January 11, 2015 Yesterday we went out to Hwacheon in Gangwon-do for their ice festival. Gangwon-do is the province next to ours (Gyeonggi-do), and as you can see on the map, Hwacheon is also fairly close to the North Korean border.
The Hwacheon Sancheoe Ice Festival is centered on and around their frozen river, and all the activities are on the ice. The main event, and the reason we went, is ice fishing. But they had tons of other activities like, skating, sledding, snowmobiling, soccer, curling, and four wheeling on ice. It is fairly difficult to do things on our own (outside of Seoul) as foreigners in Korea because a lot of the websites aren’t available in English and a lot of the people don’t speak English once you get there. So we went with Adventure Korea, a company that organizes small trips for foreigners, and they made the entire process really easy! We left Seoul on a chartered bus at 8:00am and arrived at the festival around 10:45am. They dealt with buying our tickets into the festival and getting our fishing rods. Once we got our tickets we could start fishin’! I guess to encourage foreigners to participate they had a separate area specifically for foreigners to ice fish. I should have taken a better photo of the fishing rods. They were very simple – just a fishing wire with a lure at the end. We weren’t given any bait and I’m not sure if other people were using any or not. I only know that no live bait was allowed. Pam was the first one of us to catch a fish during our first go-round.
Zach with his foreigner ticket
The foreigners’ area
Pam & Paul
Keepin’ an eye on our hole
Watching fish swim by my hook
Pam with a fish!
After a while, the rest of us felt pretty defeated, so we went over to watch the bare-handed fishing. There is an option to catch a trout with your bare hands but you have to be in shorts and a t-shirt and in freezing water! Paul, Zach, and I were not interested, but Pam thought she might be, so we went over to watch. It was clear within a few minutes that no of us would be partaking in that event.
The small pool for bare-handed fishing (beyond that is a larger area for Koreans to ice fish)
The contestants pinning the fish against the wall to pull them out
We decided to go back and try our hand at fishing again. This time Zach caught one! A little while later I was interrupted in my pursuit to be interviewed by the AP. I’m not sure where that interview will end up but they have my name and age!
That mass of people in the distance is thousands of Koreans ice fishing
Pam has perfected her Asian squat
Zach looking for trout
There was a dachshund out there!
We took the 2 fish that we caught and the other 3 we were given to have them grilled for lunch. It was 2,000 won to have your fish grilled so it only costs us 10,000 to grill all of our fish. We had been given 5,000 won vouchers with our admission so we used those to pay for our fish and then bought some beers and ramen with what was left over. The fish was really great! It was prepared simply, with some butter and salt, but the flavor was really nice.
our vouchers were pretty official-looking!
First you take your fish to this guy and pay. He pounds them in the head and scores them.
Then they are seasoned and wrapped in aluminum foil and placed on or in the grill
We shared a bowl of ramen while we waited
Once it was our turn, they carried our fish into a little area with several grills
They set our fish on the grill and told us to wait 5 minutes before eating it
Then Paul was interviewed by another reporter – there were several wandering around that day
And Zach was filmed taking his first bite!
Time to dig in!
It was a pretty interesting little festival. I didn’t catch anything – I got a bite! – but it was worth it to get out of the city and experience something completely new. We wandered the festival grounds for a little while after our meal and left, exhausted, at 4:30 to go back into Seoul.
I think this town also has otters?
matching couple outfits!
Snow sculptures of popular Korean cartoon characters, Larva
fish being grilled
Texas taters – they don’t say that in Korea