Saturday, May 13, 2017

SAUCONY® FREEDOM ISO NAMED OUTSIDE GEAR OF THE YEAR WINNER IN SUMMER BUYER’S GUIDE 2017

“The Freedom’s Addictively Smooth Transition Had Us Reaching For It More Than Any Other Shoe We Tested”

WALTHAM, MA (May 11, 2017) – Reflecting a continued commitment to industry-leading innovationglobal performance running footwear and apparel brand Saucony is proud to announce that the Freedom ISO has been selected as a “Gear of the Year” award honoree in OUTSIDE’s 2017 Summer Buyer’s Guide. The Freedom ISO, Saucony’s most technologically advanced shoe ever created, was reviewed in the Buyer’s Guide road running shoes category and is recognized as one of 14 top-tested products that boldly stand out among competitors. The 2017 Summer Buyer’s Guide is on newsstands now and at OUTSIDE Online on May 23.

The Saucony Freedom ISO is the first-ever performance running shoe with a full-length EVERUN™ midsole. Combined with Saucony’s dynamic ISOFIT™ system, the Freedom ISO delivers the one-two punch of Saucony’s award-winning tag-team technologies.


“Freedom indeed,” said the OUTSIDE Buyer’s Guide review of the Saucony Freedom ISO. “The Freedom epitomizes this year’s broader trend, blending the energetic style of minimalism with the cushioning and foam of the fattie era. The Freedom’s addictively smooth transition had us reaching for it more than any other shoe we tested.”

“By far, the most liberating shoe I tried,” said one OUTSIDE Buyer’s Guide tester about the Freedom ISO.  “It’s hard to pick just one thing that stands out about this shoe−it has it all,” said another tester.

“The whole Saucony team is honored to be recognized by the OUTSIDE Buyer’s Guide with this prestigious award,” said Doug Smiley, business unit manager for Saucony running. “The way we see it, there’s progressive innovation and then there’s innovation that’s pushed to the leading edge. With the Freedom, the Saucony team has delivered a leading-edge running experience that’s unlike anything before. It’s EVERUN unleashed, designed to make you want to run, while fully enjoying the feeling that you could actually run forever.”

“With each season’s outdoor products becoming more and more advanced, this year‘s summer roundup has been our most competitive yet,” said OUTSIDE Buyer’s Guide editor Will Egensteiner. “Hours of research have been devoted to perfecting the 2017 Summer Buyer’s Guide and finding our ‘Gear of The Year’ winners.”


Availability:
The Freedom ISO is available at select specialty run retailers and at saucony.com in men’s sizes 7-13, 14 and 15, and women’s sizes 5-12. The suggested retail price of the Freedom ISO is $160.00.

To find a retailer near you, call 800-365-4933 or visit www.saucony.com.

About Saucony: Saucony, a division of Wolverine Worldwide, Inc.(NYSE: WWW), is a leading global running lifestyle brand that fuses performance, innovation and style to create compelling footwear and apparel with its widely recognized brands Saucony and Saucony Originals.  Founded in 1898, Saucony continues to inspire runners everywhere with its award winning innovations, including EVERUN™, ISOFIT™, Geometry of Strong™, PWRGRID+™, and the Total Run System™ apparel line. At Saucony, a good day is when we get to run. A great day is when we inspire someone else to run. For more information, go to www.saucony.com.

About OUTSIDE: OUTSIDE is America’s leading active lifestyle brand. Since 1977, OUTSIDE has covered travel, sports, adventure, health, and fitness, as well as the personalities, the environment, and the style and culture of the world outside. The OUTSIDE family includes OUTSIDE magazine, the only magazine to win three consecutive National Magazine Awards for General Excellence, The Outside Buyer’s Guides, Outside Online, Outside Television, Outside Events, Outside+ for the iPad, Outside tablet edition, Outside Books, and now Outside GO, a revolutionary, 21st-century adventure-travel company. Connect with OUTSIDE online, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

SHARON BARBANO
PUBLIC RELATIONS
SAUCONY & WOLVERINE BOSTON

T. 617.824.6126
F. 617.616.6126

500 Totten Pond Road
Waltham, MA

FIND YOUR STRONG

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Seoul Sightseeing: Days 3, 4 & 5

A catch up for Days 1 & 2 can be found here.

Day 3 started with another shakedown run along the Cheonggyecheon stream to do a final gear test before heading back to the apartment for a shower and get ready for our day's adventure. My wife had planned a trip to the Ihwa Mural Village and we wanted to get started early.

