The 2015 Andong International Maskdance Festival will be held from Friday, September 25 through Sunday, October 4th. This post was originally published on Korea Ye on November 20, 2014; we are bringing it out of the archives for those of you who may want to attend the festivities this season.
CONTRIBUTED BY DANIELLE BASS
Spring and Autumn are the seasons for great festivals in Korea. September and October bring particularly clear and pleasant weather – a nice break from the monsoon season and a gentle prelude into cold, dry, windy winters. October also features two public holidays back-to-back, which makes it easy to host festivals (but kind of terrible to drive!)
October 3 is Korean Foundation Day – the day when Koreans celebrate the establishment of their people thousands of years ago. October 9 is Hangeul Day – the day when Koreans celebrate the invention of a written script designed for their language by the Great King Sejong in the fifteenth century. The weekends around and between these two holidays are popularly chosen dates for a number of festivals across the country.
One festival I have always longed to attend, and which surely does not disappoint, is the International Maskdance Festival in Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do.
Where to Stay
There are quite a few hotels in Andong near the festival area. The Park Tourist Hotel is on every map, but a more convenient choice is the Andong Hotel, where we stayed. The location is quite close to the Andong Market, where you can get some killer meals and buy fresh fruit for breakfast. It is also within walking distance of Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, some over-priced meat restaurants, and the downtown stage, where free performances are held throughout the festival.
What To Do
The main festival site involves a bit of walking. The easiest way to get there is to ask for a map and directions at the Tourist Information Center in front of Andong Train Station.
The main festival area features at least four different stages with various performances. The main stage features free performances from dance schools and other groups across the country. A children’s stage features puppet shows and performances for kids, at the cost of 5,000 won per individual. The main stage is where the international competitions are held. In addition to traditional Korean maskdance performances, you can see different countries’ traditional mask dancing, as well. We saw performances from Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil. Tickets cost 7,000 won per person. Children under first grade are free.
Traditional mask dances of Indonesia, Mexico, and South Korea
If watching mask dancing all day isn’t your thing, then there’s plenty of carnival-type activities to enjoy. Browse through dozens of booths featuring artisan pottery, specialty foods, and international goods. Participate in crafts and activities, such as mask-decorating, pottery-sculpting, candlemaking, and many more.
Kids can be assisted by a professional potter to make their own vases and cups for only 3,000 won
Use bubbly foam to decorate paper masks in time for the parade at the end of the festival.
You can find this craft available at many festival booths.
Finally, there’s plenty of games and rides to go around – bumper cars, trampoline jumping, choo-choo trains, and carnival games with fluffy stuffed animal prizes are familiar activities. Most vendors can speak enough English to close a sale and encourage you to pay more money. Feeling hungry? No problem! Hot dogs on a stick, chicken on a stick, corn dogs on a stick, fish cakes on a stick, and many other snack varieties – stick or no-stick – are easily found and purchased within the festival.
Enjoy typical carnival games such as going crazy inside an air-filled ball in a pool of water.
Alternatively, ride the choo-choo train.
If you get tired of the festival area, feel free to wander around town. There are performances in the downtown areas day and night. Additionally, you can visit Hahoe Folk Village, a designated Unesco Heritage site, where there is more traditional Korean maskdancing available for viewing as well as other programs.
Be sure to attend the Nanjang Parade at the main stage on the last Saturday of the festival. Basically, any individual or team who danced all day will be there. Spectators and performers alike gather and march around the festival grounds, wearing masks and dancing to techno music with giant masked characters on stilts. At the end there is a short fireworks display before the festival grounds close for the evening.
Getting to dance inside the giant lion costume was definitely the best part of attending this festival
What To Eat
Andong, like other tourist destinations, is famous for several local foods. Andong Jjimdalk is a special sweet (and sometimes spicy) braised chicken dish and one of my favorite Korean foods! It can be found in abundance at the Andong Market or in various restaurants around town. If you order at a restaurant, one “small” serving might cost 25,000 won but it can easily feed three adults (it was way too much for our family of two adults and two little kids!)
A second local specialty is Korean-raised beef rib meat. Be prepared to pay high prices for this commodity. Restaurant prices vary so ask to see the menu first before dining. Avoid anywhere that looks too tourist-friendly (or be prepared to pay over 50,000 won for a small selection of meat).
My favorite Andong signature dish has got to be Andong special salted mackerel. It tastes salty and buttery, and is a delicious way to eat a super cheap meal. Eating it at the bus terminal for 6,000 won will be just as good as eating it in a fancy restaurant for twice as much.
How To Get There
If you don’t want to brave the highways on a holiday weekend in Korea, I suggest taking the express bus to Andong from Central City. Central City is located right next door to Sinsaegae Department Store and Gangnam Express Bus Terminal. Express Bus Terminal station is connected to the Seoul Subway system via lines 3 (orange), 7 (olive green), and 9 (gold). Bus tickets cost under 20,000 won per adult and child tickets are 50% of the price of an adult ticket.
More Information about Andong
Andong Maskdance Festival homepage: http://www.maskdance.com/eng/main.asp
Andong Maskdance Festival via Korean Tourism website: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_2_1.jsp?cid=697123
Hahoe Folk Village homepage: (English available) http://www.hahoe.or.kr/
Hahoe Folk Village via Korea Tourism website: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264148
Andong Hotel (Korean only): http://www.andonghotel.net/ Tel: 054-858-1166
Andong Park Tourist Hotel: http://www.andongparkhotel.com/