April 23, 2010

Korean Diaries : Back To Namma Bengaluru

After a stint of nearly 8 weeks abroad in South Korea, it was finally time to return back to the homeland. The return journey was more or less eventless with a few eye candies thrown here and there. Just a week before my return journey , the cherry blossoms had started to appear. And these blossoms are quite famous with tourists visiting Korea during the spring season. These flower filled trees offer a spectacular sight.

My return date was scheduled on 17 th April and I was to board an afternoon flight to Hong- Kong, this being the first leg of the journey. Boarded a bus to airport from Suwon. The bus journey was eventless except at one point when a small truck grazed the bus. Both the drivers got into an argument initially and within seconds a partol police arrived to book a case and to be further continued in a court I guess :P. So this entire process ended within 10 mins . Imagine the same situation taking place in Bengaluru :P. Also the view of the view of the Incheon bridge running nearly 5-6 kms in the open sea connecting the Incheon airport to the mainland offers a breathtaking view. This I had failed to observe the previous time becoz of nightfall.

The first leg of the journey lasted for some 3.5 hrs and I clicked some pics from the aircraft window.

According to the iternary was supposed to wait nearly 5 hrs for the next connecting flight to Bangalore. But believe me, 5 hrs of time can be easily spent in this huge airport. Even walking from one end to the other takes a lot of time and me guessing the length of the airport to be a couple of kms :P.

The second leg of the journey lasted for nearly 7 hrs. This was a bit tiring and boring too. But the high points being when flying over the Bay of Bengal it being a moonless night, dark abyss as far as my eyes could see and stars illuminating the sky with such a concentration only one could imagine. Also when flying above the city of Chennai at around 38,000 ft we chanced upon a cloudless night. The view of Chennai at this height is simply spectacular….. simply whoa!!!!! The entire city illuminated like a jewel against the dark background.

Reached Bangalore at around 2 am. Had some cramp-ons in my checked-in luggage. So my luggage was singled out with a big “X” marks on it. The customs guy then caught hold of me bcoz of that. Some smooth talking from my side resulted in exiting from the airport without any fuss :P. The taxi guy asked whether I wanted ac????? I told no, since it was long time since the smelled my city of Bengaluru …….. Awesome to be back in India :)

April 11, 2010

Torture of Necessity

"Working out is addictive"......people often say this..... and I cannot make out whether they are serious or just joking. Ok, I agree that after the workout we feel very elated and fresh, having completed that days quota, but to say that workout as a separate entity is addictive seems like a poser to me. Consider this....... remember some pretty tough exams you might have attended while in ur school/college.....how relieved and satisfied would you be after that exams have gone well and completed.....so do you hear any person saying(atleast the sane ones !!!!! :P ) this "Exams are addictive".......even though the feeling after completing one and after workout are pretty much the same.

Working out means different things for different people. For me its more of a physical and mental torture that my body endures in order to keep fit......"Torture of Necessity". The torture my body tries to avoid at all costs.....:D ...

All my life I had been a little plump......even though I took part actively in sports in my school days playing soccer,cricket,kabaddi etc. When in high school I started cycling to school around 13km round distance. This was the period when I was at the peak of fitness(not considering the present state...which is much better :)). Sports and cycling are activities which people especially enjoy doing. The main reason for this nothing is repetitive. Even if you play soccer for nearly 3-4 hrs still you wont bored mentally or physically(atleast comparitively :)), unlike in the dedicated workouts in gyms.

This is how things go normally in a gym

Day 1: Full josh...u are trying to prove everyone around you(especially the chicks :) ) that you are able to so and so push ups,squats, pullups etc on the first day itself.
Day 2: Your body is not just giving signs but screaming at the top of its volume that it is in pain. Even then the motivation will be high.

Day 10: You started to get bored....U dont find any drastic difference in weight loss or the big muscles you thought you would be able to achieve with all those strenuous workouts. But still you drag yourself to that smelly goddamn gym.

Day 26: Result day..... Gym instructor says u have lost 1 kg weight..... and u think...WTF..... just 1 kg only after going through all the pain and suffering.

Day 30: You are confused whether you should continue for the gym membership for the next month or not.......

