Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The 2010 Hansol Open: Love the Tennis, Love the Players, Love the Weather!

I was a very happy tennis fan as I was able to watch some high-level tennis at the 2010 Hansol Open held at the tennis courts of the Olympic Park, although it was a looooong subway ride from where I lived.

But a happy tennis fan just the same.

Big names like Dinara Safina, Ana Ivanovic, Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova were in action when I decided to watch the first-round matches last Wednesday, September 22, right after the rained-out Tuesday. We, tennis fans, were lucky on Wednesday that the rain clouds have finally disappeared, letting the sun and the cooler breezes take over the Olympic Park tennis courts.

It was fun watching the powerful ground strokes that these girls were able to generate, not to mention the way they move around the court making it look like they were strolling around the Olympic Park. Those nice legs really could move and run like they were trained to.

And those serves!  I wish I could hit those flat serves with accuracy right in the middle 'T'. Or perhaps mastering a slice serve would just be fine for me. I can just imagine how many thousands of serves these girls have thrown all their professional lives just to perfect their service motion. If only Safina could teach me. Ha-ha-ha!

I was able to talk to the very friendly, Jarmila Groth (from Australia), who unfortunately lost to Nadia Petrova on the first round, and I had photo with Klara Zakopalova who went on to the finals, but eventually lost to the champion, Alisa Kleybanova. Klara was impressive, even in her small stature, during her match against the beautiful Julia Goerges (from Germany), who had a unique yellow-green uniform (headband, shirt and shoes!).  And those legs, Julia!  Klara won over Julia in three tough sets. Julia, by the way, won the doubles titles with Polona Hercog.

Well, congratulations to the champions, to Hansol Paper Co., Ltd. and the other sponsors for bringing these top tennis players to Seoul, and for letting the local tennis fans (me included, of course!) enjoy the high-level tennis!


Sunday, 26 September 2010

Yeosu City, The Host of the 2012 Expo

Founded in 538 C.E. as part of Wonchon and Dolsan administrative subdivisions during the Baekje Dynasty under King Sejong, and becoming a city in 1998,  Yeosu is a coastal city on the southern edge of the Korean peninsula.

It is a charming city along the southern coast with its own share of tourist attractions. From the Dolsan Bridge (above) to Odong, Baek and Sa Islands, to its massive industrial complexes which house the manufacturing sites of some Korean conglomerates, to temples and beaches, the turtle ship festival, and of course, the happy faces of the locals that greet you everywhere, these are just a few reasons why I have to go back there. Perhaps, these are also the reasons why it was chosen to host the 2012 Expo.

To be held from May 12 to August 12, 2012, the International Exposition will attract thousands (or perhaps millions?) of tourists, including myself.

I just wish I will be able to squeeze myself into the expo and get myself a place to stay. So as early as now, I am calling on my friend Huck to please help me reserve a hotel room. Otherwise, I will be camping out at his garage.

I was able to reach Yeosu by train from Yongsan Station, travelling for about 5 hours. It was fun ride as the scenery of the countryside kept me entertained all throughout the journey. On my way back, I took a flight from the Yeosu Airport, which is just about an hour from Gimpo Airport.


Tuesday, 21 September 2010

A Washed Out Chuseok Holiday...

It's supposed to be the start of the Chuseok holidays when everyone is on the road visiting their hometowns, families and relatives all over the country. But in Seoul, the weather has its own idea of what 'thanksgiving' was supposed to be.

In my neighborhood today, it was just drizzling when I made my way to my friends Cora and Cris's home for lunch to join them in their wedding anniversary celebration. Amidst our enjoyment of Cora's pancit, kare-kare and suman, the rain and winds were also busy celebrating outside, inundating the neighborhood and causing some flooding and heavy traffic on the main intersection as the buses and cars slowed down under the downpour.

And if this was happening in Hannam-dong, I was sure this scene was duplicated elsewhere in the city. And it was.

....A washed out Chuseok holiday.  

