan my itinerary accordingly.

The day to go to Jeonju rolls around and at 8am I get on the right bus without any issues. It's a beautiful sunny autumn day and I enjoyed this view for three hours on the bus:

The bus stops a a rest stop and I take the opportunity to ask the tourist guide how far from the Jeonju Hanok Village this festival is. She gives me a puzzled look and replies, "This bus is going to the Sunchang Gochujang Festival. It's in Sunchang."

I'm sure you can imagine the look of horror on my face. Stuck in a god knows where countryside town without Internet and my crappy Korean. This is how I came to know that a city called Sunchang exists in Korea. Later when I returned to my hostel in Seoul I looked Sunchang up on the map and saw that it's further south than Jeonju. 

A poster in Sunchang advertising the festival
After a lot of indecision and panicking I decided to stay and just go with the flow. Below are pictures from the Sunchang Gochujang Festival that I accidentally attended. Sunchang is famous for its Gochujang, and another fellow traveler told me that this is one of the larger scale festivals.

Main entrance of the festival
This was the first time I'd been in the true countryside of Korea. All I can say is that it lived to all my expectations: lots of fresh air, stretches of nothing, and many old people. 

The biggest bibimbap I've ever seen in my life. And the best part was that it was free! They even gave free water bottles to go with it. Have to appreciate their planning for such an event. At least a hundred people were there yet they still had so much leftover afterwards.

Freshly mixed bibimbap made with Sunchang gochujang. After taking a few bites I realized that they added raw beef as an ingredient. I always imagined eating raw beef to be really gross, but it didn't have much of a taste, just a chewy texture much like eating sashimi. Adding raw beef is a signature of bibimbap in the Jeollabuk area.

Ending this post with a cutie I met at the festival. Two new Korean words I learned that day: Sunchang (순창) and donkey (당나귀) 

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