Thursday, October 25, 2012

First Race in Korea

Nancy is the one on the left
Those of you who know us know that Nancy and I are runners...well kind of.  We used to be pretty decent and won our share of age group awards and did a number of marathons (I did 8 and the wife did 18 because she is an overachiever).  We pretty much suck as runners now but despite that, we still do the occasional race just for the humiliation factor.  That was how we decided to do our first race in Korea a 10 K in Gyeongju.  It was part of the  Gyeongju International Marathon and it was a pretty awesome event.  There were probably a couple of thousand runners in all of the events including some Kenyan marathoners who were absolutely astounding.

The weather was perfect, the course was great, awesome Asics shirts and we both ran pretty well...I finished in 40:30* and Nancy ran 1:07.  Not too bad.  But there's a couple of "other" things about the weekend that are really more entertaining than our race...

The street in Gyenjongju with the Love Hotels.
In many of the cities we've traveled to in Korea (including Daegu) there are a hotels that are known as "Love Hotels".  They can be rented for an hour or a few hours and are used for...well I think we all know what they are used for.  But these are not sleazy, Motel 6-like establishments.  They are very nice with clean rooms, wi-fi, flat screen TV's...and thoughtful "gift bags" that are provided when checking in.  So we ended up staying in one of these "Love Hotels" for the race.  It was awesome.  Not only do you get the "gift bag" complete with toothbrushes, shampoo, massage oils and condoms, but you also get CNN and soft core porn...what else could you possibly want?
Artwork on the outside of our L.H.
 In Gyeongju, there were a large number of Love Hotels near the bus station (go figure) and I would say that if you are ever in a place where you have a L.H. option, you should absolutely go for it!

Who doesn't love Mr. Pizza???

Don't even think about asking for a second bowl!

It's can be pretty challenging for us to find food that we can eat (and that we like) in Korea so when we saw a Mr. Pizza in Gyeongju, that was our ticket for dinner,  We have eaten at Mr. Pizza's in Daegu and in Busan so we know that the pizza is good and they have a pretty decent salad bar.  So we went there and ordered a cheese pizza and two salad bars and figured we were set.  There was a bowl and two small plates on our table so I took the bowl and Nancy took one of the plates and we got our salads.  Right after we sat down and started eating our waitress rushed over with a horrified look on her face.  Pretty soon another waitress sprinted to our table and both of them were frantically trying to tell us (in Korean with a word or two of barely understandable English) that it was completely unacceptable to use a bowl AND a plate for our salads.  We were expected to share one bowl and eat our salads in tandem.  This was reinforced when they brought us the waters we glass, two straws.  And they insisted that we pay for the meal right then.  Those crazy Americans...wanting TWO bowls...

Despite the Mr. Pizza incident, it was a fantastic weekend.  We have another 10K in Daegu on November 4.  Probably won't be quite as interesting as this one...but you never know!

* Ryan Adjusted Time.  Actual time may be 40-50% slower than R.A.T.

Monday, October 8, 2012

DC in Beijing - Final Thoughts

So it's a bit of a tossup when it comes to our feelings about the trip to China.  I will never forget the visit to the Wall...there's no way to describe the awesomeness of that experience.  We thoroughly enjoyed going to Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, and the Chinese Acrobats Show.  All of those were amazing and I am so glad that we experienced them.

On the other hand...the crowds, the smog, the aggressiveness of many of the people was off-putting to say the least.  And no Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Blogger?  That is crazy shit was like being on the Brevard Public Schools network.  That's a joke, OK??  Just in case I have to go back...God forbid...

I can't picture us returning to Beijing.  There are other parts of China that would be great to see...Shanghai, Guilin, and other Sanya Bay...but most likely not a return to BJ...

Did you get the Jerry Springer reference in the title?  I only hope to be as insightful and articulate as the great JS...probably won't happen...ever...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

DC in Beijing Part 3

There are a lot of interesting and historic places to visit in Beijing...if you can get to them.  We happened to visit during National Holiday Week in China (Oct 1 was the 63rd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic) and it seemed as if the entire country was in the city...OK slight exaggeration but it was crazy crowded everywhere we went.  We did manage to go to the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Silk Market, and the Chinese Acrobatics Show.  Here are some pictures to prove that I'm not lying...

Iconic picture of Mao outside of the Forbidden City
Forbidden City - we spent a couple of hours there and it is pretty amazing.  The buildings are among the oldest wooden structures in existence   They have names line The Palace of Heavenly Purity, The Hall of Mental Tranquility...just like the names of buildings in the States.  It is a gigantic complex of courtyards, palace buildings and other structures.  We were able to visit the museum that housed the vases and pottery from the Ming Dynasty and earlier Chinese Dynasties. Hard to believe that they were producing such high quality art pieces more than 200 years before the founding of America.
Moat surrounding the Forbidden City
Posing in front of the Moat

A beautiful park outside the Forbidden City - I didn't catch the name...sorry

So cool...

Tiananmen Square - right across the street from the Forbidden City is Tiananmen Square.  It is a huge public square where the famous student protests in 1989 occurred   Nothing so exciting when we visited but it was a great experience to see the square and remember the events that happened there.
Crowds of people everywhere

Monument to the People's Heros

Gorgeous flowers in the square

Nancy Cross in the Square Yo!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Doublecross on the Great Wall

 The Great Wall at Mutianyu is one of the best preserved areas of the Great Wall and is relatively close to Beijing.  We took a tour there and these are just a few of the pictures from the 2 hours that we spent on the wall.  Utterly indescribable really should go!

This is me making my way up to one of the towers.  These are the questions you ask yourself as you endlessly climb up.  How on earth did they construct this thing?  And how in the hell do they run a marathon on it???

Once you get to the top this is the view from the tower.  Awesome!!

I'm Nancy Cross from Cocoa, FL... 
As typical "ugly Americans" we had to eat at the Subway at the Great Wall!!

Doublecross in Beijing

Wangfujing Street - near our hotel in Beijing (Wikipedia)

One of the great advantages to teaching in Korea is the opportunity to travel to some incredible of the world that I never thought I would be able to see.  The first week in October in Korea is Chuseok or "The Autumn Festival", a Harvest festival celebration for the Korean people.  We have the week off so it is a perfect chance to take our initial trip outside the country and we decided that China would be our first destination.  We arrived in Beijing on Sunday, September 30 for a five-day mini vacation.       Like a sinusoidal function, the trip had it's ups and downs...ha, ha, ha...a little math humor for you.  There are some amazing iconic sites that we experienced while we were there and at the same time there were gigantic frustrations that were also a big part of the trip.  Let's talk about those first...

We arrived at the airport and after clearing customs we took a shuttle to our hotel...except it didn't go to our hotel, it arrived at a large train station in the central part of the city.  No problem, we'll just grab a cab from there to the hotel.  In fact, a cab grabbed us.  As soon as we got off of the shuttle a very nice gentleman helped us with our suitcases and immediately escorted us to his vehicle.  Not a good move on our part.  He was friendly and very helpful and took us on a 5 minute ride to the Novotel Hotel...and proceeded to charge us $200 US!!  How do you say WTF in Mandarin?  We told him there was no way we were paying that...we didn't even have that much cash.  After a lot of back and forth on the price I think we ended up paying around $50 for the ride...pretty horrible way to start our trip.  Some regrouping was definitely in order.  To accomplish that we decided that the next day we would visit the Great Wall.  That's the subject of the next post...