Aside from a quick cup of coffee, we both skipped breakfast and headed out to the subway station to find the correct trains that would take us there. I wasn't worried about that cos I knew my wife would have had all that figured out. On hindsight, skipping breakfast was a bad idea which I'll come to later.

We boarded the train from Euljiro station to Hyehwa Station and walked towards Naksan Park that led us towards the Ihwa Mural Village. The weather was pretty decent that morning, cold but not bitingly so. We had planned to find something along the way for breakfast but couldn't find anything and decided that we'll grab something to eat later. Now, I'm a total grouch and can get very annoying when I don't have food in me. I was already feeling irritable.

Finding the correct path to the Mural Village was not an issue. Armed with only a map and some jottings from her research, my wife knew exactly how to get there and we found the entrance to it after a short 10 minute walk. She would tell me what to expect and it was spot on every time. Sometimes I think she has been to Seoul before!

"Perched at the very top of Mt. Naksan, Ihwa Mural Village is an unlikely attraction in an unlikely setting. Only a decade ago, the neighborhood was set for demolition to clear away what was considered an aging and unattractive slum to make way for new development. Today, it’s a lively and thriving neighborhood that welcomes artists and visitors while still preserving the charm and intimate bonds of its long-standing and tight-knit community."
- Imagine Your Korea

You can already see the incline of the road up towards Mount Naksan!

Some of the lifelike murals outside the resident's dwellings.

Ihwa was basically a tourist spot which was filled with people from all over wanting to take pics with the many murals and art deco littered around. While I found this place interesting and presented loads of picture-taking opportunities, I was feeling cranky from lack of food. The fact that the place was perched on a hill made me even moodier. 

The long stairs up that we skipped.

People were actually queuing to take pictures of some of the more popular murals
most notably the 'Wings' graffiti.

Now, my wife knows all the signs when I get into one of my moods but remained upbeat. We stopped at every mural and did what tourists would do, snap away. Being in the state I was in, I wasn't too cooperative with the picture taking. She finally got fed up of me and asked me if it was that time of the month! With me being a buzz kill, we decided to go look for food and abandoned our touring not even halfway through it. 

Some of the creative statues along the path up to Mt. Naksan.

Small little shops selling arts and craft along the climb in Ihwa.

So off we went leaving Ihwa in our wake with my wife making a vow that she would be back here one fine day again and cover the entire area. We took a walk along the main roads looking for some eatery but nothing of interest came about and we ended up getting some stuff from a convenience store and sitting down in a small garden like enclosure overlooking the road. The weather was beautiful to be outdoors so it was really kinda nice just sitting there and watching people go about their ways.

The architecture looks more European than Asian.

After our short food break and with slightly filled tummies, and in a much better mood than I was earlier, we headed to the nearest subway station and took a train towards Anguk for the filming location of my wife's current K-Drama series obsession - Goblin!

After a short walk from the station, we arrived at Unhyeongung Palace, which was fronting the Goblin's house or mansion thingy. Since there were no entrance fees, we decided to go in and check the place out. The palace was beautiful on the inside giving you a taste of the old Korea and we spent a few minutes here taking pictures. Then it was off to check out the Goblin location shoot building which I came to find out was actually part of a school. According to my wife, it's one go-to place for the Goblin series fans.

Inside Unhyeongung Palace. Never one to miss a vain running shot opportunity. 

We walked into the area, was a little unsure at first cos there were some signs in Korean that we didn't understand. Something was amiss as we nonchalantly walked into the compounds as people were giving us the stares. Just as we got towards the said building, this caretaker or something came running towards us with arms crossed like Ultraman about to unleash his super laser ray and was saying something in Korean to us.

After he got nearer, we found out he was telling us to stop and to leave the place. We were a little taken aback but turned around and left anyway, but not before I got a quick shot of the building for my wife. So rude, we thought but once we reached the gate we realized that this was a school and parents were sending their kids to classes and we were actually intruders. That explained the stares. After checking the signage again, it was discovered that no tourists were allowed in. Okay, our bad. I wouldn't want strangers simply walking in my kids school so I understood the alarm.

Managed to get a quick shot of the Goblin K-Drama location shoot of the building from the outside.

After chastising ourselves for not being more aware of signages, we headed off towards Insadong, which was just a short walk away from the street across the Unhyeongung Palace. I was keen to see Insadong, this was a place I was a little more aware of having read about it before we arrived in Korea.

