Down by the riverside: Han has it allThe banks along the Han River have come a long way since they were coated with slab concrete in the 1960s, when the entire country was feverish with modernization zeal.
In those days the river bank was virtually deserted, haunted only occasionally by delinquent boys or bikers. Today the banks are the best dating place in Seoul for young and old lovers ― romantic, and cheaper than a restaurant or movie.
The banks are now grassy, a pleasant spot for families and friends to spend their evenings bathing in the cool summer breeze.
Young people slide along the pavements on in-line skates or pedal their bicycles. Some stroll with their pets ― mostly dogs ― or throw boomerangs or fly kites.
Out on the river people ride sailboards or speed boats. Others surf on wake boards ― similar to water skiing.
For those who want to do more by the riverside than just stroll, here are some additional tips:
For young children, school groups can tour the Geobukseon museum at Ichon dong, Yongsan district in northern Seoul. The geobukseon were the “turtle ships,” armor-sided and dragon-headed, with which Admiral Yi Sun-shin defeated Japanese fleets in the 16th century. The museum is crowded even on weekdays. It displays other articles associated with Admiral Yi, including a cartoon film on the battleships.
For teenagers the Han River banks at Ichon and Jamsil, southern Seoul, are the best places for biking and skating. Ichon is the only place along the river that has X-game platforms.
At about 6 a.m the river bank in Jamsil is crowded with 100 or so ajumma, married women. The ajummas participate in a free aerobic exercise class that the Songpa district office has run for the last 10 years. Except in winter and on rainy days the class meets every day. It is the only aerobics class on the Han River.
For those who like fishing there are several promising spots, from the low, swampy area at Hongje-dong, Seodaemun district, northern Seoul, to the Ichon area under the Hangang Bridge. On the south side of the river the artificial Seorae island in the Banpo district is a good fishing spot. A fishing pole sells in the area for 1,000 won (83 cents).
Having a pleasant time at the Han River also depends on knowing which spots to avoid. If you don’t want to encounter people enjoying intimate dates in their parked cars, you should avoid the riverbank lots at Banpo and Jamwon on the south side and Gwangnaru and Ichon on the northern side.
Motorcycle bikers gather at several locations on the river, most notably under the Wonhyo bridge at Yeouido. The Youngdong bridge on the Ttukseom, northern Seoul, is also famous for bikers.
Despite these few stumbling blocks, the Han River is still the best place in the city to spark romantic feelings. Just ask that couple strolling in the warmth of the sunset.
by Son Min-ho