Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mar20 - Seoul 2011 (Day3) - Jiljimbang

Nothing much can be done on Sunday, the big Seoul Marathon 2011 race day. Race started at 8am and by the time we got back to the Myeongdong Guesthouse, it was already 2pm. 

The agenda today was actually to visit Seoul's Palaces but at our condition with the lack of sleep as well, a hot shower and bed is priority. With the morning cold downpour, I was more afraid of getting sick, especially when my holiday hasn't actually properly started.
I received a tip from a fellow Singaporean marathoner, who was staying at the same guesthouse that he had gotten a voucher to a good jiljimbang for a relaxing session. Jiljimbang is Korean's version for sauna/spa. For the Japanese, it's onsen (hot spring).

Coming from a conventional country like Malaysia, you won't see naked people in the same room as you other than ur parents (until a certain stage). In Korea, it's a norm. We went to a jiljimbang located at the Good Morning City shopping mall basement. Only for Won8,000, we received a numbered key for shoes & clothes locker and also provided was a set of clothing aka PJs and small towels. 

Once we locked up our shoes, and step into the changing room, BOOM!!! Naked people of all sizes. Siok Leng & I went on our way hoping that people won't think that we're tourist. But we were talking in English, so no matter what, people still look at us one kind.
Siok Leng and I got naked (Oi!!! Don't think weird stuff!!) and went towards the bathing area.
There's the :-
a) standing shower area
b) squating shower area
c) soaking area in different temperature
d) sauna area
We cleaned ourselves at the standing shower then the squating area to give each other back scrub. Siok Leng scrub me real well until it actually stung. hahhaha.... we then soaked ourselves in the tub for a few minutes. Also located in the bathing area, were services like body massage, body scrub and facial. Tempted to try it but feels abit weird having old ahjumahs scrub me like a baby. We dried ourselves then changed into our PJs. Proceeded to the communal area where everyone gathered together.
Located Ray on a massage chair while Keat Seong was having a body massage. The general area is really big with big screen TV, various rooms with people sleeping on the floor at every corner and sauna dome with different temperature.

If you don't have enuff money or a place to stay, jiljimbang is the best place. It's cheap. It has toilet & shower. Food is available at a price. Provides you clean clothes. And also a bed for you.
 Too bad we didn't spend much time here coz we had to catch the last train back. But made a promise, to visit a jiljimbang before we leave Seoul.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mar19 - Seoul 2011 (Day2)

We took our own sweet time waking up the next morning as I was quite comfortable in my warm bed. Heated blanket.'s itinerary was to collect our race pack and explore a little of Seoul. Less walking though so that we don't overwork our muscles before the next day's race.
 I think we really looked like a bunch of tourist coz we wear too much. Oh wait. I was talking about me. Hey!! I bought this jacket from Taipei for only RM40. I love the colour. It brightens up all the Winter black around.
Walking along Myeongdong Shopping street was wow...cosmetic shops everywhere. Siok Leng had a list of items that her friends told her to buy. I'm actually at the stage of venturing to BB cream from the standard foundation+powder stage.A word of advice, if a pretty girl hand u something eg. face mask when passing by their store, dun take interest (unless u are). Siok Leng and my arm were grab, a shopping basket was shove into our hands then pushed into the shop. The guys were laughing to see our shocked face.These ladies are merciless. Seems like Mandarin is Korean's 2nd language as when they knew we were tourist, they started speaking to us in chinese. Not like that helped me either.
I like this school
The food looks good too
Hottie Jang Geun Suk advertisement & Krispy Kreme coming up with Hello Kitty design donut
Siok Leng is crazy about Lotte. It's actually a biiiig shopping complex located around Korea. But there's no harm in spotting one of my favourite Korean boyband, BigBang. *sigh* After seeing them so often on, I can actually take a pic with them. On a billboard. *double sigh*
We walked somemore around City Hall then around somemore. Spotted this building which looks like an alien spaceship port.
As I was contemplating on what brand of makeup I should get, there's Faceshop, Etude, Innisfree, Nature Republic etc. I remember when I was in secondary school, I used a sample off a magazine. Oil-of-Ulan is deadly to my skin. Total breakout. I went for Skin Food instead. Bought a BB Cream made out of Redbean. Hahhaha....was also provided sachets samples of creams & mask. Niceee....the Rice Mask made my skin baby smooth.
As I was having problems booking a DMZ tour, I suggested we head to the Korea Tourism Org nearby. In the end, the best outcome of that journey was a free try of their Korean Traditional costume. Actually the guys was against it, but being demanding me, they had no chance. =p
Casual side of so-called Koreans

Scandal behind close doors
Back to Myeongdong for our final carbo loading dinner then back to the guesthouse for a not-that-good-night-sleep. In bed by 10pm seemed late to us but early to others. We could hear people walking up stairs, doors banging, people talking etc. *yawn*

