Travelling further away from the neon lights and the fluorescent of the metropolitan city of Seoul, patches of greeneries and the twinkling stars overhead are the common scenes in the land of the morning calm. As a KTO Social Media Ambassador, I participated in a farm stay program at Won-pyeongni, Chuncheon last weekend. The scent of the woods and the fresh soil at Won-pyeongni (원평리), a small village in Chuncheon were like an instant stress reliever to a city girl like me.
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Introduction: Chuncheon 춘천
Chuncheon is the provincial capital city of Gangwon-do. It is a city surrounded by 3 lakes, namely Uiamho Lake, Chuncheon-ho Lake, and Songyang-ho Lake. Nestling among these beautiful and calm lakes and mountains, this city is usually foggy and misty. The numerous lakes in the region make it one of the best places in the country to do fishing, wind-surfing and all kinds of water sports. It is also a popular vacation destination in Korea.
Famous Tourist Attractions:
Jade Garden (제이드가든)
Gugok Falls (구곡폭포)
Public Transportation to Chuncheon:
There are various ways to get to Chuncheon from Seoul.
By Subway: Travel from any line which is connected to the central line (중앙선) and alight at Chuncheon Station (춘천역).
By Bus: Buses come every 15 mins. at Dong Seoul Bus Terminal (동서울 버스터미널) from 6am-920pm. Travel time is about 1 hr 30 mins.
By Train: Train runs daily from Seoul Cheonyangni Station to Chuncheon Station from 525am-1020pm.
Chuncheon Speciality Dishes:
Dakgalbi (spicy stir-fried chicken 닭갈비) is a must-eat if you are visiting Chuncheon. It is a local speciality food made by stir-frying marinated diced chicken in chilli paste sauce, with cabbage, rice cakes, sweet potato, and perilla leaves on a hot plate. This particular dish is everywhere in Chuncheon. There is also a “dak-galbi street” in Chuncheon which has a high concentration of Dakgalbi restaurants.
Makguksu, another local speciality and a Chuncheon-Must-eat, is a traditional Korean buckwheat noodle served in chilled broth. The dish is seasoned with sugar, mustard, sesame oil and vinegar. It is originated from Gangwon-do.
Chuncheon: Summer Farm-stay Experience
Students in Korea, especially undergraduates enjoy (well, sometimes or most of the time forced to enjoy lol ) the fun of helping out at the farm in the rural areas during their summer break. Sometimes the trip is made compulsory by their school or seniors. Our 2d1n trip includes activities like picking tomatoes, making tofu and injeolmi (Korean traditional rice cake), barehanded trout fishing, campfire and etc.
First of all, let me introduce these floral patterned baggy pants, a common “fashion item” here in the rural areas of Korea. These baggy pants, the”moom-bbae baji” (몸빼바지), often come with gaudy floral prints, were made famous to foreigners by the reality show <2 Days 1 Night>. Comfortable and stylish (?) kkkk, it is very popular in the rural area, especially for outdoor or farming activities.
Before we proceed to the activities, floral baggy pants were distributed to all participants. So this is a picture of us posing with the countryside pride, the moombbae baji. Did we carry the Kampong fashion well? kkkk Well, we kept getting compliments from the ajummas at the kitchen, so I guess it wasn’t that bad? ; p
Day 1 : 10 am – Making Korean Tofu
And so we were led to the kitchen for the tofu making workshop. The soybean was already on the table. We were told to cook the ground soybean to produce bean milk, and next pour the milk into a liner cloth to strain the milk and add in the tofu coagulant vinegar. Finally, press and shape the tofu. The procedure was pretty easy since we skipped the process of grinding and soaking the beans. We cut the tofu and ate it right away with the dipping sauce.
11 am – Picking Organic Cherry Tomatoes
After eating our tofu, we then began our journey to the cherry tomato orchards. Each of us was given one ziplock bag to pick our tomatoes. We were told that it was the last batch of the cherry tomatoes in the orchard as the summer is almost over. I didn’t expect much since the plants are already begun to rot until I took my first bite of the organic tomatoes, I became hooked. Such plump, sweet and juicy tomatoes!
One of our group mission was to make a commercial video promoting the cherry tomatoes and here it is! We spent about 10 minutes completing the whole ad.
By the way, if you are interested, it was an impromptu 28 seconds ad made possible by a smartphone app named “Snap Movie”. It comes with a decent selection of background music and filters which made it a simple and convenient app for short video making. Just follow the instructions and you’ll make short videos of reasonable quality.
