Ok so as many of you know, I posted some pictures on facebook of this lovely Hwacheon Ice Festival that I went to on Sunday. I would like to tell you all about it. But let me first tell you something not relevant to that story that I’m equally as excited about. I made real real chocolate chip cookies on Saturday. Like so real that I got to eat the dough. I also ate real real Pizza Hut pizza (supreme, no mush) and it was fantasmagical. YUM!
Ok so Sunday morning, leave my apartment at 7, get to the subway for an hour long subway ride INTO Seoul just to go on a 3 hour bus ride OUT of Seoul (see the irony here)? Anyways, we arrive to the bus station at approximately 8:15 and the next bus leaves at 8:35. Perfect. Since it’s early in the morning, we sleep most of the way there. Perfect. We arrive to Hwacheon and are shown a map and told which direction to walk. We are told to walk about 10 minutes and then left and we’re there in the foreigner fishing area. So we walk (it’s really only about 5 minutes) and we search for the foreigner fishing area. In doing so, we walk past all the Koreans ice fishing, noticing their fishing technique and tools. They do not use a fishing pole but a plastic thing that has a colorful plastic thing on the end with the fishing line wrapped around it and a lour at the end. Then they do this up down motion. Slowly drop the line down, yank it up. Repeat repeat repeat until you catch a fish. Ok so finally we figure out we’re in the “wrong area” because there are no foreigners. As we walk back, we see the huuuuge blue sign that says “Ice Fishing for Foreigners.” How did we miss this before? We walk up the area and the man says, “You need ticket.” We go inside to the ticket and the girl says “You need fishing tools, go buy them.” So we wander to go buy them and stumble upon the catching fish by hand thing about to commence. This man is talking in Korean Korean Korean and we’re like we have no idea what’s going on. Finally, all the people start cheering and a hoard of about 30 Koreans wearing orange t-shirts and blue shorts walk out of this big tent (keep in mind it is about 12 degrees outside). They are freezing, they do this ceremony where the man with the mic makes one guy stick a fish in his mouth (essentially he was telling them when they catch a fish, they have to put it in their shirt or in their pants to hold it while they catch another. He was also inferring that you could hold it in your mouth, but the boy who modeled this strongly advised against it as he spit out the nasty taste on the ground). They then spread themselves around the pool (still not quite in the water yet) and he asks 4 people to get in. They have to do this ceremony where they get all the way wet head and all, but the 2 girls flake. Then they do it again and the boys force them in. Good laughs by all. Then everyone gets in the water and the hand fishing commences. More good laughs had by all as people are sticking nasty fish in their shirts and their flopping all over the place.
Here are the people sticking fish in their shirts in the freezing cold water.
After the hand fishing, we find Armando and Brigitte and head to buy some fishing tools. The man tells us the tool is 6 dollars and we were like ok let’s just get 2 and see if we can bum some off other people. He sells us 2 for 10 instead of 12. What a bargain. We go back to the tent, pay our 8 dollars to fish, and then the nice man who took our money tells us that we can borrow poles. Ok. Great. So glad we bought these other two poles then. So finally, we go to the ice and I stick my rod in the water, down up, down up. And I scream “I CAUGHT A FISH!” Everyone around is staring because I just screamed really loud and look really freaked out as this fish is flopping around on the ice. The nice man who let us borrow some tools had told me previously that when I catch a fish, I’m going to have to bash its head so it dies. Obviously I couldn’t do that, so I have Ellen de-hook it and stick it in my bag. The same man came over later as my fish is still flopping around. He tells me, “This is a male fish, I know because it is darker. When it came out of water, did it spray white things everywhere?” I was like “Hold up, what now? White things?” He says “Yes you know because when the fish knows it is going to die, it wants to spawn so it has more babies to replace him, so he sprays white things everywhere to try and make babies. Did you see this?” “UMMM no!” later realizing there was a lot of whiteish stuff in my bag. Anyways, 3 minutes later catch another fish. As we're catching fish, we hear this really loud sound, like a huge crash and we all look around like what was that?? An older man says "it's ok, it's just the ice cracking." We all look at each other in utter shock and fear and are like "and that's OK???" He says yes and it's nothing to worry about. Armando and Ellen are equally as successful in catching fish. Brigitte considers herself successful because she doesn't want to catch any fish (she feels bad for them, even though they add fish to the river so that the people can fish for them…).
This is the huge ice crack.
This is me and my first catch of the day.
Now we decide it’s time to eat, even though we’ve only caught 2 of our 3 maximum fish. We need cash so we walk down to the atm, buy some mulled wine (p.s. at this time, even after having their brains smashed by Armando and/or Ellen, my fish are STILL FLOPPING AROUND IN THE BAG) and head to have our fish grilled. The man takes our fish (6 total) and says “Ok, 6 fish, 9 dollars.” This is either a deal or a rip off because the sign says 3 dollars per fish. We were either only getting 3 fish for 9 dollars even though we caught 6 or we were getting 6 fish for what should have been much more than 9 dollars. Turns out the latter was true and we were very excited. The not so exciting part was when we handed over the fish and he laughed at us because they were too small. For your information, I HATE when Koreans laugh at me because they think I don’t understand something or I’m stupid. I don’t laugh at you for your small silly stupid things! DON’T JUDGE ME! Off my soap box. We stuff ourselves with fish till we’re full and move on to the ice tunnel.
This is us eating the fish...yes with chopsticks.
On our way to the ice tunnel, Armando gets this very strong urge to go on this tube thing. It’s like you’re inner tubing on a lake in summer, but instead it’s a raft, behind a snowmobile, on ice, in winter. Previously, I was very set on not doing it because it looked stupid (the man was pulling people really slow) and I didn’t want a bruised but for going over a huge rock or something. With a lot of convincing, I went, and it was the best time ever. He pulled us suuuuuper fast (probably because we aren’t 8 years old), and we caught some crazy air. Overall, it was a really good time and super safe ;).
As you can see, a snowmobile and raft being pulled on ice...totally safe!
We finally made it to the ice tunnel, which was really cool, and then concluded our day with the ice museum, wandering around giant ice sculptures. Also really cool. They had sculptures of cultural things (palaces and whatnot) as well as random things (angel and butterfly wings).
Inside of ice tunnel (it changed colors)
We finally caught the bus back into Seoul (another 3 hours of sleeping) and a subway home. Overall, quite an awesome day! Hwacheon Ice Festival, you did me proud!
I've never seen so many different kinds of winter/ice activities (snow boating, go karts on ice, 4 wheelers on ice, the activity above I showed you, ice skating, sled things. Soooo many options!)
How could we miss this sign the first time around, really?