Monday, April 22, 2013

Cheongdo: Bullfighting, a Wine Tunnel and a Temple

 Entrance to the Cheongdo Bullfighting Stadium

This past weekend, the city of Cheongdo (정도시) held its annual bullfighting festival (소싸음 축제). While even now I'm not sure how I feel about having bulls fight each other, it is an interesting tradition. The first thing on everyone's mind when I told them I was going to see a bull fight was, "Oh no! I would hate to see a bull killed like that!", thinking of Spanish bullfighting. However, Korean bullfighting is quite different. In fact, here in Cheongdo, it's not people that fight the bulls, but another bull.

Two bulls in the ring

Bulls square off in the ring, and, through a series of head butts, force one of the bulls to stand down. Throughout the fight, the bull owners coach their bulls by shouting commands. A fight typically lasts between two and ten minutes. Once it's over, the bulls are lead out of the ring again. No bulls are killed in the process, and I've heard that serious injury to the bulls is rare.

Two bulls, mid-fight

Finally, one bull backs down and runs away, the one who stays is the winner!

However, just like any festival in Korea, there's always a lot more to do and see than just the main event. Photo ops, traditional Korean games, performers and local products for sale were abound.

 Me with Bunga the Bull

 Trick Art!

 My friend trying Neolttwigi

 My friend trying Gulleongsoe
 Cute bull mascots

Bull art

 Acrobat performance

 Comedy performance

Once we had seen everything in the festival, we headed next door to check out the Cheongdo Bullfighting Theme Park (which was really a museum).

 'Cheongdo Bullfighting Theme Park'

The museum showed the history of bullfighting in both Korea and abroad, plus featured various games and art centered around bulls. 

 Me pulling a fake bull

This entertained us for several hours, but we wanted to see what else the Cheongdo area had to offer. So, we headed down to the 'Wine Tunnel' (와인터널).

 Wine tunnel entrance

This tunnel, originally made for trains in 1904, was converted into a winery in 2006. The year-round cool and humid conditions make it the perfect spot for wine making. However, since the local specialty of Cheongdo is not grapes, but persimmons (감), it is only fitting that this winery produce persimmon wine (감와인).

 Enjoying a glass of wine in the tunnel

While I'm not personally a big fan of persimmons, I had to give this wine a try while I was here and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's got a great flavor. Slightly sweet, and only a hint of the strong persimmon flavor. You can drink wine here (just 3,000 won/ glass of regular wine), or you can buy a bottle to bring home as a souvenir. Prices start at 18,000/ bottle and go up from there depending on the style or set you purchase. 

 Glass of 'regular' persimmon wine

Evening was approaching, but we couldn't resist the temptation of making one last stop before heading home to Seoul. Just behind the wine tunnel, we saw a sign for a small temple called Daejeoksa Geungnakjeon (대적사 극락전) located just 100m away. We went up to take a peek. 

 Entry gate of Daejeok Temple

While it's certainly one of the smaller temples I've ever visited, it is definitely worth a quick visit. Brightly painted doors welcome visitors to this temple. While it was the home of a very large temple during the Silla Dynasty, all but disappeared until the middle of the Joseon Dynasty when it became a hermitage.


To go to Cheongdo, take the train from Seoul Station. Direct trains take about 4 hours and 15 minutes, 22,300 won each way. For a faster, but pricier ride, take the KTX to DongDaegu and transfer. 

From Cheongdo Station to the Bullfighting Stadium, exit the station, cross the street and turn left. There is a local bus terminal about 100m on the left. Find a city bus going to Punggak. Get off at the Chilseong 3-way Junction (Samgeori) Bus Stop, or find a direct bus to the bullfighting ring (소싸음장). Purchase bus tickets before boarding the bus. 

From Cheongdo Station to the Wine Tunnel, take a bus from the local bus terminal, or take a taxi (about $13,000 won). Taxi from the Bullfighting stadium is about $9,000 won.


  1. Could you bet money on bullfighting?

  2. I didn't see any betting, but it wouldn't surprise me.

  3. Yes, you can bet, there is a booth outside the arena.

  4. Yes, you can bet, there is a booth outside the arena.