Because Seollal or Korean Lunar New Year usually falls sometime in late-January or early February, it is during this time of year that I’d always be able to plan out a proper trip in order to get my snowy fix since it is one of the two most important holidays in Korean culture. And if the plan isn’t going to be international, nowhere else can be a better idea than Gangwon province when it comes to the destination in Korea that has the highest snowfall.
This year my boyfriend and I started our Seollal road trip with a night-snowboarding at Vivaldi Park Ski World in Hongcheon-gun, the city that is located in the middle of Korea’s northeastern province, Gangwon-do. We opted for the late night play because during the day, the slopes can get extra busy considering the time as the peak season for the wintery activities. Thus, this schedule allowed us to chill and venture around a bit to experience what Hongcheon has to offer.
When the plan was settled, I started to search for a picture perfect spot around Hongcheon by checking out #홍천여행 hashtag on instagram, and it was the images of the snow covered Hongcheon River (홍천강) that caught my eyes. And digging a little deeper, many posts uploaded with pictures from the same location were described; they were taken at Magok Recreational Area 마곡유원지 (read: ma-gok-yu-won-ji) which was located only half an hour away from the Vivaldi Park.
That’s how it’s sorted out – Magok Yuwonji was placed on top of our itinerary for the first day of this year’s Lunar New Year holiday!
Introduction: Magok Recreational Area (마곡유원지)
Located on the Hongcheon River bank where its panoramic view can be overlooked from Chungui Bridge (충의대교), within a walkable distance from the Baebawi Canoe Village (배바위카누마을), Magok Yuwonji or Magok recreational area is known among Korean campers to be one of the best spots to enjoy kayaking in Gangwon-do, because the river water is clear and sufficiently deep. Every year a canoe competition is organized at this section of the Honhcheon River to promote the activity as one of the must-try leisure experiences. In addition to the qualified water, it also has a relatively wide sandy shore which is rarely seen at other sites along the river making it a perfect place for camping. Every summer, this specific riverbank comes alive when families, and friends gather around their tents indulging in assorted barbeque, which some - perhaps, are the fish caught along the riverside.
I could concisely envisage the happy moments the venue receives during the hotter months from glimpsing pictures printed on banners clustering at the fenced gate, situated nearby what I assumed to be a canoe rental office. But the scene I came to see today was completely the opposite: the lush green of deciduous shrubs covered hills on the other side of the river was depleted from the fall, the rippling, dark emerald water was at its stillness underneath the vast canvas of the white powdery snow. That said, a few groups of vacationers were seen at the ground. So, I guess camping is practically fun all year round.
While I was wonderstruck by the charm of the wintry landscape, I was still aware that below the solid stark white sheet, still, there was a moving current. Stepping on it required a full awareness that the ice would break, so I spent most of my time at the Magok Yuwonji ambling around on the shore area and staying close to the people in case an accident happened. The farthest walk I did was to approach a headless snowman that materialized in mid-way to a small island. During the stroll, I could hear a loud thud roaring once every, like, ten minutes. And my heart throbbed when I realized that was the sound of the ice shatter; I could sense the trembling down under my feet. But, luckily, none of the scary thoughts came out.
There was nothing else for me to do so I spent a couple of hours rejuvenating and taking photos. Apparently my visit was a tad early: I later learnt that, a few days after my presence, a troop of vendors arrived and started providing sledding services to visitors. But no complaints at all, because I got to bask myself in the most serene atmosphere of the frozen Hongcheon River. My Seollal road trip was deemed to commence well!
Because it was still too early for us to head to Vivaldi Park for our reserved snowboarding time, we opted to hang in a coffee place after the mesmerizing event at the Magok leisure site. Thus, my next blog entry would be about a review for Weekend74 Cafe, a trendy place in Hongcheon. Stay tuned and keep on exploring Korea with me!
How to Get to Magok Yuwonji from Seoul via Public Transportations
While driving can take you only roughly an hour to get to the camping ground, taking public transport systems can be twice as long. But it doesn’t mean it’s not feasible.
You can take a train on Gyeongchun Line (경춘선), a regional rail line linking Seoul and Chuncheon. The most convenient platform to take the train in Seoul can be from Sangbong Station (상봉역) since it serves for two other lines: subway line 7 and Gyeongui Jungang line. Then you can alight at Gangchon Station (강촌역), the fourth stop before the end of the line (it takes approximately an hour). Hop on a village bus named “남면2” at the bus stop number 2303 (강촌역 정류장) located right out of exit 1 of the station. After 24 stops, get off at the bus stop number 5946 (충의대교 정류장) – this should take around 25 minutes. Walk down a small road until you reach a three-way junction, and turn right. Go straight for 500 meters and then you are there!
Gallery: Discovery Frozen Hongcheon River
About Magok Yuwonji
Parking Space: Yes (not sure if it’s free during summer high season)
Admission Fee: Free
Address: 강원도 홍천군 서면 마곡리 산129 [Naver Map]
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