Winter in a Different Folk Village

Trip Start Dec 02, 2011
Trip End Dec 02, 2012

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

This weekend, I headed back to Suwon (수원). This time my visit to the town was thankfully toilet free (or rather toilets were not the main event). Instead, we went to the generically named Korean Folk Village (한국민속촌) near Suwon. Although the village was often referred to as being in Suwon, it was actually about half an hour by bus from Suwon station. In fact, I think we passed a closer metro stop on the way, but there was a free shuttle running a few times a day from the Suwon station so we went from there.

We went in the winter because my friend will be leaving Korea in a couple of weeks (boo), so it was now or never if she wanted to see it. Today was actually a much better time to visit than I'd expected. It was a degree or two above freezing, making it by far the warmest trip out of my last three weekends, although the cold did start to seep in when we stopped strolling and sat down to watch some shows. I was also pleasantly surprised by how photogenic the village was in winter. The light coating of snow made for some nice scenery.

The village wasn't out in the country, but it wasn't overwhelmed by it's settings. It consisted of traditional houses and other buildings relocated from around the country. A fairly wide, but calm, river ran through the center of the village. For added amusement, there were several different types of (I assume) traditional bridges connecting the two sides.

Of the three Korean folk villages I've been to so far, this one was definitely the most enjoyable. The Jeju Folk Village Museum was setup like a museum and was certainly more educational. The Oeam Folk Village near Asan was cool because it was a real living village with many actual residents, but the downside was the presence of many cars, electrical wires, and other obvious markers of the modern age. What today's folk village had was an abundance of atmosphere, as long as you avoided the attached kiddy theme park.

There were only two negatives. One was the price: 15,000 won, which isn't a lot and I thought the village was worth it, but 15,0000 won was pricey for Korea. The other was the ladies in the gift shop. My friend and I ducked in while we were waiting for the return shuttle mainly to get warm. Unfortunately, the shop was almost empty so the numerous clerks had nothing better to do but hover around us trying to sell us anything that remotely seemed to pique our interest. I think this is seen as good service in Korea, but it was extremely annoying both because I constantly felt pressured to buy things and because I didn't feel free to discuss what we were looking at with my friend while the clerks were right at our elbows.

Anyway, despite the pushy salespeople and chilly weather, I had a great time. Although there weren't many people walking around in costume, it was easy to get the feeling you were in an actual village in the past. The lack of crowds due to the winter season no doubt helped on that count, fewer tourists with cameras and cell phones walking through the scene. The performances of folk traditions were very well done, if not always as enthusiastic as the performances I'd seen at actual Korean festivals. I think I would put Korean Folk Village on my Top Things to See in Korea list, certainly if someone was here as a tourist and wouldn't have time for a more authentic experience.
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