Saturday, 28 September 2013

How To Enjoy The Yeouido Fireworks Festival!

It's the time of the year again that when the cool breezes finally blow over Seoul and the Han River, and the Hanwha Group celebrates the onset of autumn with dazzling fireworks that light up the skies over Yeouido for a colorful (and explosive!) night! I have enjoyed this festival many times before, and the fireworks just keep better, more colorful, louder and more exciting than the preceding year's.

       (Others have claimed their spot early during the day)

Although, I may miss this year's fireworks as I will be out of the country when Yeouido becomes the most popular spot in Seoul that night, I am reliving the memories of last year's experience so that others can pick up a tip or two on what I usually do to make my trip to Yeouido (along with a million other people!) hassle-free and enjoyable!

First, is the route plan: Although the Yeouinaru Station is the closest the festival site, this station is usually shut down that day and is not accessible to avoid overcrowding. I'm not sure if this is the case again next Saturday. To confirm this, you can just call 02-1330 (Korea Tourism Organization hotline) to confirm this. But I would suggest you avoid this station, even if it's accessible.

             (A live TV broadcast at the fireworks festival)

So, I take a bus going to Sinnonhyeon Station (Line 9) to get Saetgang Station, which is about 300 meters away from 63 KLI Building. Getting out from Saetgang Station's Exit 3, I just walk towards towards the site, like everyone else. Not all roads going to the venue will be open to vehicular traffic.

(The crowd awaiting the fireworks)

Second, grab an early dinner at one of the restaurants in the buildings behind the 63 KLI. My friends Andrew, his wifey and I usually grab our buddae-jiggae dinner there. We make sure our tummies are full as it will be about 4 hours again before we can grab our next bite. Also, make sure you visit the restroom before heading out. Your bladder may ruin the night's excitement if you don't unload what has to be unloaded. Ha-ha-ha!

Third, wearing your comfortable walking shoes, bringing your cameras with fully charged batteries and spare memory cards, and wearing a warm sweater, you're now ready to head out to the site and join a million other people, who have already claimed their spots. You don't need to get down to the banks of the Han River to enjoy the show. If you're in front of the 63 KLI Building, like we always were, you can see the display and hear the loud music accompanying the fireworks comfortably. All you need is a spot where you can sit or stand. But be prepared to stand for about 3 hours. Why? If there are 3 participating teams and each team's fireworks last 30 minutes, the whole show may last until 9:30PM or later.

                   (Photos from last year's fireworks!)

                         (My favorite photo of the night!)

And immediately right after the last KABOOM!, we usually rush to the coffee shop at the 63 KLI Building so that we can get seats ahead of other people. But now, since I'm sharing this tip, I am worried next year, I will all be seeing you there ahead of us. Ha-ha-ha!

At the cafe, we take our time resting our tired legs and enjoy our cold drinks, while watching thousands of people made their way to the bus stops, nearby subway stations and their parked cars somewhere. I always didn't rush myself going back to the Saetgang Station as the queues outside the station are sure to be very long. The police always had to control the crowd (which is good), preventing commuters to go inside the station if it's overcrowded.

                              (Waffle and a cold drink)
                 (A long line outside the Saetgang Station)
    (The crowd awaiting the train inside the Saetgang Station)

So, hopefully, next year, I will be in Seoul when the fireworks light up the Yeouido skies again. But in the meantime, I hope you all enjoy the festival this year!


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

My Free Tickets From The 2013 Korea In Motion!!

Early this month, the Korea Tourism Organization launched the 2013 Korea In Motion (KOINMO), a month-long campaign to promote performances that can be enjoyed in Korea.

And fortunately, some lucky participants who joined the KOINMO events got some free tickets to watch these performances. And I won tickets that allowed me to watch two performances.
(My NANTA tickets)

           (My two T-Money cards worth KRW10,000 each 
                 from the Korea Tourism Organization)

So, for the past Chuseok holidays, I went around town to watch Nanta, a non-verbal performance, and Hwarang, a Korean musicale. 

It was my first time to watch the very popular NANTA, which my friends Ruth and Nicole had enjoyed before. And I didn't know how convenient it was for me to get to their venue near the Chungcheongno Station: I just took the Blue Bus 472 from Hannam-dong, and got off at Exit 2 of that station. And walking for a few meters towards Exit 7, and I was there! 

                                   (The Nanta Theater)
The venue was full of Chinese-speaking tourists when I got there, and the seats up front were full of children, who seemed to have enjoyed all the slapstick jokes and mimes during the show.  

Although this type of non-verbal performance is not my cup of iced cafe mocha, it's a hit among children and international tourists because it's a novelty: clanging of kitchen utensils all throughout the show, slicing and dicing vegetables and throwing them at the audience, a lot of audience participation and a few light and sound effects. Plus, the plot was pretty simple: a quartet of cooks who had to come up with Korean dishes for a wedding banquet before....'sheeks-oh-klak'.  Do watch the show if you want to know what I mean by that. Ha-ha-ha!

                  (My Hwarang tickets from KOINMO)

And my free tickets to the second show was for Hwarang, a Korean musicale being staged at Art Madang in Daehangno. This musicale was featured during the 2013 KOINMO launching event, where the actors stole the show. It was also featured at the 2012 KOINMO stage and was even given the best performance award.

And on this 2013 open-run, the musicale moved to another venue, which was a bit tricky to find. I will have to write an updated blog due to the change of theater and teams of actors featured in the show. And based on the screams from the audience I heard during the show, I think the musicale still packs them in. Here's a preview:  HWARANG MUSICALE.

