Sunday, 21 August 2011

Garuso-Gil....At Night

And night, Garuso-gil gets even more interesting.

With all the shops turning on their lights, and everyone else turning up in their nocturnal mood, nobody is wearing pajamas! Ha-ha-ha!

And helping me capture the night lights of Garuso-gil was a photographer friend, Huck, who came all the way from Yeosu City, to walk this street at night for the first time.

And even under the lights, the shops and boutiques look even more expensive. Ha-ha-ha!

In this place, you won't see drunk people (or did I just miss them that night?) zigzagging on the sidewalk. Nor would you see puke (like the those on Hannam-dong sidewalks every now and then!). Ha-ha-ha!

But on a cool night, you would definitely see relaxed, better- dressed people, who came out to Garuso-gil for the same reason as everyone else. 

A dinner. A stroll. A cup of coffee. A shopping bag. A chat.

Or just a night out at Garuso-gil.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

A Summer Afternoon At Garuso-Gil

Garuso-gil is perhaps one of the streets in Seoul, where you don't see pajamas. Ha-ha-ha!
      (People crossing the highway and into Garuso-gil)
In my neighborhood in Hannam-dong, especially on weekends, people would just come out from their homes, grab lunch along the main street and spend an afternoon their pajamas! And I'm not talking about those hospital patients from the Soonchunyang Hospital walking to the convenience store along with their I.V. drips! Ha-ha-ha! 
(The trees lining Garuso-gil)
But if I want to see better-dressed people, I just take the Blue Bus 241 from Hannam-dong to cross the river, and get off at Sinsa Station Bus Stop, and walk to Garuso-gil! 
This street, whose name means 'lined with trees', is one of the best places in Seoul to people-watch! People (at least the majority of crowd!) here are just better dressed and good-looking! And some flashy cars, every now and then.
And a Saturday afternoon is always a very good time to walk through the street, pick up a restaurant and after that, find a coffee shop which still has some available seats!
People flock to the cafes along Garuso-gil. So, you have to watch out for empty seats for people leaving and immediately grab those seats!
                (from our seats at Coffeesmith's 2nd floor)
So, when I met up with friends (we were not in pajamas! Ha-ha-ha!) for a weekend lunch at Garuso-gil, we found ourselves stopping by several cafes until we found one where we were able to enjoy our coffees....from the second floor!

This street is also full of shops, but fortunately for me, I'm not into shopping at this pricey boutiques for things I don't think I'll ever need. 

But if you're the shopping-type, you can walk up and down the street all afternoon as most shops look enticing from the outside with their colorful display windows...and expensive price tags!

Since I am just a bus ride from Garuso-gil, I can just hurry down to this place in case I want to relax an afternoon away with friends, or watch people from a coffee table....or avoid seeing people in their pajamas! Ha-ha-ha!

 And if you want to enjoy that 'view', too, the nearest subway station is Sinsa Station, and from Exit 8, just walk straight until you hit the street.

I'm sure, along the way, you won't bump into people in their pajamas. Ha-ha-ha!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Misunderstanding Winter Sonata

Winter Sonata is perhaps THE Korean drama series which actually spearheaded the so-called hallyu or Korean Wave, the phenomenon describing the rising popularity of the South Korean culture, celebrities, pop songs, movies and dramas outside Korea.

This drama is so immensely popular that its lead actors, Bae Yong-Joon and Choi Ji-woo, have been elevated into legendary status (and Korean won multi-billionaires!), and are looked up as gods by their fans.
                    (The couple's statues at Nami Island)

I am not a fan of Winter Sonata, and I haven’t watched the series. But every now and then while I surfed channels during my lazy weekends at home here in Seoul, I would see parts of the series to satisfy my curiosity as to why its fans, mostly women of ‘a certain age’, could not get enough of it, or ‘him’, for that matter.

I was at Nami Island last month, and this island was just an obscure place in a middle of a lake somewhere in the northeastern part of South Korea until Winter Sonata shot some of its scenes there and single-handedly turned it into the most popular place the drama fans visit.  Now, it is the holy land for Winter Sonata fans.