Some renew the membership........and nearly 90% leave it just after the first month......And that 90% includes me at some point....

So after the gym...... low in motivation people do nothing but idle around with no physical activity......eventually gaining weight..... So in the end you get more than what u bargained for.

So my advice from personal experience for the people who are not looking for huge biceps and just looking for slim and healthy body with not so much well defined cuts is "mix and match", do nothing repetitive......

Well in my case I usually get easily bored with the same form of exercise. So my motto is to experiment with different forms of exercises. Well initially started only with weights, but soon lost the fun in doing it. Then the idea of kick-boxing caught my attention, so went to a sports shop , got a punching bag and filled it with sand and saw-dust and started my kick-boxing regime. Well technically speaking I hadnt gone to any classes for the same, but I was born with my kung-fu punches and kicks :P. Initially I was doing this kick-boxing regime with my bare hands, but had to endure some injuries like peeled skin etc. So then got some leather gloves for protection. So learnt from my mistakes along the way. This went on for a couple of months, but started to get a bit boring. But now the option of weights again started to seem interesting :). So started it again and gave kick boxing a rest, so on it continued. Like that have added the regimes of running/jogging, cycling , aerobics(freestyle :P) to my regime. So on a particular day which-ever option seems interesting to me , I will just go and do it :). Even if on some blue moon day I get bored with all these, I just play loud music and start to dance like a maniac...... Graceful dancing??????....well faaaaar away from it :P..... The only thing matters is a means to burn calories and strengthen the muscles, and not just to beef them up which is primarily why maximum number of people hit the gyms.

Also the occasional weekend treks to some hills also works to our advantage. Its the trek to such hills which gives you the correct picture of our level of fitness. Because endurance of climbing on for nearly 5 hrs cant be easily achieved without some sort of cardio workouts. Who knows the next in my list might be hooplas and yoga, if i find a good enough video in the net :).

During my recent(presently ongoing :) )trip to korea all my so called different means of workout were left back home and I was left with no access to my menu of workouts. Hence decided to do jogging/running in the morning. Now running at sub-zero temperatures (around -6C to 4C) totally gives you a high. Imagine jogging with thermals, jacket, gloves and monkey caps in India. Well those were my add-on's when jogging in the freezing temperatures and I really loved it. But in that sub-zero temperature the major problem I found was warming up. No matter what you did the the body temperature was cold like hell and for the muscles to perform strenous activity like jogging for nearly 50 mins it has to be warmed up and skretched to achieve maximum efficiency. Also in one of the public parks they have installed an outdoor gym :P. So whenever i get the oppurtunity I go there do my weight related workouts, even though it doesnt satisfy the requirements of a hardcore gymmer, it pretty much satisfies my requirement :).

Anyway I remember a comment given by Akshay Kumar, the fitness guru of Bollywood saying "If you cant dedicate 1 hr everyday for your body then you are not fit to live on this planet " :P....... Well it might seem that this statement was a bit exaggerated and I dont agree with that extent, but eventhough giving some amount of dedicated time for the betterment of your body will help you only and no one else in the long run. Its OK if you take a day off workout if feeling lazy on a particular day, but try to maintain a weekly minimum workout threshold , after all it is not the torture one enjoys, but the "Torture of Neccessity".

April 5, 2010

Korean Diaries : Everland Amusement Park

Finally on the weekend of 4 April I found the required company and the weather favourable to go to  Everland amusement park. This was the weekend I was looking most forward too since Everland is considered one of the best theme parks in the world , coming next only to the Disneylands.

There were totally 3 adrenaline junkies ready to take on the spine chilling rides of this place. It was Sathwick, Sunil and myself. We all met near the Guesthouse at around 8.30 am and started moving towards the bus-stop to catch the bus to this place. There are number of buses plying between the Suwon Metro Station and Everland (10-5, 66, 66-1, 66-3, 66-4 and for all these routes everland is the last stop).As soon as we reached the stop a 66-4 arrived and we hopped into it. Dropped the 1000 Won/head cash into the cash machine and made ourselves comfortable since it was expected us to take nearly an hour to reach this place.