Saturday, 18 September 2010

PEFToK: Pinoy Soldiers in Korea 60 Years Ago Today

On September 19, 1950, the first Filipino soldiers landed in Busan, South Korea, to fight in the Korean War.

The Philippines was the eighth country to send combat troops to South Korea in response to the call of the United Nations to its member states to help South Korea in its war with the North.

The Pinoy soldiers were the sixth largest contingent of about 7,420 soldiers under the United Nations command. These Pinoy soldiers were the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFToK). Sadly, 112 Pinoy soldiers were killed in action.

This week, the former Philippine President, Fidel Valdez Ramos (popularly known as FVR), who participated in combat during the Korean war, came to Seoul along with about 30 other Filipino veterans of the Korean War in order to commemorate the contribution of the Filipino soldiers in the Korean war.

I am proud being a Pinoy here in South Korea knowing that 60 years ago, the gallant Filipino soldiers came here, sacrificed their lives, and helped achieve the peace and democracy that every one here is enjoying.

I am grateful as a Pinoy and an advocate of democracy for the sacrifices of those Filipino soldiers, knowing that they have contributed, in one way or another, to the laying of the foundation of peace and stability of the Korean society on which much has blossomed, changed and advanced to what South Korea is now.

I may never meet and express my gratefulness to these Filipino soldiers who came to South Korea sixty years before me. But I promise not to forget their sacrifices, as I invite you to do the same as well.

So, to FVR and the Filipino soldiers of PEFToK, I salute and thank you!

(Photos above were taken during FVR's visit to the Philippine embassy in Seoul on September 13, 2010. The lady in blue is the former First Lady Ming Ramos, while the gentleman in gray suit is the Philippine ambassador, the Honorable Luis Cruz).

Gifts for Chuseok!

Chuseok  is the Korean thanksgiving holidays, which will be celebrated by everyone next week. And part of the tradition is gift-giving!

I happen to roam around some department stores these days and have chanced upon displays of gift suggestions for Chuseok.  From the incredible expensive 'gulbis' fish (or corvinas) which was reported to be 300,000 Korean won each....to a 2,000,000 won bottle of wine!??
Walking around the displays, I saw the usual soap-shampoo-lotion gift boxes (which I presume means that you want the recipient to shower more often. Ha-ha-ha!), to gift boxes of Spam and other meat products (which I think would mean you want the recipient's cholesterol count to hit the roof. Ha-ha-ha!), or a box of dried fruits (to match the recipient's dry personality. Oops!).
So by now, the department stores must be making gazillions of profits from this tradition, not to mention the delivery guys who are busy transporting the gifts all over South Korea.  If you happen to see these 'quick service' guys on motorbikes with a mountain of a load at their back, those are Chuseok gifts!

But expensive or not, it's not the price of the gift. As they say, it's the thought that counts.

Now, if only my Korean friends would think of giving me a gift for Chuseok. Ha-ha-ha!

And please, no shampoo, no Spam and no dried fruits. Ha-ha-ha!

Happy Chuseok, everyone!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

My Favorite Korean Duo: Kimbap and Cheese Ramyeon!

Kimbap is the most basic of all Korean food:   cooked rice, scrambled egg and veggies rolled in 'kim' (dried seaweed), sliced into bite sizes and you have a complete meal!

And cheese ramyeon is ramen in a mild spicy broth topped with a square piece of cheese!

These two are my favorite duos.  They have to come together or ...I won't eat!  Ha-ha-ha!

And one of the easiest places to get them from is Kimbap Jeonkuk (or Kimbap Paradise)!  This kimbap restaurant is almost everywhere and offers the most reasonable prices when it comes to the most popular Korean dishes. It's not your fancy Korean restaurant, but is very popular because of the variety of Korean dishes they offer at prices affordable to everyone. 

And the Korean ajummas (middle-aged women) at Kimbap Jeonkuk cook fast!  As mothers themselves (I presume), they must have that feeling that these patrons who come into their restaurant are hungry, in a hurry and in need of nourishment only they can offer and provide.  From young students, to construction workers, office people, travelers and even the whole family are just some regulars to these kimbap joints.

