Alex and Chickpea Do Korea

Trip to Andong: Hahoe Village, the longest bridge in Korea and some tasty jjimdak

Our mission: To not leave South Korea before giving Andong one more chance.

Regular readers of the blog will remember our last trip to Andong in October for the International Mask Festival. The festival was great, but the whole experience was overshadowed by the first (and only) time we felt ripped off in Korea.

This time, however, we wanted to go to the Hahoe Village outside of town. So we left Daegu on a bus bound for Andong, arrived at the city’s new bus terminal and hopped on another bus to take us the several miles to Hahoe Village, a 600-year-old traditional neighborhood on the banks of the Nakdong River.

Traditional villages are big attractions in places like Andong, which is a fairly bland Korean city. The Hahoe Village is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and one of the most famous historic villages in the country. It was even visited by Queen Elizabeth in 1999 — something the community is very proud of. They even built a little museum with pictures from that special day.

The village is a nice collection of tile- and thatched-roofed homes called “hanok.” The Nakdong River offers a nice view. A nearby cliff is also photogenic, especially when viewed from the small pine tree forest nearby. But this is definitely no Cracker Country tourist trap with docents and wooden cut-outs to take pictures with. It’s a real community — people actually live in these houses — and offers all the trappings of a normal Korean neighborhood: There is trash along some of the walkways and when we visited, it must have been garbage burning day.

The real attraction for us was the collection of phallic sculptures that greet your entry into the village. Not necessarily weird, unless you consider the normally conservative nature of this country.

Generally speaking, the village offers a nice window into Korea’s past. (I’m still curious whether people actually choose to live in these drafty homes 30 minutes from any conveniences or if the government gives them a subsidy to keep the village alive.)

After some nice photo opps and a little shopping in the traditional tourist trap area outside of the village, we left to find Andong’s other main attraction: the longest footbridge in Korea.

I was excited. I like bridges. I like water. I like things that break records. And if this bridge has a few boards missing to make it rustic and thrilling — all the better to write home about.

So we took another bus to Andong’s more populated center (1,200 won) and began walking toward the city’s other river. The wind whipped through our jackets and I once again cursed my decision to not bring my scarf. A 45-minute walk later, we arrived at the bridge.

Now, I don’t know Korea’s history with bridges or if something was lost in translation, but if Andong’s bridge is the longest in Korea, I think there’s a good chance it is also the only footbridge in Korea. It took about three or four minutes to cross — and that’s including posing for pictures.

After a stroll through a fake folk village, we decided to head back to Daegu to attend a Japan earthquake benefit concert. But we had one more activity on our list.

If there’s one thing our Korean friends have told us about Andong, it’s : “Try the Andong jjimdak!” This kind-of stew with chunks of steamed chicken and vegetables in a spicy, soy-based sauce is the city’s culinary speciality. I’ve had Andong jjimdak in Daegu and I was doubtful my inexperienced Korean palate could taste the difference in the dish’s city of origin.

After some searching, we found a jjimdak restaurant direclty across from the footbridge entrance. We walked in, took off our shoes and sat down at a table. We ordered our jjimdak (22,000 won) and some sides of rice. In about 15 minutes, our server brought us a huge, tire-sized dish of Andong jjimdak.

And, truth be told, Andong jjimdak really is better in Andong.

If you go: From Daegu, catch the Andong bus (7,700 won) from a bus station near Dongdaegu Station. The bus station will be across the street and behind the first bus station you see. The ride to Andong takes 90 minutes. Once there, walk out of the bus terminal to the main road and catch city bus No. 46 for the 30-minute ride to Hahoe Village. The village costs 2,000 won to enter.

Alex and Chickpea Do Korea

Andong Mask Festival: The sights, the sounds, the scams (video)

OK, maybe it wasn’t a scam.

Perhaps I should just chalk it up to linguistic miscommunication. It’s my fault for not knowing more of the Korean language, right?

But Chickpea is convinced. We were taken for a ride (forgive the pun).

We stepped out of the Andong Train Station at 8 a.m. and quickly realized we were some of the only people out and about in this city of 185,000. So, with no pack of tourists to follow, we aimlessly wandered the downtown region looking for a hint of the famous Andong Mask Festival. Except for a small stage downtown, we didn’t see anything that resembled the reviews we saw online. So, we wandered back toward the train station.

While looking at map, a taxi driver approached us.

“Hahoe?” he asked us. “Hahoe?”

We responded, “Mask festival.” We did absurd gestures of wearing a mask.

“Oh yes, yes,” he said and motioned for us to follow him to his taxi.

As a preface, most expats will tell you South Korean taxi drivers are truly honest. And although this was the first time a taxi driver solicited us, which was kind of weird, we have had nothing but pleasurable experiences in the taxi cabs here (if you don’t count the hair-raising driving skills).

So, we hopped in his cab and looked out on the city of Andong. That is, until we left the city of Andong.

“Where is he taking us?” Chickpea asked.

“I don’t know, but maybe it’s somewhere cool,” I reasoned.

While stopped at a red light, we talked again with our taxi driver.

“Mask festival,” we said. “Mask festival.”

“Oh yes,” he answered.

After glimpsing a sign on the side of the road announcing the historic Hahoe Village — 20 more kilometers ahead — we realized what was happening. We had the taxi driver pull over and explained we did not want Hahoe Village, we wanted the Andong Mask Festival.

“Oooohhhh,” he said. And proceeded to take us to the front gate, which was about four blocks from the train station.

Twenty-five thousand won poorer, we walked around the festival grounds (which were huge) and decided to head back downtown until the actual performances began. Once we hit the area near the train station, three taxi drivers approached us.

“Hahoe? Hahoe?”

You be the judge.

P.S. Although we never made it, the Hahoe Village is supposed to be another must-see in Korea. But instead of a taxi, take the bus no. 46 that leaves near the tourist information booth a block or two down from the train station. At about 1,000 won, it’s a much cheaper option.

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The Andong Mask Festival should definitely be on your must-see list if you make it to South Korea in the fall. With a full schedule of traditional Korean plays and dancing from all over the world, you won’t be bored. And even if your butt starts to hurt, the festival grounds are full of craft tents, food stalls and dozens of strange mask-related characters to pose with.

Check out our video!