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11/25/2017 Special > Special


Familiar but Exotic!

Visiting a popular place for an intriguing experience


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Did you know that doing something you regard as hackneyed or ordinary could sometimes feel as new and interesting? As a Korean, wearing a hanbok or visiting the traditional palaces sounds trite. However, perhaps due to the lengthy interval of visiting such a place or wearing a hanbok, a visit to the Bukchon Hanok (traditional Korean house) Village combined with a hanbok experience was offbeat!
Bukchon Hanok Village is close from Anguk Station, line 3.
(Photo courtesy of havehalalwilltravel)

Coming out of the subway station through the exit 6 and walking straight to the main road of Insa-dong, numerous Hanbok rental shops were spotted, along with some groups of tourists and Koreans strolling down the way in the attire. The street was lined with souvenir stores, displaying things that represented Korea such as the traditional masks, pots, fans and more. Those items are normally not considered extraordinarily valuable or as must-haves because Korean people tend to think they are something they can get anytime and anywhere if desired, had it not been for the fact that those items are unwanted due to their familiarity. Nonetheless, an urge to buy one of the souvenirs was felt because of being familiar does not mean including in possession! 
Korea-smelling souvenirs!
The view of the street on the way to hanbok shop. Restaurant and cafe menus were all Korean.

After renting a full hanbok set, an eye-catching sight was spotted on the way to Bukchon Hanok Village: signs of foreign stores with names written in Korean. At first, it was hard to believe what was being seen, because the names such as Baskin Robins or Starbucks is never written in Korean, but only in English in every corner of Korea except the Sejong Road (in respect to the king who created hangul, or Korean). It all looked very awkward and weird at first, but after a moment of staring, things came to make sense because of the traditional hanok that started to show themselves. The hanok village is one of the few places in the entire country that stands proud for its preservation of Korea’s tradition. Having said this, it would be ironic if the names were still written in a foreign language. More and more hanok were seen and the excitement grew and grew.
Baskin Robins and Starbucks were written in Korean on the way to Hanok Village.
Even souvenir shops and cafes resembeled hanok.
The idea of hanok was not that novel, but what truly fascinated me was the scene of combining the past and present. The picture of hanok may always be there in a Korean’s mind, as it is too prevailing to forget. However, the traditional building amid the modern ones was a different story. There were cars and motorcycles passing by, modern constructions neighboring, and a traditional hanok standing. This mixture of present and past scenery was unprecedented. As a contemporary person of this developed society, standing in the area full of tradition wearing the traditional dress was an odd feeling. It was as if time was switching gears uncontrollably.  

Originally thinking that hanbok and hanok are too conventional to be interesting, today’s experience was a new lesson. One’s tradition and culture could be boring and unexciting, but do not lose the preciousness because of familiarity. Sometimes paying a visit to somewhere conventional, accustomed, and ordinary could teach some valuable lessons and awaken one to be aware of things that are buried deep in consciousness. One of the greatest aspects of Bukchon Hanok Village is perhaps that it combines the contemporary and the traditional color of Korea in one sight. It was nice to be reminded of the beauty of Korea’s tradition and the sensation derived from pondering upon the view.
This hanok in isolation was fenced by a traditional wall.
Going up the hill, rows of hanok were seen, with some non-traditional buildings.
Wonder how it feels to live in a hanok!
How about a souvenir?

Time to return the hanbok!

Jeon Chae-yun
Photos by Jeon Chae-yun
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