Yesterday was chilly and super windy but I decided to the day in Andong, which houses the most traditional village in South Korea and some of the best damn fish you will ever try. Not only that but I was accompanied by three hilarious and youthful ajummas that made the whole trip quite spectacular. So what the heck is an ajumma you might be thinking? Let me give you a little Korean cultural lesson..
An “ajumma” is a polite word used to describe an older, married woman. We don’t have an equivalent word in the English language, because no woman ever wants to be reminded of her age. But it’s wayyy different in Korea, because with age comes wisdom and respect. Actually, it’s quite common for someone to ask you your age right away. So they know what are the proper words to use to refer to you.
I’ve known these women for about a month now. Though their English is quite limited (very limited actually), we still manage to have an awesome time together. One of the ajummas owns the coffee shop below my apartment, which is how we met. Since then, she has thoroughly kept my caffeine addiction strong and filled my stomach with amazing baked goods that are unlike anything you could find in Korea. With that being said, these women found out about my sooner-than-expected departure from Korea so they wanted to show me the traditional ways of the country before I leave.
Our day in Andong Begins
Our trip began at 10am, as we all piled into the coffee shop owner’s car. It took about 2 hours to get there and of course, out first stop was lunch. Asian cultures highly value meal time and our lunch was no exception. We stopped at a Korean traditional restaurant that serves Andong’s famous mackerel. And wow, I quickly realized why it is so famous. I had no idea fish could just melt in your mouth and delight your taste buds with a taste only Korean gods could have created. The flavor was grand and the side dishes to accompany it, were equally at satisfying. Oh, and I tried shark. REAL shark.. Jaws kind of shark! Ok, maybe not Jaws, I highly doubt I was eating the great white variation, but STILL.
Across from the restaurant was the picturesque and longest walking bridge in South Korea, Woryeonggyo Bridge. Here is a lesson for you all: When it is really cold outside, choosing to walk across a bridge that spans over an extremely wide river that is between two mountains, actually cause an frigidly cold gust of wind to almost constantly be blowing at you. So basically, it was FREEZING. But the bridge was beautiful none-the-less. There is seriously nothing more beautiful than the sparkle of the sun hitting the water. You can never beat that view.
The next stop was to Andong University where we met up with another Ajumma that is the secretary of the President of the school. She was either nervous, or spoke absolutely no English, but I didn’t here a single English word come out of her mouth. Which was a bit funny since we spent about two and a half hours with her. She was really sweet though and showed us around the campus. It really did feel just like a campus from the states (though everyone looked so young. Maybe it is just because of their magical Asian genes that they look so young, or I’m getting old.. *cry*).
If you head to Andong University you can see the famous 500 year-old love letter that a Korean woman put into her husband’s grave along with a pair of shoes woven from hemp and her own hair. This is in fact a normal thing to do to show your gratitude towards someone in ancient Korea. So don’t go thinking this woman was crazy!
Hahoe Folk Village
Our last stop was sight-seeing in Andong’s famous traditional village Hohae. I can see why it is the city’s most beloved feature. The thatched roof huts and traditional Korean tiled structures are extremely quaint and is everything you imagine traditional Korea to be. Ignoring the cold weather we had to endure, it was a lot of fun. Seriously, these ajummas that I was hanging out with are hilarious! They are so free-spirited and young at heart. We came across some huge traditional Korean swings and see-saws and I assumed they wouldn’t join me on partaking in this child-like activity. NOPE. They were standing up on the swings and going hire than I was! These women are in their 40’s and 50’s.. it was awesome!
I highly suggest anyone in South Korea to visit Hahoe. The village is really cool and I imagine that in Spring and Fall, when the trees have leaves and the flowers are blooming, that the village is even more gorgeous.
The day was perfectly and I really enjoyed getting out of Daegu for the day. I will never again make assumptions on someone based on their age again. I not only got to visit a really cool traditional village, but I got to go with some kickass Korean ajummas as well. Perfect Korean experience? Heck yes!