2 Days in Chuncheon

On most prominent public holidays, Seoul resembles a zombie town. I’d only heard about it and never experienced it until Lunar New Year, last month. For starters, getting out of Seoul becomes a nightmare. If you have a car, it’s best to leave in the wee hours (around 2 AM) of the morning. For the rest of us mortals, who depend on the KTX/ITX or the intercity buses, tickets are as easy to get as freshly baked egg tarts. Fortunately, Chuncheon, in Gangwon-do Province, can also be reached by subway transfers between the Gyeongui–Jungang Line and Gyeongchun Line. In hindsight, it turned out to be a wise decision to escape packed roads and crowded trains. The subway, in contrast, was a smooth two-hour ride to Chuncheon.

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We reached Chuncheon shortly before lunch and head directly to the local tourism booth — near the exit. We picked up maps and got a rough itinerary from the local tourist guide. We covered a lot of ground, over a period of a day and half, either walking or using public transport (bus/cab). If you want to save time, you can also opt for the Chuncheon Tour Bus instead. There are three tour courses and you can board the bus outside Chuncheon Station. Chuncheon is famous for a lot many things, but if you have barely two days (in winter), here’s a list of the top 10 things you might want to see, taste, or experience.

1.Taste the Smoky Flavours of Dakgalbi

Our first meal in Chuncheon had to be Dakgalbi. I lost count of the number of friends who insisted that we try Chuncheon’s famous Dakgalbi. Myeondong Dakgalbi Street is a 15 minute walk away from Chuncheon Station and signboards are easy to find. In winter, it’s perfect to explore the city’s dreamy landscape.

We reached around 2 PM and fortunately, some restaurants were still open. We chose a quaint restaurant, tucked in the far corner of a side alley. The owner was into collectibles and almost every shelf was filled with wrestling figures.

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Traditional Dakgalbi is chicken, marinated in a spicy sauce, cooked over a slow flame with an assortment of leafy vegetables and potatoes — in an iron pot. We’d thought of trying a variant of the same flavour and opted for a barbecue instead. The flavour was spot on, though I found the spice a little difficult to handle. Gearing up for the Winter olympics, the restaurant menu had translations in English and an added page for common phrases.

2. Listen to Soyanggang Cheonyeo 

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After lunch, we walked around and decided to visit at least one landmark, before, we head back to our pension house — located deeper in the city.  Local buses connect most tourist places of interest, but if you don’t mind exploring, the walk to the Soyanggang River is quite scenic. The Soyanggang Maid is a striking bronze statue surrounded by the blue waters of the riverfront and lofty mountains. The statue was built to commemorate a famous Korean song about a young girl waiting for her lover. You can press a button (on the upper deck) to hear the song.

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The Soyanggang Skywalk was on top of my list of sights to see in Chuncheon. However, the weather plays an important role in the operation of the skywalk. We tried our luck and it was closed on the day of our visit.

3. Set your Imagination Free with Korean Tech Giants

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Chuncheon is the capital of Gangwon-do Province. The city isn’t as densely populated as Seoul, but has a constant buzz of development and construction work in progress. The city centre resembles any developed Korean city, whilst the landscapes in-between can prove to be quite surreal. Not far, from where we lived, we saw these giant metal monsters trapped in a small patch of land.

4. Walk on a Frozen Lake

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On the second day of our trip, we were too late to take the tour bus, and had to take a local bus to get to Chuncheon Station. En route, we stopped by a gorgeous lake — frozen under a thick blanket of ice. A walking path circumscribes the lake and it’s possible to cut across the lake over a bridge. To one side of the lake, there’s a boardwalk hugging a hiking trail, to give you vantage views of the lake below.

Initially, I didn’t think we could walk on the lake, because we didn’t know if the ice was thick enough to bear our weight. After seeing a mother and her kids, play a ball game on an ice rink, on the lake; Basil walked ahead to explore. I was hesitant and eventually, I walked as well. It’s one of the strangest feelings to experience. Walking on water (even if it’s frozen) makes you feel divine in many ways. Gaping holes, probably used for fishing, were scary to look at, especially into the darkness of the lake below.

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The Memorial Hall for Ethiopian Veterans makes a striking picture. Sadly, we didn’t have enough time to enter it.

5. Try Ice-Fishing

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Ice-fishing is quite a popular festival in South Korea and the Hwacheon Ice Festival attracts a lot of local and foreign tourists. Comparatively, this lake was very quiet and we found a lone local testing his luck.

6. Strike a Pose at Sculpture Park

On the other side of the lake, opposite the boardwalk, lies Gongjicheon Sculpture Park. In winter, the trees are bare and snow covers the park. I’ve always been amazed by the lifelike emotions of Korean sculptures. There’s a certain sadness in them and it’s hard not to feel something whilst looking at them.

