The Kimchi-ite: Hahoe, A Korean Village That Time Barely Touched

Jonathan Kramer, Gadling

Less than an hour bus ride outside of the nondescript city of Andong in central South Korea, a little village doesn’t just hold onto the past, it embodies it. Hahoe Folk Village (pronounced Hahwe) has been inhabited for well over 600 years, with many artifacts and buildings considered to be Korean national treasures.

Today, it stands as a unique relic for visitors to experience an authentic view into a historic village. If it weren’t for the information center, the surprisingly cheap admission fee and the two guides I saw, Hahoe would seem as if it were just a small village that modernization accidentally passed over.

Jonathan Kramer, Gadling
Jonathan Kramer, Gadling
Surrounded by mountains on all sides, Hahoe keeps hidden from the modern world.

Representative of Joseon Dynasty traditions, locals roam and work in period clothes, transporting water in wooden buckets strapped to their backs and de-wrinkling clothes by banging on them with wooden pins. The number of re-enactors is kept to a modest handful, and they offer stories and information to those that are curious while letting those that just want to silently peek around do so.

Jonathan Kramer, Gadling
Locals walk around in period clothing, blending in with their historic surroundings.

At Hahoe, you’re mostly left to explore on your own through the alleys and farms, on the riverbank and into many of the homes and unattended museums. It’s an experience best taken at one’s own pace.

Jonathan Kramer, Gadling
Views from the top of the cliff showcase the river that snakes around Hahoe.

The Nakdong River snakes almost completely around the village, creating beautiful sandy banks that were no doubt an amazing place to cool off. The striking cliff that rises over the river, referred to as Buyongdae, offers fantastic views of the village from above.

Jonathan Kramer, Gadling
Hahoe is famous within Korea for its expressive masks associated with ancient shaman rituals.

Many of the historical homes in the area, most of which are hundreds of years old, are available to the public to spend the night in. Disconnect yourself from modern society and go back to simpler living as the rooms often push the term “basic accommodation” to its limits. They are often just a 7-foot square with a fan, light, traditional futon-style bedding and an electrical outlet.

Jonathan Kramer, Gadling
Many of the historic homes function as guesthouses, offering authentic rustic experiences.

For more stories about Korean culture, eccentricities and more, browse “The Kimchi-ite” archives by clicking here.

Round-the-world: Chantemer, a Mauritius guest house

“This is not a hotel. This is a private home.” With these words, Indra Tinkler, widely referred to simply as “Madame” by taxi drivers and other tourism providers across the south of Mauritius, introduces us to Chantemer, her small guest house. There is a flourish of the hand in the delivery. I assume–it turns out correctly–that we are in for an entertaining stay.

Located at Pointe d’Esny near Mahébourg, Chantemer’s neighborhood is a prosperous one, occupying an idyllic stretch of coastline between a resort called Preskil and the town of Blue-Bay. The surrounding area is full of lovely villas, none garish or McMansion-like. Most of these villas boast a stretch of white-beige beach of their own.

Chantemer is the sort of quiet, good value guest house that cost-conscious travelers yearn for, treasure, and then recommend to the like-minded. The house’s downstairs, where Madame lives, is stylishly appointed. Guest rooms are tasteful and simple, with many of Madame’s own paintings hanging throughout. The basics for budget-minded and midrange leisure travelers are all there. The water heater works. The breakfasts (fruit, bread, and coffee) are fresh if small, though a boiled or fried egg can be ordered for an additional 25 rupees, which is less than $1. Rooms also have refrigerators, and two of the three rooms have balconies with sea views. Rooms do not have televisions. If anything, this amenity absence adds to the bolthole atmosphere. Chantemer’s backyard, which leads down to the beach, is populated with palm trees and bougainvillea, among other tropical flora. After nine days spent checking out many different beaches on Mauritius, we came to the conclusion that Chantemer’s beach was the best on the island. That claimed, the constant presence of windsurfers and kiteboarders playing with the robust wind means that it’s infrequently completely empty.

To be sure, there are some downsides. The wireless Internet did not work while we were there, and there are no phones in rooms. This latter fact means that, until they get their bearings, guests are dependent on Madame to call for taxis. As the guest house is a good 20-minute walk from the nearest restaurant and taxi availability slows down dramatically at night, this dependence can be a little bit difficult, especially in light of Madame’s busy social calendar. These logistics can be handled with a little advance planning.

While Mauritius has its share of extravagant five-star resorts, the island is less well-known for small, unassuming guest houses. Chantemer is the perfect pick for anyone looking for a simple, relatively inexpensive retreat. There are three rooms currently on offer. Ours, with a direct view (see below) of the beach, ran €78 per night. A more expensive unit has a kitchen. My sole recommendation, if you find yourself considering a booking, is to request a room with a sea view. Chantemer is one place where a kick-ass dawn view is certainly worth a few extra euros.

