Particularly in the pedestrian streets near Eumsikui-Geori ("Food street") and the Cultural street (highlighted on most tourist maps), there are many different types of masks presented in the tiles of the streets. Most people walk right over them and do not take notice.
I saw at least 20 different masks made out of tiles as shown in my picture here. But the manhole covers also have various masks on them. While you are walking around these streets, keep an eye to where you are walking.
Some others have already commented on the festival, so here's a few pieces of information that I feel were omitted. The Festival lasts 10 days, starting in late September and continuing through the first week of October.
Information booths with maps, schedules of events and schedules of shuttle buses are available at the festival grounds themselves, as well as the train and bus terminals. If you drove yourself, free parking is available immediately across the festival grounds by the river.
5000 Won ticket will be valid for an entire day's mask dances, both at the main Maskdance Stage as well as that in the folk village of Hahoe. (5000 Won entry into Hahoe is not required if you bought the ticket at the main stage or vice-verse).
The main stage may have better seating, but in my opinion the outdoor venue in Hahoe with the trees, river and cliff side in the background truly adds an important character to the dances!
All dances will be performed in their original languages (visiting performers might be from Indonesia, Turkey, China, Japan, etc.). English synopsis should be available for the performances at the ticket booths, otherwise the stories might be difficult to follow.
Outside of Andong, the Changsung (wood totems or guard posts) are much less common, but inside the area, you will find them everywhere.
Upon the entrance to HahoeMaeul is one of the best samples to pick from. There are maybe 100 of them, ranging in styles and sizes.
These serve as posting signs, to identify property boundaries (sometimes written with the family's name on them), or as warnings to keep evil out.
Back in 1974, when the waters of the lake behind the dam would have drowned this piece of history forever, the remains of the town Ocheongunjari were moved to their present location.
The buildings may have been repaired along the way, but much of them are still original. This village claims to have been a thriving center for the prosperous families and scholars in the area for over 20 centuries (more than 600 years).
Today, the buildings and the scenery are maintained in beautiful tranquility. Hopefully you will visit before the bus loads of Korean tourists arrive so you can view the area in peace.
You will need no more than 45 minutes to see this area. Cost is free.
Andong downtown is fairly compact and gives you a taste of what semi-urban Korea might be about. Across the road from the train station, turn right and walk on until you come to the "Food Street", a street where many local restaurants line both sides. Continue walking down Food Street and you'll end up in the modern shopping area.
In between, you may find yourself in the local market where kimchi, fruits and fish can be easily found.
Right outside the Hahoe Village is the Andong Mask Museum. Inside is a fairly extensive collection of masks from around Korea and the world. There's also a small giftshop. Its small but pleasant, and the owners are very knowledgeable about mask culture (the husband carves the hahoe masks and other items, some of which are on sale at the gift shop) but alas don't speak English.
This Village is nowadays just a tourist attraction, even though there are still people living there.
But the building and the whole village itself is now like it has been a few hundred years ago.
The roots of Hahoe (means in the bend of the river) Maeul go back 600 years. And even the goverment tries to prevent that village with its 130 houses.
The Entrance Fee is W 3000 (during Mask Dance Festival) and it's worth the price. But try to avoid weekends and go there early in the day. It might be packed otherwise.
Try also to go there during the Mask Dance Festival. During this time you have the chance to see traditional Mask Dance and thing like a traditional korean wedding.
This festival takes part between end of September and beginning of October and offers a huge variaty of traditional Korea.
You can watch locals making some handcrafts and try some of the traditional food!
And if you are lucky, they still have the free beer stand. Just get in line and get your free korean beer.
Also the performances are really nice! Check English Folders for more details!
The Dosan Sowon was the foremost Confucian academy of the Chosun era. It consists of two parts: the school proper where the students lived and studied, and a shrine to the founder of the academy. The civil service exams were occasionally administered here as well. It's a large complex with several interesting buildings in a beautiful setting. It's such an important site, it's featured on the 1000 won bill! It is the heart of Confucian learning and philosophy here in Korea.
The sign seen in the picture below is famous for the strange slant of the characters . . .the story is that the calligrapher was commanded by the king to write the characters for "dosan seowon" backwards. He was so nervous that the characters ended up slantwise!
Hahoe Maul is a village on the Nakdong river that remains nearly unchanged since the Chosun dynasty, with over 150 intact buildings. Unlike the folk village in Suwon, and the Andong folk village, Hahoe is not only authentic but still inhabited. It's a wonderful place to see what life in Korea was like before the rapid modernization following the Korean war. It's in a beautiful location, with views of the surrounding mountains, an impressive cliff, and one of the more beautiful stretches of the Nakdongkang curling around it. On Saturdays there are performances of the local indigenous mask dance. There is also a small museum devoted to Queen Elizabeth II's visit a few years back, a source of enormous pride here in Andong. Try and avoid the village on weekends in the summer, when much of the peace and charm is ruined by hoards of tourists.
Most of the buildings are private residences, so ask before you enter if you're unsure or it seems inhabited. Some of the larger, more important houses have been converted into modest museums.
There are several restaurants in the village, but many of them are clustered near the river on the side that overlooks the cliff. Just keep right after you enter the village, along the river road. However, there are lots more scattered here and there. They're small operations so they serve only a few different kinds of foods.
If you're adventurous and looking to experience Korean traditional life, try staying overnight at one of the numerous minbak in the village. You'll sleep on a mat on the floor of a traditional Korean house, complete with mosquito netting in summer or ondol (heated floors) in winter. You may well be solicited by ajumas enticing you to stay their minbak as you enter, but look around and ask to see rooms first, since some places are much nicer than others. They're generally inexpensive, and meals are commonly available for a small fee.
Held annually in late September - early October, this is one of the biggest festivals in Korea. It lasts ten days, and features a fantastic number of mask dance groups from not just Korea, but all over the world. In addition to the mask dances, here's a large marketplace where you can find local products and crafts, as well as vendors from other countries represented at the festival. Several large kut are also held, making this one of the best places to see Korean Shamanism.
Weekends at the Hahoe Village visitors can also see one of the highlights of the festival: an elaborate "fireworks" show featuring three kinds of burning entertainment. First, handmade flares are pulled across the Nakdong river, as candles are released to float by. At the climax, large burning bundles are tossed off the the cliff opposite. To top it off there are sometimes conventional fireworks during the second weekend.
Also during the second weekend are two unique "games". The first is a spectacular mock fight between two groups of young men in traditional garb, who charge at each other with "chariots" (VERY large A-frames), throwing shoes, chanting, and generally causing a ruckus. The object is to knock the general of the other team off his chariot. The second "game" is really a folk dance, and commemorates the escape of a king and queen from the Mongol invasion. The legend is that there was no bridge across the river, so the women of Andong made a human bridge and the queen walked to the other side on their backs. Women dressed in hanbok (traditional dress) dance to recreate the event.
Events take place in two locations. There's a main festival ground south of the bus station, by the river. This is where the vendors, kut, and many of the dances are. The fireworks and some of the dances take place at the Hahoe Village, so be sure and schedule your time so you can get back and forth. A shuttle bus runs between the main fairground and the Hahoe Village, and takes about fourty minutes each way.
At the Andong Mask Dance Festival you have the chance to try on a Traditional Costume. It's free and it's fun!