If you’re ever in Korea for a few days, one of the things you must do is visit a folk village. This is especially true if you come during the fall, as a folk village is usually situated inside a forest. The leaves turn beautiful shades, and wandering from activity to activity is a cultural treat you won’t forget. Plus, don’t get me started on the food! But if you want to go in the fall, the window is rather short. I’ll explain.
Though summer was blisteringly hot even in early September, the temperatures cooled to a breezy 75-85 degrees only for a short time. Early October introduced the 60s as the new high. When we came back from Japan the first week of November, the temps had plummeted to a high of 35. Brrr! That being said, it didn’t stay there (for too long anyway): Now we find ourselves in a coaster that keeps going up and down; it will be in the highs of the low 60s for a day or two and will then slip down into the 30s for a few days, just to climb back up. So yes, fall is temperamental in Korea.
But before I launch into our time at Yongin Folk Village, I want to say a few words about the suburb where Danny lives and where this folk village is found.
Suwon, A Planned City Just South of Seoul
In Suwon, you have a city of about 1.06 million people broken up into various neighborhoods. Danny for the past almost three months has been living in Yeongtong, about 50 minutes by bus/subway away from Sillim. While he doesn’t live in the bustling metropolis that is Seoul, he obviously has access to creature comforts in a city so large; moreover, he has better access to convenient stores like HomePlus than even I do.
As we explored Suwon, we saw busy areas brighten up with neon signs and it really came alive. Want something much quieter than Seoul? Suwon, being the home of Samsung’s headquarters, is a ritzy and beautifully planned city.
Try Some Great Coffee from Hello, Stranger
One more side-note! You may not know, but I am obsessed with coffee. One of the things that is missing from Korea is good drip-brew coffee. Want caffeine? You’re in luck. Coffee shops line the street, too many to name, from Starbucks to Ediya to The Venti and more. But here’s the thing: Most only serve espresso drinks. The Americano is the norm here. While that’s fine, part of the joy of coffee comes from a wonderful cup of drip-brew that lets you really taste the flavor of a particular region or bean.
Maybe I was spoiled having worked in coffee shops throughout college, but is it really too much to ask? As such, I’ve been on the lookout. Danny and I found a nice coffee place back in August in Samcheongdong that served drip-brew (and dutch coffee! more on that another time) but we are always searching for other classy venues. Say hi to Hello, Stranger.
Hello, Stranger is a charming place just a quick walk from Danny’s apartment. We got to check it out one quiet morning before any Koreans were awake. Side note: Koreans don’t come out early. Stores often aren’t open until 9:30 or 10am (unless it’s open 24 hours) so we had the place to ourselves.
The interior was beautiful eclectic. Nice mismatching furniture of different wood finishes decorated the inside. Art hung all over (commercial and that done by guests) with books and odd trinkets strewn about for a slightly cluttered but totally hipster vibe. I loved it. The menu had options written out in English, too, so that’s always helpful for expats like us.
We ordered our coffee and scone and waited. Since places around Korea do not sell drip-brew commonly, the commercial brew filters and urns don’t make much of an appearance. Instead, they typically do it as a pourover. Be prepared to wait a few minutes.
All in all, it was a great start to the day, and it felt wonderful to just sit and relax, talking to each other and enjoying a mix of popular Korean music. I miss that coffee house aesthetic. I fully approved of it and we both hope to find more places like Hello, Stranger on our travels around Seoul and South Korea at large.
Hello, Stranger is a great cafe that I recommend to anyone looking for coffee with real ambiance.
Everyone Should Visit Yongin Folk Village (Especially During the Fall)
But finally, for the main event. The last thing we did in Suwon was head to the Yongin Traditional Folk Village of Korea. We were able to see fall in full movement here as it is nestled against forests and a small stream that bisects it down the middle. This area allows you a look into the past to see what Korea was historically like.
Many performances take place throughout the day, too. You can meet a “lord” and take pictures with him after he punishes disobedient or unlawful people, for instance. Beggars ran up to us asking for small donations, splotched with dirt and grime. Fortune tellers and others who can read your palms performed their arts for crowds as well.
Memorably, we saw an entire wedding performance, and it had me wondering if it was a real wedding with how many people in suits were attending. Later, I found out it was an actual wedding. People sign up for these all the time, apparently. What do they think of the tourists and other Koreans they don’t know taking pictures of their special moment? They must not care, but I don’t think I would like it!
Later on, we learned about the history of the Korean traditional masks, tal, and saw them in various stages of creation. And this was also the location where we discovered hotteok. Our eyes were opened to its tasty gloriousness, getting to try a few modern flavors like curry, pizza, or vegetable. Suffice it to say, we got several.
Horse acrobats are also performed here, but sadly, the rain cancelled them for that day. Musical performances occurred instead. We saw a cool percussion performance with guys dancing around drums and attracting huge crowds. I always enjoy seeing these drums play.
Before leaving the folk village, Danny even made wishes upon a cage of rocks outside the main entrance, a local tradition for good harvest (and he won’t even tell me what his wish was! rude). I can’t remember exactly, but I believe they set the wishes on fire when it is all said and done.
Toward the end of our time, we listened to musicians perform and walked around, taking everything in, from the temple to children playing traditional games under the watchful gazes of their parents. It slowly began to mist and by that time, we had seen most everything, so we took our exit. Yongin’s folk village was the best! I’d be curious to see it and other villages at other times of the year too!
I can’t believe it’s already halfway through November! Danny’s birthday is coming up soon, and I still have so much to mention from this past month. As the weather grows colder, we plan to visit more museums to fill in some gaps concerning our knowledge of Korean history. But I am also feverishly planning our 10-day trip this coming winter break. We are going on an adventure throughout Southeast Asia! More information will follow soon.
Hopefully, I’ll find time to write a few entries to catch us up to the present. I am especially jealous as I keep hearing about the unseasonably warm fall weather back home in Chicago. Send some our way!
What About You?
Have you been to a folk village in Korea? Though there are many, they all have their own fingerprints. Which folk village was your favorite? Do you think life was better then or now? Let me know below!