Nami Island is now so popular with thousands of international tourists visiting it on  sunny days that it decided to declare itself a ‘republic’!  And I think it ranks second only to Jeju Island in terms of popularity.

But unfortunately for me, the scenes I saw of Winter Sonata on TV were not shot on the Island. Otherwise, I would have been able to relate to the spots while I was there.

I thought this drama was, well, a serious drama. Instead, the scenes I saw were comedic! I ended up laughing! Ha-ha-ha!

Let me recall the scenes I saw on TV.

One scene:

It was day time, and Bae Yong-Joon was running up and down a city street trying to chase the girl (was it Choi Ji-Woo?), who wasn’t aware she was being chased. And suddenly, as expected in drama scene , while he was crossing the street, he got hit by a vehicle!  How could he not look to his left and to his right before crossing?

While being run over by a vehicle is always a tragic scene, I found it very funny!  Why?  Of all the vehicles in the city, Bae Yong-Joon, with his orange-colored hair flipping in the wind,

(1)…wasn’t hit by a private Kia or Hyundai car, whose owner could have easily called an ambulance to help him out…

(2)…wasn’t hit by a gray taxi cab, whose driver and perhaps a riding passenger could have immediately offered assistance as well…

(3) …wasn’t hit by a yellow school bus, whose student-passengers may have been shocked that their bust just bumped a man with orange hair…

(4)….wasn’t hit by a red tourist bus, whose tourist-passengers may have readily taken photos of a handsome Korean man they just hit on the road….

Bae Yong-Joon wasn’t hit by neither of the above! Instead, of all the vehicles running around the city, he was hit …by a brown-colored dump truck!  What the…?? Was it to match his hair? Was it because they wanted a heavier vehicle to run him over and mashed him flat on the concrete road? Ha-ha-ha! I was shaking my head while laughing! Ha-ha-ha!  A dump truck? How unglamorous!

Another scene:

It was night time and raining, and Choi Ji-Woo just got off (I think) from the subway station), when, she thought she spotted Bae Yong-Joon!  So, she hurriedly chased him through the crowded alleys, turning and spinning along the way to find him. And while Choi Ji-Woo was running around, Park Yong-Ha was in a restaurant with his guests and the melting ice sculpture waiting for her to show up so that their engagement party could proceed.  And did she lose her cellphone along the way? Park Yong-Ha was frantically calling her all night long.

Well, she finally gave up the search and proceeded to the restaurant. The guests have all left (and were they fed before leaving?), leaving Park Yong-Ha and the melting ice sculpture. He still had to pay the restaurant . Ha-ha-ha!

As I was watching her chase Bae Yong-Joon, I was wondering what the hell is her priority? Attending her own engagement party or run in the rain? It’s either she forgot all about it or her character actually had an attention span of a six-year old. Ha-ha-ha! And to lose her freakin’ cellphone at the time she needed it the most? Ha-ha-ha!

I don’t get it. Obviously. I guess I will have to watch the whole drama to understand it.

Or I will have to sit down with the director, scriptwriter, and Bae Yong-Joon and Choi Ji-Woo, so they could explain to me. Too bad, Park Yong-Ha, may his soul rest in peace, is no longer around.  (I was at Haneda Airport in Tokyo last May 2010 and saw this poster of a Korean actor who was scheduled to have a fan meeting in Japan. I didn’t know who he really was at that time. I just took a photo of the poster. More than a month later, I read the news of a Korean actor who killed himself. It was then I realized it was him. I wonder if the fans who bought tickets got refunds).
                  (Park Yong-Ha's poster at Haneda Airport)
                  (A remembrance for Park Yong-Ha 
                                at Nami Island)

Someday, when I have the time, I may have to borrow the whole set of original Winter Sonata DVDs, which I gave my Maninay Bebing L. (of Bacolod City) as a Christmas present last year. She and her friends back home (including Tita Tess G.) are die-hard Bae Yong-Joon fans. Or perhaps, I can just ask another set of fans, Fay and Cielo, the next time I see them in a cafe in Manila to explain to me what the fuss is all about this drama.

