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Bukchon Hanok Village, Insa-dong & Baengnyeon Samgyetang @ Seoul, South Korea

Walking into Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul is like travelling to the charming traditional Korea village from the bygones that we only able to see in Korean dramas. 

We came and check out Buchon Hanok Village on our second day in Seoul, after spending first day in Gwangjang Market and Dongdaemun. Surrounded by Gyeongbokgung Palace (main royal palace of Joseon dynasty) and Jongmyo Shrine (Confusion shrine dedicated to deceased kings and queens of Joseon dynasty), Buchon Hanok Village is a home to hundred of traditional houses called hanok during Joseon dynasty too. Therefore, a conventional trip usually involve visiting these 3 places at one go.

Well, we made a different route by skipping Gyeongbokgung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine. Reasons being we did not enjoy these popular crowded places, and our scanted knowledge on Korean history would make the visiting less enjoyable. Therefore, Buckhon Hanok Village became our sole destination here, providing a respite from the hustling crowd. The time were well spent in checking out those hanoks transformed into cultural centers, guesthouses, restaurants, and also discovering a few picturesque spots within the neighbourhood. 

We arrived in Bukchon Hanok Village with a growling stomach, therefore the first thing we wanted to do is finding a place to eat.

Having a Korean Ginseng Chicken is one of the must do thing in our Seoul itinerary, and the strategic location of Baengnyeon Samgyetang near the entrance of Bukchon Hanok Village helped us to complete the mission early.

Baengnyeon Samgyetang is uniquely located on a small hill with a staircase leading to entrance. Going up the staircase with a hungry stomach was not a nice experience though. Having located within Bukchon Hanok Village, the restaurant bears the hanok-style architecture, with a spacious indoor seating area and a relatively large outdoor dining area too. 

The menu is small, offering assortment of ginseng chicken and a few other items. One of the service crew attending to us, who somehow appear to be the owner was trying to hard sell their Ginseng Chicken costing 29k Won, claiming it uses free-range chicken while other meals with a relatively lower price are normal chickens.

Well, the Ginseng Chicken aka Samgyetang is delicious. The texture is soft and tender, while the chicken has been stuffed with fluffy soft grained rice. Its clear ginseng soup has a nice ginseng taste and does not yield any bitterness. The big abalone is a surprise element too.

Since we are here, we also ordered fried ginseng (20k Won) for the sake of trying. It tasted like tempura but the ginseng taste was more prominent at the roots area. The mild honey made a perfect choice when it was used to coat the ginseng.

Overall, this place is highly recommended to try authentic Korean samgyetang if you happen to be in Bukchon Hanok Village. Well, the traditional village is a huge residential area and some of the houses are still being occupied by local residents. 

Address: 41, Bukchon-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 종로구 북촌로 41 (가회동)
Operation hours: 9am - 10pm

So we started to exploring Bukchon Hanok Village after a satisfying meal. Well, the village is huge. Venturing without direction is never a good idea here. Therefore, remember to get a complimentary map at the tourist information center near the entrance. It is free, so take one piece and take good care of it!

It is not a surprise to see ladies wearing Hanbok around here. Well, they are likely to be tourists donning a Hanbok, as entrance fees to Gyeongbokgung Palace is waived for Hanbok wearers. 

Personally, we do not enjoy putting on cultural clothes without understanding the culture. Since we hailed from Malaysia, I would have no qualms donning a Malay or Chinese costume but Korean costume on me would be rather odd scene. Only if I had a better understanding of Korean culture, then I would not mind putting on the Korean costume. Anyway, just my personal opinion though. 

There are tourists around Bukchon Hanok Village, but they are scantly here and there in a small group, which makes exploring here a rather pleasant experience without a huge group of crowd.  

Some of the hanoks here are open for visiting. These Korean traditional houses are mostly constructed of natural sources such as wood, stone and paper with tiled roofs, with a careful positioning of the house in relation to its surroundings. As South Korea is a country with summer and winter, the hanoks have a specific cool wooden-floor style that were devised to help Koreans survive the frigid winters and blocking sunlight during summer.

