"A year in a place I'd never heard of" Ch'ongju by laislinns

Ch'ongju Travel Guide: 3 reviews and 12 photos

What would anyone want in Seoul?!

"I told the company that I'd only come if I can get a job in Seoul."
He announced it so proudly, and I probably should have stopped myself, but the words tumble out of my mouth before I can stop them.
"Why the hell would you do that?"
He goes into a long dialogue about how rubbish his last experience in Korea was and all because he didn't know anyone, and all of the friends that he made lived in Seoul.
"But Seoul is horrible," I protest in my own head. "I only go there when I absolutely have to! Why would anyone want to live there?"
And then I think about my own situation being in Cheongju and how different it is from the rubbishing situation that my friend found himself in.

Just a pole

When I first arrived in Korea, I had no idea where Cheongju was. I had dilligently done my reading up, and my guidebook had informed me in no uncertain terms that Cheongju was completely irrelevant and was useful for nothing more than a point from which to travel to more interesting places. All that the city really had to offer, it insisted, was a millenium-old pole. It didn't give me high hopes. What the book didn't tell me (as it was a book and couldn't possibly have known) was how many foreigners are placed in Cheongju. There are a ton of foreigners here of varying ages, genders and life experiences. From the EPIK teachers like myself, to the hagwon teachers, if you find yourself in Chungdae Jungmun on any night of the week, I can guarantee that you will bump into at least one face that doesn't quite fit in with the yellowy complexions of the others.

More than meets the eye

Cheongju is also far from small. Living in the south-eastern corner of the city, it takes me at least 20 minutes to taxi to the university area which is the local hotspot, and at least 25 minute to get to the bus terminal in case I decided that I needed some adventure for a weekend (a feeling which struck often in my first few months of living here). This means that the city has almost anything you could possibly need - clubs and bars in Chungdae, shopping in Shinae, numerous Home Pluses and other giant supermarkets and even an English bookstore, though their selection is very limited. If you are the outdoorsy type, you can go for a hike along the fortress on the outskirts of the city or wander into one of the many woods. Cheongju has something for everyone, and that is why I love the city. It is small enough to keep me comfortable and give me my privacy (and for people to apologise when they bump into you) while being big enough to not make me feel alone in the middle of nowhere. I refute The Rough Guide's assertion that Cheongju isn't anything special. I cannot see myself living anywhere else.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Good night life, lots of foreigners, smaller than Seoul
  • Cons:No good English bookstore, no subway
  • In a nutshell:More than just an old pole!
  • Last visit to Ch'ongju: Feb 2010
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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