What is Saturdays in Korea?

Tired of doing the same old thing every weekend? Saturdays in Korea is activity club for those who want to break their normal weekend routine and do something different. For Koreans, it's a good chance to practice English. For ex-pats, it's a good chance to practice Korean. For everybody, it's a great chance to meet new people and have fun.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bowling (볼링)

Since the rainy season in Korea hasn't abated, we ended up scheduling another indoor activity for this previous weekend. Bowling seemed like a good idea especially since we heard about a 'Happy Hour' at a bowling alley in the eastern part of Seoul. It turned out to be quite a popular choice, for about eighteen people from our group showed up for this activity.




View Bowling (볼링) in a larger map

In the eastern part of Seoul on the north side of the Han River is Konkuk University (건국대학교). On the southwest corner of the campus is a subway station named after the university, Konkuk University Station (건대입구역). To the northwest of the station is a commercial district that, like all commercial districts outside of a major university, caters to the local student population.

Just like any area next to a college, at 10:30am in the morning on Saturday, one can find a handful of young people stumbling back home after a long night of 'fun'. Despite the plethora of restaurants, drinking establishments and singing rooms usually found in a commercial district in Korea, there are a few other places outside of Konkuk University to have fun without all of the alcohol. For us, we went to the Hanareum Bowling Alley (한아름 볼링장)

From Bowling (볼링)

Every Saturday morning, from 10:00am to 2:00pm, Hanareum Bowling Alley offers one game of bowling for 2,200 Won. However, just as principals of economics state, a decrease of price will bring about an increase in demand. When we arrived at 11:00am, it ended up being about a 2 hour wait to get a lane.

Luckily, all around this area are many different types of restaurants. After walking around for about five minutes, we were able to find restaurant nearby to have lunch. This place served a bowl of Naengmyeon (냉면) - cold buckwheat noodles - and small serving of bulgogi (불고기) - Korean barbecued beef - for 5,500 Won. The food was quite good for the price we paid.

From Bowling (볼링)

From Bowling (볼링)

When we got back to the bowling alley, only one of our three lanes that we had reserved was open. While one group got started, the rest of us went off and played pool and ping pong, both of which were located in the same building as the bowling alley.

From Bowling (볼링)

After a little while, a couple of lanes opened up and the rest of us were able to start bowling. Since we started late, our group of twelve on two lanes were able to play one game before the Happy Hour price was over. After 2:00pm, the price of game went up to 4,200 Won.

One thing to note, most of the customers at the bowling alley were Koreans in their late 30s. Most of the people seemed to people who were on bowling teams and taking advantage of the cheap prices to practice. Even after we left at the end of the Happy Hour, many of them stayed on to play some more.

One thing that was still a bit of a culture shock to the ex-pats in our group that day was the amount equipment that all of the serious bowlers had. The majority of these people were all wearing the exact same type of large, plastic bowling wrist braces. In addition to that, it seemed that everyone had a carry-on suitcase filled with three bowling balls. None of this equipment seemed cheap at all.

This habit of buying a lot of (what one can guess) expensive sporting equipment is not isolated to the bowling community. The people in Korea who bike, ski or hike are also known to buy top of the line gear for their hobby. Despite anyone's objections to the amount of money people tend spend when buying sports equipment, it is good to see people getting out on the weekend and enjoying some physical activities.

Hanareum Bowling Alley would definitely be a good place for Saturdays in Korea to go to again in the future, especially if it is a rainy day. The next time though, we're going to arrive earlier to make sure that we get a bowling lane before the place fills up.

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