I may have been to Korea many times, but there’s one thing that I really want to do – stay in a traditional Korean house. These are known as Hanoks (한옥). If you’ve watched any period Korean drama or even modern day ones like Personal Taste, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Aren’t they just the quaintest houses? Maybe I’m just projecting my inner period princess (ok, that actually came out sounding worse than I’d expected), but I really like the idea of having different areas for your life, thus making it compulsory for everyone to live in a compound with sprawling grounds.
In Seoul, there’s apparently only one cluster of traditional houses left, and they’re at Bukchon Traditional Village, presumably a place marked out for preservation and tourism purposes. Plus, I also heard that these houses aren’t cheap – if my memory serves me right, prices start at about a million dollars. I’ve also visited the traditional houses in Jeonju, but cos I was freezing, I didn’t take any photos.
Here’s my collection of photos of Seoul’s Bukchon Traditional Village. They were garnered over several trips, in case you start wondering why I had to change clothes halfway up to the top of the village.
when I first went there, I didn’t know how to read Korean, so I thought this was a sign pointing us to the village and very excitedly took a photo of it. Clearly, I’m illiterate as well as blind, cos there’s English there, which says “this way to the museum and children’s museum”. FAIL. So people, if you see this sign on your way, don’t follow it.
Making our way up to the top – the slope is no joke. It may look gradual but trust me, it really takes a toll on you and you’ll be huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf’s geriatric grandmother within 10 minutes.
This photo was taken in 2009 -that’s my lovely Korean friend Yumee on the left, with a Singapore journalist Leng Tuan from a daily paper (wanbao? straits times?) on the right.
Beginning to huff and puff – it didn’t help that I was out partying in Gangnam the night before till 6am. Oh yeah baby, I was doing Gangnam Style back in 2009. muahahahaha.
At this point I usually start to perspire and that leads to me not taking any photos.
Finally! I’ve reached the top!
These roof-tiled versions of hanoks are called giwajib, 기와집 which means they were built for the upper class (yangban 양반). Those of the lower class lived in straw-thatched roofed hanoks called chogajib 초가집. Jib집 = house. Korean word of the day, learned 😀
Back in 2009 when I was fatter and my hair was redder (I sound like an overweight fire extinguisher). Totally not looking the best but I decided to put up this photo to show how high the walls were – to prevent busybodies from peering into the houses – yes, people still live in them! – and also to prevent accidents from happening. Remember, this is at the top of a hill.
Standing on a wall to peer into the houses – just look at their courtyard! It’ll be so awesome for gatherings, bbqs and flash mobs doing gangnam style.
Clearly a photo taken on a different camera – this one’s to show the actual roads leading up and how narrow they are. It’s barely enough to accommodate 2 cars. Korean drivers defo have mad driving skills. And yes, that’s my head sticking out in the corner.
Yet another beautiful hanok that’s been slightly modified to the times – there’s electronic alarm systems and possibly some refurbishments. I think the inside remains largely the same though.
Lee Min Ho at the hanok during the filming of the drama. To find out more about the interior of this particular hanok, click here.
As you can see from my photos, I’ve only been able to admire the exterior of these beautiful places. They’re apparently really wonderful too:
- They are environmentally friendly and use only natural and recycleable materials – soil, timber, and rock, straw, etc.
- The Hanji (Korean paper) for their windows and doors is made of paper coated with bean oil, which gives it a polished look, makes it waterproof, and yet still allows air to pass through.
- They aren’t shoebox units – there are different living spaces.
- They also come in different shapes and sizes. They differ by regions because of the weather. The most popular shape is the ㄱ, while in the colder northern regions they’re built in the ㅁ shape to retain heat. The warmer southern regions built them in the ㅣ shape for faster cooling.
There’s also a unique floor heating system called ondol 온돌 – see picture below for illustration.
Perhaps one day, I might be able to stay for at least a week in these hanoks while wearing a hanbok (traditional Korean costume) 😀
Bukchon Traditional Village
Address: Seoul-si Jongno-gu Gahoe-dong, Jae-dong, Samcheong-dong, Gye-dong, Wonseo-dong
How to get there: Anguk Station (Line 3), Exit 2. Go straight for about 300m to arrive at Bukchon Hanok Village. Best to check the map for the correct exit or look for landmark logos before exiting the subway station.