The Hwacheon Sancheono Ice Festival is a big deal in Gangwon province, and probably all of Korea. I read that the festival got more than 1 million visitors, including 100,000 foreigners, with more than a week left of the festival.
Koreans love their festivals, and this one did not disappoint. The festival takes place in Hwacheon, which is a rural city in Korea and is billed as the first place the ice freezes over. The festival has a slew of winter activities, including ice fishing, ice skating, hockey, food and performances.
We headed to Hwacheon by bus early Sunday morning to meet our friends Alexis and Andrew. I had heard that it is impossible to get a ticket for ice fishing without a prior reservation, but Alexis assured me that the foreigner area would be easy to walk in to without a reservation. Indeed, the “fishing area for foreigners only” beckoned us, and Andrew had no problem pretending he wasn’t a native Korean for an afternoon.
Before the event, Matt had no interest in ice fishing, while I’d been very excited to partake. Of course, after I caught my fish, I felt so sad and bad for it that I couldn’t continue fishing. Matt told me to throw it back, but somehow that seemed just as bad since I knew that it would eventually get caught by someone else. I wouldn’t take the hook out and I wouldn’t put the fish in my bag, both things that the Korean worker did for me. I entertained myself after that by running from Matt to Alexis to Andrew, taking pictures and trying not to notice my fish trying to breathe in the air.