Three Things Thursday

This month for your added-value delight I present…

…three more great museums in Seoul.

After a period on peculiar working hours in my last job, I found myself with three months of Friday afternoons going spare and undertook to visit a different museum every week. My top three museums were wrapped up in a Three Things post that proved enduringly popular, but there were other, equally interesting and beautifully put-together museums, three of which I’m sharing here.

This time, it’s a combination of ancient and modern history which, taken together, furnished me with some invaluable cultural reference points and a much greater appreciation for a number of aspects of the national psyche. It also gave me a lot to talk about with Korean friends and students who appreciated the interest in their history, culture, and language. More

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Run day Monday: Sillim-dong and Boramae park

Along the Dorimcheon to Boramae park: 5km

Sillim-dong Boromae run

Map courtesy of Mappedometer.com. Route 501903.

This run is in fact not one of my favourites for the run itself, but for the after-run food. Sundae town (which I’ve described before here) is located in Sillim-dong, in the south of Seoul, and serves a feast of Korean sundae – not for the faint-hearted, but fantastic for runners who enjoy a spicy meat feast!

The run can take two routes: More

Run day Monday: Hangang half-marathon training circuit

Hangang river circuit: 23km

Map courtesy of Mappedometer.com. Route 496229.

All those great intentions after the dizzy heights of my first half marathon last September have come to nought in the intervening five months of intercontinental travel. However, in the absence of any interesting recent routes, it does leave me with a great route to describe for this month’s runventure. More

It’s Life, Jim, but not as we know it

Recent conversations:

Me (M): “Ummm, there’s this job going in Burma that looks quite interesting. Lots of training, and it’s in that bizarre new city that they’ve built as the capital but no one lives there yet. Whaddya reckon?”

Wonderboy (W): “Hmm, could be good. Let’s keep an eye on it. What about this university job in Ho Chi Minh City? We liked Vietnam when we visited. All that fresh fruit and veg.”

M: Yeah, that’s definitely one to keep in mind. There’s a half decent job going in Hanoi, too.

W: I don’t think we’d like the weather in Hanoi.

M: There’s a brilliant job going in Cali, starts January. It’s perfect for us and I’ve always wanted to go back to Colombia!

W: No, even with the Delta, it’ll be a bit too soon to go back to South America. Let’s keep looking in Asia.

M: Yes, and I can keep my fingers crossed for the Pyongyang job to come up again.

W: You and Pyongyang. I just don’t get it.

M: Anyway, let’s see what’s going…

M&W: … after the Delta!

Yes. These are extracts from what constitute real conversations in my household. Five years after I jetted out from Heathrow to Mexico with a vague intention of travelling, doing a bit of light teaching here and there if I wanted to stay somewhere a while, and doing my best to make it twelve good months out of the country in the wake of the election that got my job abolished, teaching has become my career and travelling is the name of the game.

September 25th has rolled around again and prompted me to take stock this time not only of the past year, but of the five years since I left home and set my sails for the horizon. More

Run Day Monday: DMZ International Peace Marathon

Race review: half marathon

Cheorwon

Cheorwon – Worker’s Party office

Course information link here

This annual event held in the town of Cheorwon, formerly a north Korean town, attracts surprisingly few international visitors for such a lovely race in an iconic location. Held at the start of September each year, this race is the perfect start to the autumn race season. Spend all summer training in 30° heat and a run in the low twenties is suddenly a doddle!

If you don’t speak Korean, registration can be started by phone and completed via email and is a simple process. More

Three Things Thursday

It’s less than a fortnight until I depart Korea and my wonderful home in Seoul for good, so this month I present for you my Top Three Things…

…to get up to in Korea.

Thing 1 ~ cross country cycling

I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of amazing holidays in the last few years, but my cross-country bikeride from Seoul to Busan in June this year was one of my favourite holidays ever. I finally completed the Seoul to Ara Hangang West Sea Lock just last weekend when, after days of frustrating packing and paperwork preparing for the move, we decided to blow off some steam by jumping on the bikes for the 40km ride west towards Incheon and the beginning / end of the full 4 Rivers trail. It gave a nice sense of closure both to our summer adventure and to the wonderful and incredibly active life we’ve enjoyed for our two years here.