Check out other posts in the Capricorn Route series here.

Dim Sum Dialogues in Thailand: The Khao San

All this month, Dim Sum Dialogues will be bringing you stories from the road. The first destination: Thailand – from Bangkok to Ko Phan Ngan…to discover the hype behind the legendary Full Moon Parties.


It’s approaching midnight fast, and the immigration lines in Suvarnabhumi Airport are long. Walking through the modern, sprawling airport, I remind myself not to touch anything in the Duty Free stores, thanks to a Gadling article that I read a few weeks prior to my trip.

The immigration official examines my passport. “First time to Thailand?” he asks. I nod my head. He points a small, futuristic Logitech camera in my direction, presses a key on his keyboard and waves me through. I skip baggage claim. All I’ve brought is a backpack, a camera, and a sense of adventure – my ideal vacation.
Once outside the airport, I scan the sidewalk for the signs advertising the A2 Airport Express – which I had been told would take me to a place called Khao San Road. Everybody recommended the area. “It’s really the only place you want to stay in Bangkok”, friends had told me.

I find the bus at the last minute, pay my 150 baht and find an empty seat among a few young people that look well-traveled. I settle in to the large seat and stare out the window as the bus merges on to a large, elevated highway. The cleanliness and engineering quality of the highway takes me by surprise. I had heard that Thailand was a developing country, but the bright LED lights that adorn the skyscrapers seem to suggest that Thailand is a little more prosperous than the other developing countries I’ve been to. But then again, the view from the highway can be deceiving.

After 45 minutes of driving through the expansive city, the bus rumbles to a stop at the end of a busy street in the Banglamphu neighborhood. I step out of the bus and am immediately overwhelmed with the amount of activity buzzing at this hour on a weeknight. Hundreds of people are milling around one long street that’s lined with neon signs and advertisements for hostels, bars, and restaurants. Vendors peddle goods out of small road side stalls and mobile carts: t-shirts, hats, pirated DVD’s, fake driver’s licenses, jewelry, souvenirs, falafel, pizza, beer, pad thai, even fried insects – crickets, beetles and worms are all available for purchase.

A boom of tourism in the 1980’s gradually made the area known as a place for cheap accommodation with easy access to the Grand Palace and temples that are popular with tourists. Now it’s a destination in its own right, touted as “The Gateway to Southeast Asia”.

The first few hostels I wander into are fully booked, but there’s a seemingly unlimited number of options in the area, and I’m able to find a basic room with a fan, a bed, and not much else. I set my bags down and head outside to explore the rest of the scene. Every type of traveler imaginable is represented. The street is full of dreadlocks, tattoos, Havaianas sandals and oversized backpacks. New arrivals look lost and overwhelmed. They blearily rub their eyes while thumbing through guidebooks in search of a place to sleep.

Taxi & tuk tuk drivers are everywhere, discreetly offering passengers rides to ping-pong shows or late night clubs. As the night gets later, they all seem to be offering rides to the same place – a late night club called “Spicy”, which apparently pays taxi drivers commission to wrangle tourists to the club with a cheap fare, so they can command an exorbitant cover charge upon arrival. I wander down the road frequently stopping to chat with welcoming groups of people sitting on the curb of the road. They sip large bottles of local brews – Chang or Singha – and swap stories of their recent adventures of tubing in Laos, trekking in Chiang Mai, or diving off Ko Phi Phi.

An especially engaging American tells me about a 3 month motorcycle trip he just finished. He bought a Russian Minsk in Hanoi for $400 USD and rode with a friend through the north of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, eventually selling the motorcycle for nearly the same price when they had reached their destination. The following month he plans on riding a bicycle through India & the Himalayas.

Patrons of the sidewalk bars are momentarily interrupted from conversation by a young Thai girl that begs them to buy roses so that she can go home for the night. She can’t be older than 8 years, but is already an expert saleswoman – offering to place bets on a game of thumb-war when the roses are declined. A few moments later, an old woman with a bag full of cheap Thai souvenirs comes and places a funny hat on a tourist. Everyone laughs and takes pictures, but no transactions take place and the woman moves on down the road.

I’m completely taken in by the stories, the laughter, and the energy of the place. It’s a paradise for backpackers with a passion for meeting new people and making spontaneous travel plans with new friends.

Things begin to quiet down around 2.30 in the morning, and I decide to call it a night. Several people around me have made plans to go to the full moon party – and we exchange phone numbers, promising to find each other when we get to Ko Phan Ngan. If that plan fails, then we agree to track one another down on Facebook so we can be best friends for the rest of our lives…