Reached the entrance of the everland fantasy park at around 10.15 am. There we booked the tickets , simultaneously producing the discount voucher of around 4K won for foriegners.(Discount voucher is in the everland website). Hence the total entry fee was 33K Won/head. When we entered the place it seemed like some magical place. A sort of fairy-land one would see in the movies. This is just enough to pull all the korean families with kids to visit this place. Also there was an ongoing Tulip flower festival at this place. So everywhere we found tulip flowers being planted. In fact this place hosts different festivals at different time of the year. Tulip festival in spring, Halloween during October and christmas during November/December and so on. At the entrance there are guide maps for the entire park. In the absence of these, you would be blind mice in the sewer tunnel system :P.

The highlight of the day would be the T-Express roller coaster , considered the best wooden roller coaster in the world and having the title of World's steepest wooden roller coaster with 77 degree drop, with the drop length being a shocking 150 feet. But to get warmed up before stepping into this monster we started with the Rolling X-train. This is also a roller coaster which has two 360 degree loops. We waited for nearly 20 mins to get our turn and finally it came. This ride was awesome with the 2 360 degree loops being the high points. Now we were more than warmed up :D.

Next we tried 'Lets Twist' where people are strapped on to their seats, taken up to nearly 100 ft and rotated around in very odd angles like a maniac. Also I tried 'Double rock spin' which is also similiar to the previous. Now sufficiently warmed up we decided it was time for us to move towards THE T-Express. In fact this was Sathwick's second outing to everland and this one was just becoz he had missed the T-Express the previous time. Took a cable car from the American attractions to the European attractions where the T-Express is. Enroute found the tracks of the T-Express giving a very intimidating picture to us.

Went to the entrance of the T-Express where the waiting time was nearly 60 minutes (on all rides they give the expected time which is very helpful ) and so waited in the queue. According to some statistics the revenue of Everland nearly doubled after the installation of this beast in 2008.


Then finally after waiting for nearly 60 minutes in the queue we got the oppurtunity to get into the roller coaster. As soon as ride started, felt whoa... my heart started skipping a beat. Initially there is a nearly 200 ft feet climb in order to get the necessary potential energy. Now the dreaded 150 ft, 77 degree drop was coming into our view. Was nervous like anything. Then began the drop ..... EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK....... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH....Never had I shouted so hard in my life... Ofcouse it was becoz never in my life had I felt so scared.... I can still remember the exact vision I had during those few seconds.... dropping almost vertical... infact i was floating within my seats taking a g-force of 4.5g. After this initial drop the other up's and down's were not upto the previous drops stature, but it was equally thrilling. After a couple a minutes the roaller coaster came to halt. Felt awesome. This is the best theme park ride i had ever had :). If not for this typed blog, anyone would have noticed me still shaking with fear :D :D.

We roamed around the Four Season gardens, taking pics. Now there was an announcement going on that some parade was goingto begin. So decided to chill out and watch the parade. Out came the "Carnival Fantasy Parade". It had lots of artists dressed in fairies, kings, queens. Kids love this sort of parades and believe me there were a lot of them :). Also a majority of the artists were Europeans and they were real pretty :P. The parade lasted for nearly 15 minutes.

Moved towards 'Flume Ride' where a roller coaster splashes around into water. This was mildly thrilling. Like that we covered many more rides like 'Columbus', 'Hurricane' etc. By this time we had started to feel the hunger. We raided the nearest eatery which was Burger King. The other 2 guys were non-veg so they didnt have a problem and they got chiken burger. I had no choice but to go for french fries and some fried cheese, the only two veg items on the menu. Although I highly suspect whether the oil used for the same is derived from plant extracts or not , but this was the nearest to a veg meal I could get here.

After the so called snacks we decided to take things a little easy and started to roam around the place. We decided it was time we headed towards the Zootopia. Here there a variety of animals. Well to be frank to see such a large number of animals in cages I felt sad, even though their condition was better than Indian Zoo's, but still they are kept in so called "Golden Cages" and freedom is denied to both of them whether in India or South Korea.

