Monday, 7 July 2014

Holiday in Korea and China

Silent for a couple of weeks due to holiday, also due to various www things being blocked in China. I was there and in Korea for a couple of weeks. What did I get up to (that was vaguely running related)?

Coming 3-5 weeks after the Calgary Marathon, a holiday inevitably reduces running volume. Ideally, I'd take a holiday immediately after. This worked quite well as a recovery period - legs had started to creak a little after Run the Runway. 
I have loads of pictures and stories from my trip to China, Korea, China again and Seattle for a day. Being a running blog and all, I'll try to keep it relevant to running and movement in general. It's ended up being very much about the holiday after all though, as I like to do loads of walking and explore. 

First stop Shanghai, where I lived 2000-2003. I met my wife the year before in a nearby city, Wuxi. She'd flown out 2 weeks before, to get some of the "boring stuff" done. 
The funny signs (as opposed to very frequent, but less amusing typos) were confined to the hotel room this time. The below has morphed from "pot lights". 
Here below is a common sight in Chinese hotels - a throne phone. "Please send some paper up." "Police? I'm stuck", etc.
The hotels may be better than they used to be, though they are a touch Liberace, but some finer points still escape them. The gym has no mats, and a wooden floor which I made a mess of in the heat - air con wasn't switched on just for me. It probably goes for days at a time without use. The area was not good for running, and the pm 2.5 readings for Shanghai are usually 70+ which is about 10 times that of Calgary, so it was the better-than-nothing treadmill.

We flew over to Seoul for a 5 days. This has been top of my list of unvisited countries since going to Japan last year. First up was a trip to the Joint Security Area (JSA), the only place on the North-South border where both sides come face to face. 
Me at the JSA, in front of the border, which itself is the raised concrete line between the 2 blue huts. 3 North soldiers are standing the other side, the South soldiers all wearing helmets stand facing them. All on the South soldiers here are hand-picked, and Taekwondo black belts/ experts. We were only allowed to stand on the steps and take photos for a few minutes. The North soldiers had a way of marching up to the line that made it appear they weren't going to stop. Lots of silly posturing. 
Only about 10 minutes staring down the North Korean army, then we had to get back to the bus. For the record, I am wearing the shirt I ran my first marathon in.
Next morning: run time! I had a good scenic route mapped out, and wanted to use this as a trial run before using the gopro the next day. I took my phone with me the first day and took a few pictures, running the same route the day after with the minor missteps taken out. The video for that ought take a while to edit, don't warm up the popcorn just yet.
About 2 k in, a steep hill, with various statues at the top. Shortly after, some nice rolling hills in a large hillside park. I ran past some elite looking guys with Korean flags on their singlets. On the national team? I couldn't find the top in any store. 
This was outside a folk art museum. Some childhood game apparently, though could be misread. 
Doing a loop around a palace wall, I ended up running past the Blue House, official residence of the President. Lots of police. There were 2 blocking the path, but when I gestured that maybe I should turn back, one of them waved me through. I did the Korean nod - a bow without really bowing to most police officers I came across, which was a lot. The next day, 2 different cops didn't move, but let me through when I said I went that way the day before. I'm not sure I was really supposed to be there, as I don't think I saw any other civilians (certainly no civilian cars) in that area. They took me for who I was, a harmless tourist runner. 
Cheongye stream is a new development, where once an elevated road stood. A nice end to a great holiday run. Bathed in sweat, but loving once again a well planned sightseeing run. 

Later in the day, we went hunting for music. One store led to another, the one above in a loft with 2 cats and finally a tiny one with everything I wanted. There were bands playing in the street near Yonsei University, one selling their own Cd which I bought. 
Part of an afternoon, with my wife taking a break, I walked for a couple of hours in the old part of town with San Francisco style hills. 
All in all, a great place to run and walk. Fun and safe with great street life and people who always tried hard to help a lost visitor. 

Back to Shanghai and the hotel treadmill. I hit on an alternative video idea. I wore the camera using the chesty mount, set it to take a photo every 5 seconds and went walking and took the metro until the batteries ran out which was over 5 hours later. Hopefully the time-lapse vid which I'll make it around 5 minutes long hoping it turns out ok. 
A few days later, we went to Wuxi on the train. It is around the same size as Calgary, though is home to about 5 million people as opposed to Calgary's 1.1 million. I could've run outside, there's an historic canal near the hotel. If the whole 2 weeks had been in China I might have. 
A couple of nice discoveries while out walking in the evening though. A centuries-old part of the city that had previously been very dilapidated had a new lease of life as a cultural area as well as restaurants, etc. There was a time not so long ago in China when it would've been torn down and replaced with something hideous and tacky. 

I took a ride on the brand new (one week old at the time) metro system. Once another line or 2 opens, I hope to make another time lapse walking video.
Finally, if you haven't had Xiaolongbao, you haven't lived. You must specifically come to Wuxi for them. It would be a dream come true if these were waiting at my next marathon finish line.


  1. I miss Asia! Nice pictures! I lived in Busan, South Korea for four years. I've also travelled in parts of China. Looks like you had a great holiday!

  2. I've never been to Asia but your pictures look amazing!