Korea has a handful of ‘traditional villages’ scattered around the country for tourists and schoolchildren to have something to do when they are not getting blackout drunk on soju or grilling their own meat, tableside (see the breadth of my understanding of Korean culture?). There are several traditional villages scattered about the country, but we chose to visit Hahoe Village mostly because it was on the way to the coast. In addition to its convenient location, Hahoe has the distinction of being a functional village- meaning that real, live people continue to live in the village’s thatched roofed houses in exchange for a government stipend (it’s kind of far away from anything). There are some concessions to modernity like the occasional satellite dish, but the place is a pretty convincing depiction of old-timey Korea, at least as far as I can tell. In fact, Hahoe is so carefully preserved that historically-themed movies or TV shows are often filmed on sight, which was the case when we visited. Some movie extras followed us around and eventually indicated that they’d like to have their photos taken with us, which is a refreshingly bizarre change of pace for tourists, although a relatively common phenomenon in Asia.
Village delights aside, we really enjoyed our time in the city of Andong, which has the closest bus station to Hahoe Village. We met a group of English teachers from America, who all assumed that we were English teachers as well. We wandered around town and took in the sights of a regular Korean city: high-rise apartments and an abundance of Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream shops (to my unending glee). Aside from the food, language, and universal condoning of over-consumption of alcohol, Korea is not so different from the US, which made it comfortable to explore.