And me? I am just another fan of kimbap and cheese ramyeon -- the Korean duo that never fails to bring happiness (and a few calories) to my belly every time.

(The kimbap photo above is my favorite kimbap, 'keran mari kimbap', a kimbap rolled in a thin layer of scrambled egg.)

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Finding a 'Fresh Burger'

I was at Dungbo (East) Ichon-dong (in Yongsan-gu) the other week to pick up my photo competition prize from the Ichon Seoul Global Center when lunch time caught me while I was on my to the Ichon Station.

Instead of going back to my usual choice of restaurants near my work place, I turned around and decided to explore Ichon-dong’s lunch menus.

When I got Ichon-dong’s main road, I paused and stood under a Gingko tree to take shade from the noontime sun and the summer heat. While temporarily cooling myself, I spotted an arcade plastered with the familiar fast food pizza brands. I crossed the road and let my hungry stomach guide me to where it wanted to go.

Ignoring the idea of a pizza lunch, I came across the door over which a unique name was placed: ‘Fresh Burger’

‘Burger for lunch it is’ - my stomach decided.

As I went inside, the small café-like atmosphere and the blast of the cold breeze from the airconditioner welcomed this hungry wanderer, who wasted no time to order the burger which sounded delicious based on the description on the menu.
Although lunch time and there were other patrons in the small room of about seven tables, I was lucky to find a empty table where I (and my empty stomach) awaited with curiosity the ‘fresh’ burger I ordered.

Then it arrived on my table….after five minutes!

Although warmer than the temperatures outside, the burger filled with onions, tomatoes and lettuce, layered with cheese, and accompanied with deep-fried potatoes, made me realize that I made the right decision to make a 180-degree turn from the Ichon Station and explore Ichon-dong’s lunch menu that day.
This was not the usual fast food burger – this was a real lunch – in a form of a sandwich! Ha-ha-ha!

And that was not the last time I ventured all the way to Ichon-dong to enjoy that burger again. That nice discovery brought me back there to ‘Fresh Burger’ for a second time, which I am sure will be followed by a third…and a fourth....and a…

In case you want to discover the joint yourself, it’s a short walk from Exit No. 4 of the Ichon Station. Once you get to the main street, turn left until you see 711. It’s on that arcade opposite 711, alongside some fast food pizza joints.


Thursday, 2 September 2010

Autumn leaves are now.....falling?!

"Autumn leaves are a-falling...red and yellow and brown...autumn leaves are a-falling...see them fluttering down. "

Those were the lines from a nursery rhyme that rang in my mind when I saw all the leaves scattered around the neighborhood as I made my way to work on the morning of September 2, a Thursday. I learned that nursery rhyme back at kindergarten in the Philippines where our teacher required us to stand up while singing it, and had our hands fluttering in the air as we sang the words 'red and yellow and brown' pretending to catch these autumn leaves. Until now, I am still wondering why we had to learn that song when there is no freakin' autumn in tropical countries like the Philippines. We only had very green leaves. Yes, we have brown leaves -- from dead plants. And I don't ever remember seeing yellow ones. Red ones maybe -- from seasonal poinsettias. Now, if I could just remember the name of that teacher. Ha-ha-ha!

Anyways, back to the typhoon.

Contrary to the nursery rhymes, these leaves scattered around were not red nor yellow nor brown! They were green!

Yes, fresh green leaves were all blown away from the trees overnight by a visiting typhoon, 'Kompasu', which is Japanese for 'compass'. The typhoon also toppled trees, damaged agricultural farms and caused some trains to halt services.

Fortunately, it did not bring that much damage to my neighborhood, except for those fallen branches and a pile of leaves that would require lots of sweeping.

I hope that when the next sweeping of leaves has to be done, it would be for real autumn leaves -- all red, yellow and brown. And when that nursery rhyme rings in my mind, it would be in autumn when the breezes would be more gentle, not howling, and the skies would still be blue, not gray.