Last weekend we took a group of high school theatre students to Andong, South Korea to explore more traditional Korean culture to prepare for their upcoming performance, that will be based in old world Korea. This was a beautiful little slice of Korea and I knew this was the perfect piece of culture to share with those of you who won’t be able to travel to Korea and to create a little travel guide for those of you who will!
Andong is about 3 hours outside of Seoul, in the country side, amidst mountains and sprawling beauty. Truly, all of Korea is full of so much beauty. Let’s start with food! My favorite. This region of Korea is famous for jjimdak, a spicy chicken dish. We ate the medium spicy and it was pretty spicy, so beware. the cabbage may have been my favorite part of this meal. But what’s not to love? Carrots, good. Potatoes, good. Chicken, good. Glass noodles, good.
Our first stop was Wolyeonggyo Bridge, which is beautiful and really difficult to take photos of at night. It’s a bridge that runs across the river and has a beautiful temple in the middle and one on the other side of the river. Next we stopped at the Andong Fountain to see the show. It was actually really beautiful and fun. It lasted about 20 minutes. Here is a really fun video of it. By far, the best part of our trip was our traditional Hanok stay. We slept in a 500-year-old traditional Korean home and it was magical and so lame all at once. It was the best experience. It had been on our bucket list since we landed here in Korea. Until now, I don’t think I truly understood about traditional hanoks worked. They are a group of buildings that form these square courtyards and each building serves a different purpose for the home. (of course, all of them are slightly different, but this is a good general understanding). The buildings on the right and left are the sleeping rooms that we stayed in. The middle is a family room/living room type and has additional sleeping areas on both sides. Below is one of the sleeping rooms. You may can tell that the doors are very thin and you see the stack of pillows and sleeping pads. Koreans sleep on the floor and use Ondools, a floor heating system to stay warm in the winter. Hello warm feet in winter!
Growing peppers for Kimchi! After our, actually, pretty good night of sleeping on the floor, we headed to Hahoe Village. It is over 500 years old (much of it has been rebuilt since the Japanese liked to burn things during the way) and many people still live here today! We got to experience many of the traditional ways of life before modernization. Below Terrell is ironing by beating the wooden dowels on the laundry, which we were told was a very enjoyable and rhythmic past time for Korean house wives.
Here we are churning tofu.
Carrying water from the well! The Korean’s do it without hands of course….Making delicious rice cakes, a serious arm workout. The local shrine and Zelkova wishing tree, also over 600 years old. You can add your wishes here and this guy is real fun 😉 The straw roofed houses are for the lower class citizens and the tiled homes are for the upper class. We also saw trees planted by Queen Elizabeth, US Presidents and homes by Korean rulers and war hero’s and great philosophers. This place grows a lot of fancy people! I am so entertained by Korea’s overuse of this exact sandal, everywhere you go. They are the ‘shared’ indoor sandal when you can’t wear shoes inside. We also attended a, free, traditional tea ceremony. We learned the proper tea holding and drinking etiquette and ate the most chewy and disgusting cookies. But this room was a library and was used for tea, thinking and study. I could spend hours here thinking and reading! Back to more food, the village has some restaurants right outside where they serve local Mackerel and Bibimbop. Very salt, very delicious. The Korean affinity for male genitalia entertains me to no end. On a serious note, they have traditional mask dance (Talchum) and puppet shows and museums here. There are 9 masks and each represent a type of person. The shows were a way for the commoners to make fun of the upper class and to bring up political issues that were being neglected. Always, the foreigners get called out. Good thing my husband is a great sport and did a little dance with them 😉 We learned so much in 24 hours and experienced a ton of really stellar Korean culture. This was an amazing and easy trip to take from Seoul and needs very little ‘prep’ work as everything is in one central location once you get to the village. Now, I’m off to explore some more!