Came across a ride called the amazon express where a raft takes people through an artificial river with amazon settings around the place. From here went to the so called safari. Here the waiting time was more than an hour and it literally drained all the energy we had left if at all any. Atlast boarded into a bus and entered the safari region. This safari had tigers,lions,white tigers, elepants, zebras, giraffes, camels, bears and one liger (cross between tiger and lion). But this seemed like an extension of the zoo itself with the animals all trained. The driver had some treats for the animals and the bears were trained to dance to get the treats. This was an insult in the name of a safari. Anyway these animals had better space to roam around than their lesser fortunate cousins in the zoo.

[Tiger Tiger, Burning Bright !!!!!!!]

When we came out of the safari it was dark and the we roamed around aimlessly. By this time another night parade had started called the "Moon Light Parade". Here all the artists and the props were clad in LED lights and it was a very pretty sight to watch. This lasted for another 10 mins. After this ended we went to the most commom ride in any themepark. i.e. the bumping cars. Had a nice time here bumping cars to one another.

[Moonlight Magic Video]

After bumping into one other we roamed around going to lesser known but interesting places like 4D theatre showing a korean animation movie, Spooky Fun House where we had to shoot targets in a sort of dungeon using a lazer light. I top scored in here when compared with the other 2 guys :D. By this time it was nearly 9 pm and time was for us to leave the place. We came out of the place nearly exhausted to catch a bus to go back to our place. In fact we had completed say only 70% of the entire park , but we went for all the rides we had planned to go to. Also there is one more waterpark adjacent to this place called the "Carribean Bay" and which inturn requires another day to explore. So a total of 2 days can be spent in this awesome themepark. :). Also this place has everything for a small kid, to a adrenaline junkie, to a middle aged person. People of all ages can enjoy in here .

[Group Pic]

Anyway reached the guesthouse at around 10.30 pm , had dinner and went to sleep, with the video of the 150 feet T-Express drop still playing in my head that too in HD quality :P.

Snaps Link->

April 1, 2010

Korean Diaries : Yet Another Day In Seoul

It has been more than a month since I landed here in South Korea. Life in Korea is going on as usual with me starting the countdown of when I will be back to my beloved city of Bangalore. Felt a bit home sick when my birthday fell during this week. Anyway to keep myself busy on the weekend we went roaming around and this time we were back to Seoul. This roaming in the streets of Seoul was quite memorable with us returning quite late (i.e. 11 pm)to our respective rooms.

We had initially planned to go to 3 places, Namdaemun Market, 63 building and Han River Cruise. But as always we try to fit in more places into our iternary. This time it was just me and Rakeshee(tats how all koreans call him :P) for the trip. Our plan was to leave our guest house rooms at around 11 am in the morning. Had a staple breakfast of corn flakes (I am kinda addicted to these corn flakes... they are yummy over here :P) and extra helpings of bread and jam in order fight hunger till dinner. Took the bus from our place to the Suwon metro station and from there caught the train to go to the Seoul station. Since this was our second time we have been travelling in the metro train , we didnt face any problems and it was seamless.

[Entrance Gate To Namdaemun Market]

The train journey lasted for nearly an hour and it was quite boring. Reached the Seoul Station and proceeded towards the exit from where we had to move towards Namdaemun Market which is around 10 mins walk. This market is supposedly the biggest market in all of South Korea and legend says that if you dont find something here, probably you wont find it anywhere else in Korea. The market officially closes on every Sunday , but majority of the shops were open baring a few. Maybe they had heard the phrase "Rules are meant to be broken " :P.

Roamed around a bit in the market doing some shopping. The prices here are slightly less than one would be quoted in other regions. One would find shops filled with clothes, bags, accesories, fruits, vegetable, trekking stuff etc. The list is endless.Also the entire market is filled with eateries, a common thing in all korean markets. Also now I can stand the smell of the korean food and not feel like fainting as earlier :P. Now keep guessing "Next is What !!!!! ":D. Also there is one underground market. This was completely closed and not even one shop was open.

