Monday, September 29, 2008

Andong Mask Dance Festival, Scenery, and Really Really, Ridiculously Good Food

So I heard about this thing called the Andong Mask Dance Festival, one of those Korean culture touchstones and all. Girlfriendoseyo explained to me that Andong is the heartland of Korea's confucian heritage -- the guy whose face is on the 1000 won bill lived there, and his house made it onto the money, too.
So something cool is definitely cooking in Andong, and we both needed, badly, to get out of dodge, anyway.
What is the meaning of this picture?  Keep reading...

So Andong it was. Rattling around in the train, starting at Chongyangni in standing room only, and moving into seats after the first hour, we got out of the city, and began to wonder as the city dwindled away.

The countryside is checkered with rice-fields shaped both regular and irregular, on average, about this size:

A really overbearingly beautiful sky kept us looking out the window.
Rickety old train stations
Instead of the fancy new ones with radar motion detector sirens to whistle if you step over the yellow line: this.
Finally, we arrived in Andong, at about 1pm.

Lunch time. 

Now, possibly my favourite Korean food is JjimDalk -- a special kind of chicken dish with sweet and sour soy-based spicy sauce, clear chewy noodles, and some veggies (most notably onions, carrots and potatoes) tossed in for balance.  Good eatin' dear readers.  If you can't make it to Andong (though you really should), the best place I've found in Seoul so far is right next to Boshingak Bell by Jongno Station. . . but I'll write more about that place another time.

On Saturday, we went to Jjim Dalk street, where about a dozen restaurants serve the famous dish, and the ridonculously harsh competition, plus the reputation of the town, plus the reputation of the street, has refined each place to the point where no place outside of "Chicken Street" can come within the same flippin' ORBIT as these places.

The Jjim Dalk (찜닭), and dear readers, I believe I have eaten enough of it to be able to say, was perfect.  In every way.  The freshness of the meat and vegetables, the balance of the sweet honey tang with the dark soy, the spiciness just enough to bring the other flavours out on a now-sensitive tongue, and the portion was...uh...a lot.  Seriously, by the end of the meal, I was counting bones trying to figure out if they'd secretly given us more than one chicken.  "Two necks I tell you!  And thrEEEE legs!  They gave us at least one and a half birds!  Those over-feeding fiends!"  It might have just been one chicken in there, but it felt like seven by the end of the meal, and it looked like two for sure:
So we did what any sensible pair of epicures would do, given a portion of perfect food large enough to fill us up twice over...
Tried to eat it all anyway.  That was as far as we got. . . pretty respectable, though.  I managed to maw down a few more noodles after we took this picture, but it had reached the point where my mind and my throat were holding negotiations each time I tried to swallow, so we had to leave some behind.

Here's Girlfriendoseyo, looking as full as a . . . really full thing.

(A little more here:)

Girlfriendoseyo found a really nice guest house that was originally built 600 years ago by a writer.  

We slept in buildings like this.
And this.

Which were heated like this:
The old way, with a fire burning under the floor.

In the morning, we ate this:

some of which was probably taken out of these:
Pots for storing pickled side-dishes like kimchi.

The mask festival, then.  

It was cool.  Dancing, lots of people, the city put its best foot forward.  We didn't have time to catch TOO much of the mask dancing, what with everything else going on, and the weather and scenery being so splendid. . . but the mask stuff was cool, too.

Traveling to and from places was actually one of the highlights, as the scenery in Gyungsan province reminded me of the BC Interior, kind up up Okanagan Valley way, with the mountains a little lower and the land a little more domesticated with beautiful rice paddies.

The rice plants were nearly yellow, which means they're almost ready for harvest, and the heads were bowed almost right over.

Taken around Hahoe Folk Village, as the sun got low in the sky:Hahoe Village was in fine form itself: this might be one of the better pictures I've ever taken...
More of the Hahoe Folk Village countryside and sunset (with special guest Jumping Fish at 2:05):

People actually live in this village.  You can even stay there--a few of the places put up guests.

The sunset was amazing, from start to finish.

This was the performance spot where the musicians set up during the fireworks show. This is another of the better pictures I've taken in my life.
But the possible highlight (if you HAVE to choose between the countryside, the jjim dalk, and this) was the fireworks:

Now I'm sure I've spelled this wrong in Korean (feel free to correct me in the comments), but over at the folk village, they do this thing called 선유줄불놀이 Seonyu Julbulnori: 

Traditional Korean fireworks.

