LG Twins v Lotte Giants, Saturday 3rd July, 5pm

There isn’t much football going on in Korea at the moment. The K League is suspended for the duration of the World Cup and the National League is on it’s mid season break. Just to  complicate matters the third division, K3, is having some sort of mid season tournament which I’m struggling to understand, never mind explain. To make things even more difficult, the fixtures website that I use listed all of the K3 games for this weekend as taking place on Friday evening. That didnt strike me as unusual, as the National League often play most of their games on a Friday night. It meant though, that I wouldnt see a match this weekend as it’s a bit of a rush to make any of the stadiums after finishing work an hour or so before kick off.

So with no games on the Saturday I decided to go hiking instead. The group that I usually go with had organised a walk along the Bugaksan skyway, which is a ridge to the north of Seoul, overlooking a valley and famous for crested newts. As it turned out the newts didn’t prove to be much of an attraction and instead of the usual dozen or so hikers, just two of us, Jeong-ho and myself showed up. I’m possibly being a bit hard on the amphibians, as I suspect a combination of hot weather, the rainy season and it being the university holidays probably had more to do with the lack of interest. Anyway, we changed our plan and went for a walk along the old Seoul fortress wall instead.

Baddies would have to climb over this.

I’d never heard of this particular wall before, there is a much more famous one at Suwon which I walked around a few weeks ago, but the old Seoul remains were news to me. It was built to stop the Chinese attacking from the north and the Japanese from the south. Just in case either of them unsportingly chose to pop in via the east or west, the wall wrapped around the city in a rough circle. We didnt walk around the full eighteen kilometres, partly because some stretches are no longer there, but mainly because we couldnt be arsed, it was just too hot. After walking on the outside of the wall for a while and ending up in someones garden, we called it a day at lunchtime and headed back into town to get some food.

We ended up in one of their gardens.

We took a short cut through a school that Jeong-ho informed me was famous as the location for a Korean soap. As I hadn’t seen the programme, being in the grounds didn’t quite make my day in the way it seemed to be doing for the groups of women who were stood around taking each others photos. I’ll keep an eye out for it now though.

After a lunch of bulgogi, which is probably best described as mince soup, Jeong-ho went home and I pondered what to do with the rest of my day. Baseball seemed the easy option and as both LG Twins and Doosan Bears play their home games at the Jamsil Stadium, three stops from my apartment, there was an exceptionally good chance that there would be a game taking place at 5pm.

First though, I nipped into an art gallery. Sorry if this is getting less and less sport orientated, but it’s not really my fault. Jeong-ho had a spare ticket to an exhibition that ended the next day. He asked me if I wanted it rather than throw it away and so I thought, ok, why not. I probably would have just stuck it in my pocket and forgotten about it, but then I realised that he would ask me what I thought of the exhibition on our next hike and so decided that I’d better have a quick look.

It was actually in a museum inside the Doeksugung Palace, which is where the Kings and Queens of Korea had lived for about four or five hundred years until the Japanese knocked all that monarchy stuff on the head about a hundred years ago. The grounds of the Palace were interesting enough, with a few old buildings, but the exhibition, `Moon is the oldest clock’ was a bit too arty for me. One of the exhibits was twelve tellies, each showing a moon at a different phase. I didnt even bother scratching my chin and pretending to understand it all and left after a quick dash around.

 I did get to see the changing of the guard on the way out though so it wasnt a complete waste of time.

Anyway, it meant I had plenty of time to get to the baseball. First though, I’m just going to quickly mention a date that I went on earlier in the week. I don’t normally write about stuff like that, partly because it’s not that sort of blog, but mainly in case any of the women concerned somehow get to read it. I’ll risk it this week though. I was meeting a Filipino girl in a part of town near to where she lived and as she knew the area better than me, I suggested that she might like to pick the bars and restaurants. Lazy I know, but why not if you can get away with it?

It started off fairly much as normal with a visit to a Chinese restaurant where I think her intention was to check out my table manners and alcohol consumption. Then she took me on to an ice cream parlour. Not somewhere I’d have chosen myself, but I like ice cream so fair enough. I made a point of discreetly demonstrating my ability to get the ice cream out of the bottom of the cone with my tongue just in case she was still undecided about a second date.