By the time we left this place it was around 2 pm and we bought a couple of bananas to keep our stomach's under control. Now Rakesh had got an idea to buy a camera from Yangson market. I also didnt have any problem with it since I too wanted some spare batteries and a bill for the Indian Customs. So we went towards the Seoul Station. Now this time it flashed to me why not include the Korean War Memorial(the interiors which we missed the previous time) too in our iternary since it was kinda near to the Yangson Electronics Market. From Seoul Station we decided to take a taxi since the War Memorial Stop was just next to the Seoul Stop, but we didnt know the exact distance. So asked a couple of police men . They tried their best to understand us and help us but in the end we got nothing out of them. So flagged down a taxi and told to go to the war memorial. That he didnt understand and then we gave the metro station name.

[An Ancient Korean Way Of Announcing in War : That We Have Arrived]

Got down at that metro station, but we were completely new to this area. Had expected to see War Memorial at this place.But it was nowhere to be seen. But we say the huge WorldMark building which is nearer to the war memorial. Now this building was visible. So keeping this building in view we started moving towards the War Memorial. This is nothing but GPS in its most simplest form :P. Finally reached the place.

[Sunlight Illuminating Crystals]

Took the free tickets to enter (wats the point of tickets if the entry is free ??????) the place. The interior of the building were quite impressive. The roof to floor height of the entrance hall was a good 30 metres. In this museum there are various displays related to Korean past in terms of warfare. How they did in the ancient, medieval and in the modern times. Initially all the displays were interesting and caught our attention, but soon the same things got repeated again and again and this made us go faster , similiar to WRC cars racing through the circuits overtaking other cars endlessly :). We took nearly an hour to complete the entire museum when in fact it takes nearly half a day to complete this.

[Age Of Empire Players Will Recognize this warship]

From here moved to Yangson Electronics Market and went inside. Got a couple of batteries and was checking out the picture frames, but didnt get any in my required resolution of 800x600. So decided against buying it. Also Rakesh now had decided not to buy an Canon SX20. By this time it was already around 6 and we moved towards the 63 building in taxi. It is around 20 mins taxi ride from the Yangson area and this part is known as Yeoidu.

[View Of 63 Building From A Bridge]

[View From The Top]

[Not Much Difference Between These 2 :P]

We reached to the base of the 63 building and the feeling of standing on the foot of the 3rd tallest building in Korea is amazing.You have to literally crank up ur neck, perpendicular to the body, to see the entire building . But we didnt have the time to enter the building. We directly went to the Han River Cruise boarding area, which is just a few hundred metres from this golden building. By the time we had reached the place we had just missed the 6.30 pm cruise and the next one was at 7.30 pm. This 7.30 pm cruise had comparatively longer route as well as had some opera show (next cruise was at 9 pm). So obviously the price was also higher as compared to the normal cruises(5k W extra, total 16k Won per head).

So having nearly an hour to spend we went directly to the 63 building. The sun was setting now and darkness was falling.So we expected some beautiful images from the top. So we took tickets for the Sky Art Gallery situated in the 61st floor of the building. This art gallery is the highest art gallery in the world situated at nearly 250 m from the ground. This art gallery has various displays, but most of the people are more interested in the outer view than the inner view. There are huge windows and view was enchanting at this time of the day. Also there is one section called the SkyThriller which has a glass floor and one can see the nothing but air below this glass. But to our bad luck this was closed as it had developed some cracks !!!!!!!!!!

[Seoul Tower Seen From The Cruise]

Spending nearly an hour on the top we came down and reached our cruise boat at exactly 7.30 pm. By this time it was completely dark. The Hang river is quite wide and when cruising in the middle of this river one gets the feeling of being in an ocean and not a river. Also the distant building all lit up was giving a very pretty sight to watch. There were a lot of people in the cruise, but few people were coming outside to enjoy the view since it was very-very chilly. Also some dude was giving an orchestra performance inside, which didnt interest me much . The bridges along the river were lit in a very asthetic manner. The cruise lasted for nearly 1.5 hrs and by around 9 pm we reached back to our original boarding point.

[Cruise View]

[Comparison Between nature and Man-made]
After this we went looking for a train station. Wherever in Seoul, a metro station will be within a stones throw distance ,such is the dense network they have build in and around the city. Caught a train and came back to our guest house rooms by around 11 pm. Now with this day of travel I have got the confidence to travel anywhere within Seoul, only thing required is to remember these Korean Station Names which believe me is the toughest job :P.

Snaps Link->
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