After reading about the Hwacheon Ice Fishing Festival on KoreaYe.com, I just had to take the kids. I’d read about the Train Pension before (a bed and breakfast-type inn/hotel in actual train cars! The kids would love it!), so I looked it up, but the place was booked throughout the month of January, so I began my infuriating search for another place to stay. I had originally planned to stay 2 nights over MLK Jr. weekend, but decided on just one night. January is the high-season for tourism in the town of Hwacheon, so their nightly rates for pensions were actually quite high. I had trouble finding a place that had an extra room (since my husband and I didn’t want to sit in silence after the kids went to bed) for under 150,000KRW/night.
After looking at about a hundred different places, I finally found one that had a unit with an extra bedroom (with a door!), and even though the sleeping arrangements were Korean-style (no beds, just mats for the floor) and Charlie protested staying at a place with no beds, I made the reservation and we were on!
The drive out to Hwacheon took about 2.5 hours. Once we got out of the city, it was pretty smooth driving on the highway. I can’t remember exactly, but I believe the toll came to 6,000KRW. We stopped at the last rest stop before we got of the highway (at the city of Chuncheon), and I’m definitely glad we stopped there since our route took us around the city and there really wasn’t a suitable place to stop with 3 young children. The food at the rest stop was decent. We’ve been to some rest stops in Korea with REALLY good food, so it was kind of a let-down. Even the hodogwacha (red bean cookies shaped like walnuts) weren’t crispy. Lincoln was pretty disappointed. :-/
We arrived in Hwacheon at about 1pm, stopped by the pension and got the kids ready for some ice fishing. Since we didn’t have any idea what we were in for, we were quite surprised at MASSES of people at the festival (although having been in Korea for over a year now, we really shouldn’t be surprised). We managed to find a place to park our
boat minivan, conveniently right next to the foreigners’ section!
Getting a “license” to fish for the day was 8,000KRW/person. Kids under 6 were free. In addition to the license, each paying person is given a 5,000KRW voucher that can be used towards purchases at the various vendors (food, souvenirs, etc.) at the festival. Our vouchers went straight to the purchase of little fishing poles (conveniently priced at 5,000KRW).
The kids were SUPER excited, so we dropped our lures into the pre-cut holes in the ice and waited to catch some mountain trout.
It took us about an hour to catch anything. The kids were starting to get bored, but once we caught that first fish… And for us helpless foreigners, there were plenty of people on staff in bright orange coats who would come over and unhook the fish and bag them for us. 🙂 Once we filled our bags (3 fish per licensed person), we headed over to the tent to get our fish cooked.
We had some of our fish grilled (2,000KRW/fish) and some fried (5,000KRW/fish, with the option of a spicy sauce or oyster sauce), and next time, we’ll definitely be getting it grilled. The fried fish was good too, but grilled is definitely the way to go! There was also a tent to have your fish sliced up as sashimi, and that’s a great option too.
After the great fishing adventure was over (there’s only so much fishing preschoolers can handle), we walked around to see what else the kiddos could enjoy. And there is A LOT. ATVs, go-karts, ice rafting, bungee jumps for kids, food… Since we were staying the night and had plans to come back out in the morning, we took the kids on an ATV ride and saved the rest for the next day.
The next morning, we woke up to this:
And it was wonderful. Since we really hadn’t seen much snow at all this winter, the kids couldn’t believe their luck. We packed up our things, got in the car and headed over to the festival. At 9am on a Monday morning, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, which was a really nice treat.
The kids really got to enjoy all the “fun” stuff without having to wait in lines (because they’re really bad at that!), and by the time we loaded the kids in the car, they were done and fell asleep within minutes of hitting the road.
We’re definitely planning to make another trip out there next winter. The entire family had such a great time–including our almost-2 year old, who got to go on an ATV ride! One of the girls who worked there heard Penny say, “Penny’s turn! Penny’s turn!” as her brothers as they sped away and took my baby girl for a ride. And she loved every minute of it!