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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Calm but cold in Korea

Hello from the east, everybody!

Outside a temple near downtown Andong, South Korea.

For the next few months I'll be exploring in South Korea(대한민국)! Yesterday, I took a trip to some fantastic historical sites around Andong(안동), a moderately-sized city of about 500,000 in the Gyeongsangbuk province.

A little background on the region:

Often billed as the "Cultural Capital of Korea," the Andong area is well known for its links to Korea's past and its preservation of old traditions. The area surrounding Andong is home to the famous Hahoe Folk Village, a UNESCO World-Heritage site as of 2010, as well as numerous temples, Confucian academies and old family estates. Queen Elizabeth visited Hahoe and other sites around Andong in 1999, bringing further attention to the region as a cultural center.

Many Andong residents have a great sense of pride about their city and are happy to tell stories, share information and even teach traditional dances! Every fall Andong hosts the International Maskdance Festival. The festival lasts for nearly two weeks and draws visitors from all over the world. It provides an opportunity for everyone to learn about and participate in everything that Andong has to offer.

Did I mention that Andong is also famous for its food and drink??? Yesterday I got to try some Andong jjimdak(안동찜닭), yum! But more on that later... There are so many aspects to Andong that it's difficult to even mention them all at once!

It was very cold and windy yesterday, nearly -23 degrees C (-10 F) with the windchill!  Maybe not the best day for exploring, but it was sunny and nice otherwise. The first place I visited yesterday was a functional Buddhist temple near downtown Andong.

I climbed up three flights of stairs decorated with beautiful paintings... reach the very quiet and peaceful main room, filled with sunlight, the dry, woody smell of incense and an elderly man seated on the floor quietly chanting prayers. The floor was wonderfully warm!

A lantern with prayers hanging from the center.


A large painting to the right of Buddha and offerings of food
-- too bad there aren't any bananas! ;-)

The temple's large Buddha statue.

And here's me in front of some lights with devotees' names.

It was hard to leave the warm, relaxing temple, but I decided to go on to see what else I could see!

A few minutes walk down the road, I came upon this pagoda -- the oldest stone pagoda in Korea! It was built in the 8th century as part of a temple called Beopeungsa, but it is all that is left of the temple. Traditionally, pagodas have an odd number of sections from three to thirteen -- this one has seven. The pagoda is Korean national treasure no. 16.

It was too cold to stay long near the pagoda, so I kept walking along the river, past the Andong Dam, until I reached the Andong Folk Museum.

Andong Dam

The museum has an outdoor and indoor area. The outdoor area consists of a collection of traditional houses and buildings, and the indoor area has information about historic daily life and culture. Since it was so cold, I headed inside.

The indoor museum focuses mainly on Confucian traditions related to life cycle events such as coming of age and growing older. The museum has a great wealth of information about life in the past and the influence that certain past traditions and Confucian ideologies have on modern Korean society, as well as many interesting artifacts and reconstructions of past life.

A handsomely decorated funeral box used to carry the body.

At the end of the day I was tired and my hands and feet were cold, it was the perfect time for some yummy, hot Korean food in a warm restaurant. Andong jjimdak is a kind of chicken stew with potatoes, carrots, noodles, peppers, leeks and sauce. It is an Andong original dish -- if you order anywhere else in Korea, it is always referred to as Andong jjimdak. I'd dare anyone to walk past an Andong jjimdak restaurant and not be tempted in by the smell.


Last, but certainly not least, Andong is especially famous for its soju. Soju is a clear Korean rice liquor popular all over the country. Andong Soju (안동소주) is known for its strength (40-45%) and earthy flavor, which result from it being distilled in the traditional way.

Whew, Andong Soju is too strong for a little monkey like me!

I'm tired, I'd better get some rest so that I can get out and explore more of incredible Korea! Until next time!

Michael TheMonkey


  1. Very-very interesting. You are a lucky monkey!!!

  2. Thanks, Raquel!! You are a great reader! Thank you for sharing your impression!

  3. same temperature here in Canada today...and snowing...

    thanks for the great tour and interesting photos...

  4. Wow! You show us the pictures and tell us the story that well, that we feel like we've been there ourselves! Thank you, we enjoy traveling with you Michael!

  5. Your blog is amazing, I love it!! :)

    Thank you very much for your comment!

    You have a new follower here!!

    Lucy :)

  6. Thank you, Lucy and Eldritch! I like the followers and Dragons! :-)