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Hanok Homestay: Futon-surfing, Korean style
City-subsidized sleepovers at traditional Korean houses
Look for lodgings in Seoul and you are hit with an overwhelmingly diverse range of prices and services: everything from ritzy sky-scraping suites and crazy motels to the hip and urban CouchSurfing, or the charmingly rural temple stay. Technically, you can even bum it at a "pajama-renting"jjimjilbang.
But there's more.
The Hanok Homestay program allows inquisitive tourists the opportunity to stay with a Korean family at a traditional Korean house, or hanok.
If there's no place like home, then it stands to reason that there's also no place to stay like a homestay.
Hanok Homestay may be a Jongno-gu-funded project, but it's no slick, orchestrated government puppet show. Jongno's involvement is more one of vetting and presenting what's already there -- not creating.
The Hanok Homestay website, where you can apply for a stay, has photographs and detailed information about the hosting hanok.
A hanok stay will cost anywhere from ₩50,000 to ₩70,000 -- but as with CouchSurfing, it's not really the cash you save that makes it so worthwhile.
As Yang Yong-hun, general manager at Hanok Homestay, emphazises, "Hanok Homestay is not merely about accommodation. This is not a typical bed-and-breakfast. Sure, you get breakfast. But you also get to experience traditional Korean culture, and make friends with your hosts."
Depending on the hanok you select, you might end up making kimchi, trying on hanbok, learning calligraphy, or learning a traditional Korean instrument.
"The floors were toasty warm," says university student Joo-Yoon Park, 23, who stayed overnight in a hanok guesthouse last winter.
"Hopefully you'll find a good host who will turn the heat up on the ondol floors."
Despite the strong emphasis on tourism, the service is open to both foreign and domestic guests. "We get about half of each," says Yang.
50 Sambong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 삼봉길 50); +82 2 2148 1855;homestay.jongno.go.kr
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