A Winter in Korea, Day 2 – Christmas Day Trip to Pyeongchang

It was our second full day in Korea and Matt, my friend and host, had the day off from work. I know that our next holy holiday is almost upon as I write this in April but it happened on Christmas, but you already know my excuses if you’ve been following along: school, work.

Well, anyway, in all my research for this trip, I really wanted to do one thing: ice fishing! And since there was only one ice fishing festival happening while we were there, Pyeongchang Trout Festival it was.

Oh, it’s also home to our next winter Olympic Games! Awkwardly enough, I had mistaken Sochi to be in Korea for the longest time until only a few days after they begun. Well, Sochi sounds Korean in my defense…

Moving on… so, we took the bus from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal to Jinbu. I couldn’t really find much in English, but ask a helpful, friendly employee to get you in the right place. We found that may speak English but may not always respond in English. There are several buses a day that depart to Jinbu, which is about a 7 minute walk to the festival location along the stream. I want to say the bus ticket was under $20 per person, maybe even under $15.

Oh, let me bring up a list of what you should bring on this journey:

  • cold-weather accessories: gloves, scarf, beanie, hand warmers, toe warmers, snow boots, sunglasses or goggles
  • cold-weather clothing: very, very warm clothing… layers!
  • bait! this helps a lot when fishing…. I’d say your success rate definitely increases
  • a portable, lightweight chair so you can sit while you wait for the fish to bite, the ice is very cold and gets into your bones quickly! perhaps even bring some sort of mat if you get cold easily…
  • fishing accessories (optional, but helpful): knife, warm weather wet gloves… like those work gloves lined with rubber? and other stuff? I’m so not a fisherman! Forgive me…
  • rods are not necessary as you can buy them there and aren’t too pricey, but if you have them, why not?

While we waited for our bus to depart, we roamed around the terminal to get some snacks. My mom bought us each a banana milk beverage.

And we also selected some breads from the bakery, Tous les Jours, which is interestingly enough… a South Korean chain.

If I remember correctly, I got a green tea cream cheese bread. Yummy.

The bus ride is a little over two hours. Be sure to remember all your belongings before taking off for the stream! My mom totally forgot her hat. If you see a cutesy off-white yarn beanie with poofy balls dangling on the side, please return to us! Thanks in advance.

Once you arrive in the town, a very small, fairly country-side area of Korea (in the far cold northern reaches of the east side)… you’ll get dropped off at a tiny bus station. It’s basically a waiting room with benches in the middle and bathrooms. Walk outside until you see the stream! It was in the direction of where the bus was heading for us…

You’ll probably come onto this sign to confirm you are in the right direction. As you follow its direction, you’ll start to slowly see over the horizon… hordes of festival-goers on the frozen stream.

There they are!

See them now?

Don’t worry, it’s a quick walk to the entrance from the bus station. You’ll see it clearly marked by signage and snow sculptures.

And even though once you got off the bus and saw no one around town… once you reach the ice festival, you’ll see the change. The festival is crowded with families, friends and so forth ready to catch some grub.

Head towards the main building and buy your festival pass. We each bought a fishing and play pass – we were allowed to fish in the designated section and play all the ice activities available in the other area. It was about $25 per person. There was also a luxurious tent fishing pass where you could fish in a small covered tent. We opted to tough it with the rest of the common folk. Whichever fishing pass you buy, your group will get a plastic bag to store any caught fish.

After you get your pass – it looks just like a ski pass that you stick together on a metal wire to your clothing, grab your tools! We each grabbed a fishing stick with a gummy, very fake-looking tackle. It was about $6 per stick. They also had chairs and fancier fishing equipment as well. We were ready….

Oh, but not before a few photos along the walk down to the fishing area.

The walkway is filled with vendors that serve odeng (a savory winter dish common in Japan, “oden,” and other Asian countries) and other warm treats. Ask the vendor for a warm-me-up of the odeng broth and he’ll commonly supply you with a small Dixie cup-full.

