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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

Beauty and the … Bizarre in Hahoe (Day 252)

We saw some beauty and the … bizarre in Hahoe today. Definitely worth the trip.

Phew! Who needs to go to a sauna with this weather? A scorching 37 degrees here, however at least there is a small breeze, even if the wind does feel hot. Our aim for today was to go to the Hahoe Folk Village, dating back to the Joseon Dynasty or is it the late Koryo period? There’s a difference of opinion! It’s a UNESCO Heritage site due to the preserved architecture and the practice of old folk traditions. We had just missed a bus, so at least we had time to find out transport details for tomorrow and finally caught the bus whilst chatting to a nice French man with his two sons. They are over here visiting his third son who is at a University south of Seoul for three months. Main topics were football (of course), politics and the traffic in Paris. Reaching the village, we first visited the Hanoe Mask Museum which displayed about 300 masks from various areas of Korea and masks from 30 countries around the world. The variety is incredible, some are exquisitely made and beautifully painted, others are rather comical, some look like Neil from the Young ones and others I definitely would not want to meet in a dark alley at night! We didn’t stay too long as we wanted to watch the one show of the day, the Hahoe Mask Dance Drama. Apparently, this has 800 years of tradition, featuring daily life as well as the conflict between various classes of people. Well, it certainly was different! There were 6 parts to the show. The first had two men dressed in sacks with feathers on their heads. I think they were supposed to be fighting lions. It somehow reminded me when our son George was about four and was so proud to be the main goat in the school’s Christmas show. I can still picture him walking nobly around! The show here got more and more bizarre; number two scene was a butcher killing a bull and trying to sell the heart and testicles to the audience! Next entered an old woman full of woe, singing her story of losing her husband within days of being married. The fourth and weirdest scene was a young lady (known as a Bune or concubine) who urinates on the floor. A Buddhist monk sees this and scoops it up, smells it and instantly is overcome with lust. (Sorry, I am only sharing what we watched!) The two dance and are spotted by a servant who finds the whole episode funny and they run off. The servant is then with another man who, I think, is drunk and finally an Aristocrat and Scholar arguing who is the best. They then compete over their desire for the Bune. The Butcher arrives and they fight over buying the bull testicles from him, everyone appears and then the tax man chase after them all. Mmmm… interesting!! Perhaps the story was lost in translation. After the show, we found a little café in the village and had delicious iced citron tea. The elderly lady who owns the café gave us a new potato on a cocktail stick to eat. Feeling refreshed we walked around the village with the upper class tiled roofed houses in the village centre and the commoner’s thatched cottages on the outside. It is rare in Korea from that time to have the classes living in the same village together. Also, the houses all faced in various directions from the centre, whereas most houses in other villages from this period faced south.

We had a lovely walk around, there were lots of beautiful flowers, vegetable patches and swallows nesting. In one of the main buildings, there was an exhibition about Ryu Unryong and Ryu Seongryong, brothers who were born here in the 1500s. One was a great Confucian scholar and there were samples of his original writings here. The other was Prime Minister during the period of the Japanese invasion in the late 16th century. He must have been an extremely tall man as exhibited were a pair of his shoes. They were massive. I don’t want to sound rude about this auspicious man, but clown feet springs to mind! We wandered around the outskirts of the village surrounded by mountains with the river winding around. In fact, Hahoe means River (Ha) turning around (Hoe). a beautiful location. Time to catch our bus back to Andong. A man from Madrid started to talk to us and seemed surprised that we were able to travel for so long. He stated that not having any money makes you stressed. We gently disagreed, sharing examples where this was not true. We have met some extremely poor people on our travels who showed no sign of stress. A person can have plenty of money and be stressed about money or not. A poor person with hardly any money can be stressed or not. This man replied that he would rather be intelligent and stressed than happy and stupid. Luckily the bus arrived then. I did ask him with a twinkle in my eyes if he was implying we were stupid. Oh well, we hope that he can see where his experience really comes from one day. We arrived in Andong and treat ourselves to an ice cream to celebrate our Anniversary. We know how to live it up! A young couple next to us had a massive ice cream– the size of a 1lb bowl! How they were going to eat it all, we’ll never know. Our two scoops between us were plenty and delicious. (Mind you I do know a certain person that ate a whole 500ml tub of Ben and Jerry’s once! – Eh sis?)

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