Sometimes referred to as South Korea’s Cultural or Spirit Capital, the city of Andong is located inland along the Nakdong River, in South Korea. It’s known for its offering of cultural experiences and open-air heritage museums.
Just outside the city, the Hahoe Folk Village is still inhabited with traditional houses of both straw-thatched roofs and tile-roofed homes interspersed throughout the village. Hahoe Folk Village is a popular day visit for tourists and is well worth the visit. There are also numerous cultural home-stays and Buddhist retreats in the nearby vicinity, most popular of which is probably the Bongjeongsa Temple.
The best way to make your way around Andong is with patience! We were warned beforehand that the local bus system is not very efficient, and this turned out to be very true! The Naver App is only useful for identified bus numbers, the scheduled bus times can only be established from the physical schedules at the respective bus stops. Busses are generally also an hour apart, so if you just miss a bus, you can easily end up waiting an hour for the next one. That being said, making use of the local buses is still a fraction of the price of a taxi or car rental, so we were relatively happy to grin and bear it!
Hahoe is a representative traditional village where residents of the same family name, the Pungsan Ryu Clan, have been living for generations of about 600 years. The historic village is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers tourists a glimpse into the ancient traditions of the folk. The village is still inhabited and functioning and is recognisable by its traditional houses with either straw-thatched roofs or tile-roofed homes interspersed throughout the village. These days there are also numerous guesthouses where you can stay to appreciate the village and its ways for more than just a day visit.
A variety of hands-on experience programs are available including tea ceremonies and a free traditional mask dance performance at 2 pm on most days, depending on the season. For more info check www.hahoe.or.kr and be sure to know where these are held as we somehow ended up in the ‘overflow’ open-air arena where only a digital presentation was shown on a big screen.
Be sure to walk across the river via the timber pedestrian bridge (previously a ferry used to transport visitors across the river) from the Hahoe village to Buyongdae. This 64-meter-high cliff is easily accessible and offers a bird’s eye view of the traditional homes of Hahoe Village below. There is also a lovely café where you can enjoy a coffee or fresh fruit smoothie.
Walking around the village, there are many marked points of interest – just be sure to get your map of the village from the information booth when entering! Personally, we enjoyed just strolling around soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the beauty of the rice fields and traditional buildings. If the inner child in you is calling, be sure to make a turn at the big swings – although you might have to fight off the actual children!
Note that although there are a few cafes scattered around the village, there are no real food options, so rather pack yourself a picnic to enjoy in the Pine Forrest.
ANDONG CONFUCIAN LAND
If you are interested in understanding the ancient Confucian culture, then this is the place to learn good manners and correct etiquette of the root of Korean spiritual culture through interesting hands-on programs.
At 387m long, the Wolyeonggyo Bridge is the longest wooden pedestrian bridge in Korea! Although, to be honest, only the walkway and handrails are wooden, the rest of the bridge is made up of steel and concrete! None the less, take some time to appreciate the intricate timber latticework and the beautiful reflection of the bridge on the water before heading off to the nearby Andong Folk Village.
We recommend walking across the bridge towards the Andong Folk Village while it is still daylight, preferably timing your stroll across the bridge with one of the weekend fountain shows. The fountains squirt from the bridge deck and are really beautiful to watch. Then spend a few hours at the Village until sunset to see the lights on the bridge come on once it is dark. Just don’t be in a hurry though, as when we were there sunset was at 19:30 and the lights only came on at 20:00! Also, note that depending on the season, busses can stop running at 19:00, so check the actual bus schedule and don’t trust what the Naver App says!
ANDONG FOLK VILLAGE
Although the Andong Folk Village is not an original village, it is a great place to visit (for free) to see the traditional buildings which were relocated at the time of construction of the Andong Dam. To be honest, if you like to explore the buildings in more detail and take photos in the traditional environment, we think this area is more suitable in comparison to the Hahoe Folk Village as one can walk through many of the buildings as they are uninhabited.
SIP ON THE LOCAL SPIRIT DRINK OF SOJU
Andong is considered to be the birthplace of the traditional drink of soju, also referred to as local firewater! Unlike the cheap, ubiquitous green bottles made from diluted ethanol produced from sweet potatoes found elsewhere, this regional speciality is created using a blend of fermented and distilled rice and grains. If you are nearby, and ONLY if you are very nearby(!), pop into the Andong Soju & Traditional Food Museum, where you can learn a little about the origin and manufacturing process of Andong-Soju and some traditional foods and even enjoy a free soju sampling at the end. They are known to be well priced should you wish to purchase a bottle or two of soju. The displays are however all in Korean only and it is a very small museum which was entirely deserted when we were there, so don’t have any high expectations and we would not recommend going there especially!
ENJOY A LOCAL MEAL OF JJIMDALK
Jjimdalk is a braised chicken and vegetable stew served with cellophane noodles in a soy sauce-based broth. You can get this traditional dish from many of the local restaurants which make up the Andong Food Street.