Hanoks: A Way to Possibly Reduce Lodging Costs in Seoul
I f you are heading to Seoul and do not want to pay what seems to be a high cost when it comes to lodging, you could consider staying in a hostel or a no-name hotel where you have no idea what your experience will be like…
…or you can stay in a hanok.
A hanok is a traditional house in Korea — similar to a ryokan in Japan. I enjoyed staying at a ryokan in the Asakusa district of Tokyo years ago; so I thought I would try staying at a hanok in Seoul.
In Seoul, the most famous of the hanok villages is the Bukchon Hanok Village. Some hanoks are greater than 100 years old; and some far older than that. There was a time when hanoks appeared to be endangered due to the construction of modern buildings; but preservations efforts saved the remaining ones in Seoul.
You can see that many of the hanoks follow similar architectural styles. Most have tiled roofs; although the roofs of some hanoks may be shingled or thatched. The materials of the hanks themselves are comprised from environmentally friendly sources to be in harmony with nature — such as earth, wood and stone for the walls; and paper in the window areas.
I was fortunate enough to find a hanok for $61.00 through Expedia.com — $73.74 in total with all taxes and fees included. I intend to post a review of the hanok in which I stayed…
…but since I stayed in a hanok while the weather was still warm, I was not able to test the ondol, or the ancient heating system used to not only warm the floors of a hanok from the heat generated either from the kitchen or a type of fireplace, but also the floors of the palaces from hundreds of years ago.
Typically, your reservation at a hanok includes a room — meaning a square of four walls, a ceiling and a floor — decorated with traditional Korean art and artifacts. The bathroom facilities — in its own room — are usually shared with other guests. A continental breakfast — typically with food items such as dry cereal, toast, jelly, milk, juice and Korean noodles — is usually included. You can also use the laundry facilities free of charge at some hanoks. You must remove your shoes before you enter any room in a hanok — this is to help keep the floor clean — and wear slippers which are provided for guests.
There is also usually a courtyard or a garden within the hanok, which is meant to encourage peaceful relaxation and meditation. Seating is usually provided.
Even though some hanoks may be old, they may also be renovated and could include modern conveniences such as air conditioning.
Realize that not all hanoks are lower cost. Some can cost as much as a typical hotel room, which could be greater than $200.00 per night. You have to shop around for a lower room rate at a hanok — preferable well in advance.
Some Internet travel agencies will list hanoks which are available for reservations; while others can be reserved through different South Korean Internet web sites.
If you are looking to reduce costs in Seoul by possibly save some money on lodging — and learn about the Korean way of life in the process — you might want to consider staying in a hanok for at least one night.
All photographs ©2014 by Brian Cohen.