"Insa-dong, located in the heart of the city, is an important place where old but precious and traditional goods are on display. There is one main road in Insa-dong with alleys on each side. Within these alleys are galleries and traditional restaurants, teahouses, and cafes. The galleries are the heartbeat of Insa-dong. There are about 100 galleries in the area and you can see every example of traditional Korean fine art from paintings to sculptures." 
        - Imagine Your Korea


The entrance into Insadong.

Insadong reminded me of our very own Jonker Street in Melaka. The main street is blocked off to traffic every weekend and stalls are set up outside the shops selling all kinds of stuff such as trinkets, crafts, local candies, souvenirs, food and the likes. We took a stroll along the streets and our hunger pangs came on again. This time, we decided to look for something to eat as eateries were in abundance here. We found a nice quaint shop in a basement of a building and sat down to chomp on our first real meal for the day. The meal consisted of sliced pork and huge giant dumplings that was actually very delicious.


These dumplings were really huge unlike the ones back home and really delicious.

Once we were done, we were energized and continued our stroll along Insadong. We stopped to look at stuff and I was even video interviewed by some Korean University students on assignment on why I picked Korea as my destination, hopefully I'll be famous in some University over here ... hahaha!

A holiday is not complete without a picture with one of the locals.

Wifey wanted to find the Ssamziegil Mall which was just around the corner. Ssamziegil Mall could be described as 'an Insadong within Insadong'. It was a unique artsy kind of mall that was connected to each level in the form of a spiraling walkway with 70 plus shops selling all kinds of handicrafts and souvenir items that included art galleries and restaurants. The place was packed with both local and tourists having a great time shopping or simply browsing for stuff.

'Ssamziegil Mall - 'An Insadong within Insadong'

We browsed around, bought a few stuff and made plans with Choon Yuen for dinner with the rest of the gang who arrived earlier in the day. Since we were already out and it was close to dinner time, we didn't bother heading back and just hung around the area instead until meeting the gang at the pre-planned location.

We stopped by McD's to buy some time while waiting and I grabbed a quick pre-dinner meal of some Bacon burgers. All that walking and the ever decreasing night temperature making the place chilly was making me constantly hungry. After the quick bite, we met up with the rest of the gang and found a barbeque place nearby for some hot dinner which turned out to also be both Choon Yuen and my birthday treat by Jeanie and Yan Leng.

After 'cutting' our ice cream cake, we all headed back to our respective apartments but not before making plans to meet up at the Jamsil Sports Complex the next day for our race kit collection.

Our 'birthday cakes' :D

Day 4

We woke up early and this time time we made ourselves some instant noodle so as not to repeat my annoying and irritable state of mind the day before. We headed down to the subway station which was just under our apartment. The subway below us actually housed an underground mall that catered to everything from inkjet printing (which gave me the idea that I could find a job here), clothing, shoes, mobile phones, some restaurants, convenience stores and lots more.

The train schedules in Korea are pretty accurate, just like in Japan and every train arrived on time. The train ride to the Jamsil Sports Complex took about 25 minutes or so and we arrived much earlier before the gang. The moment we exited the subway and walked out to the amazing view of the iconic Olympic Stadium in front of me, my excitement level increased. I've only ever seen the stadium in pictures and here I was actually looking at it in real life! It also brought not so happy thoughts that I'd be slogging through the streets of Seoul tomorrow before I finally reached here again.

A surreal feeling being outside the Olympic Stadium!

Since we were early, we headed to grab some drinks and snacks nearby before messaging the gang that I'd meet them at the race expo just ahead. The race expo is literally a new thing for the Seoul International Marathon. Prior to two years ago, there was no such thing as a race expo. Participants just walked into the organizer's office to collect their kits and that's it! At least now, they have an expo.

It wasn't a big race expo, in fact it was incredibly small scaled compared to the likes of Kyoto and Gold Coast but I was thankful that they had an expo. The gang finally arrived and we all made our way to collect our kits which was hassle-free. We were done within minutes and then it was checking out the various booths around and taking pictures.


I managed to get myself an Adidas event tee which on hindsight was the best thing I ever did cos we all didn't get any Finisher tees at the finish line. Aside from the finisher medal, this event tee was my only other reminder of my race here.


