Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Rock The Boat: The Han River Cruise

There must have been a reason why the director of Avengers, the Revenge of Ultron wanted to shoot some scenes of the movie on the Mapo Bridge in Seoul. He must have wanted a few scenes over the Han River. There are 25 bridges spanning the Han River, I wonder why he chose the Mapo Bridge. Why didn't he choose my bridge, the Hannam Bridge?? I would have offered myself as an extra and he didn't have to pay me! Ha-ha-ha!

I'm looking forward for that movie; I want to see the action scenes on the Han River. 
                                (Lovers by the Han River)

                   (Our ferry boat, not exactly a Titanic)

And while we're waiting for the movie's release, if you're a local or a tourist visiting Seoul, and want to see the river up close, riding the Han River boat for an hour's cruise is a novel idea, especially this season, when cooler breezes blow over the city. One would see familiar structures, the bridges along the route, clusters of apartment buildings near the river bank, and of course, the blue skies and a few birds.

                     (The west Ichon-dong neighborhood)
The night cruise on the Han River this season will include the colored fountains of the Banpo Bridge, which are turned off during the winter season. For tourists and locals doing the cruise during the winter months, they'd see nothing but the lights of the apartments at night. My friend Paige and her family came during the cold months and took the cruise. They saw nothing but rows and rows of apartment buildings.

One afternoon, my colleagues and I took the river cruise to breathe some fresh air and to enjoy the cool weather.

                          (Sneaking behind the captain)

Taking the ferry boat from the docks at Yeouido, we all boarded late in the afternoon just when the sun is about an hour from setting. The boat was spacious and has an upper deck where you can freely roam around and enjoy the breezes of the season. The lower deck has a coffee shop where you can order drinks and have some muffins.
                    (The east Ichon-dong neighborhood)
                              (Gwanak-san from afar)

Over the years, I have crossed the Han River by bus, by car or by train, and I have strolled along the river bank from my neighborhood. This was the first time I am seeing the Han River not from the side, nor above it, but from the middle and flowing along with it.

I have rafted and played in some river in Korea a few times, but this was my first time to ride a boat on the Han River. 
(The Banpo Bridge above, and the Jamsu Bridge below)

And while we were cruising, I could identify all the familiar buildings and neighborhoods along the way. Too bad, the boat didn't go as far as my Hannam-dong neighborhood.

It was also interesting to see up close the lower side of the bridges that cross the river. The huge steel bars, struts, beams and concrete that make up these Han River bridges, which have allowed millions of Seoulites to cross over to the north and south sides of the city all these years. Even if I am not an engineer, I could appreciate the construction work and all the effort that went into these bridges.

The ferry boat made a U-turn before the Banpo Fountain bridge that day. On our way back to Yeouido, at the back of the boat, I noticed a pictorial going on with the sunset as the backdrop. I just amused myself with what the photographer and his two models were doing on the last remaining minutes of our ride. I stole a few photos of their poses. 

                               (Sunset over Yeouido)
      (Jack and Rose, not riding the Titanic and over the                  Atlantic, but on the ferry boat and over the Han )

The sun was almost down when we finally arrived at the dock. The ride was just about an hour.Though the cruise would be an interesting idea to a tourist during the day, I do not recommend a night cruise even if it includes a swipe near the Banpo Fountain Bridge when the fountains are on. Other than the fountains, there would be nothing else but dark spots and lighted apartment buildings. And maybe a few laundry hanging by the balcony. Ha-ha-ha!

                                 (Lovers at sunset?)

                                (The Floating Islands)
          (The space inside the boat can hold a wedding)

My suggestions? I wished the cruise operator would extend the route further up near Incheon and further down to the Jamsil area and even going under the Olympic Bridge, which saw tragedy while it was being completed. I also suggest that the cruise offers voice-over comments to describe the bridges and familiar landmarks seen from the boat.   

So, if you want to cruise the Han River, the ferry boats are docked at the Yeouido Park, and at the Jamsil and Ttukseom Docks

Do have fun!  And do try to rock the boat! Ha-ha-ha!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

2014 Asian Games Philippine Fiesta at Hwaseong: Iran Vs Gilas Pilipinas

It was like a Philippine fiesta inside the Hwaseong World Gymnasium, except that there was no lechon, no adobo, and no kare-kare. But in the end, there was only banana-cue of a score. Ha-ha-ha! 

Hundreds of Filipinos working in Korea travelled all the way to the sleepy neighborhood of Hywangnam-eup in the city of Hwaseong in Gyeonggi Province. Yes, it's far out of Seoul and going there. 
If playing against Iran was a challenge for Gilas Pilipinas, going to the venue was a challenge for the fans. There was no subway station nearby, and you should either have to drive going there, take a bus, or take a cab. Some fans spent KRW30,000 to KRW40,000 for cab fare just to join the fiesta. The sports complex seemed to have been built in the middle of nowhere and the Asian Games website didn't exactly give enough information how to go get there.

As anywhere else in the world, the Filipino fans can be depended on for support, and that day before the game started, they were already loudly cheering, taking selfies with the players and displaying banners and Philippine flags. 

Yung hindi lang maganda sa Pilipino fans ay yung pagpasok ng Iranian team. Biglang may mga Pinoy na nag-boo, at malakas pa. Dinig na dinig ng lahat. Hindi pa nagsimula ang laban, bakit kailangan mag-boo? Sana naman, isipin palagi natin na nasa international venue tayo, at nasa ibang bansa pa naman. This is the Asian Games, at hindi liga ng barangay. Dapat huwag natin dalhin dito yung ugaling bastos. Dapat iniwan yan sa Pinas.

Maski punong-puno ng Pinoy fans ang buong basketball venue, hindi na distract ang Iranian team. Focused pa rin sila maski nawala yung kanilang lamang.

This was my first time to watch Smart Gilas play. Ang tanong ko lang: gano'n ba tayo kadumi maglaro? Ang dami-dami nating fouls, at meron pa yatang isang technical foul dahil siniko yung higanteng Iranian player. I was seated in the direct line of sight of the Iranian goal when that Filipino player with the ball on his hands and trying to shoot, siniko niya with his right elbow yung Iranian player. After that, the Iranian player had to lie down outside the court, perhaps to let the pain subside. 

So, ang tanong ko uli: Gano'n ba talaga tayo kadumi maglaro? 

And I guess, basing from shouts of the very angry Philippine coach, we are. I heard him scream:  "Putang ina! Ang tigas ng ulo!"  He was referring to one of the Smart Gilas players, I guess.

When I heard him swear, I thought, "Uh-oh. That's the end of the fiesta." Ha-ha-ha!

The Philippine team lost to Iran by 5 points; 68 to 63. Although it was fun watching a Philippine team play here in South Korea, it was even more fun to enjoy that fiesta atmosphere inside the Hwaseong Sports Complex. Too bad, there was no lechon, no adobo, and definitely, no victory. Ha-ha-ha! 
The Philippine team will play again this weekend, against South Korea and Kazakhstan. I hope they will this time.

As of this writing, the match is underway and the Filipino fans must have been cheering their lungs out at Samsan World Gymnasium because Gilas Pilipinas is playing against South Korea, which means the locals will definitely outnumber the Pinoys in both numbers and flaglets, but hopefully not in the final score. Hopefully. 

So, good luck na lang to the Philippine team and all the Pinoys athletes in these Asian Games!

Here are some photos from the match: