Archive for January, 2012

Goyang Orions v KCC Egis, Sunday 15th January 2012, 3pm

January 28, 2012

I’d spotted a few banners advertising Goyang Orions the last time I’d been to a football match up there. It confused me a little as I thought that the Orions played in Daegu. Still, a team moving between cities isn’t that uncommon in basketball and so I shouldn’t really have been surprised.

One benefit is that Goyang is a bit closer than Daegu and I was able to take Line Three all the way to it’s final stop, Daewha. It’s the same subway that you go to if you want to watch Goyang KB and the basketball arena is just next to the football stadium, about a hundred yards straight along from exit three.

They probably didn't move this from Daegu.

I had time before the game to have a wander around the football stadium next door. The goalposts were down and the pitch was covered in sheeting to protect it from frost. The running track was available for people to use and a couple of people were clocking up the laps.

They get similar crowds for their matches.

I still had three-quarters of an hour before the basketball started but it was quite chilly so I went in early. It’s a small arena with three tiers. I tried for a courtside seat but apparently they were sold out. I ended up with an eight thousand won ‘free-seating’ ticket which appeared to allow me to sit wherever I fancied in tiers two and three. It didn’t, of course, and a couple of minutes before the game started someone turned up with a ticket for my seat in the middle of the second tier. I had to move upwards to tier three and look down from a distance at all of the empty seats next to the court.

I hadn’t seen Goyang before and so wasn’t familiar with any of the players. Their foreigner is an American forward called Chris Williams. I looked him up afterwards and he seems to have had quite a successful career around the world including spells in Germany, Australia, China and Iran. It’s probably as well that he’s moved on from Tehran as I don’t expect that an American would get too many MVP awards over there these days.

Chris Williams is the one in red.

Goyang also had one of those blokes that qualify to play as a ‘half-Korean’, Daniel Sandrin. He’s the kid brother of the Samsung Thunders player Eric Sandrin who used to play for the Harlem Globetrotters under the nickname ‘Shanghai’’. Baby Shanghai didn’t get much of a run-out though and spent all but seven minutes watching from the bench.

KCC Egis were a bit more of a known quantity. Jen and I had watched them before Christmas in Jeonju and I recognised their American forward, DeShawn Sims. KCC’s half-Korean was guard Tony Atkins. Last time we’d watched him he managed to get ejected from the game for being arsey to one of the refs. This time though he behaved himself.

The real stand-out character for KCC  was 7’3“ centre Ha Seung Jin. He’d made a few appearances in the NBA in the past, once scoring thirteen points in a game for Portland against the LA Lakers. I found it hard to imagine that he could have played at that level unless he was a lot more mobile in those days. In this game he looked more like an out of shape Dad playing with a bunch of ten year olds. He didn’t bother going up for every attack and rarely seemed to pick up a rebound. Despite his height advantage over everyone else he didn’t contest the tip-off at the start either. All he did was stand near the opposition basket and wait for a pass to be looped over the defending players heads. If he managed not to fumble it then it was a fairly guaranteed two points.

He nearly got that rebound.

The first quarter was just about even but in the second quarter KCC left Tony Atkins and Ha Seung Jin on the bench for the first few minutes. Goyang took full advantage and led by sixteen points at one stage before eventually finishing the period 41-33 ahead.

The third quarter belonged overwhelmingly to KCC and they turned the deficit around to take a 62-56 lead. It was Goyang’s turn for a fightback in the final quarter and they eventually regained the lead by a single point with just two and a half minutes remaining. They increased that to three points going into the final minute. Tony Atkins missed a three pointer for KCC and after the subsequent foul Goyang scored a free-throw to extend their lead to four points. That was the way it stayed and Goyang took a 84-81 victory.

Yongmunsan Hiking, Saturday 14th January 2012

January 19, 2012

Yongmunsan is one of those mountains that is just outside of Seoul and ideal for a day’s hiking. Ideal that is if you can get out of bed on a morning. I’d planned to do this hike the previous Saturday but hadn’t adjusted properly to the time difference after my trip to the UK. Whilst I’d been waking up at around three every morning earlier in the week, luck would have it that I slept in until half past nine on the Saturday, which was a bit too late.

My second attempt was a little better. I’d been to Oman and back during the week, returning to Seoul the day before and had hoped that with the time difference there being only five hours rather than nine I’d wake up sometime around seven o’clock. Hoping isn’t really as good as an alarm clock though and after not waking until eightish, it was after nine before I left the apartment.

