Day 6 of South Korea Trip 2016

Sorry for the delay in posting.

Day 6 of my South Korea Trip 2016 was a wonderful day that I won’t soon forget. I started the morning with the final rounds of my two events, speed breaking and power breaking.

With power breaking, I attempted to break 14 tiles this time. I assumed there would be several masters attempting to break 14 – 16 tiles. I successfully broke 11 tiles out of 14. It felt great and disappointing at the same time. It felt great people my techquie was on point and everything felt right. It was disappointing because I also felt that I still held back a little bit. I wasn’t as explosive as what I knew I was capable of. It was a strange feeling. Overall, it was a great experience and I hope to come back and try again.

So did I win? In the end, someone else attempted 12, broke 12, and took first. That’s where the strategy comes into play. I’m short. The more I try to break, the higher the stack and the harder it gets for me. On the other hand, if I had been more conservative and gone for 12, maybe someone else would’ve gone for 13. That’s part of the fun though.

For lunch, we went to Noryanjin Fisheries Wholesale Market. This is an interesting site because they’ve recently opened a new building here that they’re trying to get all the vendors to move into. However, there’s resistance as many vendors consider the much older building (not shown in this photo) to be more appropriate for their needs. They consider the new building’s design to be somewhat ill conceived. It’s an interesting affair. Let’s hope the new building doesn’t persist as a half empty white elephant. 

Pictured below are various parts of the old market building. We first selected the seafood and then ate it in a dining area.

This served as a nice late lunch / early dinner. What can we call that? Lunner? Dunch? After eating, we took the subway back to our rental house in Gangnam and had a leisurely late afternoon. We picked up some groceries to prepare a late dinner and a few of us masters went for a short run around the neighbourhood. It’s a great idea to try and go for a couple outdoor runs in any new city you find yourself in.

All in all, it was a great day and wonderful conclusion to the Hanmadang tournament. As I layed in bed that night, I looked forward to meeting my wife who would be arriving in Seoul in the morning so we could have a few days of eating and shopping together before going back to Hong Kong.


Day 3 of South Korea Trip 2016

This morning was the beginning of The World Taekwondo Hanmadang 2016! First thing in the morning, we went straight away to Kukkiwon to catch the first events. Our club grand master and master were both competing in the poomsae (patterns) competition for their age group. Some people scoff at the idea of poomsae as not being very practical but I think the proper way to think of it in taekwondo is that these patterns are like a “living textbook.” If you practice them regularly, you will practice the full range of techniques with the complete range of motion. I would contend that practicing patterns is actually just as useful and important as sparring (fighting).

Aside from poomsae in the middle area, there was creative team poomsae – choreographed to match a musical score at the far left and at the far right there was jump snap-kick board breaking. The boards used for this type of breaking are relatively thin. In this challenge, it’s not about power so much as height and accuracy.

Outside the stadium, there’s a taekwondo market with various vendors selling merchandise so a few of us went out and took a look before going back to our rental house. I had some ice coffee and bought a nice blue polo shirt. The vendor that was selling the sporty polo shirts was also giving away some sort of refreshing health drink. I have no idea what it was but it tasted great and I sure appreciated it. In South Korea, sometimes a shopkeeper will give you something extra as a freebie and tell you, “Service!” in English.


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When we all gathered up at the house again and had freshened up, we went down to Gangnam subway station and took the train to Majang station. From the exit at Majang, we still had to walk about 10 minutes to get to the Majang Meat Market.


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We ended up purchasing some beef at this place. In markets like this, there are usually many different vendors showing their products at ground level. You pick what you want and they take you to their dining area in another area or on another floor. That’s what happened in this case. We were brought to a dining area on the second floor and proceeded to have a yummy Korean beef BBQ meal. The highlight of the meal was definitely the beef sashimi – yukhoe (육회 / raw beef).


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From our late lunch at Majang Meat Market, we had to rush back to the opening ceremony of the 2016 World Taekwondo Hanmadang, which would be already starting by the time we got back! Oh well. You need to make the most of a short trip to Seoul and pack in as much sightseeing and eating as possible.

The opening ceremony features some amazing displays of high flying , acrobatic taekwondo board breaking set to dramatic music. It’s incredibly dangerous and injuries occur quite often (usually from landing) with this discipline.


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Later on, we went to a grocery store in the neighborhood to get some groceries for dinner at our rental house. A delicious variety of dishes was prepared by a few great cooks and quickly consumed by all.

At the time of posting, I’m already at Day 6 of the trip! I’m very sorry about the posting delays. Last few days I’ve been busy and wiped out with little energy left to write at the end of the day. I hope to completely catch up on posts once the tournament wraps up! That’s all for now!

Day 2 of South Korea Trip 2016

We had a rather… eventful night last night so we had a late start to the morning. I had some bread and coffee, freshened up and then we all trod up the hill to the Kukkiwon building to register our club members for the Hanmadang. They asked for ID, confirmed club registration and then handed us an assortment of complimentary t-shirts, participation medals, ID cards for the tournament participants and lanyards to hold said cards.

Following that, a couple of my masters and I tried going to the administrator’s office to help me get my instructor’s certificate. I had attended The 23rd Foreign Instructors Training Course in 2011 but at the time, did not have my 4th dan (4th black belt level) so could not receive the instructor’s certificate despite completing the course. This time around, I just need to pay a 50 USD fee and they’ll give me my instructor card. Unfortunately the relevant administrator was away from his desk on a break and we couldn’t wait around for him so that will have to be done next week after the tournament probably.

Onto lunch at a nearby shop!!! I ordered some delicious bibimbap (비빔밥 / mixed rice) with a side of tofu.

