Photo: Chiam Gotaek (House of Chiam)
Andong in Gyeongsangbuk-do is said to be the representative city comprehending the olden charm and unique traditions of Korea, with well preserved cultural heritages. For this reason, the city attracts thousands of tourists every year, looking to learn and experience what life was like back in the days.
Visitors to Andong may feel the sense of tranquility as soon as they enter the city. In addition, Queen Elizabeth and former U.S. President George Bush, who both visited in 1999 and 2005 respectively, had highly complemented Andong’s aesthetics of slowness.
On that note, lots of the traditional houses or hanok in Korean, have been well preserved to its original state. These buildings offer you a great opportunity for hanok stay, allowing visitors to experience the Korean’s traditional way of living. Read on to learn more about Andong and its source of pride, hanoks!
A hanok house is a traditional residence that is built specifically to fit in with the nature around it. In order to maintain the delicate natural environment, an extraordinary amount of effort goes into building these traditional abodes only with natural, environmentally-friendly materials.
With the modernization of Korea and introduction of Western architectures, hanok houses are less seen in commonplace. However, there has been a resurgence of hanok-style businesses such as Hanok Stay guesthouses, which let guests experience what life was like in these residences.
If you’re having a hard time deciding which Hanok Stay would be best for you, check out the Korea Tourism Organization’s list of certified Hanok Stay businesses. This list of carefully selected accommodations includes places that are either designated culture heritages, or households which have been managed directly by the generations of first daughter-in-laws in the family with over 100 years of history.
The majority of these places doesn’t use Western beds, but rather spread comfortable bedding blankets (‘ibul’ in Korean) on the floor to sleep on. The large rooms are spacious and there are lots of corners great for exploring. Also, the residences are full of traditional activities and delicious foods for guests to partake in.
In the city of Andong, which is known for preserving Korea’s traditional roots, are roughly twenty Hanok Stay residences on the KTO’s aforementioned list. Therefore, Andong comes highly recommended if you’re looking at trying out a Hanok Stay experience, since it can offer a more thorough and authentic traditional Korean experience. Click here for more information about doing a Hanok Stay.
The neighborhood of Andong Hahoe Folk Village, which is entirely composed of traditional Korean houses, will make you feel like you’re stepping back in time, and thus has become one of the most famous folk villages in Korea. What makes this place special is that it’s not actually a tourist attraction, in the sense that a museum is. Residents of this neighborhood still live and maintain the same lifestyle as their ancestors did decades ago before the modernization of the 20th century.
You can get an authentic feel of what life was like just by walking through the neighborhood and seeing outdoor facilities like seesaws or traditional swing sets. The local performance hall also features the Hahoe Mask Dance Drama Performance (Hahoe Byeolsingut Exorcism), where visitors can witness Korea’s unique mask performance for free.
At the Hahoe Mask Museum, visitors can see the masks of Hahoe, Korea’s oldest wooden masks, which are organized into their separate styles and forms. These masks were passed down from Hahoe Folk Village and are used in mask dances for the village ritual of Byeolsingut. And of course, as a mask museum, you can not only learn about Korea’s mask traditions, but that of other parts of Asia, Europe and Africa. After taking in and learning about this rich Korean tradition, stop by the stamp booth and receive a stamp as a special souvenir.
If you’ve ever been curious about how Koreans lived in the past, stop by Andong Folk Museum. This museum shows the average lifestyle of Koreans through a variety of everyday household items from long ago. Recreations of traditional ceremonies, including weddings and funerals, as well as seodang, the traditional educational institute where children learned and grew, provide a fun and easy way for visitors to understand the life of Korean commoners in the past. In addition, the second floor exhibition room features a free hanbok experience, where guests can take commemorative photos while wearing hanbok.
Visitors to Dosanseowon Confucian Academy can learn about the education environment for classical scholars. Dosanseowon was a school founded by Yi Hwang, a scholar of Confucianism during the Joseon Dynasty, who is also featured on the 1,000 won bill.
The buildings, which have remained unmarred by the passage of time, are nestled between the mountains and river, and provide a great opportunity to appreciate the harmony of nature and traditional Korean architecture. The academy grounds are large and perfect for taking a stroll. Resting at a bench looking out over Andongho Lake in the distance, one’s mind will automatically begin to clear and become calm.
Ontrepieum is a theme park with a large tropical greenhouse located at Andong Culture & Tourism Complex. The greenhouse features over 250 types of exotic plants, including more than 100 species of foliage plants, succulent plants, and herbs. The large variety allows visitors to enjoy plants from desert, temperate, and Mediterranean zones all in one place.
Walking through the outdoor garden will feel like walking through a fairytale, with the pretty surroundings and cute sculptures. Ontrepieum is the perfect place to take a break from a tour of Korea’s traditional culture in Andong.
The most beautiful place to take in Andong’s night view is definitely Woryeonggyo Bridge. The bridge is Korea’s longest wooden footbridge, and holds the love story of a couple from the area. The bridge was built to commemorate the longing a widow had for her husband after he passed away, and show that their love would be never-ending. The soft lights reflecting on the river surface and the story of the bridge’s origin make this place a very romantic spot to visit at night.
There is one popular dish that everyone visiting the city of Andong is guaranteed to taste! Andong Jjim-dak, a seasoned and simmered chicken, is combination of sweet and mild flavor of sensation with plump meat, potatoes and glass noodles in all good balance. The best part of this delicious dish is probably the sauce, where you can mix it with rice and enjoy the dish to the very last bit.
In order to experience this Andong’s ingenuity, visit Jjim-dak Golmok, the food alley located inside of Andong Traditional Market. The alley is specifically known to be packed with jjim-dak specialty stores and most of them will offer a good hearty meal at a similar price range.
Due to its geological location, Andong is far from seaside and thus lacks sources of seafood products. Consequently, the ingredients had to be preserved, mainly being salted to prevent fish from going bad. Ironically, godeungeo (mackerels in Korean) became seasoned just right and matured during the journey to Andong. People began to look forward to the tasty salted mackerels when they arrived at the Andong Market.
This practice has continued until this day, making another famous local specialty, Andong Gangodeungeo (salted grilled mackerel). This dish taste just great by itself and therefore ideal when eaten with bowl of hot rice. The fish is often times grilled or steamed in hot pepper paste sauce, which has now become one of the desired dishes loved by all.
* This column was last updated in July 2015, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details from the official websites before visiting.
<Last updated in July 27, 2015>