Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Filipino Expats in Korea Invaded Asian Games Incheon 2014

At Hwaseong Sports Complex during Asian Games Incheon 2014

As of writing this article, Philippines is not in the best position in terms of the latest medal tally achieved at the 2014 Asian Games held at Incheon, South Korea. I personally witnessed how our athletes compete against the towering and well-prepared representatives of other competing countries in different field of sports. The Filipino most-loved sports, the basketball, has been especially supported by the Filipino migrants, mostly OFWs, here in South Korea.

Last September 28, 2014, I traveled from Paju to Hwaseong Sports Complex to witness the most crucial game of the Philippines Men's Basketball team Gilas Pilipinas. It took me 3 hours to reach the venue. I arrived at around 1 pm, that is two hours before the scheduled game against Kazakhstan, and I cannot believe what I saw. For one second, I thought I was in the Philippines. The place was so congested with a lot of Filipino trying to get their way to the window to buy their tickets. It was crazy and somebody told me that the same thing happened during the previous four games of Gilas Pilipinas. The Philippines may not be able to win the medal or even listed on the top 10, but the support of Filipino fans here in South Korea is priceless and I guess our athletes appreciate that so much.

A very congested and long line to the ticket booth for Gilas Pilipinas versus Kazakhstan basketball game

Sadly, not everybody had been given the chance to watch the match of Gilas Pilipinas against Kazakhstan because of the limited number of tickets. The management already posted a big "SOLD OUT" sign in the window but we know Filipinos, we are as stubborn as the hollow blocks, some spectators did not leave the already distorted line still hoping they could buy tickets.

Ticket Booths with Sold Out Sign 

For some good reason, I was able to secure one ticket for myself from an unknown person. As soon as the game started, Filipino fans started to make a big noise in the arena. In fact, 90 percent of the audience are Filipinos. I saw some audience from Kazakhstan and some Koreans, but majority of the audiences were Filipinos. Each has their own way of cheering to our team.

Filipino fans eagerly watching the game of gilas Pilipinas

It was an intense game I may say. There are two conditions in order for the Philippines to enter the semifinal round. First is to beat Kazakhstan in at least 11 points lead and second is for Team Korea to beat Qatar. Filipino fans went frenzy everytime Gilas Pilipinas scored. From first quarter to fourth quarter, Philippine Team always on the lead. The game has ended with a 67-65 score, Gilas won by two points but not qualified to enter the semifinals.

Douthit of Gilas Pilipinas trying to shot the ball amidst the towering players of Kazakhstan

For the replay of the game of Gilas Pilipinas versus Kazakhstan, CLICK HERE.

Our basketball team and other athletes in other field of sports at the 2014 Asian Games did their best in their respective events, but unfortunately their best were not good enough to bring home a medal. However, I know we are still winner because of the support of Filipino fans here in Korea. If you happen to be in the venue, you will see how Pinoys went extra miles to show their support to our team. I have spotted this guy who is holding a board where he cursively wrote "PUSO & UTAK".

Pinoy OFW in Korea holding something to inspire our athletes

Some took pride by holding the Philippine flag and waved it all over the venue.

Philippine flag at Hwaseong sports Complex

And some even wore it.

The Philippine flag

Even kids showed their support to the Philippines by parading their mini version of our flags.

Kids with Philippine flag

After the games, although disappointed with the result, Filipino still made it sure to the athletes that it was completely ok by waiting for them outside the gym for photo opp and autographs which had caused too much havoc that management needs to call a group of policemen to control the crazy Filipino fans.

Fans trying to break in to get a glimpse of Gilas Pilipinas players

It was such a difficult but fun experience. I know for sure because I was there. It's difficult to jostled against the crowd just to get a glimpse of our athletes but fun because we showed to the whole Asian countries how we love and how we support our players.

Filipino Crowd supporting Filipino athletes in Asian Games Incheon

There are about 4 days left before the closing of the Asian Games here in South Korea and we hope no more to win this event. I would say we are hypocrite if we will claim we're not disappointed, but one thing is for sure, our athletes were not able to get a medal for our country but the Filipino fans ROCK!!!... Invading the spectators' bench is an understatement. The cheers, the noise, the banners and the never-say-die attitude of Filipino fans make Philippines the real winner in the 2014 Asian Games.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Great Getaway Venue at the Most Popular Haeundae Beach in Busan (해운대해수욕장)

Haeunde Beach in Busan

The grandest beach of the South, Haeundae Beach has all the great reasons in the world to be the best option for a great getaway. It is so far the most famous beach here in South Korea. Given that it is located in Busan which is by the way famous because of its beautiful and astounding beaches, the Haeundae beach is very much accessible to the public since it is located just within the city. No need to trek on far places because once you get into the city of Busan, you can just easily find it. However, because of its accessibility, it is also known to be so crowded especially during the summer season. If you go there during off season, that means beyond the boundary of summer months from June to August, the place is not really that crowded. I guess we're lucky to have visited this famous beach in September.

A not so crowded Haeundae beach surrounded by buildings and hotels

So we had a retreat at Yangsan City during the Chuseok holidays and we headed to Busan after that because it is just one hour away from the city. I did not really expect that much considering the fact that it is known to be the darling of the crowd. We arrived at the place in the early afternoon and I saw that the crowd was not really that bad. I just wonder why people like it to converge in one area whilst there are a lot of less crowded area in the beach. Of course we settled in a not so populated part just to avoid jostling with other people while swimming. I found it very spectacular because it was my first time to swim while being surrounded by the buildings and hotels.

