Andong Folk Villages, Dam, Wooden Bridge

Trip Start Aug 16, 2013
Trip End Aug 25, 2013

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Flag of Korea Rep.  , Gyeongsangnam-do,
Saturday, March 26, 2011

I have a trip planned for every weekend now well into May. This weekend started with the first one which is Andong, 90 mins north of Daegu. I had been to Andong before in October for the annual Mask Dance Festival (see earlier entry). Andong is famous not only for its annual mask festival, but also for the Andong Hahoe Village, which is a Unesco recognized site. This is a 600 year old folk village still maintained by members of the original family. It has even been visited by Queen Elizabeth during a 1999 trip to Korea.

This time there were six of us for the trip. We met at dongdaegu and took the bus to andong. From what I remember of the mask festival there was an old bus terminal downtown right in front of the festival grounds, with a tourist office beside. When we arrived in Andong our first reaction was where are we? This was a brand new terminal on the outskirts of the city just off the highway. It was a nice, clean, modern building, but not what we knew and threw off my planning.

I tried to look for a tourist office but there wasnt one. Someone suggested we ask in one of the stores so I asked in the bakery. She spoke enough english to say go straight, turn left, cross the street, bus no. 46. That was quite lucky that she was able to help and I think they need to put the tourist office back in the new bus station.

So bus 46 will take us the 15km or so outside of town to the village. The bus only runs six times a day each way so its important to check the timings and co-ordinate beforehand. We wasnt sure where to get off but fortunately it terminates at the village. Here we found an english speaking tourist office which was able to help with planning the rest of the day.

Turns out what we were in was a fake village 1km from the actual village, with souvenir shops and restaurants. There was also the Mask Festival Musuem but it was closed for renovations. They also told us to get food here as there are no shops in the village. There was a free shuttle to take us the km to the village but they were really packing people in so we decided to walk to take in the sights.   

Along the way we saw some tree carvings made to resemble the mask faces and other characters. We also noticed 'rude male objects' carved and the more we looked the more we noticed. After that they had a special building to commemmorate the Queen Elizabeth visit. They had blow up photos of her stay as well as the chair and table she sat on. There was also a copy of the guest book she signed.

After that we were in the village itself. Its not as big as it looks in photos but you can spend a good hour exploring. This is different from other folk villages I've been to in that they have straw thatched roofs and the land was being worked for farming. I didnt see any residents and the setting was kind of spoilt with a brand new car parked outside each house. I also read you can do an overnight stay in the village but I didnt see any instructions for this while I was there.

Not all of the houses are open, some of them you can only walk around a 3ft perimiter wall and see inside. Near the centre was the Goddess Samsin Inhabited Tree. This is a giant many branched tree like the goddess of life tree in the avatar movie. Its a 600 year old tree and has something to do with childbirth and pregnancy. People write their prayers on papers and tie them around the tree. Theres also a row boat that will carry people to the other side of the river for some more houses but the river level was too low so maybe they do this in later months.

At 2pm they also have an hour show in the performance arena just at the entrance near the Queen Elizabeth building. This is similar to the mask dance performance during the festival later in the year. Its the story of different villagers done in four parts. We caught the middle part where the husband argues with the wife, next the village drunk comes onto stage for a scene. I thought you could only see the performance during the festival but seems they do it daily in the village. The origins of the mask is also something to do with spirits protecting the town.

We then took the bus back into town to see the other places on our itinerary. The bus back again has set times, only six per day, so we took the 3pm. This terminated downtown where the old terminal was and the mask festival area. From here we were supposed to change buses to another city bus to get us to the other folk village and attractions. We couldnt figure out which bus so decided to walk as it didnt seem that far.

After ten minutes the road becomes a bridge that crosses the river. We wanted to stay on this side of the river so went under the bridge, crossed under the railway tracks until we were along the river bank. From here we could see the Andong Dam. This is the smaller of the two dams, more like the thames flood barrier, and the much larger main dam is further along (then I remembered having to insure dams in my job before I came here!)

As we contined to walk along the river there was another old settlement on the other side of the road with a very old seven story pagoda. After a 15 min walk along the river we reached Wolyeong-gyo which is Koreas longest wooden bridge. This is a zig-zag bridge with a pavillion in the middle. From here we could see the smaller dam and the larger dam on each side of the bridge. Also at the end of the bridge is another folk village climbing into the mountain so made for some good shots.

Across the river is Andongs other folk village. This is actually a fake village built as a film set to shoot tv dramas. There are no television production going on any more but people are free to wonder around. Its on different levels as you climb a hill so involves some climbing. At the base is a nice scenic area with a pond and bridge and buildings in the background. As you climb there is another village setting. Further up is what looks like the great wall of china with a large stone entry gate. Behind more housing complexes.

Back further along this side of the river is the Andong Folk Museum but it had closed at five. If you keep walking around to the other side of the large main dam there is a sculpture park and viewing area for the dam. We decided not to go as it looked too long a walk, it was getting colder, and we needed to get back to daegu. We managed to find the bus back to downtown, after that took a cab to the bus station on the outer part of town.

Andong was definately nice for a visit outside of the mask festival. During that time its too crowded which is why I chose not to see the other parts of andong then, and also I would have missed the festival events. We managed to do everything at both opposing ends of the town in one day. It can be done but perhaps in the summer when there are longer daylight hours. Andong also has other temples and a buddha statue head carved into a giant rock so theres more to see.
Was wondering what they will do about transport to the mask festival in october since the new bus station is on the edge of town and not near the events? Also they need to put the tourist office back in the bus station.

Coming back I took the bus to Daegu Bukbu terminal instead of DongDaegu as thats closer for me. I didnt know he lets people off at the chilgok highway exit and I could have walked home from there. I was right at the back wearing my seatbelt so didnt get up in time so ended up back at Bukbu Bus station. But thats where the pakistani shops are with the sweets I mentioned in the previous entry.

This week will be busy with Presidential Palace visit Tuesday, then off again on Saturday to the Gyeongju Millienium Theme Park celebrating the Shilla Dynasty.

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