Monday, July 18, 2011

Hangang Booze Cruise (12 March)

Despite a severe earthquake having hit Japan yesterday, Catfish and I head to Seoul for a Booze Cruise on the Han River.   We head to Seoul early on Saturday morning where we’re planning to take a look around Yongsan Electronics Market, which we’ve heard so much about.  The market is smaller than we anticipated although there are definitely some fantastic deals if you’re in the market for a new laptop, camera or phone.  We’re also surprised to see walkmans (yes, the tape playing kind) and Discmans at the market.  Korea is probably one of the only countries in the world still to be actively producing cassettes.  On a happy note, however, I finally, after five months of searching Korea, find a power cable for my laptop.

With growling stomachs, we head to the foodcourt in the basement for some lunch.  Our options are Korean food, which neither of us are really enthusiastic about today, or the Hooters next door.  Never in my life did I think that I would ever set foot inside of a Hooters yet here I am, at the age of 29, voluntarily entering one for a hamburger.  As we step inside, the conversations of the all-male clientele come to a sudden halt and we awkwardly make our way inside.  The waitresses, however, seem almost relieved to be serving female customers for a moment.  The other patrons create a rather sleazy and unappealing atmosphere and it’s pretty much exactly what I imagined Hooters to be – minus the topless waitresses. 

White Day Fun

With an uber-awkward lunch out of the way, we head to IPark mall’s square for coffee and to wait out the next three hours before we can head to Yeouido for the cruise.  There’s a variety of kid’s games, including hula hoops, available and we participate in these while we wait.  When Catfish discovers that a White Day competition is about to start on the stage, she asks if we can enter as a couple.  The organisers say yes and rush over the announcer who seems flustered at the prospect of including two waegookens in the proceedings.  The Korean participants find it amusing but are quick to try and include us in the fun.  They manage to communicate that we will have to wait for the second round but that we should watch the first round to get an idea of what we will have to do in the competition.  So, seated in the front row, we watch…with sinking hearts.

By now, we should be fully aware that everything that Koreans attempt is approached with a 100% attitude.  I don’t think the word, “fail” is in the average Korean’s vocabulary.  Games are no different. 

First, each couple is given a peppero stick (chocolate covered biscuit) that the woman holds between her teeth.  The man has to bite the peppero stick as short as possible – without kissing his partner because we all know that kissing in public is sinful in Korea.  This proves to be highly entertaining to watch although Catfish is clearly losing enthusiasm for her desire to enter us.  The next game involves a serious workout.
The men are told to pick up their partners.  They may hold them any way they choose provided the partner’s feet are not touching the ground.  Considering most of their partners are fashionably dressed women – in typically short skirts – there is an awkward shuffle to try and preserve their modesty despite these wardrobe interferences.  So prepared are the Korean organisers that they’ve even provided blankets for the women to wrap around their waists to cover what their skirts fail to hide.  The fireman’s carry is my favourite of the choice positions.

The men now have to do squats.  The youngest couple is the first to be eliminated and a joke is made about him being a baby because he has yet to do military service. It’s evident that the rest of the men have done military service in the last five years or so because their levels of fitness are incredible.  They are literally perspiring by the time the MC has finished putting them through their paces. 

After the squats, they have to face each other, throw a ball in the air, spin round and catch it between the pair before it hits the ground.  It sounds easy enough but, judging by the number of contestants who struggled with this, it’s harder than it appears.  The final game is where the couples stand on a rapidly diminishing sheet of newspaper.  As the paper gets smaller, so the difficulty in maintaining one’s balance increases. 

As entertaining as the games are to watch, we realise that we’re out of time and won’t be able to participate in the second round since we have to leave for the cruise.  I wish that I could say that the cruise was as much fun as watching the White Day Competition at IPark Mall but it’s not: It’s a group of loud and drunk foreigners assembled for the sole purpose of drinking and getting even more drunk while the boat travels up and down the Han River for three hours.  After the cruise, we all head back to KiwiKat’s apartment where we’re spending the night before meeting YeonJeong for lunch the next day and a bit of shopping

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