The city of Suncheon in the South Jeolla Province hosts the Nakaneupsong Folk Village – a well preserved fortress of Korean-style houses, complete with thick straw roofs, clay walls, dirt backyards and stone-pile fences. I felt I was transported into another period of Korean history when I entered the village gates.
The houses in the village have been well preserved and I was really impressed by the effort. We were told, as we saw for ourselves, that there are families actually living in these houses. And they are not for show. They actually eat, sleep, cook, and in the case of the children, play, in these traditional Korean houses. I walked around the village and went into certain open houses and discovered for myself the interiors of the homes as well the life these families lead. Some houses also open their doors to those who want to stay for a night or two and experience the traditional way of Korean living centuries ago.
Around the village, there were clay pottery lessons and old Korean tradesmen showing off their skills in making traditional Korean footwear and tools out of straw. They made it look so easy and simple. A couple of the tourists tried to get their hands into duplicating what the old men did, but they were not even close. As a foreigner and as somebody used to the daily conveniences of technology, I was able to truly appreciate the skills of these old Koreans as well as their ingenuity of turning what is indigenous to the place and making them useful tools for daily living.
Lucky for us, there was also a food festival featuring all the delicacies and dishes of the South Jeolla province. We were able to get inside the pavilion to see for ourselves the most popular of the Jeolla-namdo dishes which all looked amazing and meticulously prepared. Not being able to cook myself, I can just wonder at the gargantuan efforts these Jeolla nam-do women, or perhaps men, have put into while preparing these featured dishes which, not only looked enticingly delicious, but also delicately decorated with all the colors of the South Jeolla province. The very long queues of people trying to get into the food pavilion just proved that it was a must-see for everybody. But I was thinking, with all the food paraded before my eyes, I could only get hungry.
And speaking of hunger, my prayers were answered. After experiencing and enjoying the Nakaneupseong Village and its food festival, we drove to and checked into our hotel in Suncheon, after which we sat down in a Korean restaurant where we had a feast of Korean dishes – from fish to octopus, to beef and pork barbecue, to jjigae (stew) and dried seaweed, and a tableful of vegetables and side dishes one can only think that this was not an ordinary Saturday night dinner, but a celebration of Korean food, specifically from South Jeolla province, and a tribute to the people who kept them true to the traditional Korean taste all these centuries past. With every inch of table space occupied by a dish, and with all the colors, aroma and flavors overwhelming one’s senses, it was, indeed, a feast fit for a very hungry king.