- Kyle Hughes
- 17 December 2015
Ondol. On what?
So, "What is an ondol room?" you ask. This is a question often posed by our Korea Snow guests when bedding (hint hint) down their accommodation bookings. Still not sure? See hint. Yes, Ondol is the national way sleeping in Korea!
A few years ago I was surprised to walk into our on snow accommodation to find the second bedroom completely empty. Just toasty wooden flooring. Now, while my wife and I were happy in our Western-style room with ensuite, the kids were none too pleased to find themselves sleeping on a bare floor. Then we opened the wardrobe to find several mattresses ("Yo" in Korean), traditional rice pillows and doona / quilt / duvets. The mattresses were unrolled, spread out on the warm floor (Ondol) and bed completed with pillow and cover. With the under floor heating the kids were kept snug, and the best thing was the beds could be rolled up and placed to one side each morning rather than having to be made! Sweet!
Ondol floor heating has been around for a very long time, 1000BC to be precise. In that time, the heat and smoke was diverted from the cooking fire to underneath the floorboards in the winter to keep everyone warm. These days the heat in many Korean apartments is generated by a huge hot water system that is under the floors. No chance of a cold shower after your day on the ski slopes, as long as you remember to keep the floor heating on!
Most activities in a traditional Korean household still happen on the floor - sleeping, eating, working and just general hanging out. This traditional way of life is slowly changing with the introduction of more Western sensibilities, and most apartments aimed at the foreign market will have the staple of tables, chairs and lounges. The only one that seems to defy total Westernization is the Ondol way of sleeping. But for those that prefer a 'high-set' bed, no fear. They are readily available and becoming more and more common.
One great advantage of Ondol sleeping has been the flexibility it brings if you are away on a snow trip with friends – we can fit more people in rooms! For example a Western twin room, becomes a 4 person Ondol room, which means you can keep costs and hang out with all your mates. It can take a little adjustment if you are not used to a firm bed, but nothing a double up of Yo's (mattresses) won't fix! If you've travelled to other places around the world where floor bedding is common, like Japan or many parts of SE Asia, it's not too dissimilar. It's perfect for young children and teens as it's not much different to the joy and novelty of camping!
A little tip for the heated flooring – when you've finished for the day and are peeling off damp snow clothing, just lay them on the Ondol heated floors and all will be dry and toasty before you know it! Works a treat if you're washing your thermals!
So when in Korea, enjoy the tradition and get down with the locals on your Ondol Floors with your "Yo's"