One of the experiences I was looking forward to while visiting South Korea was a Hanok Stay. All over the country, you will find pockets of these traditional houses dating back to the 14th century and the Joseon Dynasty. Some of these houses are still fully residential; many have been transformed into shops and tea houses, and some others have been refurbished as guesthouses for visitors to enjoy a unique accommodation experience.
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What is a Hanok?
A hanok refers to a traditional Korean house, usually built keeping the regional environmental elements, such as the direction of water bodies and mountains, in mind. They have a unique heating system called “ondol”, which translates to “warm stone”, and is an underfloor heating mechanism.
While planning this trip, I found a few lovely hanok stay options in Jeonju and Seoul but it was the Namwonyechon (or Yechon) Hanok Hotel, a modern variation of these traditional houses, in Namwon that caught my eye.
Though not a 14th-century property, the Yechon Hanok Hotel maintains some of the fundamental architectural elements of a traditional hanok and after spending a night there, I can say that I couldn’t have asked for a better experience! I loved this place!
Compared to other hanok stays I found, the room at the Yechon Hotel was much larger, spacious and better equipped. Of course, these all reflect in the price. But at $117 a night for a double room, including a full hearty Korean breakfast for two and free entry into some attractions in Namwon, I thought that this was great value for money.
Hanok Stay Experience: Namwonyechon by Kensington
Some rooms at the Namwonyechon hotel have actual beds but a distinctive feature of a traditional hanok is sleeping on a futon on the heated floor.
The futon felt like a thick blanket, which meant that I could feel the wooden floor when I lay on it. I am guessing this might be uncomfortable for some but as for me, I enjoyed being able to feel the warmth from the heated floor and I slept peacefully all through the night.
Hanok Stay Experience – Korean Breakfast at Yechon Hanok Hotel
Breakfast the next morning was equally as delightful. Upon the recommendation of friendly hotel staff, I got the Beef Seaweed Soup and side dishes. It was delectable!
With only a few hours left to spend in Namwon, I opted to visit the Gwanghalluwon Garden, located just behind the Yechon Hanok Hotel. The entry price is about $2. However, guests from the hotel can go in for free.
Visiting the Gwanghalluwon Garden, Namwon
This garden is famous for being at the centre of old Korea’s greatest love story and what Namwon is widely known for – Chunhyangjeon. It was here that the two protagonists first met after Mongryong fell in love with Chunhyang at first sight.
The garden and pavilion have also been the filming location of several historical Korean dramas and it’s not hard to see why as they are picturesque.
After spending about an hour in the garden and surrounding areas, I returned to the hotel to pack up my bags and leave for the bus station to catch a bus to Busan.
The combination of visiting this garden and staying at the Namwonyechon Hanok Hotel was the perfect ending to my Hanok Stay experience in South Korea.
How to Get to Namwon Yechon Hanok Hotel | From Jeonju or Seoul
Getting to Namwon from any of the big cities is fairly easy, especially if you travel via the KTX. Travellers leaving from Seoul can board the KTX from Seoul Station or Yongsan Station. The journey lasts a little over three hours. From Jeonju, the journey is much shorter with the KTX running from Jeonju Station to Namwon Station in about 27 minutes.
I made this trip from Boseong, travelling first on the Mugunghwa train to Suncheon Station, before getting on the connecting KTX train to Namwon. The journey lasted a little over three hours as well.
I would recommend a stop in the city if you can afford the time, as well as a hanok stay at the Namwonyechon hotel.