Seoul (South Korea) – 28 km (bike is still swimming)
04 May 2016
My Nephew one-removed (never really understood that “removed” thing), Sven a well-travelled man, especially connected to South Korea and having been in Seoul numerous times, recommended to stay in a Hanok.
Now, a Hanok is a typical Korean house.
As you now know it’s wooden. It also has an inner court-yard, is a 100years plus one story building, and one needs to take off one’s shoes before entering through the sliding door in one’s room.
So, a ‘culturally authentic’ stay in Seoul was on the cards. Hanoks are often in small side alley-ways, away from the main roads, therefore tricky to find in the first place.
However for my abode, I had to enter through a small wooden door in a stone wall and I stood inside a quaint court yard. My room was non-cat-swingable but clean and the floor was heated. A futon with a warm futon-light style blanket, one small Tall short-boy with thousand little doors & drawers completed the furnishings. Aaah, there was also a small flat-screen TV on the floor in the remaining corner, but I never touched it.
So, indeed an authentic space, just as you would have seen in the many – usually Japanese – movies or Lost in Translation. The room has no windows. Light comes through the sliding doors, which have a thin white paper cover. A second pair of sliding doors with glass keep the weather out and can be locked from the outside.
My Hanok has six, perhaps seven of such spaces. One was used as a office & kitchen and it appeared another one was the living quarter of my host, Pascal (this is his Christian name). I was the only western guest.
A great drawback of a Hanok and a firm reason for not finding myself in another one is its build…. and perhaps the prevailing attitude about considering others in Asia. Yes, I know thin ice, racist and stuff I hear you think, however this happened.
First the build: the no-window rooms allows no airflow. I therefore left open – just a tad – both sliding doors to let some fresh ait in. The alternative was operating the aircon which would have turned this room into Ice Station Zebra in half an hour on its lowest setting. I tried it!
On top of this, the thin white paper doors freely allow any light to get through, especially if any light in the courtyard is on, and they were motion-switched. Am almost constant on-off light flooding through.
I COUKLD HAVE LIVED WITH IT by turning my face to the wall, just like a naughty child is asked to do. But who can sleep in one position only??
Secondly the way some few Asian people conduct themselves in a Hanok.
I must have had all the ‘few’ coming into my Hanok that evening, the last at ~23.00.
But guess what? NO CARE whatsoever!
Schnattering on in normal voice as if they were home alone! Somebody shush-ed but all others didn’t give a hood. And on it went way behind midnight!! BTW, these were not young people, middle aged and my age, as I could see next morning.
But at about 12.30 I was about two inches away from becoming the ugly Australian by stepping out side and shout a few (four!) choice words to these imbeciles….
In an herculean attempt to shed the “Grumpy Old Men” mask, I kept quite, just muttering into my mind and deciding to write this.
So, Lesson learnt: when in Hanok take ear-plugs & a stiff drink to ensure you can sleep regardless!