Han River night scene becoming place to be
After hosting countless indoor parties since it opened three years ago, the W Seoul Hotel in the eastern end of Seoul decided to lure the hotel’s regular revellers outdoors, to the Skydeck terrace overlooking the Han River and the glimmering skyline of eastern Seoul.
Last month, the hotel’s outdoor barbecue party, hosted by new general manager Nick Heath, was timely for perennial partiers seeking something new and different. Pointing at the spectacular view at sundown from the breezy Skydeck, the British executive compared the festive mood with sophisticated waterfront dining in Hong Kong. “Only it’s better here,” he said, raising his wine glass. The next event that combines dinner, wine and contemporary art works takes place this Saturday evening.
Farther west, the long and winding river that formed the backdrop of Korea’s turbulent history is now the city’s newfound party central. Spotlights that lit up the Friday night affair at the grand opening party of Hall Fradia, a floating venue moored on the riverbank, awed the usual weekend strollers in Jamwon Riverside Park in southern Seoul. About 700 guests aboard the Hall Fradia admired the stunning nightscape that stretched from Banpo to Hannam Bridges. At any given time conversations comparing Seoul’s latest venue to waterfront restaurants in the City of Light or the Big Apple could be heard.
“Over the years, we have seen the Han River and its great view being commercially exploited,” said Kwon Kyoung-dal, one of the five proprietors. “We’re not here to make money. With a stylish place like this, the true beauty of the city can come to life.” Kwon and his partners have been working on the project for over a year.
Surrounded by Seoul’s most fashionable crowd sipping vodka-cranberry cocktails, Kim Sang-tae, another partner, said the founders would make sure the place stayed hip and stylish. The owners are well-known commercial film directors who work closely with Korea’s A-list entertainers ― adding to the glamour index. On Friday, special guests included Korean pop stars Lee Hyo-ri and SG Wannabe, among others.
The owners’ non-commercial intentions will forever change the notion of a good time along the Han. It was a big change from when the Korean government cleaned up the muddy riverbank to prepare for the 1988 Olympics. Over the years, to most Seoulites, hanging out in the riverside park meant sports and family picnics. Existing barges along the river have been dowdy restaurants for local tourists.
Upon receiving the invitation to a cruise party, some guests said they had arrived early so as not to “miss the boat,” but later realized that the event was something very different from what they had previously seen in Korea.
Each floor of the boat covers 660 square meters, or about 2,165 square feet. The three-story Hall Fradia floats on the water, down a dozen large steps from the park. This is no ordinary boat, though. With wall-to-wall glass panels, ivory marble floors and wood beams, the Hall Fradia resembles a super-sleek New York loft more than a love boat. It was designed by one of the Fradia founders, Kim Hyeon-seok, who heads GID Plan, a top architectural firm in Korea. Except for half of the first floor, reserved for the Seoul International Yachting Club, rooms on the first floor and the second floor are rentals. The third floor is a bar, called The A, which will be open to the public daily, from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., starting Saturday.
On Friday, the view from the bar was a winner, as guests counted stars during a live performance by the Martini Club, who flew in from Sydney for the opening. The uber-chic Han River was a good reason to celebrate la joie de vivre. The lively five-member band capped a sparkling Seoul night.
For reservations at the W Seoul Hotel’s Skydeck, call (02) 2022-0111. For more information on Fradia, visit the Web site, www.fradia.co.kr, or call (02) 3477-0033.
By Ines cho Contributing Writer [email@example.com]