Review of an Authentic Hanok in Seoul: Yoo’s Family Guest House Byeolhadang
A s I first wrote in this article back in October of 2014, if 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, which is a traditional house in Korea — similar to a ryokan in Japan. I enjoyed staying at an authentic ryokan in the Asakusa district of Tokyo years ago; so I thought I would try staying at an authentic hanok in Seoul.
After conducting some research, I chose Yoo’s Family Guest House Byeolhadang. At that time, it had the best combination of everything for which I was searching — including location and price. It is located only a few blocks from two different subway stations serving three different Seoul Metropolitan Subway lines; and it is also located within walking distance of several palaces and shrines.
Yoo’s Family Guest House Byeolhadang is not located in the central area of the historic Bukchon Hanok Village; but rather several blocks east of it — and it is adjacent to some modern buildings, which was interesting to see the old and the new juxtaposed in the same line of sight.
I walked off of Yulgok-ro — a busy street — onto this little “street” of green and pink interlocking cinder blocks; and to my right was my destination. It was initially difficult to see if I had actually arrived at the right address at first glance.
Yep — this is the right place!
The room which was assigned to me is known as the Room of Love. I first removed my shoes and left them outside before I entered the room, which is customary in South Korea; and I always remove my shoes before I enter my home anyway, so this was natural to me.
It is only one room; and guests sleep on a mat on the floor.
The small bathroom — shared amongst the guests of all of the rooms — contained a toilet, a sink and a shower with no solid divider. As a result, the floor was constantly wet by the toilet from the shower; so unless you want wet feet, you must wear your shoes in the bathroom area. I did not take any photographs of the bathroom, as it was too small and too wet to bother. I personally did not like the bathroom.
The room was equipped with an air conditioner near the ceiling, as partially shown in the above photograph; and there were items in the storage area on the wall for guests to use — such as a blow dryer for hair, for example.
I was tired and the room was somewhat dark for additional photographs despite the lights; and I did not want to use the flash on my camera…
…so I decided to call it a night and resume taking pictures the next morning once I woke up.
I was awakened by the light coming in through the entrance to the room, which was just fine with me.
I slept well through the night, as the mat and linens were fairly comfortable; although not as comfortable as an actual bed — unless you prefer a really hard mattress.
The room was equipped with an electric coffee pot.
Wi-Fi to access the Internet is available and included in the room rate; but I did not use it.
I liked the wallpaper and some of the items which decorated the room.
The “closet” of this room consisted of no more than a small wooden rack mounted on the wall with three wire hangers, as shown in the photograph below.
I decided to walk across the small courtyard to get something to eat, as breakfast is included in the room rate.
Available for breakfast was two types of dry cereal, bread, and cups of dried noodles.
There are no chairs in this combination kitchen and dining area. Rather, there are pads on the floor on which you can sit or kneel.
The flat-screen television in the kitchen was on, with a morning show pertaining to fashion — all in Korean. I eventually turned it off with the remote control which was on the table.
In addition to the television and a toaster, the kitchen is equipped with a small refrigerator containing assorted fruit juices, water, milk and other items; a microwave oven; a sink; and a stovetop for cooking.
You are expected to wash your own dishes and utensils after you have finished eating.
I poured some hot water from an electric pot into a cup of noodles and had that for breakfast with a few boxes of juice. Because I used disposable chopsticks with which to eat my Korean soup from its cup, all I needed to do was dispose of the items — no washing dishes for me!
Clothes and linens were drying in the small courtyard, which was quiet and peaceful.
It was interesting to see the modern architecture of a tall building from the courtyard of a traditional hanok.
After I checked out of the hanok, I asked if I could leave my bag for several hours while I visited the palaces located nearby, which they replied affirmatively. I have to say that the staff at this hanok was friendly, welcoming, and very accommodating.
By the way, I intend to report on the palaces which I visited; as well as the Secret Garden. Until then and in the meantime, please refer to this article — which includes photographs — written by Seth Miller of Wandering Aramean, as he visited Seoul greater than a month after I was there.
Yoo’s Family Guest House Yeoreum Jip is a second hanok located nearby. Both locations have conference rooms available which can be rented out for meetings or other events. You can also participate in optional courses of the Korean cultural experience for added fees — such as experiencing a traditional Korean tea ceremony; folk drawing on a wood block print; cooking traditional Korean cuisine such as kimchi, buchimgae and bulgogi; or trying on traditional Korean clothing known as a hanbok. I did not participate in any of the optional offerings.
Based on my experience, if I had my choice between a stay in a hanok and a ryokan in Japan, I would have preferred the ryokan, where the bedding was still on the floor — but it was prepared for me; the room was larger; and the bedding was more comfortable overall. This is not meant to be a criticism against Yoo’s Family Guest House Byeolhadang, but rather a general observation. I suppose that different hanoks and ryokans can prove that statement false; but again, it is simply based on my experience.
I spent a total of $73.74 paid in advance through Expedia.com — including all taxes and fees — which roughly matches the room rate of 60,000 South Korean won for the room plus the fee of 20,000 won for the bedding per person.
If you find yourself in Seoul and want to stay in a traditional hanok for a change of pace instead of a typical hotel, I definitely recommend Yoo’s Family Guest House Byeolhadang.