Yongmun is at the very end of the Jungang line and it took about two and a quarter hours from Yeoksam. I had a seat all the way and a book to read so didn’t mind the journey, particularly as the latter stages are above ground with views of some of the other mountains that I’d like to hike in the future. It’s only a 1,900 won fare as well which is about a quid.

I could have got all the way to Yongmunsan Resort for that 1,900 won fare if I’d been prepared to wait for the connecting bus that runs every half hour from the station, but as it was getting on towards lunchtime I took a 10,000 won taxi instead.

Yongmunsan Resort is likely to be quite a busy place in summer. There’s an amusement park, a camping ground, plenty of restaurants and a few small hotels. In January though, there wasn’t a great deal going on.

That's the big hill in the background.

I followed the road that leads to Yongmunsa Temple. It’s another one of those places that is apparently centuries old, but there is still construction work going on. It’s ages since the Japanese invaded and knocked it all down so maybe the monks are getting an extension to their Snooker Room. There is a great big Ginko tree outside the temple that is supposed to be over a thousand years old. It probably looks a bit more impressive when it has leaves on though.

That's still the big hill in the background.

I followed a path that went between the tree and the temple. A hundred metres or so further on I had a choice of following a path towards Sangwonsa or going directly to the main Yongmunsan peak. I headed straight on and the trail went upwards quite sharply, following the frozen stream. There weren’t many people hiking, or at least there weren’t too many on this particular route, although I suspect that most people would have started walking a little earlier than I did.

As I got higher there was more snow on the ground. It didn’t look too recent though.

Looking back in the direction that I'd just come from.

Progress was slow as there were some fairly slippery parts of the trail. The ice wasn’t thick enough to put chains or spikes on, so it was just a case of being careful. There were some quite steep sections as well where the ropes provided were a big help. After two and a half hours I’d only covered three of the four kilometres to the top and realised that I might not make it down again before dark if I tried to do the last kilometre. Yongmunsan is one of those mountains where you can’t get all the way to the 1,157m summit anyway as it’s fenced off to protect a load of satellite equipment, so not getting to the highest point possible wasn’t such a big deal.

I backtracked  to one of the lesser peaks and perched on a big rock to eat my cheese and crackers. I had a great view of the valley that I’d started from, some other hills in the distance and a bloke doing a bit of paragliding.

The photo doesn't really do it justice.

Further along the trail I took a different route downwards which eventually joined up with the route to Sangwonsa. It meandered back and forwards and was a lot less steep than the route I’d followed on the way up. It made the descent much easier than I’d anticipated and by the time I got back to Yongmunsan Resort I probably still had about an hour and a half to spare before it got dark.

I went up the blue route and came back down the yellow. I think.

I joined the queue of hikers waiting for the bus to the station and then got the subway back to Seoul. I think I’ll have another go at Yongmunsan as there is apparently a decent waterfall fifteen minutes or so beyond the main peak. I’ll just set off a little earlier next time.

SK Knights v LG Sakers, Friday 6th January 2012, 7pm

January 7, 2012

It’s been a while since my last sporting event in Korea, over a month in fact since I watched Jeonbuk clinch the K-League Championship. I haven’t really had much of an opportunity to see anything else as not long after that game I had to go to Oman for a few days and then went straight on from there to England for a couple of weeks holiday over Christmas and New Year.

I didn’t get up to much in Oman, I rarely do. My favourite activity was probably feeding the dog that hangs around the site with a few pieces of Spam from the Korean breakfast. I think it’s a more appropriate food for dogs than for people.

He overcomes his timidness when there is tinned chopped pork shoulder.

The highlight of the trip was seeing a few wild camels wandering by the side of the road on the way to the construction site. Unfortunately one of them hadn’t been observing his kerb drill and so had ended up as what is undoubtedly the biggest item of roadkill that I’ve ever seen. I didn’t take a photo, but if there is anything left of the carcass when I go back I’ll try and get a snap next time.

Back in England it was a case of catching up with family and friends that I hadn’t seen since August. My son and my grandson both had birthdays, with the elder of the two putting a bit more effort into his celebration. I did pretty well for gigs, seeing Withered Hand, Paul McCartney and Cattle & Cane over a four day period. As I’ve only seen two bands in Korea this entire year, I was quite pleased with the scheduling.