7. Walk in the Middle of Nowhere

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Gongjicheon Sculpture Park is a 10 minute ride away from Chuncheon Station. We had to alter our plan for the day and make a difficult choice between famous sights that could be seen in half a day. We walked towards the station and took a detour of sorts and explored the rustic scenery of the city. We walked for 30 minutes, in the middle of nowhere, and saw isolated alleys, colourful construction sites, and vast empty spaces of nothing — under blue sky.

8. Cross the Soyang River Dam

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After a quick lunch at Chuncheon Station, we took a local bus to Soyang Dam. There are a couple of observation points, on the curved route, to the main dam above. It’s best to have your own car because walking is not alway easy with the traffic on the side. The Soyang Dam is the fourth largest rock-fill dam in the world and the largest in Asia. The beauty of the locale sinks in — only after you reach the top. Rock, snow, mountain, and lake all come together beautifully.

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There’s a pavilion at the top, of a small peak, on the other side of the bridge. It’s quite a steep climb to get to the top, but can be done under 10 minutes. The panoramic view from the top is stunning and worth the short breaths.

9. Leave your Footprints in Snow

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We found this shoe-flower left behind in snow. It’s hard to get bored here, even if sightseeing isn’t your thing, there’s always something new to take up. Leaving footprints might just be equally exiting.

10. Give in to the Picture Frenzy

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Chuncheon harps on romance. Photo ops are located everywhere and ignoring them will be harder than you think.

 

40 responses to “2 Days in Chuncheon

  1. What a captivating place. Sounds as though you packed a lot in. The frozen lake looks absolutely gorgeous but I have to admit I’d be a bit cautious walking on that. Did you hear about the group of school children who fell through an ice lake the other day? And saved by an Aussie. 🙂 Anyway, I digress. This was really lovely and an enjoyable read Cheryl. xo

    • So glad you enjoyed this post, Miriam. Frozen lakes are definitely not my thing. I reluctantly stepped on the ice after watching locals with their kids. I know, not always a wise idea, but I was aware of Ice festivals (quite popular in Korea) around the area. And Basil couldn’t be stopped. 🙂 I hadn’t heard of the news of the kids. Our news is streamlined these days. Gaping holes (like the one in the pictures) can be quite an eye opener. Hope you’re doing good! 🙂

      • It’s no nice to hear from you Cheryl. 🙂 I was thinking of you recently, wondering how you are. I’ve just started a new job so the blogging has suffered a bit. Hope life is good for you right now. xo

      • Congratulations, Miriam! 🙂 It is hard to keep blogging and I can understand with a new job, you’d have lesser time. It’s taken me a week to reconnect with friends in Seoul. Now, that I’m settled, I’m struggling to post. Haha! It’s difficult to write after a gap of a month. 🙂

      • Thanks Cheryl. Yes, after two weeks of full time training I’ve gone part time this week but it still does my head on. No head space for blogging, though I’m trying but it’s still a struggle. Hope all’s well with you. 🙂

      • I can understand what you must be going through, Miriam. I’ve started to head out a lot more and it’s really difficult to blog or even check other blogs. I’m continuing with my Hanji course (traditional Korean paper craft) and book club meet. I’m toying with the idea to get back to my own writing. I’m not sure how much time I’d have to blog. 😦
        Spring is here and it’s so beautiful. 🙂 It’s the prefect time of the year!

      • I know exactly what you mean Cheryl. Enjoy the Springtime and your own writing and just do what makes you happy. Your blog will always be there. 🙂 I’m writing this on my lunch break!!

      • Thanks Cheryl. It’s been challenging, to say the least! I’m home now and it’s the start of the Easter long weekend, which is a nice feeling. Heading off for a couple of days camping tomorrow. 🙂

      • I’m sure you’ll get through it — just like all the challenges in your life! 🙂 Have a Happy Easter! What a perfect way to celebrate the holiday. 🙂

    • Thanks, Sue! I was craving for the sun and warm weather when I wrote this post. 🙂 Winter lasted longer than I thought it would. Spring has come and I like this transition. Summer is a month away.

  2. Looks like you guys are utilizing winters to the fullest! I loved the picture of bridge covered with the snow and also the second last picture (I guess, you are enjoying the views in this picture) 🙂

  3. What an interesting post about a fascinating place I know very little about. Like the idea of the song that accompanies the sculpture. Lovely snow, lake photos. I have seen dogs run on a frozen lake and it is strange and a bit scary even watching that. Seems like even though frozen, icy patches might be unpredictable.

    Peta

    • Thanks, Peta. Frozen lakes can be very tricky, especially when there are no instructions anywhere. And, I for one, have no experience on them. It was a strange experience, the thought of falling never leaving my mind through the walk. 🙂

    • The snow does make everything look beautiful, Divya! 🙂 Honestly, after a while, winter got to me. This short trip really was needed, even if everything was covered in snow. I’m so glad it’s spring and blossoms are planning a coup! Haha! No more bare trees. Yay! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  4. Walking on the frozen lake and crossing the dam look like absolutely breathtaking sights. I feel with a bit of snow around, the scenery takes a tremendous uplift!

    Keep enjoying and having us too 😊

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