LIFE&STYLE

[Weekender] Refreshing low-cost summer getaways

By Ock Hyun-ju
  • Published : Jul 10, 2015 - 21:19
  • Updated : Jul 10, 2015 - 21:20
While South Korea’s Hangang River attracts millions of visitors to its cherry blossom festival in the spring and fireworks display in the fall every year, there are more festivities the river can offer in the summer.

As this year’s Hangang River festival kicks off on July 17, the riverside will turn into a major playground for those seeking a respite from the scorching heat and a getaway from the day-to-day hustle.

Hosted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government under the theme of “Hangang: A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the five-week festival will offer visitors 64 events and activities including water sports, film screenings, outdoor gigs and camping at 11 parks along the river. 

The annual riverside festival was first held in 2013 and attracted about 9 million visitors in both previous years. The organizer expects to draw more than 10 million festivalgoers this year. 

Scores of tents are set up in Ttukseom Hangang Park, eastern Seoul.

One of the highlights is outdoor camping at the Hangang River’s parks. This year, campsites will be open in Yeouido, Jamwon, Jamsil, Ttukseom and Hangang Parks, along with Yanghwa Hangang Park, newly added to the list. 

A total of 530 tents along with shower facilities and barbecue areas will be set up in the five parks from July 18 to Aug. 23. Tent rental costs 20,000 won ($18) per person and booking is available on www.hancamp.co.kr. Last year, nearly 60 percent of the tents were booked, with campsites mostly sold out over the weekends.

Music lovers sit along the riverside to attend a classical music concert as dusk gathers at Mulbit Square, Yeouido Hangang Park, near central Seoul. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)

One of the most highly anticipated cultural events is a free classical music concert by the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, led by music director Chung Myung-hwun. It is scheduled to be held from 8 p.m. on Aug. 1 at Mulbit Square, Yeoudio Hangang Park. No booking is necessary. 

At the same location, the stage will also feature local acts and up-and-coming bands playing contemporary jazz, traditional Korean and classical music every Wednesday and weekend for those who seek a romantic experience. 

People watch a movie on a screen set up under the Cheongdam Bridge, southern Seoul, as part of summer riverside festival. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)

To appeal to art lovers, late-night film screenings will run from 8 p.m. every Friday and Saturday during the festival period in various locations, including Yeouido, Gwangnaru, Yanghwa, Mangwon, Ttukseom and Jamwon Hangang parks.

A man jumps onto a large-scale blob installed in the Han River near Yeouido Hangang Park. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)

Those looking for outdoor, water-based adventures can make their way to a water fight event to be held all day from July 17-19 in Yeouido Hangang Park, where visitors can go on 150-meter waterslides and throw water balloons at each other. A ticket, priced at 20,000 won, can be purchased on www.coupang.com. 

A group of people on a boat built from recycled cardboard race across the Han River. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)

Among the most popular events from last year is the Hangang River Box 1 Race to take place Aug. 1-2 and 8-9 in Jamsil Hangang Park. In the event, a group of four people build their own boats from recycled cardboard and race across the river. A total of 800 teams can sign up for the program, with advance bookings needed through http://www.box1race.com.

A water fight festival takes place on a water slide, named “Slide the City,” in Yeouido Hangang Park, near central Seoul. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)

But the green tide spreading across the Hangang River might leave some of the water-based programs canceled, an official from the Seoul Metropolitan Government said. 

Detailed information and booking sites for some 64 events are only available in Korean so far, though expats can get a glimpse into a few programs through the Seoul government’s official English website www.visitseoul.net. 

The Seoul city government told The Korea Herald that it plans to release an English-language leaflet to introduce detailed programs in the near future. The leaflets will be available at tourist information centers. 

Those unfamiliar with the local language can call and ask for assistance to book a place for the events through the Dasan Call Center at 120, where English, Chinese and Japanese translators are available. 

The summer riverside festival will continue until Aug. 23. 

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)