An Afternoon in Chuncheon – August 11, 2012

After a long week of work sometimes we all have to indulge in a guilty pleasure. But to properly indulge, sometimes we need to seek the best or the original. Something with a story involved. This week’s guilty pleasure: Dalkgalbi. So obviously, that means…

road

trip

to…

Chuncheon!

Well, this week we didn’t drive. Rather we took the brand new ITX line, conveniently connecting Seoul and Chuncheon. The train name, Cheongchun, which combines the first syllables of Cheongyangni and Chuncheon (the termini of the line), also literally means something like ‘green spring’ though the actual usage is much more about ‘youth’ or being young. But I digress.

Near the station we find a fun sculpture:

Obviously inspiration is taken from the Wall Street bull and Osbourne’s song Crazy Train. While fun, the sculpture is quite a mess visually and it doesn’t seem to know what quite its doing, much less why. This doesn’t bother the people who utilize it as shade, something that is much needed in the late summer sun.

 

 

 

A sunflower says hi while we wait for the bus.

We arrive mid afternoon and an early dinner does not appeal, so we decide to visit one of the local attractions. We end up going to Soyang Dam, North-East of Chunchoen. Had we gone earlier we would have visited Cheonpyeong Temple. But as time is short and our main purpose dalkgalbi, we decide not to rush a temple visit. But the tree covered hills we came across just melted my heart. I’m a sucker for tree covered hills.

On top the dam, an area for visitors is set up. This includes an obelisk-esqu statue exhorting the triumph of Industry. Two bas-reliefs are carved on either side of the base.

 

 

 

 

 

The East side relief shows a mermaid doing her best to warn the people about the destruction this dam will cause agriculture.

The West side shows man ignoring the warnings of nature as he harnesses the power of water, not for life and agriculture, but for power. Electric power. Notice how he is naked, but holds gears and a hammer. That is to say he clothes himself with his wits and power.

Okay, so perhaps this isn’t the ‘proper’ reading of the bas-reliefs, but its much more fun! The mermaid herself could easily be a representation of the Korean land and people, since such a large peninsula is both part island and part land, the people belong to both the water and the land. But again, I digress.

Nearby some people were playing, mostly to a group of older Koreans. The younger people didn’t seem to care so much. From this point we walked down the road where there is a museum, which, unfortunately for us, had just closed. The road continued down to a small ferry loading area that will take you to Cheonpyeong temple, but, again, we didn’t feel like rushing that journey.

A few statuaries met us along the way down the road. Here’s the Girl of Soyanggang. Presumably the statue and story are from a ‘trot’ song of old-school Korean pop. As seen here: Korean Trot – Girl of Soyang-Gang

The brief story I got was some guy promised this girl that he’d return (from where ever he was going) and she was patient and waited. And… that’s about all the story I could get at the time of this writing. If something more interesting pops up, I’ll be sure to add a new post!

A mini monument for the ’88 Olympics and a bas-relief of one of Korea’s first ladies helping populate the reservoir with fish were also found down this path.

And on the way back to Chuncheon proper, we see the Girl of Soyang-Gang once more… this time on a more epic scale.

But now Jihye and I are ready for dinner and we decide to hit up the Myeong-dong dalkgalbi district. Chuncheon is famous for it’s dalkgalbi, but there isn’t just one place to get it. Pick up a tourist map and you’ll have a long list of different districts that serve, primarily dalkgalbi. And from what I hear, each district will serve it differently, so we’ll definitely be going back to try some of the other districts!

Here you can see the entrance, decorated in the typical Korean post-industrial neo-‘Miracle of the Han’ way of using random power lines to obscure what would otherwise be a wonderful shot of the entrance to the street.

Classy

The street is properly stamped with the Myeongdong Dakgalbi Street seal of approval and has the proper tourist spots where you can take a picture with giant cartoon chickens. Presumably before they’re butchered and served up to you. Also, a classy sign for Myeongdong Hotel. No, that’s not in the back alley. Aside from giant chickens, garbage and iffy signs for lodging, the street is lined with restaurants, all which serve dakgalbi. Some have long lines, usually because some famous TV show promoted it. We decided on a busy, yet not ‘line-worthy’ restaurant for our evening repast.

For those unfamiliar, many Korean dishes are cooked at the table and eaten from the dish it was cooked in. Dakgalbi is no exception.

The pan is filled with cabbage, sweet potatoes, ddeok, leaks and the titular chicken, covered in spicy marinade. The chicken is completely raw, so it’s a wise idea not to touch anything with your chopsticks… and make sure it cooks thoroughly before digging in.

While waiting, I decide to have some of the raw onions and dip them in the hot pepper sauce. Yummy!

Just looking at the pictures make my mouth water again!

Unfortunately we were so ready to eat that we consumed the dish in short order, leaving behind a sad, empty pan.

Fear not little pan, you’ll be cleaned and be ready to give new people the pleasure of enjoying dakgalbi all over again.

Usually, when eating dakgalbi, you finish it off with a mixed rice dish that incorporates all the little bits left behind in the pan. This day we decided on skipping the rice, but it is highly recommended for anyone planning on enjoying dakgalbi.

The Cheongchun Double Decker Cars

A long day was behind us and the sun had already set as we ate. We walked back to the station. There was a marked difference between Chuncheon and Seoul at this time. Late evening turning to night would be a time for lights and activity in Seoul, but in Chuncheon, the city was already shutting down. Chuncheon Station was an oasis of light. Well, time to go back to Seoul. Good bye Chuncheon, we’ll be back.

 

 

 

Or as Chicken Swarchenegger says… We’ll be bwak!

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