Mar18 - Seoul 2011 (Day1)

At last the day has arrived for my big Seoul trip. Everyone kept saying " nice go holiday","someone alot of money loh". 
Actually, KS & I had this trip planned since last September when Air Asia came up with the FLY TO SEOUL promo. We were in front of the lappie at midnite to place our bookings. Spent about RM600+ (all expenses) for 2pax return. So it's worth it. 
Annnnddd, our annual leave was brought forward from last year. So whilst you all were going for your Christmas, New Year & Chinese New Year holidays, I was working. Blek!! So now, it's time for MY holiday!!
Early afternoon flight, so no need to rush to the airport like we usually do at the wee hours of the morning. Bumped into a few M'sia runners heading to Seoul as well. Ok, I'm a bad person. I'm actually happy that the race is capped at sub5hrs cutoff time. This prevents leisure runners for participating. I believe in quality running where you want to better yourself more than having fun and taking your own sweet time. See, told you I was bad.

Oh, I think I saw Kenny!!! I did!! I did see Kenny!! Seriously, Kenny Sia was flying to Seoul as well for the Marathon. I felt so paiseh going up to him for a picture. The same goes on the plane. Even the air stewardess was brave enuff to talk to him. *sniff sniff*
Like any international airports, Siok Leng, Keat Seong & myself was shuttle from terminal to terminal. Collected our bags in a jiff then out towards the Airport Limo stop.
Ray had already told us to take the bus 6015 and get off at Sejong Hotel, Myeongdong, which was the closest stop to our guest house.
Airport Limo ticket Won10,000 (~RM30) and luggage tag
1hr trip from Incheon Airport to Myeongdong...zzzzz
The Seoul Airport Limo is extremely realiable. You can pretty much get to anywhere from the airport to Seoul city.. Waiting duration is between 15-20mins. Once we got out from the airport, the gush of cold wind hit us. Quickly bundled up into our jackets, beanies & gloves.
 Ray, who had arrived a day earlier than us, was waiting at the bus stop to bring us to the Myeongdong guesthouse.Ray had mentioned rave reviews on them as he had stayed with them 2years ago. But I think age has caught up with the place & the owner. Mr Park, the owner greeted us then handed over our room key. Not exactly a warm welcome at 1130pm. We had to hike up the narrow stairs to our room on the 4th Floor, lugging our heavy bags. I actually sweated at a negative temperature.
KS & my room was a twin (actually for our peace of mind for peaceful sleep coz he says I roll too much) especially when there's a race. The room was ok. Not great, just ok. Well, it's only Won45,000 per night (~RM135). Ray complained that his room smelled and the wallpapers was stained. Tahan....tahan....After that we took a stroll along quiet Myeongdong shopping street for a spot of supper. 
Seoul's public transportation is good but not people friendly. It's just alot of stairs.Good for exercise but bad when you have a heavy bag. Advisable to get their T-Money (M'sia version of Touch & Go). You can use it on the bus, subway, taxi or even your purchases at convenience store. Previously, there was the conventional card being sold for only Won2,500. Now, the subway machines sells the upgraded version of T-Money that's small in size and easy to lose. Price hike too at Won5,000. That's only the cost of the "card". You need to topup the amount for your travelling expenses.

Once you are done using the "card", just ask for a refund. You'll get back the balance of your topup. Not the T-Money purchase of Won5k. Actually this is one of the most resourceful purchase in Seoul. Plus, you can just hook it to your wallet or handphone. Looks quite trendy too.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mar20 - Seoul Marathon 2011