The full, day-by-day account of my June bike-venture has all the gory details, which I won’t go into again here. Suffice to say that everyone I have read about or spoken to who has tackled this momentous journey concurs – it is one of the greatest adventures they’ve ever had, inside or outside of Korea. And I think there are several good reasons why, many of which are reasons I’ll really miss this place when I leave.

Firstly, a reason many Koreans give when describing why they’d never move to another country on a permanent basis: More

Run day Monday: Namsan

Namsan hill run: 7.5km, 250m elevation

Map courtesy of mappedometer.com. Route 751712.

If you’re visiting Seoul, you’re definitely visiting Namsan at some point, so what better way to see it than at a challenging sprint? More

Three Things Thursday

…In this month’s goody bag are three delicious food ‘towns’ in Seoul (vegetarians, look away now)

One of my favourite things about the world beyond the tiny confines of my proud, island nation is the habit of grouping retail areas into zones. It turns out that what initially seemed to me to be a thoroughly counter-intuitive system of throwing up a whole row of shops selling the same thing at pretty much the same price is in fact a world-wide phenomenon that apparently works for all countries other than my own and my nearby European neighbours.

On my first major trip abroad in the late ’90s, I was hugely impressed by the famous ‘Jeans street’ in Bandung, Indonesia. I thought it was a genius one-off idea, and it was a tourist attraction in a town that had little else, from what I could see at the time. Fast forward to my much more recent exploration of Latin America and, lo and behold, here’s the haberdashery zone in central Bogotá. There’s the cheap glasses zone in downtown Lima.

Seoul has taken this phenomenon one step further and has a number of small areas dedicated to a particular dish. From narrow streets where you can indulge your taste for spicy rice cake, to an inconspicious building hosting an array of blood sausage, here are three of my favourites.

Thing 1 ~ Sundae Town, Sillim-dong (순대타은)

For readers not familiar with Korean cuisine, I should clarify from the start that this is not somewhere to go for the delicious, ice-cream dessert of the same name. In fact, when someone first explained sundae to me (순대 in Hangeul), I had a reaction similar to a child first hearing about sex. Or haggis. “They put some what in the where?” More

Three Things Thursday

For your reading and viewing pleasure, here are three …

…museums that are worth a visit in Seoul.

Thing 1 ~ War Memorial of Korea

I’m not a fan of war. Aside from Hannibal and his elephants, great feats of military prowess are lost on me. Weapons, tanks and guns just make me sadder the older I get and the more I see them used around the world, so I wasn’t going to bother visiting the War Memorial of Korea. However, then I remembered that I had been similarly dubious about the Imperial War Museum North before I visited, and that in fact, museums with war featuring conspicuously in their titles are often more of an educational experience to highlight why we should All Just Stop Fighting.

War Memorial of Korea

War Memorial of Korea

More

Busan or Bust: Day 1 ~ the full story

In which I wait out a storm, learn an early lesson and race against the weather to reach destination 1.

Day 1 ~ 여의도, 서을 to 여주 (Yeouido, Seoul to Yeoju) 95km

4Rivers guide here. http://www.riverguide.go.kr/eng/page.do?menuIdx=632

Day 1 (courtesy 4Rivers)

Day 1 (courtesy 4Rivers)

The story so far

Day 1 - Stamp 1 at Yeoido

Day 1 – Stamp 1 at Yeouido

The unpromising dawn to the day preceded a glorious morning in which the storm had blown away all vestiges of the clinging humidity which had been building up for a couple of days. We set out only a half hour later than planned and had crossed the Han river to reach the Yeouido certification centre for our first official trail stamp of the journey shortly after 9am.

The first lesson of the journey came early as I pushed my fully-laden bike up the cycle ramp to cross Seogang bridge and almost lost my baggage off the end of it. My cheap-as-chips seatpost bike rack, although claiming to be able to support up to 25kg, was not designed for a bulging 10kg of enormous SPAO backpack. I improvised with my tiny Daiso bungees and the dangling backpack straps, and things seemed much more secure. More

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