The whole of Hwacheon county is covered in ice. There are rivers and lakes of ice tucked away in valleys between the mountains. Koreans are walking on the rivers. They are walking on the lakes. They are hosting the Hwacheon Ice Fishing Festival. Hwacheon is apparently famous in Korea for its frozen lakes and rivers and it is also famous for the Sancheneo mountain trout that scurry about beneath the surface of these rivers. Every January thousands of Koreans flock to Hwacheon for the ice festival for their chance to go fishing (and do many other winter activities) on the 150m wide river that meanders through the town of Hwacheon.
Natalie and I went to the festival on Saturday and boy was it busy. We thought we would arrive early to avoid as many crowds as we could but even at 9:30am the river was jam packed with people trying to catch themselves a mountain trout. Quite a spectacle.
First of all Natalie wanted to go ice skating. The ice skating event was right at the far end of the festival which gave us the chance to walk around a little before we hit the ice. There were snow sculptures everywhere, giant penguins and igloos, polar bears and ice castles. There was one ice castle which you could walk inside which the Koreans found especially amusing. There were go karts on ice, bobsledding, tubing and tonnes of other freezing activities which you could partake in if you were indeed crazy enough.
I attempted to ice skate and when I say attempted I mean I slid the skates on tried to stand up and promptly decided I’d give it a miss. I instead followed Natalie around the rink which was sort of unnerving as you could hear ice cracking beneath your feet and at times you could see right through the ice beneath you to the bottom of the river. No accidents to report however and I believe Natalie was satisfied that she got the opportunity to do some skating. She only fell over once.
After this we proceeded to get our tickets to go fishing and we spent about an hour sat at our holes with our hooks submerged underneath the ice. Around 50 minutes in I finally caught a fish which was incredibly satisfying. I pulled him up through my hole and un-hooked him and got Natalie to take a photo for me. I thought it best not to name the fish as I was going to eat him. It was annoying at times when you could see fish swimming past your hook but I’m glad I actually got the chance to catch one.
We then proceeded to the barbeque area where you can grill your catch and eat it with chopsticks. It tasted delicious and you can’t get fresher than that can you?
We had a fantastic time at the ice festival and I would recommend it, despite it being bitterly cold we both had a fantastic day out. We depart for Tokyo tomorrow so won’t be updating the blog until I get back, but rest assured I’ll have a nice long post for you to read when I do get around to it.
Wish me luck.