Andong, South Korea, April 2017: The Hahoe village is a big thing around here – gets a big splash on the tourist literature and a Google search reveals all good things said about the place. Its billed as an authentic living village and even the United Nations Cultural Department have put their stamp on the place. Personally, I treat these situations with a degree of skepticism as at this moment in time tourist trap alarm bells are sound off, and quite loudly. So, if the United Nations like the place it must be good – right! Well, lets go and see!
Easy enough getting there. There’s no bus station as such in Andong with all the public transport loitering outside or near the train station. Hop onto bus 46, pay 1200 Won, about £1 and in 50 minutes we should arrive at Hahoe Village.
That sinking feeling tempers my enthusiasm for this trip as the buss rolls up to a giant car park and crowds of people scurrying to board the shuttle bus into the village. 3000 Won to stroll the streets of a village as the queues for tickets grows. Yes, I knew in the back of my mind this might be some kind of a set up! But now I’m here, I’d better make he most of it.
Well, at least we get a cultural performance thrown in which might me interesting. They call it a ‘Mask Dance’ and is quite a famous tradition attributed to Andong. So now would be a good time to pitch up in the theater and stake my place since I can see there being some jostling for spots later, especially among some of the bad tempered pensioners shuffling around the place!
In England, we’d call this a pantomime, but before the performance a preamble. Unfortunately for me it’s all in Korean but one would assume its all about setting the scene and explaining the various masks – ranging from an amusing a-sexual to the downright hideous male. Its an odd story with equally odd antics abound, somewhat concerning at times since there are so many little kids watching. Concerning because we have a cow urinating on the audience, then a character pretending to butcher the cow and if that’s not enough out comes an old hag, squats and urinates while an equally hideous old timer go’s to sniff the said urine. The audience though are delighted with the performance, laughing, clapping merrily. Oh, id better mention the urination scenes were just water – I think! Well, I’ve just about had enough and its time to make a quick exit.
In part 2.. a look around the supposedly authentic living village.