Hwacheon Ice Festival
At some point this year, while we were looking up different festivals to go to, we came across an Ice Festival and it looked very different from most festivals we’ve attended so far. It wasn’t until winter so we didn’t think much of it until just a few weeks ago when we remembered. We snatched up tickets right away and ended up going with a Korean travel group. It was nice having them figure out the details, provide transportation, and even an English guide to tell us what the heck was going on. But the best part was, once we got there, everyone was able to separate and do their own thing until it was time to go.
Right away, we headed for the ice fishing section. Luke has missed a few big fishing trips back home, and I think a little part of him dies inside every time he hears about fishing and doesn’t get to go. So this event in particular was the most important to us. There were two different fishing areas. One was for Koreans, while the other was for “foreigners only”. Yes, this was a thing. No, it wasn’t followed super closely as lots of Koreans were in the “foreigners only” section. However, the Korean section was PACKED with people!
We carefully walked on the ice to find a couple fishing holes next to each other. Luke had a fish out of the water within the first minute! Unfortunately, it was a crazy one and flopped all over the place before flopping back into the water. We stood there, and sat there, and stood there some more looking like a true fisherman and woman sipping our coffee from a small thermos cup. Time passed and every five minutes or so, someone nearby would catch one and everyone nearby would look and maybe cheer for them. Some people would switch to a different fishing hole but we stayed put. About an hour after we started, my line began tugging and I started moving and talking excitedly as I reeled the little guy out of the water.
“Oh my gosh I think I caught one! Yeah! I caught one! Oh my gosh oh my gosh ahhh! Luke, whatdoIdo, whatdoIdo?” is what I think probably came out of my mouth at the time. I took the plastic bag, turned it inside out, picked up the fish and pulled the strings closed. I caught a fish! Success! A photographer with the press had come by and asked for a picture so of course I posed and felt quite proud of myself. We waited a while longer in hopes that Luke would catch a fish, and eventually he did! It was a little guy so he took a picture and threw it back. But we both caught a fish so we could call it quits and turn our gear in. There was still so much to see and do!
Next, we searched for a place to eat. We were told you give the fish that you caught to someone and they will cook it for you, but instead I was told to put it in a big bin with other fish and I think it just got contributed to the kitchen. Either way, Luke and I both got a free, fresh, grilled fish and it was delicious! Also a little weird because you could see all of its organs inside…😖
As we ate our freshly caught and grilled fish, a man with a camera who was working for the press came up to us and asked us to pose by feeding each other. Of course we obliged, and I asked for the website that we could find the picture. He handed me his card and went on his way. A couple days later, I went to the website and low and behold - there we were! We were in the Korean news! Last year we had made it in the newspaper with our coworkers because all eight of us and our bosses participated in a race. Apparently seeing eight non-Koreans in a sea of Koreans at a race event was a bit of a unique situation so we were photographed haha. This year, we made it online. Woot woot!
After lunch, we walked around the festival exploring different sections. There were food stalls everywhere. On the ice, there were sections for skating (or being pushed/pulled around in a sled), being trapped inside an inflatable ball and rolling around on the ice, sledding, and more. We honestly enjoyed just walking around people watching and taking pictures.
We did a lot of walking around and picture taking before we decided to make the journey a couple of streets over to see the World’s Largest Indoor Ice Sculpture Museum. We were cutting it close on time so by the time we got there we gave ourselves ten minutes to briskly walk through the whole thing, taking pictures along the way, before heading back. It was incredible! We didn’t think it would be so cool and wished we would have given it an extra 30 minutes. They even had an indoor ice bar! You could sit at booths made from ice and order an actual drink at a bar MADE FROM ICE! How cool!
The Hwacheon Ice Festival might be in my top list of festivals we’ve attended. It was so unique and there were lots of new things we got to experience. It was an awesome way to enjoy the extremely cold, but non-snowy winter season here.