The Andong Festival of Masked Dance
I headed three hours north for the Andong Festival masked dances. I think Andong is much more suited to a three day itinerary but I still had a great time in my day and a half. Check out what I did!
Day 1: The Main Andong Festival (Downtown Andong)
The hostel I chose was very close to the main festival area, only a couple bus stops away. Figuring out the route to take to get to the festival was a little confusing and there frankly wasn’t a lot of signage. If you follow the crowd of people you should be good to go.
The festival itself seems to mainly have a lot of fish based festival food (which tends to make me ill so I avoid it) and general tat I’ve seen at every other festival. Some of the ingredients and mixes looked interesting, but most of that was sold in bulk.
The main attraction as definitely the masked dances held in the theater at one end of the festival space. Each performance cost 7,000won. There was a separate line for foreigners – and it was quite a bit shorter than the ones for the Koreans! The first performance I attended was one of the international performances. They started with the Uzbekistani performers and this set the bar so high the other groups simply paled in comparison. I really, really want to go to Uzbekistan after hearing the haunting music and watching the dances. Performers from the Philippines and Israel followed, but it couldn’t compare. I will say the “masked” theme was taken incredibly lightly. The Uzbekistani dancers had veils for half of a number, and the Israeli group had Venetian masks for one number.
Then I attended another masked dance that was Korean in origin. It did not seem to be an entire performance, but rather snapshots of various scenes. Perhaps that was why it was so difficult to get involved in and I walked away disappointed and bored.
Day 2: Hahoe Village
This is where it’s at. I haven’t been to any other folk villages in Korea so I can’t compare, but this is the one that Queen Elizabeth II deemed suitable to witness Korean culture. I really really liked it here and I wish I had spent the money to stay overnight in the village. You seem to be able to do a lot more this way. Additionally, in a stunning case of romanization gone wrong, it’s pronounced “ha-huay” not “ha-ho.”
Regardless, walking around the village was lovely. Unfortunately the ferry was not in operation so I was not able to hike the Buyongdae cliff that stands out in the views from the village. If you can, a car might be a good choice to see the Confusion academies that are in the nearby area. I will definitely make the effort to visit these in a future trip if I can.
The village regularly has masked dances, so there is no need to only come during the festival. I would also say this was definitely the more enjoyable masked dance than the first one I saw at the main festival. AKA, don’t let your first viewing of Masked Dance color your level of appreciation, as I almost did. The masked dance here was shockingly raunchy and the explanations were much better than in Andong. Fun!
I would recommend packing for a little picnic as the views are just really nice of the river and cliff. I bought some traditional snacks and camped out for a half hour and it was great.
Finally, you should absolutely check out the Mask museum. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I’ve been a bit down on museums lately for some reason. But this museum was definitely worth the look! The collection is pretty huge and covers a large breadth of cultures. I’m talking masks from Africa, American Indians, Asia, even Italy.
I will say, the Hahoe Village is a little harder to get to that I would have suspected. It is about an hour away from Andong proper. The bus only comes once an hour or so, and Andong buses aren’t tracked on the apps so you kindof have to hope you get there at the right time so you’re not waiting. Just be aware 🙂
Where to Sleep and Eat
Because I was eating alone, I actually think I wound up spending more on food than I otherwise would have. Most local restaurants in Korea are actually pretty cheap. And there are some restaurants you can go to alone, but I hadn’t thought to source those ahead of time and I didn’t really see any on my way too and from the festival. This led to a bigger expense as I unwisely subsisted on snacks from Paris Baguette. Bad for health and for my wallet.
I stayed at Kim’s House. I really liked this hostel. It was in a very cute, old fashioned Korean house. The owner had a lovely little dog. The price also wasn’t too bad at 20,000won a night, for booking pretty last minute at a popular time. Can recommend 🙂
And that’s that! I hope this post on the Andong Festival Masked Dances has been helpful!
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