EXPLORING KOREA: Plenty of room at the Hotel California

by Karen E. Farley , 15/09/2008

Early 1977, the Eagles released one of their greatest hits. Hotel California won the Grammy Award for Record of the year in 1978. Searching the Life in Korea website for hotel reservations, there was a listing for the Hotel California- in Korea!

During our two-year stay in South Korea, my husband, son and I discovered shrines, travelled back roads, visited parks and attended festivals. Of the many cultural events throughout the country, the Andong Mask Festival held in the fall proved to be not only entertaining, but interestingly enough- the only hotel listed in “downtown” Andong at the time was the Hotel California.

As soon as we arrived, (two hours later than anticipated due to a wrong turn and a being little off course) we unpacked our bags and headed for the festival. Andong is an extraordinary city as are most of the cities we visited. The entrance to the festival was just a short walk from our hotel. As we were greeted with smells from sizzling pork and steamed chicken, the excitement of visitors waiting for the next mask dance made us eager to witness the grand display of traditions from national and international performers. While the best performance was the traditional Korean mask dance, dancers from other countries displayed passion and flair as they tangoed and clogged to familiar music.

In between stopping for cotton candy and being hailed into tents where pork was pulled and plates were filled, we watched the rows of artists waiting for their next customer to sit and be sketched. As our son sat patiently in the artist’s canvas chair, we checked out the booths filled with crafts and items sold by the locals.

We made one last stop before heading to our hotel. My husband and son passed a tent where several visitors were busy making masks of their own. Not being the artistic one in the family, I sat and watched as they chose their mask mold and began to make bold patterns in bright colors. I was happy as long as I had my wooden souvenir mask and one more cotton candy.

Although the highlight of our trip was the mask festival, we were able to visit the surrounding neighborhoods with their own unique appeal. The KBS drama set was nearby and we packed up the car after a hike through the art sculpture park Our journey to the Gyeongsang province not only improved our understanding of traditional Korean masks, but had the three of us singing all the way home “Plenty of room at the Hotel California… such a lovely place…”
For details on this year's event (26 September to 5 October) go to http://www.korea4expats.com/events-in-korea-Andong-Mask-Dance-Festival-26-Sept-to-5-Oct-831.html   
The RAS is also offering a trip to Andong following the festival: http://www.korea4expats.com//events-in-korea-RAS-ANDONG-TOUR-11-and-12-October-968.html 

Photo by Karen Farley

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