Sunday, September 28, 2014

Seoul-searching Day 3: Korea House and Namsangol Hanok Village

We hopped on the train to the city late morning and Korea House was the first for us to see. From the Chungmuro Station we took exit 3 and from the gas station we turned left and walked up the street. There was an event (it may have been a traditional wedding) happening when we got there. It looked like a formal event and we were definitely not dressed for the occasion so we decided to just take a photo in front of the building. Then walked down the stairs to the Cultural Gift Shop to have a look at the variety of crafts by traditional craftsmen. I also asked for directions to Namsangol Hanok Village, to avoid getting lost and to save time. It was just within walking distance from there, as directed by the lady in the shop. She even showed me the map which was conveniently glued to the cashier counter (I guess it's for easy reference when tourists ask). 

in front of Korea House

last photo op before we leave Korea House via entrance near the Cultural Shop
A good 5-10 minutes from Korea House and we were at the entrance of Namsangol Hanok Village. Namsangol Hanok Village is a vast complex of 79,937 sqm, with a traditional Korean garden, Time Capsule Plaza and the village itself. Hanoks (traditional Korean houses) of the Joseon Dynasty were moved to this village and restored to recreate a traditional village complex complemented with different traditional games, re-enactment of traditional Korean wedding, traditional Korean crafts and more. To be able to explore all of the elements of this village one must allot at least half a day.

There was a TV crew and a crowd of tourists, both foreign and domestic. The walkway from the main gate was lined up with life-size poster boards of a variety of traditional Korean costumes, perfect for photo ops for tourists like us. We stopped by each and every one and had our photos taken. It was amusing to see ourselves in our photos.

When we got to the main quadrangle, there was a musical performance about to start so we headed to the bleachers for a good view. I think it was the Samulnori (a representative musical genre of Korea which is usually performed while praying to the gods for good luck) from what I have read in travel guides. It had the same colorful costumes and musical instruments. I personally enjoyed watching as they danced around and played their respective musical instruments. 

After the musical extravaganza, we walked around the Village going through the different buildings / hanoks in the complex. There were exhibits of traditional games which we tried our hands on. There were also different traditional crafts to take part in (for a fee). If you're into painting they have traditional paper fan painting. They also have friendship bracelet making which was done inside one of the hanoks. We even got to watch Korean wrestling, which was set up just before the quadrangle when we were about to leave.

I definitely recommend visiting this place when you drop by Seoul. We may not have been able to explore Time Capsule Plaza nor the Korean gardens up the hill (too hot), but we did enjoy a walk around this hanok village. Namsangol Hanok Village gives visitors an opportunity to see hanoks, to have hands-on experience of traditional games and crafts as well as watch musical performances and sports. I recommend half a day visit to the Village including a stroll along the gardens and the Time Capsule Plaza. 

Just outside the main entrance to the Namsangol Hanok Village were several ice cream shops and street food. The kids tried this ice cream on a wafer shaped like the letter J while the adults settled for Korean chicken BBQ.
ice cream Korean style

Travel tips of the day:
  1. To get to Namsangol Hanok Village from Korea House, walk back down to the main street (gas station) and turn left. At the end of the road is the Namsangol Hanok Village complex.
  2. Make lunch or dinner reservations at Korea House in advance if you're interested in the dining with entertainment experience. You can opt to go to Namsangol Hanok Village including the gardens and Time Capsule Plaza for the whole morning, then be at the Korea House for lunch. Best to check the menu first if you and your family or travel companions are up for the Korean spread they have. 

More photos from our visit to Namsangol Hanok Village:


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