Travel Musings: Jecheon 2014 (제천 2014)

Another backed up posting from over the summer. I was thinking of just skipping this one but I'm hoping that these posts reflecting on my occasional trips will serve some sort of usefulness to other folks out there... haha.

Jecheon is a mid-sized city out in Chungcheongbuk-do, not too far off from Wonju. It's mostly known for its scenic surrounding, most famously the Namhan River and the man-made Cheongpung lake that came from the construction of the Chungju Dam. The construction of the dam, which began in the late 70's, was controversial as it submerged a number of villages in the valley which subsequently resulted in the relocation of not only the inhabitants but many temples and structures from the Joseon Dynasty scattered about the area..

Mini history lesson aside, a friend of mine has some sort of exclusive family membership to ES Resort. This private resort operates in Tongyeong and in Jecheon and they put an emphasis on preserving the natural surrounding to harmonize with the resort grounds and structures. A few of us took a short trip there towards the end of the summer while I just stayed for an over-nighter. So it was a short trip but here's all the eats and sights I managed to pack in over the two days!



We arrived early afternoon in Jecheon after departing in the morning from Seoul. It's only a 2 hour-ish drive from Seoul and but there's something about being on the road that builds up an appetite! So naturally we were eager to get our eating on once we arrived.

We settled on hitting up a dak galbi joint called Cheongjeon Dakgalbi Buffet. The Chungcheong-do region is already well known for this dish but this place has attracted nation-wide attention for not only offering unlimited dak galbi for only 8,000 won per person but for also offering good quality chicken at that! It has even been featured on a number of news shows, further adding to its popularity.

Unfortunately for us... we discovered post-visit that we visited the wrong one. Unbeknownst to us, there's actually two Cheongjeon Dakgalbi Buffet less than a km apart and we had unknowingly visited the wrong one, or at least, the less popular one... There seems to have been a reason why we had expected a line for our lunchtime visit but found it mostly empty...

The restaurant we visited is in a small town neighborhood setting and the restaurant is humble but spacious with plenty of tables. As the menu picture below shows, you can choose to get dak galbi at an order of 6,000 won a head but by only paying 2,000 won more, you can get dak galbi at an unlimited rate. The rates are discounted to 5,000 won for middle and high school students for the regular but they're specifically excluded from the unlimited version.... They also feature a number of hangover soups (haejangguk or 해장국) all priced at 6,000 won as well as noodle dishes such as makguksu, naengmyeon and such (4-5,000 won with the exception of the janchi guksu at only 2,000 won.)


While the kitchen prepares your dak galbi in the back, the side dishes, lettuce, ssamjang and such are up to you to get from a little self-serve corner in the back of the restaurant.

The dak galbi is prepared to order and brought to your table. It's a medley of cabbage slices, sweet potato, mushrooms, in the characteristic spicy sweet sauce. It takes a few minutes to get everything cooked as the chicken is raw.



As for its taste, it was fine. I think it could have been a little more spicy but the biggest complaint i had was the sheer amount of cabbage in it. It was as though we had ordered stir fried cabbage bits with a few chicken pieces tossed in. I was rather disappointed as I had seen the images of past visitors and saw a rather big discrepancy but it was only much later I found out we had visited the wrong place...


So I can't say for the Cheongjeon Dak Galbi (the famous one) but for the other one, I can say it's alright if nothing special. Priced any higher though, I definitely would have been let down big time.

Cheongjeon Dak Galbi Buffet (청전닭갈비부페)
충천북도 제천시 청전동 833
833, Cheongjeon-dong, Jecheon-si, Chungcheongbuk-do, Korea
043-646-8569


If you want to check out the famous dak galbi buffet place that I unfortunately didn't hit up, the information is below:
Choondang Dakgalbi (춘당닭갈비)
606, Cheongjeondong, Jecheon, Chungcheongbuk-do
충청북도 제천시 청전동 606
043-646-0819

As for the ES Resort itself, it showed a bit of its age but was still clean and tidy. I liked the fact it makes an emphasis on complementing the natural scenery around it. So the buildings and facilities are built around and into the various hills the property sits on which gives it a very natural feel. The fact it was in a secluded location also helped add to this wonderful environment. 

Aside from the various hiking trails around it, one of the best draws about the ES Resort is its pool perched on a hillside which overlooks the mountainous region around it. The sweeping mountains, lush trees, and placid river provides a welcome serenity you really start to miss when you live in the big city.






