Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Getting out of Gwangju Part 2- Hwacheon Ice Festival

            The next day we got up and headed off to Hwacheon for the annual Ice Festival.  It's the largest winter festival in Korea.  It lasts for three weeks, hosting over 1,000,000 visitors.  Being only two hours from Seoul it makes a great day trip for anyone living or staying in the city.
            To be honest I wasn't prepared for the scale of the festival.  It was massive and there was plenty to do besides fishing.  You could go sledding, build snowmen, ice skate or ride ATV's and go-carts! How the festival organizers didn't make you wear a helmet is beyond me but that'll change after a lawsuit or two.

This was our hotel, Petit France.

Good thing the ice is two feet thick!

This wasn't just for Western foreigners but Chinese, Japanese and Thai too.

I started out by just sitting.

I call this piece, "Still Sitting".

I got tired of that and went after a more proactive approach. The water was so clear you could see the bottom and anything teasing your hook. It felt like I was fishing in an ice aquarium.

I finally got one! It's a Sancheoneo or wild trout.

Julie shamed us all by catching six!

After catching our fish we had them cooked and enjoyed our lunch.  Next, we walked around and checked out the other events.

Graham and Maggie setting off.

Not a bad size hill.
            Here are the ATV's and go-carts I was telling you about.  I'm filming this while waiting in-line.

A cool dragon sculpture.

Here I'm walking through the ice tunnel behind the dragon sculpture.

            I had a great time going to the festival.  I recommend it for anyone living in Korea or visiting during January.  Sadly, it was Graham's last weekend in Korea before he left to go back to England.  He was going back for a job interview. I found out later, while visiting Busan, that he got the job!  Congrats man and I'll talk about my trip to Busan next time. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Getting out of Gwangju Part 1

            Since Christmas things haven't been too eventful.  Our school schedule changed so I've been working new hours with different classes and new challenges.  Josh and I have been preparing tests, grading papers, and trying to get things organized for the new ESL teachers for when they arrive in March.
           After the strain of the holidays and adjusting to the new workload I was ready to break out of Gwangju.  The perfect opportunity came to go to an ice festival and do some fishing.  As you'll see this festival wasn't a small event.  Now, I didn't go to the festival alone but went with a small group led by Pedro Kim.  He runs his own tour business and I highly recommend him for anyone in Jeollanam-do.
            Pedro set up the tour to the ice festival as a two-day event.  First, we would drive up and get settled in our hotel and then head to Naimi Island.  The following day we would drive to the Hwacheon Ice Festival. 
            After our six hour drive I was pleasantly surprised to see that our "hotel" was based off a French town.  Actually, it was called Petite France and was a Korean tourist trap.  I, however, felt more at home there then anywhere else I've stayed in Korea.
This was the view from our front door.
A man taking a picture of a man taking a picture. M. C. Escher would be proud.

They kept pointing at me so I took a picture of them.

I thought we weren't smiling. The joke is on me!

His name was Sir Charles and he didn't like to be bothered.

Didn't I just say he didn't like to be bothered!

In due time I'll take this picture at the real Eiffel Tower. Not at a fake one in Korea.
            We quickly dropped our bags and headed off to our destination, Naimi Island.  It was a tiny but uberpopular Asian destination.  It's famous for its romantic setting, eclectic attitude and relaxed atmosphere.

This was our ferry to Naimi Island. Foreigner's only paid 8,000won but Korean's had to pay 10,000.

The group after landing on the island.

Yup that's a statue in a Mrs. Claus' outfit!

I give you Graham and Maggie Short.

Neither one of the figure's were wearing clothes.

And now you know why it's weird.

No this Emu didn't escape from his cage, he never had one to escape from.

The island was named after General Naimi, a man who was condemned a traitor and murdered. He was later proved to have been double-crossed and named a hero of Korea.

Here's his tomb.

I love these signs.

He declined our requests for interviews.

We never saw those wascally wabbits.
I warned you about the eclectic art!
They even made it into a huge statue!
No way I was going to be the only one scarred by this.
One of the reasons this island is famous is because of a Korean drama called, 'Winter Love Song'. Sadly, the gentleman on the left took his life in 2003.
This is his memorial.  
Now how did that get there?
            What was amazing about the place was the complete lack of safety guidelines. A couple of signs here and there were all I saw.  Again, Korea's mindset is that of the 1950's. If you're stupid enough to piss the Ostrich off you deserve to get bitten. I don't know how else to explain it. It's refreshing, especially after living in DC.
            Afterwards, we had some dinner, enjoyed great wine and had some fantastic conversations. 
            In my next post I'll describe the Hwacheon Ice Festival.