Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 8 - Namsangol Hanok Village, Namsan Stairs, Nanta in Seoul

October 29, 2009 (Thursday)

I wanted to see what it was like to live in traditional Korean houses and in that sense, probably glimpse at Korea's lifestyle in the olden days. I thoroughly enjoyed sleeping on the heated floor of our hotel room (with the tiny pillow) in Mt. Seorak (Day 2). I also recalled the heating system used in the Cheongbuk Palace (Day 4). I was told that there were still some of these traditional Korean houses left in Seoul. They were relocated near Namsan Tower (N Seoul Tower) I went to on Day 5 so I also took the opportunity to explore the other stops of the Namsan Tower bus on this day.

hanok village

The Namsangol Hanok Village (found at the foot of Namsan) transported me back to the Joseon era (also Chosun dynasty). The dynasty lasted for centuries until 1910 and it was the last imperial dynasty in Korea. The location of the village was formerly a popular summer resort where you can once spot blue cranes by the pavillion (still there now). We went to the Namsangol Hanok Village via subway (Chungmuro exit 2, choose the road on the right going upwards, the image here is pretty accurate). The village had a view of the Namsan Tower.


We were in time for a traditional Korean performance and some free traditional snacks at the hall near the entrance.


I boldly accepted the offer and sat inside of the performance hall. There were seats arranged on the sides. I felt like royalty.


Some of the performances were instrumental. I think what was more interesting were the traditional Korean singers. I was listening to them sing in their hanboks and I was wondering about the pitches of their voices (it was unique, raw and powerful and actually sounded better than opera for me).


Their instruments resembled ancient Chinese instruments. 


After the performance, we lounged around the different wood pavilions (they were constructed without nails). 


If I understand the Chinese poem correctly, this is a spot where one can smell the flowers all the time. 


I am here, looking for the right direction (Which way is north?).


In 1994, 11 million citizens of Seoul united to trace their roots (5000 years of historical tradition) and looked back at the achievements of their ancestors who provided a better future for their country that they are enjoying in the present. They also celebrated 600 years of Seoul as the capital of Korea from 1394. That's what the sign says in Chinese-Korean. 


They (also farsighted and looking out for their descendants) buried 600 articles-of-today in the Namsangol Hanok Village to be opened by future generations for this celebration. When Seoul turns 1000 (in 400 years, in the year 2394), they are hoping that their descendants will appreciate this gesture.


The time capsule and some examples of what was buried is located just a few steps from this winding path.

time capsule

We knew we were close to the hanok but we played around for a while. There were traditional Korean games available in the Namsangol Hanok Village. This one is a seesaw game (I was trying to knock her down by jumping, you know, like the cartoons).


Get a load of this one. It's pretty hard to make it roll using the stick and keep it standing. Note: you might quit after a while.


This one's called The Yut Game. You throw Yut sticks and the different combinations have corresponding points.


This is a traditional top like the one they sell in Insadong (Day 6). Spinning it correctly or just making it land right takes a lot of effort in my experience.


This is a Korean-style sumo wrestling called Sirum (sometimes with clothes).


After playtime, we proceeded to our main objective: a sample of the hanok. A hanok refers to a traditional Korean house.


In order to preserve and showcase Korea's past, five different structures in this hanok village were transferred from their original locations to this one site. Hanoks differ according to social class and geographical location. 


Upper class houses typically had tiled roofs while the commoner's house usually had rice straws (somewhat like our nipa huts in the Philippines). The hanoks of colder regions are shaped like a box to block the wind, the hanoks of the warmer regions are shaped in a line to allow wind to pass through and the middle regions have L-shaped hanoks for the hot and the cold. I like the hanok for the open spaces, the ondol system (a heating system which is still being used in modern houses and apartments nowadays, this is why you have to take off your shoes in a Korean home) and the materials used to build them. Some of the common household items then were also displayed.


After we saw this hanok, I was amazed by the simplicity of the design and the practicality of each room in this house. Open spaces must really be a theme in an old Korean setting. We visited a garden on our way out. Emily pointed out a placard indicating the style of Korean men who once walked stone steps like these. I followed suit awkwardly.


We were actually surprised to exit through a part of the Korea House where you can have a traditional Korean experience when it comes to Korean food and activities of the olden times. It didn't fit my budget though and we had no more time left. Namsangol Hanok Village was free and so are a lot of interesting places in Seoul. The Korea House was once the house of Joseon scholar Park Paeng-Nyeon (a common example of a classic upper class residence during that time, Park Paeng-Nyeon was one of the scholars who created Korea's alphabet they still use now called Hangul). 


I had no plans for lunch so Emily took charge. We found this restaurant about 5 minutes away from the Chungmuro exit (head to the left side of the map a while ago, it's on the second floor and opposite the street).


We were going to have kimchi soup at an unknown local restaurant (they said kimchi soup was their specialty) we just picked off the street because we were so hungry.


Korean food just didn't disappoint starting from Day 6. This kimchi soup (kimchi chigae or kimchi jjige) is all vegetable but I had fun finishing it and the tangy soup. 


