Thursday, May 31, 2007
Korea was interesting. I didn't get a ton of time to sight-see, but 4 of us (foreigners) from work strolled the markets and malls on Wednesday. It is amazing how many people are in that city! The streets are jammed packed with booths selling almost anything imaginable and tons of people browsing. Plenty of good deals to be had, but in some of the markets you'd be very concerned about the quality. They actually had the Spiderman 3 DVD (it just came out a week or two ago in the theaters) for 2,000 wan (about $2.20 US). Gray market goods and fakes are a way of life.
I posted a link to the right of a bunch of pictures. Some pretty nice views of some markets. The park pictures are where I ran everyday. And the other people in the photos are my coworkers that were in town as well.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
So, the running map from my hotel says that is is 4K to "tollgate 1" in the park and then another 2K to "tollgate 2" but that the road to tollgate 2 is "very strenuous". Lemme tell ya....the road to tollgate 1 ain't none too easy either! It is a beautiful park, but it makes Stone Mountain in Atlanta look easy. Here is a brief article quote about the park:
- For more ambitious runners, Namsan Park in Seoul provides a welcome break from the bustle of the city, and is a favorite spot for locals to gather and to exercise. The road through the park is closed to traffic, and winds through forest for about four kilometers in one direction. Ground markings tell runners the distance they have covered; these are useful on such a challenging route. The park is known as Mt. Namsan (the peak is 265 meters high), so the course can get steep.
The first 4K is steep and rolling, but that second 2K leg is painful to say the least. It is ENTIRELY uphill.
Ok, enough complaining about the hills. :) The park is incredible. Lots of people practicing various Korean exercise routines, badmitten, meditation, walking, etc. I have't carried my camera with me yet on my run, but I will tomorrow. Since the park is the highest point in Seoul, the views are excellent.
I almost forgot; the funny running story; So I've been heading out around 6 AM to run. The roads are dead this early and so I haven't exactly waited for the pedestrian cross signal on the two road crossings I have to make until I enter the park. You know, just look and go! This morning I busted across a 4 lane road right in front of the hotel. I get to the other side of the road safely and then proceed to get a verbal tongue lashing from a guy on the other side of the road. I couldn't figure out what the heck he might be yelling at (he was speaking Korean), but he was half chasing me and yelling at the same time! I passed a fellow runner a few yards later who was kind enough to tell me that the guy was not happy that a foreigner had violated their laws. Guess they are serious about their cross signals here! :) Will try to be more careful the next few days. I suspect I might have gotten 30 days in the brig if it'd been a cop!
Monday, May 28, 2007
The person hosting us in Korea, Hun Sik, took the group of about 8 of us to a traditional Korean Barbecue restaurant. First, let me describe Korean Barbecue; The restaurants have long tables and rather low chairs. The tables are filled with small bowls of various items. Black Bean sauce, Kimchi (a somewhat spicy fermented cabbage dish), lettuce leaves, peppers, etc. They bring several grills to the table and then your choice of meat (our group ordered Pork). You then cook the meat at the table along with onion slices and garlic. When the meat is done, you grab a piece off the grill, place it on a lettuce leaf, add a bit of whatever else you want (Kimchi, Garlic, Black Bean sauce, onion) wrap it up, and pop the entire thing in your mouth. No plates.....just make it and eat it! Honestly, I made a terrible mess compared to the Koreans. It was social eating at it's finest. Some of the sides were rather vinegary for my taste, but the meat and other items were pretty good.
Drinking seems an important part of the social occasion. The most popular drink is Soju. Soju is a rice-based alcohol, stronger than wine but not as strong as liquor. You drink it from shot glasses and there is a LOT of toasting throughout dinner. Soju has very little taste, actually. I can take it or leave it, but it is loved by the locals and they drink it in mass. The bottles are about the size of a beer bottle or slightly bigger and we must have had 15 over a 2 hour dinner. Here is a link to Wikipedia on Soju: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soju
I've got a few other interesting pieces of info to share, but I'll post seperately...time to get to work!
Saturday, May 26, 2007
I had been wanting to go out to Manly Beach. It's on the North Shore and supposed to be a nice area. So, I ate some breakfast and walked down to the Ferry terminal to ride the ferry. What an awesome deal.....about $5.50 US for a 30 minute boat ride through the harbor. The tourists are paying $30 for a similar ride around the harbor. Anyhow, the bad idea was this....I thought it might be cool to run back from the beach. Google Maps said it was about 15K (9.3 miles) but my plan was to hang at the beach, stroll 4-5K along the shore park, then jog an easy 11K home. Well, after hanging at the beach for a bit, I was ready to get going (I wanted to go the the Fish Market in the downtown area) and it closed at 4. So I started the jog back. Shortly I realized that my legs were kinda dead from the long run in the morning. I shuffled along for a few miles until I got to the "Spit" bridge that I had to cross. It is not NEAR as pedestrian friendly as the Harbor Bridge. I had to jog at least a mile out of the way to get to the people-accessible portion. Then I realized that North Sydney is rather hilly....think Hogpen hillclimb steep in some places. To make a long story short.....I made it back, there was some walking involved, and I had a BIG sub right after I got back. And the really silly part was that I had a bus pass in my pocket and could have hopped on one at one of a dozen places along the way. I had to have lost 5 pounds today!
