When the bus was driving past the river, we could see through the foggy windows that there were hundreds of ice fishing holes. We could make out some fun looking activities in the distance, and the excitement on the bus was almost tangible.
After walking past the welcome building, we could finally get a good look at the river. It was a neat scene. On one side, closest to the main road, the ice had broken away and there were people fishing off of a pier.
Then you could see a large portion of ice with rows and rows of holes for trout fishing. The event coordinators even had a portion of the river sectioned off just for foreigners. Someone told me that the purpose of this was to make it easier for the translators, as they could give instructions to entire groups.
I’m glad we had our own section, but at the same time I felt bad for the Koreans who were cramped in their section of the river, where the ice holes were almost all taken.
Before you enter the fishing area, they give you this tiny fishing pole and a lure. No bait… But I’m sure we could have brought our own. We even saw some people with their own little rod and reel set up. I had never seen such a small fishing rod!
Most of the time spent fishing was just sitting on the ice, staring into a hole. The water was no more than 10 feet deep, and you could see the trout swimming by our lures. Every once in awhile you would hear excited screaming from across the ice, when someone caught a fish. There was plenty of frustrated grumbling, too. We all laughed at our poor fishing abilities and had fun making jokes.
Do fish have lips?
When I was shouting in excitement, a Korean news reporter rushed over and snapped a pic of me holding the fish up in the air. I wish I could have gotten a similar pic, but before Andrew could take out the camera, someone had already taken my trout off the line and put it into my bag.
After we finished fishing, we delivered my caught fish to someone in the cooking tent. There, the fish were cleaned and gutted and then handed to the grill masters (not an official term.. I just like calling them that, haha).
Between the cooking and eating tents, I saw a massive grill. The thing even had individual drawers for each fish! The smell of delicious grilled fish lingered around the entire festival. It was amazing and mouth watering.
The fish turned out soooo good. We’re not sure exactly what seasoning they used, but it was perfectly moist and so easy to eat. The meat just pealed away, and there were hardly any bones. It was our first time using chopsticks to eat fish, but it worked out great!
There were many other things to do around the river, too. We went snow tubing first! At the top of the ramp, about 15 or 20 people sit on their tubes and then shove off at the sound of the whistle. We all competed to be the one who went the farthest on the ice, at the bottom of the ramp.
On one of our trips down the slope, I was holding Andrew’s hand. As we slid down the ramp, I swung him out in front of me and shoved his tube as hard as I could with my foot. He ended up going the furthest of everyone! Twas such an awesome win!! 😀
We also went ice bicycling! The two person bike was essentially just 2 bikes welded side by side, with skating blades on the front of them, instead of a second bike tire. It was hard to steer the thing because it drifted on the ice. There wasn’t much traction, but it was fun trying to race around the giant circle while avoiding collisions with everyone else.
After we ate, we walked down towards the Bare Hands trout fishing event and waited for it to start. A crowd had gathered around the hole, and the announcer was getting everyone all riled up. It was so funny to see that much excitement over something so wild!
I know that in America it’s common to see the sports announcer hurling tshirts into the crowds, but it was much different here. He was throwing trout! I saw one fly over my head and turned to Andrew in disbelief.. “Was that a… That was a fish! OMG he’s throwing another one!”
Here’s a video of the announcer (the guy in white) throwing a fish into the crowd. **You may need to turn down your speakers for this!**
From what I could gather, the point of the event was to catch 3 fish the quickest. Each person had their shirt tucked in so that when they caught a fish, they could throw it down their shirt to keep it safe. And then the last fish that you catch goes in your mouth, and you can walk out a victor!
Here’s a 3 or 4 minute video of the event. **Turn down your speakers again!**
I was laughing soo hard. The people in the water were screaming in terror. Not just from the the temperature of the water, but because someone was sticking fish down peoples’ shirts for no other reason than to get laughs.
There were several foreigners who participated and we heard them scream things like, “Why did I do this?!?” or “OMG, it’s slimy!” The girls cracked me up, especially when the man put the fish down their shirts.
A few of the people in water just belted out screams. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it was because the water was horrifyingly cold. I’m talking murderous screams with their whole bodies bent over and tensed up… And the look on their faces was priceless!
We spent the rest of the time walking around and checking out the activities. There was so much to do and see!
There was plenty more to do, like ice skating, ice soccer, and bob sleighs, to name a few. But we didn’t have to time to explore the entire place. We were hoping to get to the snow ATVs, but we ran out of time. Oh well! It’s just one more thing to add to my bucket list 🙂
There were some non ice-related activities too.
And of course there were many food vendors set up alongside the river. I snapped some pics of a couple of them.
Here’s a map of the place, with a list of activities down at the bottom.
We had such an amazing time at the festival. It was an experience like no other, and it’s so invigorating to be able to cross things off my bucket list!
After the Ice Festival, we walked through the town towards the Ice Illumination Plaza.
And then when the sun went down, we walked down the main street of Hwacheon where there were thousands of lights above the road.
The town had the entire street blocked off from traffic, so it was an awesome experience to walk down the middle of the road, looking up at the lights above you. It was a perfect end to the day!