So if you’ve seen my previous Korea post (Fyi, for those not in the know, hanguk is the Korean name for Korea) where I visited the filming site MBC Dramia last Spring, you’d know that I count some sageuk dramas (or Korean historical dramas) as my all-time favourite dramas. I used to dislike sageuk dramas because of how long-winded they could be, but over time, I found myself drawn to the costumes, elements of Korean folklore and the architecture in these dramas.
So, MBC Dramia was one item off my Korean drama bucket list… and the next item was… wearing a hanbok, a Korean traditional dress, and walking around palace grounds. (Yes, I know, go on and judge my #lifegoals.) But seriously, haven’t you ever wondered how it would be like, stepping into the shoes of the palace ladies of the past and tottering around the expansive grounds of the palace in a colourful hanbok?
Well, you know how some places in Seoul allow you to try hanboks for free and take photos in a small little photo studio? Forget those. What you really want, after going through all that trouble wearing the various layers of the hanbok, is the freedom to choose where and how you want to take your photos. Which was why when Sangjun from One Day Hanbok e-mailed me to tell me about what his shop offered – affordable full-day outdoor hanbok rentals – I was immediately sold.
First, we headed to One Day Hanbok at Euljiro-4-ga station (more on how to get there at the bottom of the entry) bright and early to get our hanboks of choice. You’d definitely want first pick of all the hanboks, and the later you go, the lesser hanboks you will be able to choose from since others would have already rented them…so be early!
If you’re stuck and spoilt for choice, just like we were, you can ask Sangjun for suggestions. The hanboks already come in fixed colour combinations. You can also mix and match the skirts and the tops, but try not to. I tried mixing my own combination, and I thought it looked good, but no it looked bad, just bad. Trust me when I say leave it to the hanbok experts.
Then you get fitted. There’s basically two main parts to the hanbok, the upper garment and the skirt. There’s also the petticoat to accompany the skirt, to give that fluffed-up effect. However, bearing in mind that mobility and comfort is key, so that one can go places in the hanbok, the shop only has the main two pieces. The skirt itself is fluffy enough anyway. Remember to wear sleeveless or a short-sleeved top and shorts if possible (and if the weather permits) because you will be wearing the hanbok over your existing clothes.
Once we were done trying it on, and were happy with our choices, we chose our hair accessories (they are included in the rental) and also grabbed some bobby pins (also complimentary). As we weren’t too comfortable riding the subway in our hanboks, we opted to take them off, but we also made sure to learn how to tie the front ribbon before we left. Sangjun also helped keep our items, though i would advise you to take your valuables and of course, your camera with you.
So, my first location of choice was Changdeokgoong. Ever since I went there for the first time in 2010, it’s become my favourite palace, maybe because of the Secret Garden within. The nearest subway to Changdeokgoong is Anguk station so we had to change lines. Can you imagine if we wore our hanbok skirts and had to walk up and down the subway stairs in them? I would have probably tripped or gotten stuck in the subway gaps.
When we got to Changdeokgoong, we made sure to change into our hanboks before we went in… because you get free entry when you wear your hanboks to the palace! But this doesn’t mean you can just stride into the palace with your hanbok like you own the palace grounds. You still need to go to the counter, show them your hanbok (if it’s not obvious enough) and get a ticket which will grant you entry.
Once inside, snap away! The only other person wearing a hanbok was a palace guide and she saw that we had our ribbons tied wrongly so she came up to us and hastily tied our ribbons for us. Once done, she gave a nod of approval, and then walked off. I always find it amusing how Korean ladies are always helping us with tasks like that without saying a word, like how when we were studying in Korea, they would just help us pick lint off our jackets or help us straighten our tops/skirts. If it were in Singapore, I’m sure I would get tsk-ed at if I wordlessly helped someone with these.
But of course, one location wasn’t enough. I really wanted to head to Bukchon Hanok Village, which was about a 15-minute walk away. We contemplated removing our hanboks, but by then we had forgotten to tie our ribbons, plus there was no place to change into our hanboks at the Hanok Village, unless we went into some cafe, so…we walked around the Anguk neighbourhood in our hanboks. Mind you, this was lunch hour on a Friday, so all the office workers were out in full force, and there we were in our hanboks, without a care in the world. It was also really hot, so we had iced tea in one hand, our cell phones in another, walking down the streets. It must have been quite a sight and we attracted a few amused looks.
Bukchon Hanok Village is way more packed than Changdeokgoong though, so finding a suitable photo spot was rather difficult. Plus there were way more tourists, so we kept getting stopped for photos with them. (On hindsight, we should have charged for every photo taken!)
We wandered around for a good 1-2 hours before we decided we had enough of the heat. Though it was supposed to be Spring, the weather was almost Summer-like. We may have looked super comfortable, but we definitely weren’t. I remember my top was so soaked when I took it off. Once done, we stuffed the hanboks back into the bag given to us and headed back to Euljiro-4-ga to return them.
Depending on your budget, you can choose to rent the hanboks for 4 hours (13,000kr) to a full day (26,000krw). I’d recommend going for the full-day one so you can take your time, besides both options don’t really have much of a price difference. One Day Hanbok also provides a very extensive list of nearby and not-so-nearby locations that you can explore and have your photos taken at. One place I really wish I’d gone was Jongmyo Shire! And given a choice, I would definitely love to head back to MBC Dramia and have a few photos taken there in my hanbok.
So the next time you’re in Seoul, instead of just visiting the palaces like everyone else, why not make it a bit more interesting by wearing a hanbok to complete the whole experience? Not only can you pretend that you are palace royalty, your photos will also be different from the usual ones taken by tourists. It will also be quite an experience getting around in your hanboks and getting stopped for photos every now and then! But remember to walk gracefully and be careful not to trip over your skirt!
One Day Hanbok
Nearest Subway Station: Euljiro-4-ga station
Opening Hours: 10am – 8pm, 7 days a week
A big thank you to One Day Hanbok for the lovely hanbok experience!