Andong is a small city located 143 mi from Seoul. It is easily accessible by car, by bus (3-hour journey), or by train (4-hour journey). A provincial town with welcoming and inquisitive inhabitants, you'll find that the local youth is always asking foreigners where they come from. It's the best place to get a good insight into the daily lives of South Koreans and to make friends with the locals, which is definitely a lot easier than in Seoul where everyone always seems to be in a rush. The town has seen its popularity among tourists grow since the Queen's visit in 1999; a fact the locals are very proud of! You can also visit the traditional village of Hahoe, with its splendid blend of working class houses and wealthy residences. The atmosphere here is a little different, with tourists wandering uninvited directly into people's homes (if you're not into voyeurism, this is probably not the best of places to visit). Also not to be missed is Dosanseowon, a Confucian school whose oldest building was erected in 1557, Bongjeongsa temple, which houses the country's oldest wooden pavilion and the town's folklore museum. The most common form of accommodation in the area is B&Bs: many middle-class families have preserved their villages and their houses to accommodate tourists, providing a good opportunity to experience Korean daily life.
Some of the activities here include: strolling around the food market, visiting the plethora of nice shops, trying to converse with a young South Korean, writing a wish on a small piece of paper and attaching it to a 600 year old tree in the heart of Hahoe village (a Shaman custom), and rafting in the Cheongnyangni valley.
Andong Folk Festival is held every year at the end of September. It presents an opportunity for all the countries of the world to come together and demonstrate their traditional dances, which, in this particular region, is the dance of the masks. Another local custom is the Chajeon-Nori, a wrestling game practised by men.
Surface area : 38691.0 km2
Population : 48875000 inhabitants
Time difference : +9hours
Don't hesitate to drop in at the tourist information office as soon as you arrive. You'll find very few people who speak English, so thankfully the tourist office will give you some basic sentences to use in Korean, which is easier to pronounce than Chinese.
Try to stay away from the so-called "love" hotels, another name for the many brothels found in the city centre; even if you don't go there with "love" in mind, the decor is so kitsch that you'll just end up feeling rather depressed...
There are many not-to-be-missed culinary specialities in the region: the mackerel, the Jjimdak of Andong (a chicken-based speciality with tasty vegetables), or the local beef, bred in the hills of Andong. According to the legend, its taste is so rare you will never forget it.
Don't forget to bring home some pretty pictures of the mountainous landscape, a bottle of Soju, which is a local 40% rice alcohol, or some paper from the Andong region.