`So, what’s next?’ I asked, anticipating a trip to a bar or two as we left the ice cream parlour.

`Norae bang’ she said. `Follow me.’

We went down a couple of flights of steps into quite a scruffy looking basement. It looked like the sort of place that often has internet cafes in them. No natural light and not much in the way of fresh air. We walked along a dimly lit corridor with a few doors leading off it. At the reception desk, she told the old bloke that we would like a room for an hour and I paid him the fifteen thousand won that he asked for. He told us which room was ours and we went in. It was quite small, maybe ten feet square, with a couple of vinyl covered sofas and a television screen on the wall. It smelt like an ashtray and lying on a small table in front of one of the sofas were two microphones and two books full of song titles.

Karaoke. Norae bang is karaoke, but private karaoke. I was beginning to regret my consumption of ice cream rather than alcohol.

My date was soon into her stride though, rattling out a selection of ballads, none of which I was familiar with, including one which she pointed out to me was a famous song from the film Titanic. Even after the explanation I must have still looked a bit blank.

`You know’ she said, `Movie about a big boat. Hits a block of ice and breaks in two.’

Which, as film reviews go, just about covers it.

As an uptight Englishman I struggled a bit, particularly without the relaxing effect of a few beers. I even had difficulty in making my selections, not wanting to pick anything where she might read any significance in the lyrics, before eventually mangling Green Day’s `Time of your Life’ and `Whatever’ by Oasis. The latter of which must have the longest fade out at the end of any song after the singing stops. I was stood there with the microphone in my hand for a good minute and a half wondering if Liam had gone for a piss and whether or not the words would suddenly reappear for a final rendition of the chorus.

It was quite enjoyable as a novel experience, albeit one that I won’t necessarily be in a hurry to repeat. As we left I could hear the sounds coming from other rooms and some of them seemed to have groups of maybe half a dozen blokes all singing, but sounding a little worse for wear than I was. I think that if the UK had Norae bang, the rooms would be full of teenagers drinking White Lightning or married couples looking to put a bit of spice back into their lives with a quickie in a different location. In Korea though, it seems that they just use them for singing, and judging by the smell, smoking a couple of packets of fags each.

Anyway, thats enough of that particular digression, back to Saturday nights baseball.

I was right in my assumption that there would be a game on, LG Twins were taking on the team from Busan, Lotte Giants. I bought a ticket in the upper tier for eight thousand won, right behind the batsman. Usually I like to sit further to the side, so that I can watch without having to look through the protective netting. Tonight though, I thought I’d start off a bit closer to the action.

The stadium wasn’t far off being full, with just odd seats available in most of the main curved stand, apart from a few together right in the corners. The seats in the outfield were probably about a quarter full. The odd thing was that there seemed to be as many fans supporting the Lotte Giants as were the LG Twins. Considering that Busan is a good three hours away on the fast train, that was an excellent turnout from the away team, although it is possible that a fair proportion of them may live in Seoul.

The game was high scoring which made for long innings and therefore a lengthy game. If you don’t know how long a match will go on for it’s difficult to pace yourself and I made up for a reasonably quiet week by knocking back enough beer to make even the prospect of trotting out a couple of Celine Dion tracks seem like a pleasurable experience.

Sitting in the sun, watching live sport is great, particularly when the first couple of cans kick in to just take the edge off the day. Keeping it up for over five hours though is probably a bit more than I want to be doing too often. We’ll see. The match itself was fairly even, with the lead changing hands, before eventually going to extra time after being all level at the end of nine innings. The fans were pretty evenly matched too, both taking turns to make plenty of noise, as is the custom, when it was their teams turn to bat. It was nice to see the Lotte fans incorporating the name of their city, Busan, into the songs too and well after ten o’clock they were finally rewarded with a 14-13 win.

3 Responses to “LG Twins v Lotte Giants, Saturday 3rd July, 5pm”

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