My wife wanted to visit some place called Apgujeong Rodeo to see the Gangnam Dolls lining the roads and the gang decided to tag along and grab some food there together. It was a short train ride to to Apgujeong Rodeo. This area was high class, somewhat like the Beverly Hills of Korea. From the cars, to the shops, to the people on the street, everything reeked of the upper class. We were all hungry and decided to find food first before doing anything else.

We walked into Galleria mall just ahead and decided to have something at the food court there. As I said, this place was upper class and when we got down to the food court we were kinda shocked as the definition of food court in this mall was more like fine dining, not something we were looking at. So we made a quick exit and headed out down the road towards some shops looking for something to eat.

Fooling around in Apgujeong Rodeo

We eventually found a shop in one of the lanes and came to a decision to grab something here cos the cold weather was making us really famished. We entered the shop and didn't know what to order so we just ordered what everyone was having. You know the saying, when in Rome and all that ...

When the food arrived we were a little skeptical that it would fill us up or even taste good but to our surprise, it was absolutely satisfying and utterly filling! Never judge a book by its cover is something we should all remember. We had something called Budae Jjigae or also known as 'Army Base Stew'. The dish originated during the Korean War, and was popular for a time afterwards, when people had little to eat. It combined leftover Spam and hot dogs from U.S. Army facilities with whatever else was available. All the leftovers were mixed with water in a large pot and boiled.


After filling our tummies, my wife brought us to another place on her list of places to see. It was a short walk away and called the Apgujeong Rodeo Graffiti Tunnel. The tunnel was lined with graffiti by the locals that was tastefully done and led towards the beautiful Han River. Loads of cyclist were using the tunnel to head towards the river which had a nice long loop around the river. It was actually just ripe for a run but with a marathon the next day, we weren't up to try it.


Part of the graffiti lined tunnel

We savoured the view of the Han river and tried to deduce which of the two bridges we saw in the distance we would be running across tomorrow. After nearly an hour or so, we made our way back to the subway station but not before my wife dragged me along to look for the BTS Gangnam Doll. And as fate would have it, it was basically the last doll at the end of the road! I also managed to get a picture with the Girls Generation doll just to spite Choon Yuen ... hahaha! I'm a Wonder Girls fan myself but since they disbanded, this was the best I could do!

With the Girls Generation Gangnam Doll.


The view of the city along the Han River.

Once we were done, we all headed back and decided to rest up since it was going to be a long tough morning of racing the next day. My wife and me bought some food stuff from the subway station for our dinner since we wouldn't be going out anymore until the next day. We mostly lazed around the apartment and after getting my gear for race day laid out, I called it an early night while my wife stayed up to catch some local show on TV.

Day 5

This was it. It was race morning and one of the reasons why I'm in Korea in the first place. I didn't really sleep well the night before. It's the same with any race I'm running overseas (probably pre-race jitters) but I was well rested nonetheless. After getting dressed and a quick breakfast and good luck wishes from my number one fan, I was out the door heading to race start.

I'm not going into the race details again, so you can read my race report here. After the race, I headed back to get some rest and a nap since anyone who runs a marathon would know that sightseeing is the last thing anyone would want to immediately do.

Photo rights belong to Photosports.

But strangely as tired and exhausted as I was, I just couldn't get a proper nap. The body was still winding down from the race and ached in every conceivable part. I messaged Choon Yuen on dinner plans later as we planned to meet for our usual post race dinner. We planned to meet at Insadong and revisit the barbecue place CY and me had on the first night. My wife also wanted to visit Namdaemun market and Namdaemun Gate which was a short walk away from Myeongdong.

"Opened in 1964, Namdaemun Market is the largest traditional market in Korea with shops selling various goods. All products are sold at affordable prices and the stores in this area also function as wholesale markets. Most of the goods are made directly by the store owners. Namdaemun Market is crowded with retailers from all over the country. When day breaks, the site of busy shoppers bustling around the market creates a unique scene that attracts tourists worldwide. Namdaemun Market sells a variety of clothes, glasses, kitchenware, toys, mountain gear, fishing equipment, stationery, fine arts, accessories, hats, carpets, flowers, ginseng, and imported goods."
Imagine Your Korea

Somewhat like our very own Petaling Street.

Namdaemun market was reminiscent of our own Petaling Street but much cleaner. We browsed the market checking out the items on offer and bought some street food to munch on as we strolled along the length of the market before making our way towards the Namdaemun Gate, a majestic looking palace like structure right in the heart of the city. It really was majestic with the lights on and backed by the more modern structures of the city. After the usual picture taking, we headed off to meet the gang for dinner which was as yummy as the first night we had it. After lots of banter and complaints about the race, we all finally adjourned back to our respective apartments for some much needed rest. It had been a long, long day!