                             (Hwarang's Star Team)
                            (Hwarang's Super Team)


Well, the Chuseok holidays are over, and gone are my tickets. But thanks to KOINMO, I was able to enjoy these two shows. I am looking forward to winning tickets again next year!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

In The Shadows Of The Old Seoul Station

Although the new Seoul Station is now the main hub for travelers going to the provinces, I wonder what it was like in the early 20th century when the old Seoul Station was busy and grand. 

Tonight, as I was switching buses at the Seoul Station, I got a glimpse of the old Seoul Station being bathed in light and its architecture literally highlighted. From afar, I was so amazed with the lights and shadows of this historic building that I decided to abandon the waiting and just crossed the street to get closer to the building. Even though it was closed since it was night time, and perhaps, even more so because it was still the Chuseok holidays, admiring it from the outside was perhaps better than looking into its interiors at night.

 As I stood there in front, paying homage to a piece of Korean history, I discovered that I wasn't the only one mesmerized by the sight. There were a few locals, and surprisingly, a bunch of Filipinos, also taking pictures of the well-preserved structure.

I noticed couples and families with their luggage and traveling bags passing in front of the building. They were either walking towards the new Seoul Station, or were walking away from it. They must have been on their way to the provinces, or were coming home to Seoul. I have been to this corner of the old Seoul Station during daytime a few times when I visited the Korean Red Cross blood donation center. During the day, one could only admire so much of its beauty, but at night, it takes on a different character.

I was glad I switched buses tonight by the old Seoul Station and saw (and felt) its presence from afar. Otherwise, I wouldn't have had discovered its beauty hidden in the light and shadows. Although in the area, one may see a few homeless men lying by the side drunk or loitering around (also walking drunk), it seemed safe as these guys didn't seem to mind me taking pictures around their spot. Or maybe because I could see policemen doing their patrol in the area.
Though they may not pass through this building anymore, travelers still start and end their journey next to the old Seoul Station. And tonight, in its shadows, it included one more traveler on his bus journey home.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Archie's Barbecue Party And Faceshop's Discounts!

Who doesn't love barbecue parties? Especially now that the weather has cooled down a bit, and partying outdoors all day can be fun without having to worry about heatstroke. Ha-ha-ha!

And last weekend, just when the monsoon rains have stopped ruining everyone's morning (and weekend!), friends have gathered (again!) at Joy and Archie's garden for a barbecue party. Why? Because it's Archie's birthday! 
                     (Archie and Stephen at the barbecue grill)
             (Shrimps, kare-kare, pancit, adobo at iba pa!)

Joy and Archie live in Seongbuk-dong, the same area where Bae Yong-Joon, the superstar from Winter Sonata, is rumored to have a huge house. This area is on the northeastern side of Seoul, and is on a hilly area where I don't see any high-rise apartment buildings, only houses with their own gardens and basement parking.
                                      (My first plate)
I like this neighborhood; it's quiet. And if you want to visit this place, you should know where you're going because, on my first visit here, I got lost because the roads looked like a labyrinth of huge houses without any landmark. So, I made sure I took photographs of where I was going while I was in the cab, and had a map to navigate with. 

So, this time, I was the one directing the cab driver while going up to Seongbuk-dong from the Hansung Station, after I took the Blue Bus 140 all the way from Hannam-dong. The ride took about 30 minutes as there was no traffic. I perfectly knew where to direct him, and he seemed acceptable to the idea of a foreigner being his navigator that day.

            (Joy's halo-halo with Magnolia's ube ice cream)

And while everyone was enjoying the barbecue, the kare-kare, pancit, adobo and everything else that were on Joy and Archie's buffet table, another friend, Christine, told me that Faceshop was having a sale on most of its cosmetics and skincare products. Christine should know; her work includes overseeing Faceshop. The last time I went shopping for Faceshop pasalubong was last December when friends from Manila, Loren and Arlene, were in Seoul for a short winter vacation. So, from platefuls of Filipino cuisine at Archie's party, to spoonfuls of halo-halo and ginata-an, I was already thinking of what to buy from Faceshop to bring home as presents.
                         (Ginata-an prepared by Teresa)
And a couple of days after Archie's barbecue party, I swung by Faceshop in Itaewon to get a few cleansers which were all discounted at 50%. Those cleansers which used to sell at KRW3,300 each, now only cost KRW1,650. This was a great deal of a sale that I shared the news with the Seoul Drama Queens, who then asked me to get them some of their favorite Faceshop items, too. 

So, over the past week, before the sale ended, I had gone back several times to Faceshop, not at the Itaewon store, but the one at E-Mart because it's near my office, to complete my friends' pabili list. The salesgirls there seemed to recognize me already.

I'm not sure when is our next barbecue party, but I'm sure when is Archie's next birthday. Ha-ha-ha! And I don't know when is Faceshop's next sale, but for sure, my friends got themselves a good deal for their favorite cosmetics and skincare products, which are in my safekeeping until they pick them up here in Seoul next month. With discounts ranging from 20% to 50% and considering these things aren't cheap,  it was an unbelievable deal. During the sale period, vanity was cheap and discounted. Ha-ha-ha!

So, thanks to Joy and Archie for the barbecue party, I enjoyed Pinoy cuisine topped with halo-halo, and thanks to Christine for telling me about the sale, which afforded me and my friends huge discounts for presents. And for some, vanity. :-)