Keat Seong, Siok Leng & myself arrived on Friday late night whilst Raymond on Thurs night. Weather upon arrival was about 5°C. So comparison to our tropical country, its cooollld.
 On Saturday morning, we made our way to Donga (organiser) office to collect our race pack; which was located near City Hall subway. Just a small office for a bunch of international racers to cramp into.
 With our luck we bumped into super runner, Uncle Yee & wife along with Alexis.
Kit provided was a race plastic bag, our bib, timing chip, race booklet (all in korean) and a NB discount voucher
 I didn't quite study the route before hand, but all I know from Keat Seong that it was flat flat flat
It was one of the rarest marathon event I've run that starts at 8am in the morning. So all of us had a good night sleep. But to our luck, weather had predicted it to rain instead. Not too much fearing the wet but more towards the cold. And I was right to worry.
 We arrived an hour before the event at Gwanghwamun Square. Took shelter at the subway station to prepare ourselves eg. pin bib, timing chip, change into our race gear. Even raincoats was being sold.
 Gyeongbok-Gung Palace
Then we had to rush to the luggage trucks to drop off our race plastic bags as our finish area is somewhere else. This was when 4 of us got split up. I went running up & down the race area looking for Keat Seong, to no avail. At times I would take refuge at a fire torch just to warm my hands. 
 Statue of King Sejong the Great
Found Raymond taking shelter, all wrapped up
As for me, I'm all dolled up with a pink raincoat, shivering. Everytime I took my camera out from my armpouch, my fingers go numb. I had to take off my gloves to use the camera coz my gloves was wet from the rain.
 Suddenly I saw a few mini skirt ladies ran by and I'm thinking. "What the...?" I'm like in my compression, long sleeves & a raincoat. Then, I heard music in the air. Warm up session. Wahhh!!! Keng!!! I wouldn't even have the strength to move my limbs nor smile to do that. Salute!!
We were divided among our subtime. I had submitted my Tarako Gorge time of sub4.30hr. And placed in Category D. Category E is the last at sub5hr (cutoff time was sub5hr). I'm like huh?? There's actually A-C that's like freaking fast runners in Korea. Plus, there's a barricade of humans to separate the category. Such discipline.
 That's the Statue of Admiral Yi Sun Shin on the left. Screwed the warmup or stretch session coz I didn't wanna move away from the fire torch. Learnt a tip. When raining, wrap shoes with plastic bag. Only when you start moving forward towards the starting line, then take it off.
 I felt Seoul Marathon was a colourful event. Everyone was soo bright. There's a huge range of sports apparel in Seoul that's pretty them.
 Supporters out in the rain to perk your day
 I can so vividly remember running along the Cheonghyecheon Stream side road. It isn't nice to see people running back on the other road coz you'll always be thinking "Where's the bloody U-turn?" This stream is extremely loonnng and it felt endless but as a tourist, it is beautiful with the lights all lit up at night.

Usually in runs, we always encounter so-called "runners" taking a stroll, holding hands, walking side to side etc, where it's quite irritating zigzagging thru them. But in Seoul, instead of me, overtaking the runners, I'm being passed left & right. There's Koreans are FAST!! And we're not talking the young or middle age runners.
 Passing by the burnt Sungyemun Gate at the 19km mark. Read about the story here and here. Such a pity a historical site would be destroyed with such hatred.
Most of the supporters would pick junctions to setup their performance. This was a rather unique of bike spin-dance routine along side with drums.
 The only tunnel along the route. I think I kinda bonk at the 25km mark. I was cold, I was wet and I wanted to pee.
Traffic was well managed by the organisers. Though pedestrian would take the risk of just crossing in front of us. At some point, there were even police along the streets but facing outwards (back against us) to prevent people from running on to the road. Water station was well-equipped. I think I request for less things when I'm in a well organised run eg. vaseline, plaster, counterpain etc. Weird....

The Jamsil Bridge crossing over the Han River was pure mental. Eventhough the rain had stopped, but that didn't stop the wind from blowing. The last 10km was just too long. After the bridge, we passed the Lotte World amusement park. I could see the amusement rides calling out to me but that wasn't even tempting me away from the pain.
 More city pine tress. Siok Leng said that these are fake pine trees. Pine trees are suppose to be nice & comforting. Just another 1km in front is the turning to the Sports Complex, our finish point.
 The Seoul Olympic Stadium (Jamsil) in Seoul, was the main stadium built for the 1988 Summer Olympics and the 10th Asian Games. I was wearing the raincoat for the whole 41km, and the photographers didn't even attract me coz they weren't able to see my bib number. At this point, all off (I mean the raincoat), got my body accustomed to the temperature. And ran with pride.
I think this is the first time I ran into an Olympic Stadium. Previous ones were just Stadium. Get it?! =p
 Finish line is just another 400m away
Dedication to the recent tsunami incident in Japan
 Keat Seong said I looked like a wrapped wanton (but in truth he said i dressed more like auntie, but that would be an insult to all the lenglui aunties around)
As for him, he got his PB here. He's just shy to say it. He was all wrapped up with Skins compression, tights, top, sleeves except the calves & beanie.

 Face was too frozen to smile properly
 I timed a ok 4hrs24mins. I did wanted to at least get a 4hrs10mins but with the weather conditions, it was a wishful thinking. I maintained a good time for the 30km. After that, it was downhill from there.
10km - 56:35
20km - 56:41
30km - 1:01:34
40km - 1:12:49
42km - 16:32
Participants shirt
Actually, it felt like I was running in Singapore (minus the East Coast Park) in zigzags to get the 42km. It wasn't a scenic route as it was city city city the whole way. Mother Nature must have been pretty pissed off. It didn't rain on Sat nor Mon. Just on that particular Sun morning.
Hard earned medal

Sorry no pics of the stadium after the run as it was nearly 1pm, and I was cold, hungry & lost. Category D & E luggage was placed further away from the finished line. I was shivering right down to my bones. Found out that the race plastic bag provided wasn't waterproof, so a few of my clothes got wet.
In my opinion, no, I don't think I will do this again. a 4 seasons country, there are other season runs as well, such as the Chuncheon Marathon in October. That should be around Spring/Autumn. The perfect weather *wink*