Culture / living / Photo Blog

I want to catch a fish! (OK, I did it. No more, thanks.)

Colorful fish decorate Hwacheon

Colorful fish decorate Hwacheon.

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.

There were huge snow sculptures that took weeks (maybe months?) to build.

There were huge snow sculptures that took weeks (maybe months?) to build.

These scary robots pulled children in carts on the ice. But the children riding the carts seemed excited, not scared.

These scary robots pulled children in carts on the ice. But the children riding the carts seemed excited, not scared.

These people are catching fish with their bare hands! It actually looked as fun as you'd expect: meaning not at all!

These people are catching fish with their bare hands! It actually looked as fun as you’d expect: meaning not at all!

Oh no! The totem pole is eating my husband...

Oh no! The totem pole is eating my husband…

ATVs on the ice. There were also ATVs pulling huge inflatable sleds, which people could ride.

ATVs on the ice. There were also ATVs pulling huge inflatable sleds, which people could ride.

The best tandem bikers on the ice!

The best tandem ski-bikers on the ice!

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.

Alexis and I are excited to test out these fishing poles.

Alexis and I are excited to test out these fishing poles.

Alexis screaming as Andrew fills their bag with fish. Andrew: "I'm not asking you to do anything except open the bag."

Alexis screaming as Andrew fills their bag with fish. Andrew: “I’m not asking you to do anything except open the bag.”

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.

Matt was the last of us to catch a fish, but he was proud .

Matt was the last of us to catch a fish, but he was proud.

Fried fish covered in spicy sauce or sweet chili sauce.

Fried fish covered in spicy sauce or sweet chili sauce.

The ice sculptures were all built after real buildings in cities across the world. We saw an iced Blue Mosque, which we will be seeing for real when we head to Istanbul in March.

The ice sculptures were all built after real buildings in cities across the world. We saw an iced Blue Mosque, which we will be seeing for real when we head to Istanbul in March.

Matt waits for summer, or at least a spring thaw.

Matt waits for summer, or at least a spring thaw.

Ice slides to race your friends. Note to anyone hoping to win: Don't wear corduroy pants.

Ice slides to race your friends. Note to anyone hoping to win: Don’t wear corduroy pants.

I'm sure these women were told they were going to an ice festival since there were photo ops being had before they were given fishing poles and escorted to the fishing area. So I was surprised by the amount of heels as well as a few women in skirts and dresses. Interesting. ...

I’m sure these women were told they were going to an ice festival since there were photo ops being had before they were given fishing poles and escorted to the fishing area. So I was surprised by the amount of heels as well as a few women in skirts and dresses. Interesting. …

Sometimes Korean outfit choices don't make sense.

Sometimes Korean outfit choices don’t make sense.

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5 thoughts on “I want to catch a fish! (OK, I did it. No more, thanks.)

  1. Wow. What a spectacle! I, also, am so glad to see all that you guys have taken in…really great stuff 🙂 You’ll have to get these “koronicles” printed and bound once you return! Well done!

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