Amidst an inviting breeze and bright blue skies, I arrive to my traditional Korean guesthouse known as a hanok. Here in the Land of the Morning Calm, South Korea is epitomised at this elegant little locale situated in an old district in Seoul. Sitting on the jade floor underneath a sumptuous tiled roof where one can admire the moon, the owner welcomes me to RakKoJae with a hot cup of green tea. Blessed with a unique know-how in the art of restoration, he presents travellers with the opportunity to embrace the Korean culture of yesteryear in a place akin to an aristocratic home from the Chosun Dynasty. Indeed, this guesthouse, meaning “a place where one can enjoy the traditions of times past and rest one’s soul”, with its white stone courtyard, carved doors, wooden balustrade, and garden with pine trees and bamboo appears to deliver a poetic message that links directly to one’s spirit. Here, stone, water and the wind live in harmony, offering travellers the chance to embrace history, inner peace and calm. Guestrooms are simply adorned, yet divine: Korean bedding, soft pyjamas, sandals, a few wonderful pieces of calligraphy. I relish in the traditional yellow-mud sauna heated with firewood, then sit to meditate on an indigenous Korean braided mat. The healing has begun. Service is exceptionally friendly and attentive. The gracious staff proposes myriad activities: palaces, temples, the famed local market Insadong. They also reveal where to find the best street stalls called pojangmacha selling traditional Korean snacks including shellfish and caramelised pig’s feet. A natural extension to my sojourn in Seoul, I cannot wait to experience another RakkoJae retreat located in Hanoe, a historic countryside village shaped like a lotus flower. One of South Korea’s least understood aspects is the finesse and variety of its tantalising cuisine. Here, the chef knows just how to initiate guests: chicken soup perfumed with ginseng, fragrant white rice, fresh or marinated vegetables. Beautiful jars sit in a corner, containing fermented miso paste. The wondrous odour of marinated meats being grilled is infectious, perfectly complemented by the ubiquitous condiment kimchi. Most often made with Chinese cabbage, the latter is a spicy explosion of taste. As Buddha wisely once mused: “Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.” Perhaps this word is RakKoJae.
Laundry, Parking (with security), Free Wifi / cable, tea ceremony, royal hanok experience, natural mud sauna, dinner service, culture experience tour.
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