Having said all that....it really was a fun day!
Pictures on the ferry and at the beach: http://picasaweb.google.com/jbickelhaupt/ManlyBeach?authkey=SDAQGJk_I6g
Thursday, May 24, 2007
One of the guys from work lives right next door. He and his wife and no kids, so they should be great for Delane and I to hang out with a bit. Looking forward to her arrival. Happy almost Birthday to Delane.....May 27th! I'm hoping that you have a WONDERFUL birthday darling and know that you are in my thoughts.
Not much else to say. Work is going well and I'm busy already but settling in a bit already. I'm off to Seoul on Sunday for 5 days. I'm looking forward to seeing Korea.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
I am off to Seoul on Sunday for the week. You always think things in Asia are like flying from Atlanta to New York or something, but the flight to Korea is almost 11 hours! I'll need to hurry back to make sure I have time to clean up before my beautiful wife comes! :). As it turns out, I am not going to New Zealand this week. It is almost a relief not to have to zip off to both New Zealand and Korea back to back.
I talked to Brooke (Sister) today. She and April and one of their friends are likely going to visit in mid June.....I am every excited! It'll be nice to have them here.
June 11th is a holiday here. Great timing, as Delane will have just arrived. I'll have to find something wonderful for us to do over the long weekend.
Monday, May 21, 2007
I've brought home a test wireless setup from the office. This place is funny....High Speed access is NEVER unlimited in bandwidth. When you buy, you buy GB download per month, like 8 GB or 20 GB. You can get DSL or Cable, but they also have this city-wide wireless setup. The office had one, so I brought it home to test. I'm getting 200K download, which ain't great, but better than dial-up. We'll see.
I had a great day Sunday. Took my first mass-transit trip and headed about 10K away to Bondi Beach. A nice place with a 6K walk along the ocean. It was a beautiful day and I made it there and back with no transit snafus! :)
The running is great so far. Plenty of great parks everywhere to run around. I'm back on my normal schedule of 8 or so miles. People seem to work more like 9-5 here, so I might have to turn into a morning runner! It gets dark at like 5:30 so evening runs will be in the dark for sure.
I posted some new pics. Check them out on the right.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Later, I went down to Paddy's Market.....a sort of anything-you-want flea market with a great selection of fruits and veges at good prices. I explored Chinatown and some of the other areas around Darling Harbor.....a really neat area.
Sunday morning I was up early to run. Left at 6 and ran some of the Sydney Half Marathon course. I got a quick cup of coffee (these people LOVE their coffee) and then went right out the back door of my apartment to watch the start of the Half Marathon. It was sold out or I'd have run. 5,000 people were registered.
I'm checking the ferry schedule now....might head over to Manly Beach area to tour.
A special congrats to Ron and Sonya, who got married on Saturday. Brother, I missed being there but you were in my thoughts.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
I got a bit settled then laced up my running shoes to tour the town a bit. While today's run wasn't grand (not much sleep for the past week and an overnight flight), this place has all the ingredients of a killer running location! I jogged by the Opera House and the Royal gardens. Very nice a scenic.
Got picture happy and took a few photos first thing. Check them out on the right under the picture link.....more to come.....this place is a photographers DREAM!
I'm in Singapore....2 hours and I depart for my new (temporary) home.
Manila is an interesting place......Out in the city, things are so cheap I almost feel guilty. I ordered food delivered to the office on Monday.....nothing special (Chinese) but 2 meals DELIVERED was a grand total of US $4. And a good tip to the taxi guy or bell-boy is 20 pesos.....about 50 cents! Just like anywhere else, the hotel charges US $20 for breakfast. Go figure!
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
I'm off to Sydney later today. Hoping my boxes I shipped arrive soon after I arrive or I will be running seriously low on running clothes and may have to actually do laundry!
Monday, May 14, 2007
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Miss all of you already. A special congrats to my sister and brother-in-law on a healthy (although not real hungry) new daughter. Uncle Jim will be looking forward to seeing her soon. Another special congrats to my great friend Ron and his beautiful soon to be wife Sonya. Brother, sorry I can't be with you, but you two are in my thoughts. Best of luck starting your new life together.
Mom........I will be thinking of you tomorrow. Happy Mothers Day!
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
I leave in about 48 hours.....3 days in Manila then off to Sydney and my new assignment.
An exciting piece of news; my older sister is due to give birth tomorrow. I am very excited about a new niece and sad that I will miss seeing her born. Something to look forward too when I get back!
Monday, May 7, 2007
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
It will be tough leaving friends and family, and especially Delane. I very much hope she enjoys spending the summer in Australia.
I found out today that I'll be headed to Auckland only 4 days after arriving in Sydney. I can tell already my passport is going to be getting pretty full.