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Yeoncheon Adventure✨

Written by : Marianne Chang of Korea Wanderers

Last weekend, a group of 20 individuals were invited by Korea Travel Easy and Sodosi Travel for a two-day trip to promote the city of Yeoncheon, the smallest city among the 31 cities of the Gyeonggi province. Although, small, it is the only city that can boast of having two rivers passing through it, the Hantangang (한탄강) and the Imjin river (임진강). Despite the short time, we visited many landmarks in beautiful Yeoncheon, namely, Jwasangbawi (좌상바위), the Hantangang (한탄강), Dangposeong Fortress (당포성), Jaein Waterfall (재인폭포), Yeoncheon Sunguijeon Hall Site (연천숭귀전), the Imjin-gil trail (임진길) and the Pureunae Village (푸르내마을).

First, we arrived at the kayaking site where we were given helmets, life jackets and a safety briefing before our paddle began. We were fortunate to have lovely weather which warmed up very quickly despite the cold autumn morning. We paired up and got into two person kayaks where we quickly adjusted to the paddling technique after just a few strokes. We leisurely paddled through lush green picturesque mountains on both sides of the river and also caught glimpses of beautiful autumn covered foliage sprawling alongside the columnar joints of the cliff sides along some parts of the river. Although this river was generally quite shallow, there were three parts where the speed of the river increased creating a short white-water rafting experience.

We all navigated safely with the help of the Wassap Geo Kayak Team and within an hour and a half, we arrived at the starting point marked by the 60m tall Jwasangbawi (좌상바위) rock. Originally, this rock was called suicide rock (자살바위) because of unfortunate past events but in order to have a more positive connotation, the name was changed to represent a guarding God which is believed to keep the village together.

After this activity, we were famished and headed straight to Café Hyoyeonjae to revitalise our energy supplies. We were warmly greeted by the café owner who explained that all the food was prepared from the local agricultural lands itself excluding the meat. We were treated to a wide variety of delicious fried pumpkin, stuffed tomatoes, beans, samgyeopsal, kimchi and other vegetables all spread on a beautiful outdoor table setting just infront of the restaurant. We were also served two types of magkeolli, the traditional kind and another resembling a wine taste. They were both very interesting flavors and went so well with the food that we couldn’t help refilling our glasses.

With no time to spare, we graciously thanked the owner and moved on to our next destination, Dangposeong Fortress. It was time for the traditional Korean archery experience! Our instructor quickly impressed us with his skilful shooting demonstration, hitting the target from a far distance, and then carefully explained the technique to us. There were also several different arrows on display which he explained all had different purposes, for example, there were some with duller arrow heads used for shooting practise while others were made to bounce upon landing for easier retrieval. For the true experience, traditional armour was also provided to set the atmosphere.

As we were all amateurs, we all shot within close range but could not help the arrow going astray at times. After some practise, we began hitting the target much to our delight. The instructor warned us of the importance of following the correct technique to avoid injuries as the bow can transfer energy to your body if the arrow is released the wrong way. I think I can safely speak for all when I say we all wish we could have had more time at this spot. Before leaving, we walked to the next side of the hill, against which we were shooting and were rewarded with an impressive view of the nearby Imjingang from the flat plane fortress piled up with stones during the Goguryeo Era .

In a race against daylight, we quickly rushed over to Jaein Falls but caught the sun already going down. However, we were still able to catch a glimpse of sunset although the views of the falls were not as nice due to recent flooding and low light settings. Nevertheless, we received a different reward though a light show display which was projected onto the cliffside near the waterfall. It quickly got cold and so we moved on to dinner where the food was again delicious and served in ssambap (쌈밥) style.

Next day, we headed to the Yeoncheon Sunguijeon Hall Site (연천숭귀전) which was the starting point for our trekking of the nearby Imjin-gil trail (임진길). At this site, we saw the onggi (옹기) which are tall brown ceramic vases used for storage of kimchi, gochujang and soybean paste, but in this case, was used to store the latter. Our tour guide was a doctor of oriental philosophy and he told us about feeling the “gi” energy from the earth that he believes is experienced there. At the Ongyeobong peak, the DMZ line is visible and as such there is a tall blue statue called the “greeting man” facing the direction of North Korea. This statue was erected as a symbol of peace, reconciliation and communication. He also led us in a simple meditation conducted in the shade of the tall statue. The trek took a total of approximately 2 hours round trip and we then moved on to Pureunae Village (푸르내마을).

Here, we were served with the most delightful buffet of Korean dishes including japchae, stewed pork, mushrooms, kimchi, anchovies, fried pumpkin, pajeon, beans, potato salad, kimchi stewed tofu and seaweed soup. The food on this trip was definitely a highlight for me. Of all the times I’ve had Korean food, this time was definitely the best as the flavors were very rich which made it very tasty to consume.

After stuffing ourselves with the delicious food, we were then guided through a soap making process with abundant cucumber extract from the Yeoncheon land and brightly colored glycerin so that we could make our unique design. Although we had a short space of time, we still managed to make very different designs and they all served as a unique souvenir to take home from Yeoncheon.

For the final activity, we made muffins from the simple ingredients of makgeolli, barley flour and milk, patterned with carrot shavings, red beans and green peas and placed in the steamer for roughly 20 to 30 minutes if I recall correctly. They tasted much better than I expected with a slightly sweet flavor but overall balanced taste. Served hot, we could not stop ourselves from munching on this snack and I ended up eating the ones we were supposed to take home as well.

Altogether, this trip was definitely one-of-a-kind in terms of the various experiences I was able to gain ranging from kayaking to archery to trekking and all accompanied with great food at each meal. I am also very grateful for all the new friends I made on this trip. Personally, as a lover of outdoor activities, I would say that I enjoyed the kayaking and the archery experience the best and would definitely recommend this city as a quick escape from the bustles of daily life. I think it will be good for families to enjoy simple outdoor activities together like camping and kayaking along the riverside or even for solo travellers to see breath-taking views of the mountain side while also catching a glimpse of North Korea in the distance. Although small, I think that this town still has more to offer and thus I will like the opportunity to visit again. For a total video recap of this experience, you can check my Youtube channel, Mari Chang, or Instagram page (@superkwlkid). See you on the next adventure! ✌

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