Be careful not to burn your tongue though. It is spicy and hot if from a boiling pot.


Just pair it with rice (bap) and you're good to go. 


Try the green chili appetizer if you can take more heat.


This restaurant also had a fun setting (we were seated in cushions on the floor, shoes off).


After that satisfying meal, we took the empty Yellow Bus up the Namsan Tower again like last Day 5. No cars and taxis are allowed up Mt. Namsan to protect the environment. It's either you walk, take the cable car or you take the big bright Yellow Bus (Routes have English on bus: Daehan Cinema, Toegyero 5 (oh)-ga, Dongguk University entrance, National Theater of Korea, N Seoul Tower (Day 5), Namsan Library, Mr. Namsan Walkway, Seoul Animation Center and Toegyero 3(sam)-ga, 8 a.m. to 12 m.n., usual bus rates - 550 won for cash, 500 only with my T-money, how to get T-money here, tour Mt. Namsan for free guide click here).


I was on a different mission on this day. We had to find the spot that my friends and I couldn't find near the area on Day 5 - the Namsan Stairs. Why is it popular? Well, it's the ending scene location of the Korean series My Name is Kim Sam Soon! They ended it with a kiss. According to hearsay and locals, you will never be refused if you propose at the Namsan Stairs (which was probably why it is often seen in numerous Korean drama series). 


There are other stairs but the popular Namsan Stairs is somewhere in between the Namsan Library Stop and the Entrance of Mt. Namsan Walkway. We went down the Walkway but discovered it was not the spot we were looking for so we walked uphill (it took a while). Note while walking on Seoul streets: click here for smoking ban info all over the world (do not smoke on Namsan), the yellow rugged path is for blind people if you're wondering (similar to Japan and other countries abroad, see picture below left side). While we were walking, I realized that we were walking uphill very comfortably and I felt like I had bouncing feet the whole time. With my happy comment came a very interesting piece of information from my friend. I just had to take a picture with the path I was standing on!

walking in uratan super comfy

Uratan, a material developed in Korea, was used in this path (I couldn't find anything on the net though, I haven't tried in Hangol). My source says that a lot of paths like these are scattered around Seoul, usually for walking trails like parks to encourage more people (elders included) to have some exercise. All I can say is that it makes long-distance and uphill walking fun and so comfortable. The happy mood was still there as we stared up the long Namsan Stairs.

We made it to the top of the steep Namsan stairs and had time to pose at the fountain with the Namsan Tower as the backdrop.

We walked down the uratan path again and started seeing students in bright yellow. These were students of Lila Elementary School. The Korea school system has 6 years of elementary (1st to 6th grade), 3 years of middle school (7th to 9th grade), 3 years of high school (10th to 12th grade) before they can attend a junior college, college or university for their degrees.

The Cartoon Museum was closed (I think for renovation).

It was getting dark and I arranged to watch a show in the nearby Myeongdong. My pick for the night was the Nanta performance. After the Drawing Show (Day 4), I was ready for more Seoul art shows! There was no singing but a lot of upbeat dancing and flying knives in Nanta.

Music was made by banging kitchen utensils and many more. Everything was humorous and spectacular.

The Nanta was also available in other locations in Seoul (Myeongdong was near Namsan, Myeongdong is one subway stop from Chungmuro, the Nanta location was near Lotte). You can get discounts, more info and Nanta show times here.

I sampled Seoul's version of McDonalds Big Mac (no Quarter Pounder in Seoul, same taste). The Nanta I watched lasted for around 2 or 3 hours and I forgot to eat in my hurry.

I was still looking forward to watching all other shows and attractions in Seoul by the end of the day. Everything from the past or present was just downright interesting.

Read more about Seoul in Korea (you can find Busan in the labels):
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 1 - On The Way to Seoul, Incheon & Songdo City
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 2 - Nami Island & Mt. Seorak Near Seoul
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 3 - Mt. Seorak & Everland Near Seoul, Dongdaemun Market in Seoul
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 4 - Seoul City Tour - Kimchi-making, Hanbok-wearing, National Folk Museum, Cheongbuk Palace, Myeongdong, Drawing Show at Hyehwa, Banpo Bridge
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 5 - Lotte World (tour ends here), Seoul Tower (start of our extra day), Teddy Bear Museum, Myeongdong in Seoul
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 6 - Hyehwa, Gangnam, Insadong in Seoul
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 7 - Sinchon, Korean Universities in Seoul
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 8 - Namsangol Hanok Village, Namsan Stairs, Nanta in Seoul
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 9 Part 1 - Deoksugung Palace, Doldam-Gil, Tteokbokki Street in Seoul
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 9 Part 2 - Cheonggyecheon Stream, King Sejong Story, Samgyeupsal, Coffee Prince Cafe
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 10 Part 1 - Making Kimchi in a Korean Home, Korean Hospitality at its Best, Korean Grapes & Persimmon, Kimchi All-You-Can, The Peppero Story at the Supermarket, Ramen Eaten 3-Ways, Pojongmacha
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 10 Part 2 - My Best Foodie Experience in Seoul!
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 11 - Bossam Day, Incheon International Airport Activities