The beautiful and majestic Namdaemun Gate.

Coming up, Days 6 & 7.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Seoul Sightseeing: Days 1 & 2

We were supposed to go to Seoul last year but put it aside and went to Kyoto, Japan instead. So this year, we resolved that we would visit Seoul no matter what. I coincided it with running the Seoul International Marathon and took a huge risk in booking the flight tickets and accomodations without having a real confirmation of the race dates.

Finally in Korea!

My wife and me always book our flights and accomodations way in advance to capitalize on the cheaper cost of airfare and accomodations. So, once our minds were made up, we got down to getting things started as early as November 2016. After some digging around, we got a pretty good deal for our flights and accomodations. Now to keep my fingers crossed that the race date would be as consistent as the previous years or else it would just be a holiday trip, which really wouldn't be so bad.

I'm not going to bore you with details of our planning which was primarily done by my wife, she's the extremely meticulous one at planning for all our holidays and mapped out a list of things to do and see when we get there, and get straight to the gist of our holiday.

The start of the War Memorial

Our flight was slated for the 15th March at 1.00am in the morning which was also my 50th birthday. That would mean I would be celebrating my birthday in two different countries which was a nice significant thing to do for my 50th :D. We didn't check in our luggage to save time (and money) and even though both our luggages were within the regulations of the AAX carry on policy, we didn't want to take chances and arrived early. We were green lighted through without any issues and discovered that AAX would only be strictly implementing the carry on policy in April so we had nothing to worry about but better to be safe than sorry.

Dream come true, standing next to a tracked artillery!

We booked ourselves into the quiet zone and planned to sleep the flight away. We were lucky this time cos the seat next to me was empty and that left us a lot of room to sleep as comfortably as one could get on an economy class flight. We were both tired and dozed off the moment the flight took off.

Giving the Koreans a helping hand in the defense of Seoul!


Day 1

After a six hour plus flight that was pretty smooth and early by 10 minutes, we finally arrived at Incheon Airport, Seoul on a cold, wintry morning around 8.20am. The moment we disembarked, I followed the wife's lead on what to do. We had to take the shuttle train to the main terminal somewhat like what you would do in Kansai. It was a short, less than 5 minute journey to get your luggage and clear customs. As we didn't have any checked in bags, things were much faster for us.

The sprawling view of the War Memorial.

Our first stop after exiting immigration which was fast and efficient, aside from some vain shots (obviously) was to purchase our T-Money, a Touch 'N' Go like prepaid card for all our travelling needs. With that taken care of we headed to find the correct train that would take us to Seoul and to our apartment. Our initial plan was to check in early with our AirBnB host but my wife had other plans which she kept as a surprise for me.

Time to get this missiles ready for action!

So I messaged the host and said we would be a little late checking in and being a nice host, he said to just give him a buzz when we were done and he'd meet us and take us to our apartment. With that we took our first subway ride in Korea. We would be stopping at Samgakji station where according to my wife, we would store our luggage and she'd take me to my surprise visit. I was intrigued and gamely went along.

Our home for a week!

We arrived at the station and found the luggage storage lockers but were a little lost as to how to operate the electronic luggage storage. As we were struggling trying to make head or tail with the instructions, a kind Korean gentleman stepped in to help us. Even he had a little trouble figuring it out but eventually with his help, we managed to stow away our luggage and off we went to our destination.

My first taste of authentic Jjajangmeong.

It was kinda surreal though, all our other holidays abroad, we always had some friends with us to help make headway of things but this time we were on our own in a foreign land. I was not worried cos I knew my wife had done her homework. I'll just tag along and look for spots for my vain shots... hahaha!

We headed out of the station and proceeded to find the surprise the wife had planned for me. We were a little disoriented not knowing where north and south were and were fiddling around with Google maps to get our bearings when this elderly Korean gentleman passed us, glanced at us trying to figure out which way to go and promptly turned back to offer us some help. We were like chickens and goats yet somehow managed to convey our destination and he understood and pointed us along the right path. Both of us were so touched by his gesture to turn around and help us out that it gave us a good impression of Koreans there and then.

The Myeongdong Cathedral.