In the afternoon, we all went to “Chinatown.” Chinatown in South Korea isn’t really the same as elsewhere. In most other cities around the world, it’s often a pretty old part of the city that was settled by Chinese merchants decades and decades ago. The Chinatown that is close to Seoul however, was mostly built fairly recently. Some of it was settled in the 1880s and there was a strong Chinese element for the next few decades until it gradually withered away due to apparent political pressures.

It’s located in Incheon – a neighboring city, so getting there for us entailed a lengthy trip on the local metro train.

The entrance to Chinatown is just across the street from Incheon Station. There’s also a train monument that you can take your picture in front of. I suppose it’s got some sort of special significance but I’m not sure what. Another thing I found pretty neat was the bicycle tire pump next to the public bicycle stand. I think that’s a really thoughtful feature.

Onwards into Chinatown, there were a lot of fancy new buildings dressed in traditional Chinese style edifices. Aside from all the Chinese restaurants and shops, you can find various kinds of street snacks as well as different types of ice cream. There was even a Turkish ice cream vendor playing tricks on customers before actually finally serving the ice cream.

Once you get to the other end of Chinatown, the surroundings kind of turn into Fairytale Village. This is a few streets where all the buildings are styled after various environments from fairytales. There was even a parking garage painted to look like Noah’s Ark. The thing that really stood out about Fairytale Village was the constant sight of people taking selfies all over the place. The whole area is tailor-made for selfies.

After a couple hours of walking around, taking photos and trying some snacks, we saw storm clouds rolling in and made a mad dash back to the metro station to make our long journey back to Gangnam. One curious thing I spotted in one of the stations was a storage unit full of gas masks. It’s nice to know the metro stations in Seoul are well prepared in the event of… some sort of potential unfortunate incident.

Once we got to Gangnam station, everyone was hungry for some chicken so I used Google to find a nearby restaurant called Hanbang Samgyetang 한방삼계탕, which serves samgyetang (삼계탕) – a kind of a ginseng soup with chicken and rice that’s really popular in summer. This restaurant features contemporary table and chairs dining as well as more traditional Korean dining where the table is lower to the floor and you need to sit on a cushion while you eat. I actually prefer eating that way sometimes but I suppose it’s not for everybody.


The food was absolutely delicious. If you want to try this place, the address is Gangnam-gu Yeoksam-dong 831-18.

One important thing to note about navigating around Korea using your smart phone is that Google Maps only half works in South Korea now. It will tell you where YOU are in the form of that little blue dot with a tiny arrow attached indicating what direction you’re pointed towards AND if you search for an address,  it’ll usually be able to locate it. What it can’t do in South Korea is detailed turn-by-turn directions. There are homegrown South Korean apps that can do that but they’re all in Korean.

After an eventful day, we all trudged on over to a little supermarket, picked up a few bags of groceries and by the time we got back to our house, we were hungry enough for a late night snack of French toast and fried squid. Tomorrow Hanmadang starts. Good night!

Day 1 of South Korea Trip 2016

Last night I boarded a Jeju Air plane with fellow taekwondo club members on a flight from Hong Kong to Seoul. We’ll be taking part in the 2016 World Taekwondo Hanmadang. It’s an annual tournament that takes place in South Korea and features competitions in patterns and board breaking!

The flight departed late last night at close to 2 in the morning. I slept most of the way on the flight.

Incheon International Airport (ICN) is the international airport closest to Seoul. It’s a very well designed, modern airport. Upon disembarking of the aircraft, we made our way to the shuttle train, then through customs and immigration (which doesn’t allow photo taking), then baggage pickup and finally out into the arrival hall.

Next, we exchanged Hong Kong dollars for Korean won (₩). Just exchange enough currency to get to the city and exchange more at a bank later where the rates are better. Then we went outside the arrival hall and purchased some bus tickets to Gangnam district in Seoul. If you purchase tickets with a Union Pay card, you’ll get T-Money cards (cards that can store cash and be used to efficiently pay for things by tapping the card on the payment device) along with the bus tickets. The bus that runs to Gangnam features deluxe seating so the configuration is 1 lone seat on the right, aisle, 2 seats on the left. The seats are all reclining captain seats so you’ll surely get a comfy ride to Seoul, which is nice because it’s roughly just over an hour.

When the bus pulled over at one of the hotels in Gangnam, we all got off, collected our luggage, and made our way uphill off the main avenue deep into the heart of residential Gangnam. There, we found the house that we’d be renting for the next few days. The first floor is private so we have access to the second and third floors. It’s nice! It’s complete with a living room, kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, master bedroom and 3 or 4 other bedrooms.

After settling in at our rental house, we found breakfast at The Jincook. It features a lot of the common dishes you might expect in a Korean restaurant, like delicious pork and beef, noodles – both hot and cold and some yummy kimchi. I had the naengmyeon (냉면 / cold noodles) and grilled pork.

Later, we went window shopping in the area, had some coffee at Starbucks, and went to the Kukkiwon campus. There’s the main Kukkiwon building and a separate cafeteria building with a modest but interesting little museum on the second floor.

There are also a couple of shops in the area that sell taekwondo gear and related merchandise. Prices are actually mostly kind of high. Afterwards, we went back to the house. That’s where I’ve been relaxing all afternoon. The house is well furnished and cozy.

In the evening, we went out for some Korean BBQ for dinner in the vibrant commercial area of Gangnam. With Korean BBQ, the grill is built into the table and every table has its own localized ventilation system. The meat was delicious and there were plenty of side dishes like kimchi as needed.