On my fifth day in South Korea I headed east by train to Chuncheon, the capital of Gangwon province, a much quieter affair than Seoul with more of a country feel to it – they obviously don’t see a huge number of westerners here as the stares I got were far more pronounced. I’ve often been mistaken for an American whilst in Korea due to the massive US Army presence there but in general I’ve found people to be a little more gracious if they know you’re not one of them!
Arriving around lunchtime it was time to find some food and as Chuncheon is famous for its “dak-galbi” (닭갈비), a spicy stir-fried chicken dish with vegetables (as seen before), it only seemed a fitting place to start. In fact Chuncheon has a whole street with restaurants which serve nothing but dakgalbi so there was plenty of choice!
“Dakgalbi is prepared by marinating chopped chicken in spicy red pepper paste with peppery seasoning for about one day. Cabbage, green onions, sweet potatoes, and cylinder shaped rice cakes are then added and the ingredients are all placed in a large cast iron pan. The mixture is then typically stir-fried at the table… Dakgalbi can be enjoyed on its own or wrapped in lettuce leaves for a fresh, crunchy sensation. After most of the Dakgalbi has been eaten, rice is then stir-fried with the remaining sauce in the pan.”
If this has wet your appetite you can learn how to cook it on mykoreankitchen.com
Once my stomach was full it was time to find a bus to the next place of interest, namely Soyang Dam. Whilst I was waiting a van laden with bananas pulled up and started flogging them to the oldies also waiting – I couldn’t quite imagine spending my whole life selling nothing but bananas but it is nice to see a place where there is still room for this sort of individual enterprise.
After a rather hair-raising bus trip up the side of the valley (more on this later) we arrived at the top of the largest sand gravel dam in East Asia which commanded an expansive view over Lake Soyang. Build in 1973 the dam rises 123m with a depth of 530m and a gross storage capacity of 29 billion cubic meters of water – it was built for the purpose of flood control, water storage and hydroelectric power production. It’s an impressive feat of geoengineering but pales in comparison to what’s been done to the Yangtze River in China.
Walking down to the lake’s edge you can take boat for the other side and the untold mysteries that the misty Majeoksan mountains had yet to reveal… To be continued.