KoreaNow! Explorer Series 001: Chuncheon

Chuncheon (춘천), the capital of Gangwan Province, is an ideal daytrip destination for explorers who want a break from the congestion of Seoul.   Hence our decision to make it our first featured destination in the new KoreaNow! Explorer Series.

Logistics:

To begin the trip, take the metro to Sangbong Station (상봉역).  From there, you can transfer to the Gyeongchun Line (경춘선) toward Chuncheon.  Trains depart roughly every twenty minutes.  On the weekends and holidays, they can get quite crowded, but since Sangbong is the first stop on the line, if you are willing to wait a cycle, you can always get a seat.  We recommend it so that you can spend the ride enjoying the breathtaking scenery and resting your legs for the day ahead.

The ride from Sangbong to Chuncheon takes about 75 minutes.  It’s the last stop, so you can’t miss it.    The whole trip should cost no more than 2,000W.  Just swipe your T-Money Card when you leave the station.

Attractions:

Soyang Dam

The largest dam in Asia and an important hydro-electric power plant, the Soyang Dam is an impressive feat of engineering, and also provides good views of the surrounding area.

Cheongpyeong Temple:

To get to the base of the temple, take a ferry from the Soyang Dam.  Tickets cost about W4.000.  The ride takes under ten minutes and provides good views of the dam.

The base of the temple is full of traditional restaurants.  Try some fresh makguksu or bibimbap for a little energy before the hike.  We also recommend a bowl of homemade maekgoelli.  Although some explorers might hesitate to drink before a hike, you’ll notice that most of the locals do it.  Perhaps this explains why hiking is the most popular sport inKorea.

After lunch, walk off that maekgeolli with a thirty minute hike up the slope of the mountain to the temple.  It’s a plesant walk through the woods, not to steep, and runs parallel to a stream.  Stop for a moment to splash around our cool your feet in the water.

You’ll also pass the Guseong Waterfall (9 Sounds Waterfall) which earned its name from the wide array of sounds produced by the fresh water.  Near the water is a large reflecting pond and rock garden.

You’ll also notice a strange sculpture of a woman with a snake.  The sculpture represents a scene from the myth behind the creation of the temple.   Once a young man and a princess fell in love.  The King did not approve of the union, and had the man executed.  When the man was born again as a snake, he coiled himself around the princess and would not get off. The princess went to famous temples to pray for the snake to leave her and one day she came to CheongpyeongsaTemple. After holding a Buddhist ceremony there, the snake finally left her and she built the 3-story pagoda above Guseong Waterfall to express her gratitude.  So, apparently Cheongpyeongsa is a great place to get rid of a clingy lover.

The temple itself was first constructed in 973, during the reign of King Gwang-Jong of the Goryeo Dynasty.  Most of the original structure was destroyed during the Korean war, but it has been fully restored in the traditional style.  Take an hour to explore the temple grounds and to meditate, rest, or just enjoy nature.

By the time you get back to the Soyang Dam, and then, take the bus or a taxi to central Chuncheon, you’ll probably have worked up an appetite.  If not, take a stroll around the Chuncheon Market, which is bound to help.

Or, take a sunset stroll along theSoyangLakeand see the bronze statue of Soyanggang Maid, inspired by a famous  traditional song about a girl who lived on the lake.

We hope so, because the main reason that people visit Chuncheon is the dalkgalbi.  If you’ve tasted these spicy marinated chicken ribs inSeoul, get ready to experience an entirely new food.  Using chicken slaughtered just hours earlier, handrolled rice cakes, and the freshest locally grown garlic, cabbage, and sweet potato, it’s an impressive feast.  Top it all off with some fried rice made seasoned with the remnants of your meal.

To make sure you don’t miss the last train home, we recommend that you return to Chuncheon Station by 10.  Again, make sure to grab a seat, because after all that dalkgalbi, you might want to pass out for a while.

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