For visitors wanting an insight into Korean traditional life, the Bukchon Hanok Village makes for an ideal outing. Surrounded by various ancient structures such as Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palace, the village consists of winding alleys where ‘hanoks’ or traditional homes have been resurrected to give visitors an accurate depiction of an urban setting dating back 600 years.
Roaming the backstreets containing the “hanoks” comes without entrance gates or fees, allowing sightseers to soak-up the beautiful and authentic atmosphere. Ignoring the snow shovels and silhouettes of Korean tourists is easily done, especially down some of the quieter paths.
The initial part of your tour offers an aesthetically pleasing journey with an opportunity to absorb the sight of these beautifully constructed buildings. Certain viewpoints, which can be easily navigated with a free map, gives outstanding panoramic views of the area, presenting the sloping, tiled roofs and wooden doors that are often romanticised in Korean cinema.
Although this area may not be as full a culture immersion as visiting one of the true rural villages of Korea, for city dwellers and short-time visitors, it contains numerous tea-shops and museums that provide an accurate depiction and broad information on how life was during this historical period. For an entrance fee of 3000 won (around £1.50), guests can enter one of the houses. The Kokdu traditional house, a branch of the Kokdu museum, is a pleasant visit containing relics of luck and mysticism during the late 20th century.
A Kokdu is a traditional wooden figurine made in the shape of various characters. It was believed that seeing one of these in a dream would produce luck and long life. There’s an assortment of figurines, which the English-speaking staff are happy to provide an education on, whilst also enlightening about the domestic life of a conventional Korean family during this era. The bedrooms are brightly lit, with the window walls looking onto the sublime and almost Japanese-style courtyards.
For sightseers wishing for a more in-depth experience, Hanok Homestay are available allowing accommodation in one of the periodical homes. A program was initiated in 2010, building on a group of Hanok-owners enthusiastic to open their houses to guests.
Authenticity is key, with residents sleeping on the floor, sampling Korean cuisine and in some, being given the chance to make their own Kimchi – fermented cabbage, a staple of the Korean diet. Other proprietors give language workshops, an opportunity to play Korean musical instruments and an authentic fashion show trying on classical Hanbok clothes.
Visiting this village is a true cultural experience for tourists and locals alike. Simply strolling around the maze of buildings or partaking in various workshops gives a charming vision of a time that is too often overshadowed by the influence of modern Korean technology and western culture.
Keep reading – 5 Ruins and Abandoned Places in North Korea.