Goofy grin!


It was rather chilly initially and took some self-convincing to get in the pool but definitely worth it.


 The downside of your resort being in a secluded spot is the distance you're placed from the main hubs and restaurants but it worked out anyways since we had planned for a barbecue party and stopped at a supermarket beforehand. Having that fresh mountain air around you def makes any barbecue taste that much better!


On the second day (and my final day) we first hit up Cheongpung Cultural Heritage Complex (청풍문화재단지) for some sightseeing. To shed light on its background, as I mentioned earlier in this post, the construction of the Cheongju Dam led to the submergence of a huge swath of land including the Cheongpung Village. Not only was this problematic for the many residents of the village but also for the number of historic cultural assets, properties, and buildings scattered around. 

Painstakingly, these historic and cultural properties were carefully moved to the Cheongpung Cultural Heritage Complex while the residents were also relocated. And this new site offers a glimpse of the past times of the village.



Many of the structures such as the Eungcheonggak and Hanbyeongnu (below) come from the early to mid Joseon Dynasty era.



The site also offers some great views of the lake below which almost looks like a river at times.



But the top draw for Jecheon is probably the Cheongpung Lake Monorail. The monorail takes you to the top of Mt. Bibong (Bibongsan or 비봉산, 531 m) but interestingly it was originally built for paragliders to easily carry up their equipment. You can still paraglide from the top on clear days.

The monorail is rather clunky and slow but it takes you through the thick mountainous forest on an oft steep incline.




Cheese!


But the view from top. Oh man, the view. Truly spectacular which left us all breathless initially. The rolling mountains, the blue and expansive lake, and colorful village really makes for a stunning scene. Top 5 landscapes I've seen in Korea for sure! Without sight of any stacked rows of ugly apartment buildings or much less any modern building at all, I wondered how many others before me- and before my time- also saw the rolling hills and sleepy villages nestled in between that I was seeing. It really was one of the rare moments that I felt the spirit of Korea captured in one view.




The pictures do not do justice!


The ride back down is the exact same route and, as nice as it is, gets rather old. I think we all fell asleep at one point haha. 

But for practical information, the Cheongpungho Monorail is 8,000 for adults and 6,000 for kids and takes about 25 minutes each direction so plan your schedule accordingly. Unfortunately the monorail is closed December - February during the winter season...

I should note, adding to the "natural" theme that seemed to come naturally, I saw quite a few creatures of all sizes and shapes during my time in Jecheon.

The ES Resort had a large field where deers and chickens mingled together and ran about freely.


There were a few goats as well including this swanky fella.


Not to be outdone was little bunny with her mascara eyes and momma keepin watch nearby.


This rather grumpy looking Mr. Bird.


This brood of noisy baby birds, some who hadn't even opened their eyes!


This creepy bug who had caught this huge spider and was carrying it around like it was nothing.


This graceful butterfly atop Mt. Bibong.


This enormous grasshopper (locust?). I'm glad there was only one of this guy around.



Woot, nature!

Anyways, after coming back down from Mt. Bibong we were ready for dinner and decided on some ddeokgalbi from a place called Cheongpoong Ddeokgalbi which wasn't too far off from the monorail.

The restaurant is housed in a lovely wooden building by the lake and has apparently been a family run business for some time. They take great pride in the quality of their food prefacing that everything is made in-house without MSG and the best ingredients. 

As for the ddeok galbi, you have a choice between the regular (21,000 per serving [260g]), garlic (25,000), and the hanbang or oriental medicinal herbs (27,000). We chose to stick with the regular. 

Their house made jjangachis (pickled vegetables and greens) are top notch and are incredibly addictive. They're not too salty and pairs wonderfully with the hot rice.



The assembly of greens to eat as wraps with your ddeokgalbi are fresh, fresh, fresh.


Bubbling dwenjang jjigae has that rustic, slightly nutty edge to it.


And the ddeokgalbi comes sizzling hot on pans and just begging to be dug into.



The meat is almost fall apart tender and seasoned perfectly without overshadowing the sweet meat. 



You can eat the ddeokgalbi as is but I loved eating it in big ol' fist-sized wraps.


Couldn't resist getting a bottle of makgeolli to go with it. This brand, Sobaeksan (소백산), is actually one of my favorite makgeollis back in Seoul (though its origins and manufacturing is from the Chungcheong region). Its fizzy, slightly sweet but still mellow taste paired well with the heavier ddeokgalbi and I may or may not have consumed most of the bottle by myself.