I'd explain the whole thing... but just watch the video.  It's worth it.  These things were so beautiful.

These fireworks were different than others -- usually the aim of a fireworks show is spectacle.  Big, loud, amazing, people say "WOW!" and small children scream in fright.  These ones were so mellow and peaceful -- like bright flower-petals floating to the ground, and it created an ethereal atmosphere that was gentle and lovely, instead of the usual, expected thrills that fireworks bring.  Maybe the cognitive dissonance: "This isn't what fireworks are supposed to be like!" heightened the experience, or the fact Girlfriendoseyo and I TOTALLY did not expect this experience... but I got blindsided by beauty this weekend, dear readers.  Gobsmacked around a bit.
Video: Fireworks.  Hang on for a surprise at the end.

(photo from Ohmynews)

Here's a great picture of the 줄불놀이 - Julbulnori - from this site.

and a few other places, where people with better cameras than mine took better pictures than mine, of the fireworks.


Gomushin Girl said...

Told you you'd have fun! Andong ROCKS!

The Korean said...

That jjimdalk picture was killing me. I went out to get teriyaki chicken for lunch just to have some approximation. My stomach may be full, but my soul is still empty.

Roboseyo said...

trolling comments and racist garbage will be zapped immediately. (that's not for you, The Korean, but for the zapped comment after you)

If this post was rough, let me warn you away from fatmanseoul's post about andong.

you're totally right that jjimdalk is korean soulfood.

Anonymous said...

링크 사랑! 감사합니다!

Gomushin Girl said...

Seems like a rash of it going on lately . . . I've had problems too.

Gomushin Girl said...


Gomushin Girl said...

takes two to tango:

Roboseyo said...

Thanks for those, Gomushin Girl. I'm pretty sure my Grandma was burning up to see that clip of mating walruses (walri?)

If panda porn is more your cup of tea, this is about the most staggering display of ineptitude I've ever seen... in anything.

Anonymous said...

I think you and I were at the Hahoe fireworks display at the same time.

My friends and I wandered around the folk village after the fireworks - and flaming foliage display - ended with only a candle to light our way and it was an amazing experience. Here in Uijeongbu I can usually only see one star in the sky, but at Hahoe it felt possible to see them all.

Thanks for linking to those other photos of the Hahoe fireworks - they're breathtaking and do a much better job of capturing the moment than anything from my camera. (I posted my three best photos here - for what it's worth.)

Yangju (양주시) hosted an International Folk Festival this weekend that included puppet shows from Japan and Taiwan, Beijing opera, a mask dance from China, and dancing troupes from Indonesia, Côte d'Ivoire, Thailand, Bolivia, and Japan, as well as Korean mask dances - including the famous Yangju version. Like you said on the Marmot's Hole, it's a shame there isn't a centralized site for English speakers to find information about these events.

Roboseyo said...

glad to hear you saw the fireworks too: they pretty much blew my mind. I loved it.

There ARE tons of festivals, and there really ought to be one place where they all get collected and promoted. Hi Seoul seems to have a fairly good one for festivals in and around Seoul, once you figure out your way around the site, but especially in the fall, it's festival season in Korea. wish I knew better where to look.

Thanks for the pictures link, Samedi.

Hawaiiyobo said...

Hi, love your blog. I'm a senior citizen female of Korean ancestry, but can't speak the lingo - planning to go to the Mask festival in Sep 09. Where did you stay in Andong? Was it walking distance to the bus station? How do you make reservations? I also want to stay at the Hahoe Village, but can't find out how to contact them for reservations. Aloha, Ann

Roboseyo said...

Hi, Ann. I stayed in Hahoe Folk Village one time I went to Andong, and somewhere else the other time. However, finding lodging and making reservations is pretty hard unless you speak Korean. Do you have a Korean travel agent or friend willing to explore the Korean language internet to find and reserve things for you? If not, I also know there are numerous motels and hotels in walking distance of the train and bus stations in downtown Andong, but don't know enough to recommend one.

Good luck, and happy trails! Maybe we'll bump into each other there; I might go back. Glad you enjoy the blog.