It’s 5 hours to the 3rd of January 2014 and I still think it’s 2012. Time is strange. To anyone who’s reading this post I hope you’ve had a great NYE.
Remember the time when I wrote an ~article worth~ post about spending a marvelous autumn day at Nami Island and asked you to check out Chuncheon’s signature dishes for we couldn’t afford a proper meal due to our state of forever living on a tight budget? Well this time I’ve finally had my dream come true trying them myself at the very heart of where the dishes come from: Chuncheon. Of course we didn’t spend an entire day traveling to only eat a pan of marinated chicken, but what Chuncheon had in store for me was absolutely beyond my imagination.
We departed from Cheongnyangni Station, taking the ITX train at 10:16 and arrived at Chuncheon at 11:08. The original ticket price is 8600 KRW but for some good reason 2600 KRW was deducted and so we only had to pay 6000 KRW/ticket. Now don’t mistake the ITX train with the usual subway train you’d take to get to Nami Island. The ITX train to Chuncheon has only been recently opened, a straight ride from Seoul to the said destination in less than an hour, or to be exact, sharp 52 minutes. Although we traveled on a very slow Monday and bought the tickets almost an hour prior to departure time, most of the seats had been already occupied by passengers. So make sure you get to the station early!
Now pay attention to this because things can get real ugly if you are clueless about the whole travel thing (like we were):
1. After you buy the ticket from the ticket vending machine, you will get into the station by going through the door next to the card swiping machines. We were like fools trying putting our ITX tickets on every surface put-able, hoping the familiar sound of card reading would ring before we gave up and had to find people to ask how to get through that thing. It really made me wonder why no one laughed at our face yet for our superior intelligence.
2. Once you get to Chuncheon station, find the tourist information just outside of the station, get a map (available in English & Chinese) and ask people at the desk as many questions as you can come up with. We talked to them in Korean (with my friend did the talking and I did the nodding) and even though it was only very basic Korean they just couldn’t grab the fact that our Korean was so good lol. In retrospect this trip really gave me a chance to socialize as we met the nicest people in this town and they were all so sincere, so lovely and sweet my heart could bust with affection I had for them. Like the bus driver who took us to downtown, he talked to us in perfect, only slightly accented English to our surprise. It turned out that he used to live in Hawaii and LA (I LOVED it when he said LA it was just so cool Idkw lol) 10 years ago. Seriously you will never know what will come and surprise you at the least expected moments in your life.
Downtown Chuncheon was sparse and quiet as a small town on Monday should be. Even so, here we have all the big fastfood chains and major Korean as well as Western fashion stores just like Seoul. Parallel to the main street you will find Myungdong chicken galbi street whose name pretty much says everything. Just when we stepped into the alley, the smell permeating off the walls made our stomach growl in protest. We looked around for a bit before choosing the restaurant that we saw first and also was the most crowded. And let me tell you, Chuncheon dak galbi is, hands down, the best Korea’s chicken dish I’ve ever had since I came to Korea.
Myungdong dakgalbi alley:
Sure you can find dak galbi everywhere in Seoul, and Yukgane is a famous food chain for said dish. But Chuncheon dak galbi, that Chuncheon thing, has made all the difference and turned me into a fan. The dish in general was flavorful, mildly spicy and distinctively sweet. The chicken was super tender, so tender that it felt like jelly under your bite. Funnily and interestingly enough, we came for the chicken but it was the cabbage that both my friend and I fell in love with. The sweet taste of the dish was not from sugar but from, I strongly believe, the cabbage. The cabbage was naturally sweet, succulent and sososo – not the soggy kind but the still crunchy kind of – soft . And if you put the garlic into the pan and mix them with the dish, the garlic will escalate from good to heavenly. Maybe it’s because the ingredients were super fresh and sheer quality, maybe because we traveled for so long and we were famished or maybe because what we eat in Seoul is all crap, Chuncheon dak galbi is a dish that I still can cry over and want to eat again and again until my face’s shape turns into that of a cabbage and my skins turns orange just like gochujang.
After lunch we then headed for Jungnim-dong Cathedral. Since we didn’t have a detailed map, we could only count on local people’s direction. The struggle was so real but we finally managed to get to the church. Jungnim-dong cathedral was not by any means big and impressive. It was rather humble, simple but nevertheless beautiful. It was quite a sight to behold, church standing tall, pale sunshine, pale blue sky from above and quiet little town from afar. And if the wind had been blowing viciously and seeping through thick layers of clothes, we didn’t really care.
So calm so tranquil so beautiful
We left the church after a while and returned to downtown to catch a bus and leave for Soyang. We were like deer caught in the headlights, absolutely had no idea how to find the right bus stop and thus walked around downtown in circle for literally 5 times. Yes people were really nice, but they also didn’t know which bus stop we should be at to catch the right bus to go to a place that even seemed so foreign to them. One advice from me: don’t ask directions from young people they don’t know what they’re talking about but still they’re going to give you directions anyway. And why do I say so? While we were asking a couple of high school students the direction, a passing by ahjussi eavesdropped our conversation and decided to step in because, according to him, these students knew nothing and just tried to give us a direction that was more complicated than it should have been. He then helped us instead, was so kind to the extent he walked with us to really make sure we were listening to him, told us every landmark and explained to us in a very careful manner.
Thanks to ahjussi we found the bus stop and after what seemed like forever (waiting for the bus, sitting on the bus for more than 20 stops (I stopped counting after the sixth stop) blah blah blah) we finally made it to Soyang Lake and oh god was it worth the ride.
Soyang Lake is infinite and spectacular. It was personally a heart-stopping, knee-buckling and emotional moment for me to witness such an incredible sight and suddenly the nausea, the tiredness and the cold were all gone, like they had never happened before. Nature never ceases to amaze me, awe me with its greatness and leave me in a paralyzed but inspired state of mind and this is not an exception. In front of me, on the left side, was the greengreen lake whose surface was so still and silky it made me think of the shiny hair from those shampoo commercials on TV and on the right side, stood the mountains, covered in snow and fog, looking beautifully scary and simply breathtaking.
To the left:
To the right:
And some ordinary humans (read: me & my friend):
It got dark so quickly…
It gradually got darker and darker as the sun decided to call it a day…
Unfortunately we had to leave because it started to get so cold to the point we couldn’t feel our limbs anymore. Didn’t help we didn’t come at the earliest time of the day so…
The ride back to Chuncheon station
The tickets for the latest train to Seoul had been sold out by the time we arrived at the station. Therefore we had to settle for the following train for which we had to wait for like an hour and a half. We went to a coffee/doughnut shop right inside the station to hide from the cold and there I HAD THE BEST DONUTS EVER. The doughnut here is a perfect combination of the shiny glaze from that at Krispy Kreme and the soft, not-overly-sweet dough from that at Dunkin’ Donuts. We bought 2 at first, and then another 2 and by the time I decided to buy some more and bring them back to Seoul, there was only 1 left on the tray. I HATE MY LIFE. (I bought that one lonely dude too because obviously I took what I could get).
Perfection in a round form:
The last dude…
All in all the trip to Chuncheon was amazing. I got to see more of Korea, had heaps of fun, good food, great company and topped off with delicious donuts. So what are you waiting for? Bundle up and leave for Chuncheon asap!