Sunday, June 1, 2014

Namsangol Hanok Village

When John and I got into Seoul on Saturday morning we first headed to Namsangol Hanok Village, just a few stops from Seoul Station. As we approached the entrance, someone in an orange shirt asked if we'd like a free tour in English. Sure!

So two volunteer students, Angela and Lily (their English names), took us around the five traditional Korean houses (hanok).

They were so great! John and I were both impressed with the tour - it was better than tours I've paid for. I kept thinking there must be a catch, that they'll hit us up for tips or donations to their organization at the end (which I would have gladly given, after that tour), but they didn't.

A woman with the same orange "Youth Cultural Corps" shirt started following us around about five minutes into the tour. It was pretty clear that she was their supervisor of some sort, and it felt a bit strange that she silently watched us and the girls throughout the rest of the tour.

Alright, it's quiz time. Can you guess what this hut is used for?

It keeps the pots of fermenting kimchi from freezing and getting buried under snow in the winter, and protects the kimchi from the sun's rays during the summer.

Between the first and second houses, we both tried this traditional game of throwing the stick into the cylinder:

We both got close at least once, but didn't make one in. John's height was an advantage to this game, but under the beating hot sun we weren't about to stand there and keep trying (and sweating).

Okay, next quiz question: can you guess what this is used for?

It's for grinding spices/pastes - kind of like a gigantic mortar and pestle.

Here's the fifth and most recent house, where we learned about some changes in the style and features of the house that provide evidence for the changing times.

The girls had us fill out evaluation forms for each of them at the end of the tour. I guess next week they have to start giving tours alone, so they're quite nervous (even though they have absolutely no reason to be -- they were both wonderful!). Angela and Lily had to hurry off right away after I'd finished filling out the forms, but John and I later found them and brought the girls some cold bottles of water when we left the village. It was so hot out, and it was the least we could do to thank them.

The Youth Cultural Corps is part of the International Exchange & Cultural Promotion Institute, and it looks like they give free English tours at many other attractions in Seoul: Royal Tomb Museum of the Joseon Dynasty, Seoul Education Museum, Seodaemun prison history hall, Chang-gyeong-gung, Deok-su-gung, and Gyeong-bok-gung.

It was a great start to our day! I'll definitely keep my eyes peeled for the Youth Cultural Corps at other tourist attractions in Seoul during my last months exploring the city. What a great organization!


What: Namsangol Hanok Village
Where: 28, Toegye-ro 34-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Metro: Chungmuro Station (Exit 3 or 4)
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (8 p.m. Nov. - March), closed on Tuesdays!
Cost: Admission is free! Various souvenirs and extra activities had separate costs, but you can see all five houses without spending a cent.
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