He's less keen on Spam.

The Boro fixtures fell nicely for me as well. Tom and  I took the bus down to Cardiff where a half past seven in the morning start to the drinking meant that I remember little of our away win. We later took four points from six in the home games against Hull and Peterborough. I even managed to squeeze in a Boxing Day visit to Central Avenue for the Billingham derby between Synners and Town.

Now that's a backdrop.

Tom and I spent an afternoon at Sedgefield Races too. I suppose a meeting a few days before Christmas isn’t going to be the best attended fixture of the year, but I was surprised by how small the crowd was. I wasn’t surprised by how much money I lost though, the knack of picking a winner is something that I seem to struggle with these days.

I think the entire crowd was in this photo.

A couple of days walking in The Lakes either side of a night in Coniston got me a bit of fresh air as well as a battering in a hailstorm on the hills above Hardknott Pass. It was nice to get outside though, despite the weather.

That was taken just before the hailstorm.

So, that’s the ‘what I did on my holidays’ update out of the way. Jen is still in America visiting her folks and so after work I got the subway on my own to the Jamsil Students Gymnasium to see SK Knights play LG Sakers. I bought a ticket from a tout in the subway for eight thousand won and got myself a roll of gimbap and a bag of chestnuts for my tea. I tend not to eat quite so well when I’m by myself.

 I hadn’t seen SK Knights this season yet, but I’d watched LG Sakers at Samsung Thunders a few weeks back and had been impressed with the way they had gradually clawed back an early deficit to win 81-74.

The Nigerian centre for the Sakers in that game, Olumide Oyedeji, was no longer playing in Korea and had been replaced with the somewhat pacier American  Aaron Haynes. I noticed that he was wearing headphones as he warmed up. Sensible bloke. Maybe I’m getting old but I found the noise from the speaker system in the arena to be just below my pain threshold. I saw Mogwai in Seoul just before Christmas and fortunately I had been warned in advance to wear earplugs for their performance. Next time I’ll bring them to the basketball too.

I'm tempted to wear a pair of those at work too.

SK Knights seemed to have been through a few foreign players themselves and tonight’s starter was an American called Amal McCaskill. If Google has given me the right fella then he’s knocking on a bit at thirty-eight, but has turned out for a few NBA teams over the years.

Amal McCaskill takes on SK Knights by himself.

As the game started the place was probably about a quarter full, although with people continuing to arrive throughout the game it was probably near to half its capacity by the end.

SK looked quite effective early on with some swift passing and had six points on the board before Sakers got their first basket. It wasn’t to last though and by the end of the first quarter the visitors led by 16-12. LG continued their good form in the second quarter, increasing their advantage to 41-33 at half time.

I had been wondering which K-Popstars would be ‘entertaining’ us at half time, having been subjected to Sistar, Shinee and that old biddy who looks a bit like Tina Turner’s Mam at previous games. SK must have a smaller budget though as all we got were a few obstacle course type games, cheerleaders dishing out pizzas and a dance routine from the seven mascots. Yes, seven. We had a bloke dressed up as a hamburger, another one as an orange, one who was either a tub of ice cream or a dumpling and one who I think was meant to be a pork chop. They were joined by a giant can of Pocari Sweat, a two legged horse and someone who I presume from his hat was supposed to be a knight. Maybe Sistar might have been a better option after all.

Horse, Hamburger, Orange and Pork Chop.

SK fought back after the interval and by the end of the third quarter had turned an eight point deficit into a four point lead. They stayed ahead until a couple of minutes from the end, setting up what would be a tense finish. As the match entered its final thirty seconds SK were two up and had possession. If they scored they would win, if they missed then LG would have maybe six or seven seconds to score themselves. SK did miss their shot but the lad was fouled in the process and he put one of the free-throws away to increase the lead to 77-74. LG had six seconds to score a three-pointer to tie the game.

There's just enough space for the obligatory cheerleaders photo.

We had to sit through an incredibly long time-out before play restarted. So long in fact that the mascots put the crowd through their paces with some exercise routines. Most of the Koreans joined in, but just as I do when I’m at work and all that nonsense starts, I left them to it.

When play did get underway again LG were able to work the position for the three point shot. Aaron Haynes took it but it rolled around the rim and came back out again. SK got the rebound and it was game over. It was definitely the closest game that I’ve watched whilst being over here and the win might just have moved SK back ahead of the Sakers into seventh place.