For those who enjoy the cold and freezing their bums off, why not check out the Hwacheon Sancheoneo (Mountain Trout) Ice Festival in the Gangwon-Do province of South Korea. While I wasn’t a fan of the sub-zero temperatures and my initial hours of bad luck, I did enjoy some success and loved the overall atmosphere of the festival. What’s more, there are numerous activities to do beyond the ice fishing these include snow sledding, ice sledding, ice football, curling, and polar plunges to name a few. If you’re interested in checking the festival out yourself, the 2017 Sancheoneo (Mountain Trout) Ice Festival is quickly approaching and will be held from Saturday, January 7th to Sunday, January 29th.
During my trip to the festival, I remember standing and shivering, unable to move my extremities. I had never experienced cold like it before. All the while, I was trying to figure out what made me decide to spend my weekend in the region of Korea that is known as the first area to freeze over in the winter. I’m much more of a palm tree and beach kind of guy. I’ve never been a big enthusiast of the cold or even winter for that matter. It was something I was pushing off for a couple weeks, but since I was living in Korea, I knew I couldn’t miss the opportunity to check out the country’s biggest winter festival.
After three hours of waiting for a bite, my anger and frustration grew as I watched all the giddy looking Koreans around me catching fish after fish as if it was the easiest thing in the world. In contrast, I wasn’t experiencing any success at all, even after receiving a few helpful pointers from some of the friendly fishermen (who were almost definitely laughing at me internally). While I was considering giving up, I was approached by an older lady who suggested I head to the “Foreigners Section” to give it a go.
I was highly doubtful that being along another part of the river would make any difference. Nonetheless, I took her advice and found the “Foreigners Section.” This area was less crowded and further away from the hustle and bustle of the main festival area. I still remained doubtful, but within two minutes of being there I finally caught my first trout of the day. I finally caught a freaking fish! Within thirty minutes I had another another six fish!
I was a bit dumbfounded as to why it was so much easier to catch the trout in the “Foreigners Section.” Regardless, I was too relieved to question it for too long. One amazing aspect of the festival is that after all the hard work, fishermen can take their catches to a nearby grill and have the fish grilled and prepared on the spot. I ended up sharing my catch with a local family as we tried our best to converse with one another through my broken Korean and their limited English.
Overall, it was a truly unique and enjoyable experience, and not to mention, the trout was the freshest fish I had ever had. If you happen to find yourself in Korea during the month January, I definitely recommend making your to the festival. For more information please visit the Sancheoneo Festival Website.