By now though, I knew we were heading to the Korean War Memorial. Now, my wife knows I'm a crazy military buff and something like this would no doubt excite me but boy how wrong I was. Once we got there, which was actually just around the corner, the place didn't just excite me, it almost made me cry! I was overjoyed. I've been on real life US Aircraft Carriers, stood up close with F-15's & F-18's, sat in an E-2C Hawkeye reconnaissance plane, watched a real commando training exercise first hand and seen Sukhoi Su-30's in aerial display but I've never been up close with real life tanks, missiles and rockets!

A walkabout around Myeongdong just before the crowds started pouring in.

When I saw all the tanks and rockets (albeit decommissioned ones), it took my breath away. Like I said, I almost cried! I was like a kid in a playground, running from one tank to another and bugging my wife to take photos of me next to practically every piece of equipment littered around. This crossed off another list in my interest of all things military! We spent quite a while here. In fact we practically had the place to ourselves and I was busily describing and explaining to my wife the various functions of each military machine.

Gyeran Ppang, super delicious yummy buns with eggs! Simply loved this!

The place was sprawling but we finally left to check in to our apartment. We were a little tired and also hungry and had practically nothing to eat yet. After picking our bags up and a short train ride we arrived at the subway near the apartment. We contacted the owner and told him we were on our way. After a very short walk that saw us losing our bearings again and a with the help of a once again friendly local who helped us back on track without us even asking for help, we finally reached the apartment and met the owner's wife who took us up to the apartment.

Oyster baked with cheese, another super yummy snack!

Our apartment was located in the commercial area of Seoul. In fact, the first few floors of our apartment block consisted of tons of lighting shops of every kind. We were right up on the 12th floor. The apartment itself was very cozy, clean, well kept and exactly as how it was pictured in the AirBnB site, and I mean exactly. It was equipped with a washing machine, TV, kitchen facilities, a heater, heated flooring, a full equipped bathroom and even wifi! I was very happy with it and after thanking the owner's wife, we dumped our bags, took a much needed bath and proceeded to head out for a very late lunch. It was close to 3.00pm by then.

The chef at work during my birthday treat!

My wife had already researched an eatery just a few minutes walk away from the apartment, one that served Jjajangmeong, something I've been craving to eat since I got here. We bundled ourselves up cos while there was sunshine, it was still winter in Seoul and the weather was pretty cold and chilly, especially with the wind. As we took a walk to the eatery, we noticed that each sector or industry were gathered together in one street, for example if you were looking for toilet accessories, all the surrounding shops would be selling toilet accessories and so on. Makes it easier to find a particular product which is all in one place than having to go from one place to another.

We're gonna hike up all the way here and don't you start whining now!

Soon enough we got to the eatery we were looking for. After a nice and hearty meal of Jjajangmeong and sweet sour pork with rice for my wife, we made plans to meet up with Choon Yuen and his wife at Myeongdong. The weather was extremely cold and exceptionally good so we decided to just walk there which really wasn't too far. The best way to enjoy a country is on foot they say.

One of my wife's bucket list crossed out - the Sanmotungi Cafe.

We arrived Myeongdong in no time and headed straight to the Cathedral just around the corner to take in the beauty of the place. The place was filled with tourists and after some quick photo taking around the cathedral, it was off to the shopping side of Myeongdong. Myeongdong is a little like a higher end Petaling Street with lots of stalls littered outside the more established shops, mostly selling cosmetics, clothings and whatnots. It's more of a touristy place and I was just there for the local food sold at the stalls.

Now I had to watch out for dinosaurs????

After checking out the shops where my wife bought some cosmetics and I got a couple of Saucony tees, we met up with Choon Yuen and his wife and scouted around for a place for some good dinner. We eventually found a nice Korean BBQ place and they treated me to a birthday dinner which was absolutely delicious. After dinner, we made our way back cos all four of us had a very long flight in and an equally long day as well. We made plans to meet for a shakedown run the next morning and said our good nights. The walk back to the apartment was close to a kilometer and the night air was freezing but we were nicely bundled up this time unlike back in Kyoto.

A little coffee and cakes atop Sanmotungi Cafe.


Day 2

As with most holidays I'm always awake early to maximize the entire day. The air was chilly even with the heater on. The temps outside were around 1°C and I took it as a perfect opportunity to do a final gear test for race day. I was staying just by the Cheonggyecheon Stream and we decided to do our shakedown there since it was also ripe for some vain shot opportunities. Surprisingly even with the 1°C we found it bearable and after a very short 3km run we headed off back to our respective apartments.

