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(Yonhap Feature) Han River brims with tourist attractions day and night

All Headlines 09:00 August 05, 2016

By Byun Duk-kun

SEOUL, Aug. 5 (Yonhap) -- As every great civilization has evolved around a great river, so has every great city. And Seoul is no exception as it sits almost equally divided in the middle by the great Han River.

The river has always been a part of life for those living in and around the capital, and now it is more so and in more ways than just one as it provides a valuable source of water for the city's 10 million population, as well as a place to relax and have fun.

Even for those visiting the South Korean capital only for a few days, the river can be part of a unique and great travel experience that itself could make a trip to Seoul worthwhile.

From water skiing and a day out in the sun to musical performances and concerts by K-pop stars, 11 river parks along the 43-kilometer stretch of the river within city limits offer something for everyone, regardless of their age or nationality.

The river itself is hard to miss as its runs through the entire course of the city from east to west and is nearly 1-kilometer wide. Its strong presence is also seen in the number of visitors, attracting some 59 million people or a daily average of nearly 161,000 people in 2015, according to officials from the Seoul city government.

Still, many, especially those from abroad, are missing out on what the river and its numerous attractions have to offer, they said.

The 11 river parks are the most popular destinations for many South Koreans during the summer as tens of thousands of Seoulites daily find their way to the cool riverbanks for a nightly stroll or just to sit outside in the cool river breeze.

Making such visits more fun, a night market is held every Friday and Saturday at the Han River park in Yeouido, offering a wide range of unique, handmade goods and food from around the world.

The Yeouido Night Market, also dubbed Seoul Bamdokkaebi Night Market, opens every weekend between March and October, with its venue just 600 meters from Yeouinaru Station on Seoul Subway Line 5.

Also for the hot season, a separate night market will be held at the Yeouido park every Wednesday, where up to 100 food trucks will offer various dishes from around the world to meet any personal taste.

"We have especially considered the taste of foreign visitors in selecting food trucks and the kind of dishes they will carry for the summer festival because the parks are really for everyone to enjoy," Kim Kyung-won from the Seoul city government said, adding the food night market will run until Aug. 21.

The Yeouido Night Market also serves as a venue for various cultural and musical performances.

Highlighting the month-long Hangang Summer Festival, a Korean Wave or Hallyu concert will be held at the Yeouido park on Aug. 20-22, according to city officials.

More information about the night market is available at www.bamdokkaebi.org.

Another way to enjoy the river is to take a cruise.

A 40-minute ride along the Han River offers a complete and unique view of the river, while a nice breeze comes as an extra especially during the hot summer season. There are 12 ships departing from a wharf in Yeouido almost every half an hour starting from 11:30 a.m. each day. An additional six cruises begin their downstream course from a quay in Jamsil, with separate lunch and dinner buffet cruises available from both Yeouido and Jamsil.

For those looking for more splashing fun, the river has swimming pools at six different parks, each with a maximum capacity of up to 3,600 people.

Because the water parks are managed by the Seoul city government, they are never too crowded, unlike most profit-making facilities. They cost only 5,000 won or about US$4.50 for each adult, which also just a fraction of tens of dollars one has to pay to get into one of better-known theme parks even after various discounts.

"I have been coming to this swimming pool since I was in junior high, but I have never gotten tired of it because this place has everything one really needs," Kim Mi-zo from Jamwon said.

For the 22-year-old college student and her friends, the Han River water park in Jamwon is not only cheaper, but also a much easier option.

"It takes me less than 10 minutes to get here on foot, while a trip to a large theme park takes much longer and costs a lot more. Also, those large water parks are always way too crowded, and we often have to wait an hour or so just to get on a slide, which is not worth it," she added.

For many like Kim, as well as foreign tourists, Han River parks may also be a safer option.

In 2015, less than 10 reports of misdemeanors were filed with the police at the Yeouido park, one of the largest among the 11 river parks, according to Kim, the city government official who works at the city's special Hangang or Han River Project Headquarters.

Each year, the city government spends up to 70 billion won just to keep the parks clean and safe.

For more active and adventurous tourists, the river offers various water sports activities from water skiing and wind surfing to yachts and banana boat rides operated by private facilities at eight out of 11 river parks.

One may also hire an entire yacht or a speed boat for private, group tours along the river.

Camping at the Nanji Camp Site near the northwestern end of the river may be another way to fully enjoy the river, while it may also help tourists save money on hotels.

Each camp site comes with a ready-to-use tent of various sizes that can house four to 20 people. An overnight stay in a tent for a family of four costs only 33,000 won or about $30, including admission fees, while the use of electricity is available at an additional fee of 8,000 won per night.

The place is also perfect for those only looking to have a few hours of fun at an outdoor barbeque, with charcoal grills and all necessary accessories for cooking and dining available for purchase or rent. Prior reservation is required for camping at http://www.nanjicamp.com or by phone at (02) 304-0061.

For anyone who prefers getting more physical to sitting idle, cycling can easily be an option with all types of bicycles, from high-speed and mountain bikes to tandem bicycles with up to four seats, available to borrow at a small fee at any of the 11 river parks.

A 41-kilometer ride will cover the entire course of the river within the city limits, but the ride can be further extended into neighboring Gyeonggi Province for a whole day's trip.


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