But yes, really good food, service, and atmosphere here! Definitely recommend it!

Cheongpoong Ddeokgalbi (청풍떡갈비)
충북 제천시 금성면 성내리 192
192, Seongnae-ri, Geumseong-myeon, Jecheon-si, Chungcheongbuk-do, Korea
043-644-1600


My evening bus back to Seoul was already booked and after eating dinner there was still just a little bit of time to kill. So what did I do in that spare time? Why, eat again of course.

One of Jecheon's most famed food is a curious snack food called "bbalgan odeng" or literally, "red odeng (uh mook)". It's nothing fancy really as it's just sticks of odeng (fish cakes) that's cooked in a spicy-sweet red pepper paste-based sauce that's similar to ddeokbokki. As the odeng sits in the spicy sweet sauce, it both absorbs the sauce while the sauce takes on a deeper taste from the odeng. We were absolutely stuffed by our ddeokgalbi dinner but I couldn't bear to skip trying this out before heading back up to Seoul so I convinced my friends to join me in gluttony.

Most of the shops specializing in bbalgan odeng are found in the downtown Jecheon area and where we went there's actually a cluster of 3 or so shops. You know they're selling the bbalgan odeng because you'll see a big ol' vat of fish cakes sittin in the red sauce. Along with ddeokbokki, twigim, and other common bunshik food.


The popular way of eating bbalgan odeng is to order it with ddeokbokki and some of the twigim (various fried stuff). Most of the shops offer set menus offering combinations which is what we did. But all the food here is extremely cheap. 4 odengs, 4 twigims, etc were all just 1000 won so grabbing a bite here is probably one of the cheapest bites you can get in Jecheon!


Taste-wise it's nothing mind blowing if you've already tried ddeokbokki and/or odeng but it's delicious nonetheless and we had no problem gobbling it down despite having already eaten a full dinner right before... 


These shops also offer food to be taken away as well so that's always an option if you feel like eating some later. :)



Jecheon Bbalgan Odeng (제천 빨간 오뎅)
충청북도 제천시 남천동 1155
1155, Namcheon-dong, Jecheon-si, Chungcheongbuk-do, Korea
043-645-0605

So it was a very short trip but with so much breathtaking scenery, beautiful landscapes, and plenty of food to boot, it was definitely a chill and worthwhile trip. I definitely only just scratched the surface of Jecheon but it certainly proved it has plenty of merits that deserves a closer look. :)


Comments

  1. Hello Stewart, I chanced upon your blog post while preparing for a day trip to Jecheon from Seoul. May I know how to get to the monorail from the Jecheon Bus Terminal. On google maps, they seem to be quite far apart. Is there any way to get to the lake by public transport? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that it is possible to get to the monorail station from Jecheon express bus terminal. The bad news is that it’s not very easy and will take around 2 hours using public transportation.
      The direction goes like this:
      From Jecheon Express Bus Terminal, walk toward Jungang Crossing and take Bus 950 at Tongyang Securities Inc. (동양증권) Bus Stop and get off at Multae-ri, Cheongpung-myeon Bus Stop. (42 bus stops away)
      Transfer to Bus 951 and get off at Daeryu-ri Bus Stop. (5 bus stops away)
      Walk 273m ahead and the destination will be on the right.
      So it not only requires you to transfer once and walk a few hundred meters but the estimated time required for this trip alone is clocked in at around 1 hour 48 minutes. And this isn’t accounting the time and effort of getting to Jecheon express bus terminal itself.

      If you don’t mind the time and a bit of challenge, it’s definitely doable. If you’re traveling with a large load, the elderly, children, etc, then it might be worth looking into either renting your own car for the day or renting a driver for the day. Both will definitely save you time and much hassle.
      Hope that helps!

      Delete
  2. Hi Stewart, chanced upon your blog. Informative blog post I must say. By any chance do you remember if there's a centre for us to para-glide from Mt. Bibong with trainers or do we have to hire trainers to para-glide with us? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Samantha. I checked the monorail's homepage for you which is only in Korean and it says paragliding reservations must be made by phone and the number they list is 010-4598-3426. I can't guarantee they speak English though... hope it works out for you!

      Delete

Post a Comment

Questions? Suggestions? Thoughts? Please feel free to comment!

Popular Posts