A man of many hats!

My wife was not in when I got back as she headed out on her own to explore the other side of town. By the time I was done with my shower she was back with some tales of her own and also tons of pictures. After she was done with her shower, a quick bite of a simple breakfast which she bought on her way back and we were out for our first sightseeing place for the day.

When Tom Holland retires as Spidey, I'm a confirmed shoo in!

Our first stop was a place called Buam-dong. My wife is a fan of Korean dramas and she wanted to visit Sanmotungi Cafe, the location of one of her favourite dramas, Coffee Prince. I'm not a Korean drama fan or anything like that, well save for the Wonder Girls... hahaha, so I had no idea what Coffee Prince was all about. It was a short bus ride away but a long uphill walk to reach this particular cafe. The weather as good so it didn't seem all that hard of a climb. Lots of people were also seen heading up so that place must be popular.

We finally reached the cafe and it was it was a nice cozy little setting. Of cos my wife was like a giddy school girl and was excitedly showing me around like she had been here before and explaining things to me. Once she settled down, we got some coffee and cakes and headed upstairs for a short break, the long uphill hike was pretty tiring. The view from the top of this place was spectacular. The floor on the basement level, yes, they had three levels, was a joy for one who loved vain shots!

Never one to pass up a vain shot!

After getting my fill of vain shots, we hiked further up cos my wife wanted to take me to the Baeksasil Valley trail since she knew I'd find it pretty interesting for vain shots. Got a little lost looking for it and ended up at an army installation with two very serious looking guards armed with automatic rifles staring us down. Good thing with my skin tone I didn't resemble a North Korean in any way ... hahaha!

The start of the Baeksasil Valley trail.

After a few short checks with the map, we found the trail path and she was right, the place was ripe for some running shots! The trail was empty save for a few other visitors so I had a time of my life snapping away! Once we were done, we headed back down the long road to the bus stop to make our way back to the apartment for some rest but not before stopping for a hearty lunch of Korean Fried Chicken and beers at Gyeyeolsa, supposedly one of the top 3 best places in Seoul for fried chicken.

The supposedly top 3 chicken shop in Seoul - Gyeyeolsa! Judging by the taste, they could be right!

We got off at Gwanghwamun Square, a few more photo ops and we decided to skip the rest and instead headed straight to Gwangjang Market, one of Korea's largest and oldest traditional markets. The market was somewhat like the Nishiki Market in Kyoto but with a difference. The Gwangjang Market had loads of stalls selling local trinkets, snacks and food where you could sit and enjoy the local delicacies with a bottle of cold beer or Soju right at the market itself. The atmosphere was warm and I was free to take pictures of everything unlike at the Nishiki Market where quite a few of them wouldn't allow photography.

Gwangjang Market

This was our meet up point to meet Choon Yuen and his wife for dinner, which consisted of pork knuckles for me and and some 'live' octopus that had me and my wife cringing! The damn things were still wiggling around as he  swallowed them down whole! After dinner we decided to walk to Dongdaemun as my wife said they had this futuristic building called the Dongdaemun Design Plaza that resembled something you would see in Star Trek, which being a Star Trek fan piqued my curiosity.

The local delicacy on display!

I wasn't disappointed cos after a short walk, this insanely futuristic building loomed in the distance and just like she said, it was something right out of a Star Trek movie! This part of town resembled Bukit Bintang, bright with lights and traffic. We took a walk around the Plaza and came to a field of 'lighted roses' fronting part of the facade. We stopped to get some shots just like the tourists we were. We didn't really get great shots cos our cameras being action cams were not really the best for night shots.

The spaceship like Dongdaemun Design Plaza!

After sometime here, we finally started making our way back. The night air was freezing and we were all pretty tired from our respective day out. We parted way since our subway entrances were on different sides but not before making plans for another morning run the next day since Choon Yuen's wife said we didn't run long enough for her in the morning!

A little like the Bukit Bintang area.

We finally reached the apartment and we were both totally exhausted from the long day. Our second night in Seoul was as surreal as the first. All those months of planning finally came to fruition and boy, was I excited. We still had 6 days to go and I for one was planning to make the most of it. My wife had a host of places for day 3 and I was looking forward to it.

The lighted roses that line the outer facade of Dongdaemun Design Plaza.

To be continued - Days 3, 4 & 5 ...