If you plan to stay for like two to three days, hotel accommodation will never be a problem. You can book in one of Haeundae hotels built just in front of the beach. I can just imagine how awesome it is to wake up in the morning in the cool breeze of the sea, or to sleep at night overlooking the moonlight reflection in the water of Haeundae beach. Too bad we do not have ample time to book in the hotel and stay for one more day.

In front of The Westin Chosun built right in front of Haeundae beach
Anyway, we actually did not just swim in the water, we also walked in the park. Yes, you read it right, Haeundae beach has a park, not only hotels and buildings and all, but also a park!!! The Dongbaek park is a perfect spot for a side trip after a very tiring rendezvous with the water in the sea. The park is named after the Dongbaek trees which are very apparent in the area. It has big rocks, wooden stairs and a mermaid, I mean a statue of a mermaid overlooking at the sea like she's waiting for somebody.

The statue of the mermaid named Princess Hwangok gazing at Naranda

But we were not contented taking photos in the photo opp area, we went extra mile  by risking our lives trekking through the steep rock face to the statue. We totally blocked other tourists taking photos with the statue that time and we excuse them for that, it's just about 20 minutes of our shenanigan anyway. :). The name of this mermaid is Princess Hwangok, this is Haeundae's version of Little Mermaid of Denmark. According to the legend, Princess Hwangok of Naranda married King Eunhye of the Kingdom Mugung. Naranda is a country of mermaid and mermen, Princess Hwangok missed Naranda so much that she come out at night and gaze at the view of her homeland.

In the park, the presence of the gigantic rocks could never be neglected. There are big rocks, round rocks, steep rocks, small rocks, name it and you can find one there. So all I said was, "This place really ROCKS". And of course, no pun intended. :)

One of the big rocks in Haeundae beach

And you know what's more amazing in Haeundae Beach? You will never get starved there. There are tents in front of the sea selling some affordable Korean street food. There are sausages, ttokboki, barbeque and even ramyon. So if you feel like eating, you have these tents to rescue you.

The water of Haeunde beach is generally cold. I don't know if it is only true during the start of autumn period up to spring season, but even the sun is at its height, the first time you get into the water, you will feel like doing the Ice Bucket Challenge. It was soooo cold and I have to move around just to make the water a little bit warm.

The cold water of Haeundae beach

I guess what makes Haeunde beach popular and always the best option to visit at Busan is the sand and its very clean environment. The sand in the beach is very sticky, like it intentionally cling on your feet just to make you feel you are at the beach. It is not only best for swimming but also to walk around, to relax and to feel like you are in a vacation without even leaving the city.

Kid enjoying the water

To go to Haeundae beach in Busan via public transportation, get off at Busan Station. From Busan Station, walk at least 180 meters straight and take bus number 1003 to Haeundae beach. The beach is about 170 meters away from the bus station.

For those who will come from Seoul, you can take KTX from Seoul station to Busan Station. It is Line number 1 or Line Number 4. Taking a bus is a little bit tricky, so I guess the best option is via the subway line.

For more photos and videos, check out this short clip I made for the brethren of Sinwoldong Sungkyul Church Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Best Jajang Tteokbokki Restaurant in Myeongdong: RED SUN


Muslim tourists would never find it difficult to find for Halal restaurants when visiting Korea. I would say that this country is very much Islam friendly when it comes to food because for one, most of the Korean food are made mainly of vegetables and grains. If you want to dine-in in Halal restaurants, that is the complete absence of red meat animals, there are a large variety of selections in Korea. In Seoul alone, you can find several Halal restaurants in Itaewon and other neighboring places.

The best Halal restaurant in Korea I've ever tried is Red Sun in Myeongdong. I love it because the place has a homey ambiance. The moment you enter the place, you will be welcomed with this stair with color so pleasant in the eyes plus some memorabilias from famous Korean stars who have already visited the place.

Red Sun Myeongdong is famous for their Jajang Tteokbokki. But wait, isn't this a Halal restaurant? Why would a Halal restaurant offer Jajang on their menu when it always comes with pork? So I did a little chit chat with a crew, they were very accommodating enough to answer me and they assured me that no pork at all, as in zero. So I ordered one set of Jajang Tteokbokki which cost only 6,000 won.

And yes, they will serve it raw because you will be the one to cook it. A traditional Korean restaurant would have a portable gas stove installed on top of the dining table so that customers can cook their own meal. After quite some time, the jajang will turn into this, and I'll tell you, it smells so good!!!

It tastes so good too. I did not regret I ordered a mild spicy jajang. You will get to decide the level of spiciness of the food at Red Sun. You may order mild, medium or even extreme hot, depending on your taste bud. I can only eat mild spicy food, so I was a happy camper with this.

The jajang tteokboki includes ramyon, egg, tteokboki, jjolmyeon and my favorite dumpling or mandu which is served separately. You are supposed to add this one the noodles are firm. Apparently, I ate it before my jajang is cooked.

I also have some processed radish on the side dish.

The crews are also very helpful. If you can't understand what to do with your food, they will be there to assist you and cook the food right before your eyes.

If you want to try the best jajang tteokboki of Red Sun at Myeongdong and if you are looking for Halal restaurant, this is how you can reach the place:

Take subway line number 4 and get off at Myeongdong station. Go to exit number 6 or 7. Once you have exited, you will see these road welcoming you to Myeongdong. Take note of the Nature Republic, that would be your trademark.

Go straight ahead until you reach Dunkin Donut store. Beside the store, there's a small alley, turn right and walk straight into that alley.

At the end of the alley, you will see this store with VIPS restaurant on the side. Go straight ahead and turn right on the intersection.

Walk straight ahead for like 30 meters and you will find Red Sun restaurant.

So there you go, next time you are at Myeongdong, visit Red Sun to satisfy your cravings for Jajang.