But in the meantime, I will just watch out for snippets of Winter Sonata scenes while I surf during weekends. And maybe, just maybe, I will end up laughing again at some dramatic scenes.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Winter Sonata's Nami Island

Its Korean name was Nami-seom, meaning Nami Islet. Then it became an island, and now, hold your kimchi-breath, it's a republic!
                       (Nami-seom written in Korean)
Named after General Nami, a 27-year old general who died in 1468 and who's supposed to have been buried in the island, this tourist mecca has Winter Sonata to thank for!
                              (General Nami's grave)
That Korean drama brought the fans, tourists and of course, cash into the island! And with all my years living in Seoul, I've known friends who crossed the lake to set foot on the island and have told me to do the same. But I just didn't have the interest nor the reason why I should visit the place...until BBB! 
Thanks to the BBB who sponsored the trip to Nami Island on summer Sunday. The travel group of more than 200 Koreans and foreigners huddled on a train, on the bus and finally, on the ferry to visit this super-hyped island, which I hope someday won't sink due to global warming or due to too much starstruck Bae Young-Joon fans. Ha-ha-ha!
               (Nami Republic's first couple with young tourists)

Lots of trees, tall and leafy, lined up the trail leading to the center of the half-moon shaped island.

                         (the shape of the island)
And for easy navigation around, tourists are able to rent family bikes and battery-operated strollers, or just walk around on foot like we did. But make sure you're wearing rubber shoes in case you need to run after Bae Yong-Joon when he shows up for state visit, or if you're chased by an ostrich (we were warned but never saw one!)

The place was picturesque, and some sculptures and structures were interesting. I didn't exactly hear myself saying 'ooh' or 'aah' at the drama spots, but I was able to tell if the tourist is a fan by the look and the excitement in her eyes. Not mention the ready camera! Ha-ha-ha!

Although walking around was fun for me as a photographer, the highlight of my Nami Island tour was....ta-dah...the packed lunch from Outback Steakhouse! Ha-ha-ha!
                     (Outback Steakhouse lunchee!)
I was so impressed with the planning of the BBB tour! The organizers ordered our lunch days before, had them prepared by an Outback Steakhouse branch in the nearby city of Chuncheon, put them on a delivery van, which then traveled to the harbor and was ferried into the island! And the yummy lunch arrived on time! The strips of pork barbecue, slices of fried potatoes, rice, pickles and veggies, a lump of pasta, brown wheat bread, butter and a lot more made the lunch in the wilderness memorable and fun! Burp!

And with our tummies full, my friend Young-Cheol, whom I met at the tour, and I just strolled for the remaining minutes until it was time to assemble at the harbor for the ferry ride back to the mainland.
           (Thanks for the iced cafe mocha, Young-Cheol!)
I was expecting myself to be converted into a Winter Sonata fan after the visit. But it seems I didn't catch the drama fever. I must have been immune to these over-rated dramas full of  silly plots and actors who still have full makeup while they are in bed ready to sleep. Or funnier still, she still manages to put on a red lipstick and perfectly coiffe her hair while she's on her death bed! Ha-ha-ha!

But the island was interesting. Its history, its re-invention and the business, which created livelihood for the locals brought about by the Korean drama phenomenon, have all brought life into an ordinary Korean island.
    (A tourist posing with the remembrance for Park Yong-Ha)
                 (Walking through the most familiar path)
It was the drama that gave it fame. But it was the fans that made it special.

And while a 27-year old general gave it a name, a 30-year old actor gave it life.

Here are some of the photos I took while at General Nami's island. 
               (Bae Yong-Joon smiling all the way to...the cashier!)

                                                (reshaped soju bottles)

(Whose bike was this?)

                                                            (The altar)

                                                 (a pyramid of magazines)
                                      (Won Bin at the UNICEF shop)

                                                 (The UNICEF train)

                                             (Mirror, mirror on the wall...)
                                                     (The republic's central bank)
                                                       (the electric car)

                (messages from fans written on wood)

In case you want to visit the island, click on these sites: