Earth : Asia : East Asia : South Korea : North Gyeongsang : Andong
Andong is the self-proclaimed "Capital City of Korean Spiritual Culture", having maintained aspects of the traditional culture of Korea throughout the past 2,000 years. Over 280 cultural assets are scattered around the city. It takes 3 hours to get to Andong from Seoul, 2.5 hours from Busan or Daejeon, and 1 hour from Daegu by car.
Andong's international claim to fame comes from having been visited by Queen Elizabeth II of England. So the story goes, the Queen asked to be taken to the most Korean place in Korea. She got taken to Andong.
There are regular direct services from Busan, Daegu and Gwangju. Passengers heading from Seoul can either take a KTX high-speed service to Daegu and transfer to the local train, or a muhgunghwa (semi-fast) train direct from Seoul's Cheongnyangni train. Andong's train station is located right in the city centre and most hotels can be reached within 5 minutes walk. The station has English-speaking staff, self-service ticket machines, a Global ATM and a tourist information centre.
Andong is quite easily accessible on the Inter-city bus network. Bear in mind that it's usually best to pre-book your ticket or at least try to confirm departure times online.
From East Seoul Terminal Located out the front of Kangbyeon station (subway no.2-green line) The buses go every 10~15 minutes to Andong and it takes 2 hours, 40 minutes.
From Kangnam (Seoul) Express Terminal Located in Kangnam Express Bus Terminal-station(subway no.3 and no.7-orange&olive green) It's easier to find the terminal by getting into the Sinsegye Department Store and going via the FENDI & GUCCI store (1F) because the way between those stores is connected by the terminal. The buses go every 40~60 minutes to Andong and it takes 2 hours, 50 minutes.
From Daejeon Andong lies due East of Daejeon, thus across the grain of Korea's train network. As such, buses are about your only realistic transport option short of hiring a car. Departs from Dong-gu Express Bus Terminal, on the far East side of town down near HomePlus and Han-nam University. Buy your ticket at the Intercity Bus counter (on the right facing the counter, or left as you walk in). Cost is 14,100 won one-way, and the bus is never full. Expect a rather long stopover at Gumi to get out, stretch your legs, and twiddle your thumbs aimlessly, after which the bus will depart again from another platform. The buses go about every hour and the full trip takes roughly 2 hours 10 minutes. Daejeon's bus timetable website is an indecipherable mess, so just show up with fingers crossed.
From Andong back to anywhere Last bus leaves around 8:00 pm. To some cities, its around 6:00 pm. Be sure to confirm the times: Andong actually has a very good timetable website but its not web indexed, sigh. If aiming to be back by a certain time, consider that the listed times can and DO vary wildly according to traffic, in particular Sunday evenings are a nightmare.
The downtown area of Andong is VERY small and you can walk across the city centre in under 10 minutes.
Taxis can be flagged off the street but it's not recommended as you may have a long wait. The best place to get a taxi from the city centre is from outside the railway station, otherwise it's recommended to order one by phone - ask your hotel for the phone number of a reputable company. Black 'Deluxe' taxis are available too at a higher price for better comfort and drivers who can communicate well in English and Japanese.
Buses link Andong to surrounding towns and villages. Almost all buses depart from the street outside the train station and serve most of the tourist attractions. Information at bus stops are only written in Korean - however the tourist information office at the train station provides a usefull English bus schedule displaying departure times, destinations and fares. Bus fares do not increase by distance but are instead based on the length of the route - typically about W1000 for a bus going to the outer suburbs to W2500 for the furthest destination. Change is available (in coins only) but it's not recommended to attempt paying with a W10,000 note for example. Domestic tourists rejoice, for Seoul T-money cards are in fact accepted!
Andong Hahoe Folk Village
Various cultural assets including national treasures and tangible or intangible cultural heritages are well preserved in the Andong Hahoe Folk Village, and the whole village was designated as Important Folk Material No.122, also a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010. People live in every house in the village and you can enjoy the true folk culture of Korea there. They provide the traditional Korean mask dance on weekends (3 pm, every Sunday in March, April, November / 3 pm, every Saturday and Sunday from May to October).
Other sights include:
You can visit the village from 9 am to 5 pm during the winter season (Nov. ~ Mar.) and 9 am to 6 pm during the summer season (Apr. ~ Oct.). Nominal (~2,000 won?) admission fee.
Take bus #46 from the stand directly across the road (and a few metres to the right, in front of the convenience store) from the Intercity bus terminal. buses run about every 1-2 hours during peak time and be aware that the trip takes a whole 50 minutes. Cost 1,000 won. As of 2010, the last two buses back to Andong during festival season depart at 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm respectively. Note that the you are not left with much time to jump on to a Intercity bus home upon arrival.
Bongjeongsa is a Korean Buddhist temple on the slopes of Mount Cheondeung in Andong city, North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea. It is a subsidiary temple of Gounsa, the head temple of the 16th branch of Jogye Order.
Bongjeongsa is the largest temple in Andong, and is the site of the oldest wooden building, Geuknakjeon, in Korea.There are 10 buildings at the main temple and a total of 9 other buildings at Bongjeongsa's two sub temples found to the east and west of the main temple complex.
Temple Stay programme is available, which offers a great accommodation in a traditional Buddhist temple.
Being one of the major historical sites in Korean Confucianism, there are a couple of these listed as attractions on the local guide maps.
Andong International Mask Dance Festival
In every October, you can also visit the Andong International Mask Dance Festival, showcasing not only Korean Mask Dance, but also various traditional dances of countries round the world. The festival is split into two halves.
Typically tourists only visit the main event in Andong city itself, by the river (~2 blocks south of both the bus and train terminals). It is interesting, but dance acts on the main stage are well spaced out (day-pass admission 5,000 won), even on weekends, and the rest of the time you are left to wander what's mostly a tourist trap. Food and booze is plentiful however (even whale), and there are many affordable mask making stalls set up, intended for children but also widely enjoyed by curious overseas visitors as the little blobby things you use to decorate the mask are unlike anything that can be seen in the West.
The second half is located over in Hahoe village (see above). For the idle spectator, this is a definite highlight, as the stage is positioned amongst the pine grove on the banks of the river, opposite Buyongdae cliff, with the colourful costumes contrasting well against the natural backdrop. When travelling to Haohe village during the festival, pick a seat on the left side of the bus for a special surprise amongst the rice paddies.
Programs to learn many folk dances and mask dance contests are also prepared during the festival.
The iconic Andong mask replicas are the obvious souvenier of the city, although the mass produced laquered ones can be purchased just about anywhere in Korea. At the entrance to Hahoe village you can find entire shops that specialise in these masks, so if seeking a uniquely crafted mask replica, try there.
Andong has a few specialty dishes, including local jjimdak (Andong-style chicken and cellophane noodles), grilled salted mackerel, and heotjesabap, or false funerary food. Jjimdak can be found in the "Jjimdak golmok (Chicken restaurant street)" in the city centre, which is full of small restaurants specialised in Jjimdak. You can choose any of them, as every restaurant offers a similar taste. Grilled mackerel can be found everywhere in Andong.
Andong Soju is one of the specialties of the city. Its traditional distillation method dates back to the Silla Dynasty (57BC-935AD). The wife of a household was traditionally responsible for distillation along with other household chores, and she passed it down to the wives of her sons. Today, Andong Soju is made with fresh ingredients, and the maximum alcohol content can be 45%, though you can get varieties which are much less alcoholic for less money, yet still preserving the traditional flavour.
Andong has many traditional houses which offer a great experience to visitors.
Andong has its fair share of cheap motels. Try looking around the area immediate in front of the train terminal.
If that's still too expensive, theres always passing out on the floor of a jimjillbang (public bathhouse).