Lunar New Year at the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival

I realize I have not beeng keeping everyone up to speed considering Lunar New Year happened last weekend. To be completely honest, I haven’t felt much like blogging lately. I’m in a state of mind flux where I’m waiting for my paycheck and warmer weather, but mostly my paycheck. Once I have an income I’ll be getting out of Suji more often.

Everyone had at least a four day weekend last week because Lunar New Year was celebrated on the 23-24th. I spent Saturday and Sunday entombed within A Storm of Swords, because it was just THAT good. Monday afternoon I set out to my local bus stop and caught the 5500 to Seoul so I could meet up with Ines. I haven’t seen that girl for over five years. We had gone to high school together, but after we both went to college, and she ended up in Korea two years ago, well, distance happens. The bus ride was nice since it was during the day and I could see everything as opposed to the night I went to Gangnam. The thing was, I was supposed to count the stops to know when to get off at Jogyesa Temple. There supposedly 19. Not really, at least we didn’t stop 19 times. I was lucky that someone boarded the bus when I needed to get off.

The entrance to Jogeysa Temple

It was cold! I had packed extra layers for our Tuesday adventure, but didn’t think about wearing them to Seoul. I wandered a bit around Insadong while waiting for Ines. When she arrived she took me to one of her favorite restaurants that was the equivalent of homestyle Korean food. It was good, though naturally, I didn’t touch many of the sides. The soups, bulgogi and rice were good enough for me. It was dark, cold, and moderately late so we didn’t bother wandering around the shops (Lunar New Year, everything’s closed anyway, duh.). We headed off to her apartment on foot, which might have been a mistake considering I felt like my fingers and toes were falling off, not to mention the constant running of my nose. We walked by a pretty massive complex that was closed for the evening. I can’t remember if she said it was another shrine or if it was a palace; I wasn’t particularly focused on absorbing the culture when my body was freezing.

Big gates are big.

We spent our sleepover night making brownies and watching Harry Potter. It was pretty awesome and the brownies were DELICIOUS. We stayed up talking into the wee hours of the morning, and we needed an early start for our next adventure. To her delight, and mine, I made pancakes the following morning before we left all bundled up. Her man accompanied us for the day. We took a cab to the subway station where we’d be meeting our friend Kat. The ride just proved to me all over again I shouldn’t sit in the backseat of cabs, especially when they drive fast. We met up with Kat and her friend Shannon about half an hour later and were off to Chuncheon to catch a cab or bus to Hwacheon.

Connect the dots.

Kat, me, and Ines

An empty subway car on the way to Chuncheon.

The cab ride to Hwacheon.

Our cabbie was very insistent when we made it to Chuncheon. The bus only came every half hour, and he said he would not only drive all five of us there, but give us a discount too. We hopped in and I wisely chose the front seat. He popped in some Michael Jackson and off we went! We ended up driving through Hwacheon and being dropped off at the end of town. We were rather confused since we didn’t see any people, but we walked on and soon found ourselves right where we needed to be. We registered as foreigners (yay discounts!), picked up our fishing bag and went out to find our fishing poles by the foreigner area. We stayed on the ice for what was probably an hour and a half. I switched holes several times without catching anything, which was fine considering I had not intention of eating the fish anyway. Ines caught a total of 7 that day and she had never been fishing before. I took a break to warm up and walked around town.

I have my fishing bag and my festival money!

Ines makes another catch.

So what is this Sancheoneo Festival all about? For one thing, fish, a kind of mountain trout. I believe there’s also something related to happiness and prosperity somewhere in there too. Taken directly from the brochure:

The whole town of Hwacheon will face the icy heat from January 7 – January 29, 2012. Programs as variegated as Sancheoneo Ice, Lure Fishing, Ice Lights Plaza, Winter Cities Plaza, Experience Snow & Ice, Build Your Sled Contest, Winter Farm Village, Warmhearted Farm Village – Sarangbangmasil, and so on are waiting for your participation. Travel frugal and be home full of memories.

The fish belongs to salmon order and salmon family, a cold-water fish that lives in Class-1 clean water of low-temperature valleys. With its unique and beautiful parr marks, Sancheoneo is often dubbed the Queen of the Valley.


It ended up being a long day, but it was fun. I saw some old friends and made some new ones. The journey home was a lot longer than I remembered it being on the way there. We ended up sitting on the floor of the bus back to Chuncheon. (Motion sickness again, ugh.) Took a much fuller subway back to Seoul area and went our separate ways. It was nice to get out of Suji to see the open air and mountains. From the brief introduction I had with Seoul, I kind of wish I had found somewhere closer in that vicinity to teach. I’ll do more exploring there in a few weekends. From Hwacheon, it took me roughly 4.5 hours to make it back home via subway. I was so grateful to find my bed and for the three day week to come and go.

For now, I leave you with hope for the new year to be full of wonder, discovery and happiness for everyone.

A Sancheoneo hope postcard and atelier (hope light).