Saturday, May 8: On Saturday morning, my South African friend Buyiswa, better known as “B”, and I ventured to Andong for the weekend. I planned the trip and invited B along. I found a great cheap hotel for us to stay in; written up in my trusty Moon Handbook, it said “the chic Hotel California, in the center of town, is much smaller, newer, and more of a boutique hotel.” I sent her the link, which shows a very modern and clean room; sadly, this link has since been removed because the Hotel California is now known as the Andong Hotel (Official Site of Korea Tourism: Andong Hotel (formerly Hotel California)). We were both very excited b/c it looked so good and was cheap besides.
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night…..
And I was thinking to myself,
‘This could be Heaven or this could be Hell’
Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
‘Relax,’ said the night man,
‘We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave!
~The Eagles “Hotel California”
I left my apartment at 9 am Saturday morning, took the subway to Dongdaegu Station and promptly went to the express bus terminal across the street. The next three buses for Andong were full, so I bought a 7,300 Won ticket for the 10:37 bus. It’s ~100 km to Andong, so the trip was about an hour and 50 minutes. B arrived in Andong before I did, and checked in to the hotel. I called her from my bus and asked how was the hotel. She said, it’s okayyyy….I’ll let you judge for yourself.
The place was deserted at the front desk and room 501 was like a sauna. The air was dead and stifling from the lack of air conditioning and the decor was like a cheap honeymoon hotel in the Poconos…. dark silky bedspreads, little ruffled curtains over the beds, cigarette burns on the yellow velour couch. The room seemed clean but a cheap and tired version of its bygone self.
We tried to find the proprietor to have him check our air conditioning, but he was nowhere to be found. We stood at the front desk for some time, calling into the vacuum. Finally, we gave up and left, dreading the return to our stifling room.
We caught a taxi to Hahoe Village, which is about 25 km out-of-town, because B wanted to see the mask dance at 2:00 — this at a cost of 25,000 won! The mask dance was in session when we arrived, and as there was standing room only, we stood. I found the dance pretty monotonous. It went on for an hour, with various characters in masks performing some skits which I couldn’t understand because it was all in Korean. One guy came out playing a town drunk, I think; he had the audience laughing their heads off. Laughter is infectious, so I laughed along as the guy’s antics were perfectly ridiculous.
After the mask dance, we ventured to a little area where there are a bunch of totem poles. Many of them have either huge penises, penises as noses, or multiple penises. This was a great photo op!! I heard later from my co-teacher Coffee J that Koreans believe these kinds of statues and carvings serve to protect communities from dangers. They are quite ubiquitous throughout the country.
We then take a walk through Hahoe Village. Hahoe Village is home to descendants of the Ryu clan of Pungsan and is well-known for its traditional houses. Birthplace of renowned scholars of the Joseon Period such as Gyeomam Ryu Un-ryong and Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong, the village became even more famous after Queen Elizabeth of England visited on April 21, 1999.
Hahoe Village (translated as “Village Enveloped by Water”) gets its name from the Nakdong River, which flows around the town’s perimeter. The village sits in the foothills of Hwasan Mountain, an offshoot of Taebaek Mountain that rises up to the east. The center of the village is populated by large tile-roofed houses belonging to the Ryu clan, adding their own unique charm to the surrounding thatched roofs.
Hahoe Village, along with Yangdong Village in Gyeongju, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List under the category of “Historic Villages in Korea” on July 31, 2010 (Official Site of Korea Tourism: Andong Hahoe Village (UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE)).
After Hahoe, B and I took another taxi to the Andong Dam. Completed in 1976, it’s the 3rd largest dam in the country. The view from the top of the dam was amazing and we wandered leisurely across the top until we reached a pavilion on the other side. We then realized we were going to miss the next bus down, so we hurried back across the dam, only to see the bus zoom by, leaving us stranded. Wandering out to the road, we started walking down toward town (too far to walk!!) and hoped for a taxi. Alas, no taxis ventured past!
We came up a restaurant with two totem poles and a sign on a rock saying “Pub.” We fell in love with the little totem guys, took some goofy pictures, then went into the restaurant (called Jungle Gym); I ordered a beer and B a non-alcoholic drink, and we sat on the patio at a picnic table. The waitress called a taxi for us, and we headed back into town.
In town we ate a huge meal of Andong jjimdak, a steamed chicken dish which is meant for an army. B and I tackled what we could but left a lot behind.
Back at the Hotel California, we finally found the elusive proprietor and he informed us there was no air conditioning. So… we opened the window and put on pajamas…and surprise!! the room was actually quite comfortable. When it came time to go to sleep, B wanted to close the window. I said, B, it’s too hot! We can’t close the window! She said, But I’m afraid someone might come in. I said, B, we’re on the 5th floor! How is anyone going to get in? She looked carefully out the window. I said, Don’t worry, I’ll sleep on the side nearest the window and I’ll protect you if by some weird chance someone comes in the window!