Friday, December 10, 2010
Hanok Stay in Bukchon
This time in Korea, we had a quite unique experience in Seoul by staying in hanok, a traditional Korean house. We loved staying in hanok so much that we even wished that we could live in one of the hanoks if we ever decide to live in Korea.
It is said that there were over 800,000 hanoks in Seoul until the 1970s, but more than 90 percent were demolished during the post-Korean War era as the Korean society focused the post-war developments on modernizing everything from its economy to people’s living quarters. This was deemed necessary to accommodate the fast-growing population and the economy at the time. As a result, high-rise apartment complexes and shiny office buildings dominate much of the scene in Seoul today, and only a handful of these hanoks survive mostly in Bukchon just north of the city centre (“bukchon” means a norhern village). Somewhat belatedly though, these once-forgotten assets of Korean history have come to Korean people’s attention these days, and many efforts have been made to preserve the remaining hanoks and educating young children about historic preservation. I was surprisingly delighted to find that the hanok we stayed in was beautifully renovated to meet today’s living standard while keeping the authentic beauty of hanok intact. I have to make one disclosure though. Hanoks do not offer the luxurious comfort you may find in hotels, but it does offer magic authenticity which gives you the impression that you walk back in time several hundreds years and let you experience the real life of Koreans back then.
I did a bit of research on hanok stay options in Bukchon before we went. There are several hanoks in Bukchon that offer guest rooms. If you can afford, Rakgojae seems to be the best option as it offers the most authentic hanok experience in a beautiful setting. But their rate was well above our budget, so we ultimately narrowed down the choices to Bukchon Guest House, Tea Guest House, and Sosunjae. The first two are most popular among foreign tourists, and I felt I wouldn't really "fit in" there as a Korean. We wanted to stay in hanoks where locals (Koreans) come to stay.
We stumbled on Sosunjae from a Korean traveller’s blog. Sosunjae is not technically a guest house, but it is rather called a “think museum” where children occasionally come to learn about Korean culture and history in a traditional hanok setting. The place only has one guest room, and it comes with its own bathroom and a library/living room space.
The library is used by children during the day time, but since it’s attached to the guest room you get to use it when it’s not in use. There is no TV or other amenities, so I find it ideal for people looking for quiet hanok stays.
The real bonus to staying in Sosunjae is that the host lady is an excellent cook. We stayed there for three days, and we were served delicious breakfast each morning.
On the last day, since we had to catch the airport limousine bus early in the morning, she packed us delicious rice balls (joomukbap) and water in a bag along with a small jar of home-made apple jam as a gift.
Overall, we really enjoyed staying in hanok and were glad that we decided to stay in hanok instead of hotels. The experience of interacting in space where the Korean culture and history take its roots was priceless. As a Korean American, I felt a sense of belonging and attachment in hanok of my mother country.
How to get there:
It takes about 10 minute walk from Anguk Station via #3 Subway Line which is usually depicted in orange on the map. Or you can use the airport limousine bus which takes you near Anguk station. If you are using the subway, exit through #2 or #3 exit and walk about a mile to the north and make a right towards Joongang High School. Joongang High School is a very famous tourist attraction as it played a backdrop for the famous Korean drama Winter Sonata. Facing Joongang High School, walk past five houses to the right, then you will find stairs to Sosunjae pictured above.
thinkmuse at naver dot com
100,000 won per day (single occupancy)
130,000 won per day (double occupancy)
Requires 30 percent deposit.