On top of that, the lightly and almost non-decorated hanok colours with natural hues also make it pleasant in the eyes of viewers. I feel a sense of serenity when walking into hanok - the minimalist design with natural wooden colour calmed my emotions somehow. 

As we walked around in the village, we found a number of nice spot for photography. Those traditional buildings make such a nice background in the photo and how I wish I could live here for a few days instead of the small Airbnb room we had in Dongdaemun. Speaking of that, there are real locals who are residing within the village so it is important to keep your voice lower around here. 

Some of the houses in Bukchon Hanok Village has been converted into Instagrammable cafe and restaurant, and above picture is one of them. 

After that, we explored another side of Bukchon Hanok Village which comprises of more hilly part, and at the same time more local residents too. Over this area, we have a nice time lingering around and see how locals live their live (of course by not peeping them). 

On the way leaving Bukchon Hanok Village, we spotted a small store selling traditional Korean beverage - Sweet Rice Drink (甜米露), or known as Sikhye. It is made of fermented rice and barley, which gives it a slight cloudy appearance. The chilling drink is exceptionally refreshing after a tiring walk surrounding the traditional village. 

Just a few blocks away from Bukchon Hanok Village is Insa-dong, a popular tourist attraction with alleys hosting a dozens of galleries, traditional restaurants, souvenirs shops, tea house and cafes. There are street vendors selling souvenirs and food, which perhaps made here a place that tourist loves to linger. 

Another reason that makes Insa-dong tourist-friendly is here is completely sealed off from traffics every Saturday from 2pm to 10pm and Sunday from 10am - 10pm. 

This is one of the building located on the left of the main street of Insa-dong, not far from the entrance. The multi-storey building has many small shops that sells cultural and souvenirs items, which you could easily spend hours inside if you are a geek hunting for those items.

The street vendors are another great thing to explore here as well. We bumped into a vendor selling dragon-beard candies, and surprisingly he commands great knowledge of Malay language after knowing we are from Malaysia. This is how the vendors in touristy area make a living, right?

Bukchon Hanok Village, Insa-dong & Baengnyeon Samgyetang @ Seoul, South Korea

Bukchon Hanok Village, Insa-dong & Baengnyeon Samgyetang @ Seoul, South Korea

Bukchon Hanok Village, Insa-dong & Baengnyeon Samgyetang @ Seoul, South Korea

Bukchon Hanok Village, Insa-dong & Baengnyeon Samgyetang @ Seoul, South Korea

Bukchon Hanok Village, Insa-dong & Baengnyeon Samgyetang @ Seoul, South Korea

Bukchon Hanok Village, Insa-dong & Baengnyeon Samgyetang @ Seoul, South Korea

As we walked further down to the main street of Insa-dong and wander aimlessly there, we bumped into several street vendors which appear to cater more for locals instead of tourists. 

One of the street vendor that caught our attention is the one selling fish-shaped waffle. It came with an affordable price - 1k Won for 3 pieces. The waffle has nice filling of red beans, but be wary of the hot temperature though. 

Bukchon Hanok Village, Insa-dong & Baengnyeon Samgyetang @ Seoul, South Korea

Bukchon Hanok Village, Insa-dong & Baengnyeon Samgyetang @ Seoul, South Korea

Bukchon Hanok Village, Insa-dong & Baengnyeon Samgyetang @ Seoul, South Korea

Bukchon Hanok Village, Insa-dong & Baengnyeon Samgyetang @ Seoul, South Korea

Obviously the fish shaped waffles were insufficient in portion to make the cut for our dinner. As we wandered around that area, both of us had a sudden urge to have Korean grilled meat for dinner.

So we went around the area and bump into a Korean grill meat restaurant, but the owner cannot even speak a single word of English nor understand our hand langauges! The messages we got was minimum order 2 pieces of meat, and the grilling has to be done by ourselves (shame to say, our first experience doing the grilling as most Korean restaurants in Malaysia would have the crews stationed there to help diners). 

We did not even know what type of pork meat we ordered, but it was supposedly pork belly (10k Won) and Sirloin (14k Won). Vegetables, garlics, and other banchan are available on free-flow basis. Not a bad experience by having to grill the meat ourselves.

Well, that basically sums up what we have done in Buckhon Hanok Village and Insa-Dong.

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