I’m not a big fan of theme parks or artificial experiences in general. I don’t much care for zoos or amusement parks for that matter. When it comes to foreign cultures or history, I prefer trying out things in natural real life settings, learning and observing traditions as I see and feel them. I remember going to the Renaissance Fair during high school; I think the people working at the fair seemed have a good time but I don’t recall my own experience being a great one. So when people suggested I visit 민속촌 MinSokChon, Korean Folk Village, I mostly just smiled politely and said “thank you, I’d think about it.”
Well, as is often the case with me what finally got me to go to MinSokChon was food. In the past few weeks I spoke to three people who’d liked the food at MinSokChon and I decided that it was worth going to, if not for the cultural experience but at least for the food. I’m happy to report that I ended up having a good time, learned quite a few things, and definitely ate very well. I liked it so much that I would even make a return visit one day. One thing to note for my future visit though- definitely avoid mid-October. We did the right thing by picking a weekday but what we didn’t count on were the thousands of children who’d come on school trips. Apparently this is THE time of the year when kids go on day trips. It was rather shocking to me how many little ones there were at MinSokChon but I told myself it was better than huge crowds of adults. At least they were all cute (most were elementary/kindergarten age) and so short that I could stand over them to watch all the live performances (ha!).
Getting there was easy enough, a subway ride to Suwon station and then an easy 30 minute ride on the free shuttle bus that delivered me to the front gates. It was a gorgeous autumn day and as soon as I got off the shuttle, I speed-walked over to the open performance area where I got to see a guy walk on a tight rope.
In between performances I strolled the vast grounds of the folk village, poking around in farmers’ homes, scholar’s house, a town office with an attached jail, as well as a wealthy landowner’s house. Apparently these houses were moved here from their original locations and rebuilt, and there are people who live and work in the folk village all year around.
This was my favorite dish of the day- a hearty, spicy stew with lots of sprouts, wilted greens, and shredded beef. I also tried some acorn jelly, potato pancakes, and traditional Korean liquor called 동동주 dongdongju. It was made from rice but unlike 막걸리 makgeolli, it was clear and more refined.
For dessert, I tried some traditional Korean candy that was a bit like caramel. If I’m not mistaken it was rice based..?? I watched the guy inside the house rolling out these sticky treats and it was still warm when we got ours.
This contraption was used to distill alcohol.Time for more traditional Korean performances… These guys were really fun. They combined music and acrobatics to delight everyone young and old. We oooh’d and ahhhh’d as we watched them spin their heads and jumped through the air.
I crossed the wide stream to check out the museum but for some unknown reason it was closed. I ended up strolling around looking at more houses, checking out the rice crop almost ready for harvest, and saw Napa cabbage and radish ripe enough to make kimchi.
How Koreans used to live in the old days…
Korean Folk Village (민속촌): 경기도 용인시 기흥구 보라동 35; 90, Minsokchon-ro, Giheung-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea (map). Entrance fee: $15, the first free shuttle runs from Suwon Station at 10:30AM. Stop by the tourist information center by exit 5 to pick up a brochure & shuttle ticket/info.