A few more photos on the walk down towards the fishing areas….

An Angry Birds snow sculpture….

A Korean “ice castle“?

The secret to how they make their snow sculptures… Packing snow into this cubed vault then chipping away at it….

Some perspective for you…

First is the luxurious tent ice fishing area… Here’s the entrance. You can see the numerous tens in the background. They are pretty tiny – perhaps fitting 2-3 people sitting tightly over a hole together, I’d say.

A snack tent…. since the lot of the food is up a bit further, this was more like a warm-me-up snack tent. The inside also had a large heater/fire going.

And finally…. our humble entrance! We entered the tent and followed through a small stanchion-ed line where an employee checked and hole-punched our passes. Then, we were off to the ice!

We were excited! Let’s do this!! Basically, you could find a hole that was already there… or find the (manual) hand-drill and create your own.

There were so many, we never really bore our own unless it was to clear up the hole a bit more. Some of the holes were a bit frozen over and you would have to re-drill it.

We got our sticks ready and started fishing!

It was cold, but we were patient.

We waited and tried different holes for about an hour or two.

Then we got chilly and a little bit discouraged so we decided to take a break. Off to the other building!

In this other building, there was a bunch of food vendors (think more like a street restaurant with pop-up sitting). Check out that roast…

Because we had no luck, we debated buying these smaller fish for bait. Then, we thought we would seem like dumb tourists for asking, so we bagged that idea.

Inside this tent, you could also ask them to cook your catch. There was a huge line! Needless to say, we had no reason to be in it. So, we got a quick snack at the food vendors outside and went to play! First up, the snowmobile tubing!

This little girl and my mom were ready…. and psyched.

It was a bit difficult to take photos while the snowmobile towed our tube over an obstacle course of turns and bumps. But here is one mid-ride. Things were flying – snow, hair, bodies!

Then off to the other side. Ice sleds!

Grab an old-school ice sled with picks to do what Matt is doing!

Or you could wait in line to ride this weird contraption… it was two “cabins” that sat on rails pulled by an ATV. The “cabins” would move back and forth on the rails, similar to those pirate boat rides but on a much, much smaller scale.

You could also try to snatch one of these tricycles and move across the iced stream. My mom tried a bit, but one of the tires were flat so it wasn’t the funnest “play” option.

After about an hour or so of play and racing, we were ready to get back to fishing. I was determined to get a trout. Just one! That was all I was asking for….

So, we tried again… waiting…. freezing….

And dammit! It was not a fruitful Christmas…. We caught nothing. And after about another hour of disappointing fishing, we decided to call it quits. The sun was setting behind the horizon and the festival was getting ready to close. They are open from 9am to about 5pm.

We took a few more pictures and headed back to Seoul.

After setting down our gear at Matt’s house, we headed back down the hill and went to Korean BBQ in Itaewon – Hwang So Mal.

Well, first thing’s first…

I ordered a stein of Hite beer, the Bud of Korea. My mom tried some.

Then on with the meat! We got about 3-4 servings of meat to BBQ. It was so delicious!

The banchan included a communal chawanmushi (what is this in Korean? well, anyway, that’s Japanese since I don’t know the English for it either…), kimchi and a few other goodies.

There was this awesome vent that pulled out when we started BBQing the meat. it was so cool! I felt it had a bit of a steam-punk vibe with that copper and metal combo…

Oh, did I mention it was pretty dead? I think there were only one or two other parties that dined the whole time we were there. It was great (for us, maybe not for the business).

We basically followed Matt’s cue… he cooked all our food and then we paired it as he taught us. Grab the meat, dip it in some sauce or salt/pepper spice mix, add onion or garlic as desired and wrap in the lettuce leaf. Yeesh, my mouth is watering as I reminisce….

So damned delicious! Well, anyway, that’s what I did for Christmas 2013. What did you do? Cheers!


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