In my last post, I told you about a type of accommodation for the open-minded traveller with an interest in modern-day Korean society and a need for privacy. Today, we’ll look into an option for more traditionally inclined visitors who crave a sense of community. I am talking, of course, about a hanok, a traditional Korean house.
Hanoks are single-floor houses whose rooms are often arranged in a rectangle around an interior courtyard. To survive the cold Korean winters, they have a unique floor heating system: the so-called ondol which transfers heat from a stove or fire in the kitchen to stones under the floor in the rest of the house. The one in which we stayed still used this heating system.
The place was once the home of a noble family and had recently been restored. It had slanted tile roofs and the interior walls were made of cherry wood. The windows and interior doors were spanned with traditional Korean paper, lending it a very convincing traditional look. Our room was tiny, and we slept on futons on the heated floor. Since the walls and doors were very thin, we were at first afraid that there would be too much noise to sleep. Everyone was really quiet though, and with the comforting warmth from below and the pleasant smell of the cherry wood, we slept better than in any other night during this trip.
Not all the rooms were tiny; some were in fact rather large. We got the only free room when we arrived and were very happy to get any at all. We had actually booked another place for that night, in a very small hostel. But something had gone wrong in their booking system and when we arrived, they did not have a room for us. They were extremely caring however and did all they could to find an alternative. The hanok stay was their idea and it was a very pleasant surprise. (We did stay in their hostel the next night, and it is a very nice place too, with the most hospitable owner I have ever met.)
Surprises did not end their though; somehow, we were offered a free cultural experience at the hanok. We accepted obediently, not sure what was going to happen the next morning. And here is what happened: we got an introduction to the architecture of the house and were made to try on Korean costumes for an extended photo shoot posing as Korean king and queen.