Refreshing low-cost summer getaways

Refreshing low-cost summer getaways
PHOTO: Korea Herald/ANN

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.

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 (S$24) per person and booking is available on www.hancamp.co.kr. Last year, nearly 60 per cent of the tents were booked, with campsites mostly sold out over the weekends.

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.

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.

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.

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 programme, with advance bookings needed through http://www.box1race.com.

But the green tide spreading across the Hangang River might leave some of the water-based programs cancelled, 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 centres.

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.

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