12 pm – Lunch at the Korean Countryside
Lunch was served right after we picked our tomatoes. The kitchen ajummas served us with utmost hospitality and kindness, their warm gestures were inviting. We were showered with abundant side dishes. Simple, hearty and fresh, everything on the dining table was a delightful combination.
Highlight: 2pm – 4pm – Hand Fishing Trout
The highlight of the day was catching trout barehanded. After lunch, we embarked on the quest to catch trout at a valley nearby. The mission was to catch 5 trouts, each about 8-10 inches long. Gosh, these water creatures are so sensitive to noise and movements and any single ripple you made while moving can scare them away. After a full episode of drama with 20 adults screaming for mama and running after the fast-moving fish in the valley, we finally managed to catch all 5 of them.
Fresh in the Valley
After a round of hard work chasing after the trouts, we went to refresh ourselves at the valley nearby the farmhouse. Valleys make an excellent place to cool off the summer heat. It is especially the case here in Korea. Here at the valley, you’ll see families having barbeque party here beside the valley. Kids were really happy splashing the crystal clear water, while adults chit-chatting over a bottle of soju or makgeolli.
6pm – Making Fusion Pizza
Soon enough we returned to the farmhouse and settled down at the fusion pizza workshop. The crust of the pizza is made of potatoes and the whole process does not require an oven! Interesting enough but I still prefer pizzas from an oven.
7pm – Dinner at the Korean Countryside
Dinner was Bossam (Hardboiled pork) and the fusion pizza we made earlier, together with sweet potatoes, salad, sausage, zucchini pancake, Japchae (fry glass noodles with assorted vegetables), topped off with some sweet Korean rice wine (makgeolli) and soda.
930pm – Camp Fire + Fireworks
As soon as our stomachs filled up with the sumptuous meal, we gathered at the centre of the farmhouse, where a huge bonfire was already set up for the night. Sparklers were distributed and everybody seemed to enjoy the night beside the bonfire.
The 2nd round party began after dancing and playing games by the fire. Grilled trouts we caught earlier in the day were served. Surrounded by clean lakes and rivers, Chuncheon is known as a rich fishing ground for freshwater fish. The salt grilled trout did not disappoint us. It is a little milder but as flakey and tasty as salmon, and above all, the fish is extraordinarily fresh!
Day 2: 10 am – Making Injeolmi (Korean Rice Cake)
After breakfast at the dining hall, we return to the workshop to have some hands-on Injeolmi making experience. Injeolmi is a kind of Korean rice cake coated with finely grounded nuts powder, which is widely popular in the country.
Free Time Before Departure
The farm stay trip ended after the Injeolmi making workshop. Before bidding goodbye, the younger ones from the trip gather at the centre of the farmhouse for some games while the
older wiser ones gather for some casual chats.
It was a great chance to free my mind from the anxiety and stresses of daily life, especially since school is going to start in a week’s time! Looking at the endless line up of the picturesque mountains and watching the morning sun rise and swiftly melt away the morning mists was a one-of-a-kind experience in the farmhouse.
The above farmstay program is done at Wonpyeong Farmstay and costed KRW 80,000, including 1-night pension accommodation, 3 meals, campfire, all tofu, fusion pizza, injeolmi making fees, cherry tomato farm entrance fee, and trout fishing fees.
Disclaimer: This trip is sponsored by Korea Tourism Organization (KTO). However, opinions are my own.
IMPORTANT UPDATES ON FARMSTAY BOOKINGS
To many of you who are interested to do a farm stay in Chuncheon, I am very sorry that the farm I went is a full Korean environment. Many of you requested a farm that speak some English for easier communication and I have been searching high and low for it … but this have been a tough one.
HOWEVER, I have found one very good alternative. There is an organization arranging non-monetary exchange program between volunteers and farmers in Korea — The WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).
Basically, you sign up on the WWOOF website as a volunteer and select an organic farm to help out, and WWOOF will help to connect you and the host that will offer food and accommodation in return. (no money exchange at all, but you need to pay USD55 to become a member to be eligible for the exchange program.) Well, treat it as accommodation/ experience payment like you would pay for Airbnb. I have yet to try their service but I think this is a pretty good deal. Volunteer at the same time gaining experience at a farm! Read the reviews on their site to find out more.
Also please refer to their official site to know more about how the whole thing works!