After having lunch at the famous bibimbap restaurant 가족회관, we checked in at our amazing accommodation for the night: Hakindang Traditional Hanok Guest House. This building was completed in 1908, making this guest house one of the oldest and most well known in the Hanok Village. This Hanok has a very interesting and varied history.
Hakindang is where Baek Nak-Jung lived, a man who was infamous for his filial piety, which then lead to King Gojong granting him a government position. After Baek Nak Jung died, this Hanok was then named Hakindang, which was derived from Baek Nak-Jung’s pseudonym, Inje.
The architect who helped design this Hanok was actually the official Palace Carpenter at the time, who was sent by the King to thank the owner. This Hanok is constructed with techniques from the late Joseon period, and is typical of the court construction style that was seen in the upper class housing around this era. Originally designed to host Pansori, it was the first opera theatre constructed in Korea! This Hanok retains many traditional features such as traditional under floor heating (ondol), and has a special well just for keeping kimchi pots cool!
As expected, the men and women in our group had separate buildings to sleep in. In the girls accommodation, which was divided into 3 little sections, the modern met the traditional. Even in these small traditional Hanoks, each room was kitted out with a TV and some magnificent furnishings, such as large lacquered wooden wardrobes, with Mother of Pearl detailing, to store all the bedding. We were also very relieved to discover modern bathrooms! We can’t comment on what the men’s building was like, because as respectable ladies we didn’t venture in! The rooms had underfloor heating so we slept on traditional thin futon mattresses directly on the floor much like the Japanese tatami mats. For some of us this was a first experience and we were pleasantly surprised by how comfortable it was. The heated floor was a particular favourite. There was also an amazing spread for breakfast, with a whole range of delicious traditional dishes, cooked before your eyes. When one dish was empty, it was replaced immediately for you. A great way to start the day!
The aesthetics of this Hanok were amazing. The architecture is spectacular, and the gardens are simply breath taking. The intricate detailing in everything from the beams and pillars to the windows have been so well preserved. And it’s so tranquil that the moment you step through the Hanok main doors, you feel like you are a world away.
The lovely owner was kind enough to show us around her private building, which was a treasure trove of lacquered furniture, traditional Korean furnishings, items her Grandfather kept (including many interesting old texts and memorabilia), and a whole host of other riveting pieces. We’re pretty sure any member of The Antiques Roadshow would have a heart attack at some of the items we saw in the owners house.
Where she lives used to be the building in which Pansori was held, and much of the original décor shows the musical past. The attic, a very special feature of the Hanok, was a favourite of ours, being home to many of the Owner’s Grandfather’s possessions. It was like stepping into a secret museum! The Owner was also lovely enough to treat us to some of her specially home made and brewed tea, a gesture which was really appreciated. Asian teas can sometimes be a bit too bitter if you like it strong, but her tea was really refreshing, it kept the tea’s full flavour without the overwhelming kick you normally get.
We’d definitely recommend staying here if you want a traditional and insightful experience. Hanok has become all the rage these days especially after being featured in Kdramas such asPersonal Taste. Most Hanoks are actually recently built so for a stay full of rich history, Hakindang is the place to go! If you’d like to get in contact with Hakindang, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is their Korean website and a newly started Facebook page. Fun Fact: This Hanok has Wifi!