Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Korea - Part III (Iksan)

(Photos will be uploaded to my Facebook Fan Page!)

The third part of our Korea journey was to Won Kwang University in Iksan, Kim's former University. We arrived by train from Suwon, which was about a 2.5 hour ride. The train was relatively straight forward and we had little difficulties getting there. At Iksan station, we were reunited with Lee Haeng Ham! Haeng Ham came to Calgary to train with Kim for about 10 months from March 2009 to January 2010. I played a couple of tournaments with him, including winning the 2009 BC Elite Series and we competed in the 2010 Korean and Malaysian Super Series' before he returned to Korea. Unfortunately, both matches we played we lost 23-21 in the third set! Maybe I can upload those matches later if I still have them lying around.

A shot of the Won Kwang University Student Union Building

Another shot of the University. The grass had recently been burnt, probably for new grass?

Lee Haeng Ham doing his 'school boy' pose.

The guys crashed in a large room together, while Grace got her own personal room because it's supposed to be a male dorm, so for some reason, she was the lucky one. Our large room was just a room and we slept on the floor. It was quite uncomfortable, but we just sucked it up because we were at least able to get internet access. Funny what you can do if you have internet =P Anyway, the schedule ran roughly like this for the week: breakfast at 7:45am, training 9-11:30am, lunch at 12:00pm, and afternoon training from 2:40-5:30pm. However a couple of days we did evening training instead, so that meant dinner at 5:00pm, and training 6:30-8:30pm. It really depended on who had classes and when, so training seemed to be all over the place. Nonetheless, everyone was definitely putting in a lot of training time, regardless of class or not.

A typical dorm at the University. Shared with a roommate, with showers/washrooms shared by the whole floor.
Watching the 2011 All Englands on TV! Ha Tae Kwon was the commentator for Korea =)

However, since Jon and Alan were only staying part of the week, we took a couple afternoons off to explore a bit of Iksan and finally get a chance to try a Korean spa! This Korean 'Spa' was basically a public bath-house, so it's usually separated into a men's and women's section. It really depends on the spa, but generally there are a lot of showers, and a couple of hot baths... like a hot tub minus the bubbles, a cold pool, a steam room, a sauna, and some stuff that seemed to be a combination of everything. Kim eventually took us to a spa that is at the outskirts of Iksan, but close to another city (Jeon Ju) so that attracts business from both cities. The restaurant is operated by his friend and his wife and it's really really good! Recently, they added 'tonkatsu' (fried pork) to their menu (check out the pictures from Suwon!). The spa was also very good, as there were 3 hot baths at various temperatures, including one that used green tea. There was a sauna with a view of the outside, and there was even this bed of stones, which is for foot reflexology I think. I don't believe in the foot reflexology, but I did it anyway to stretch out those arches on my feet =P Anyway, we all enjoyed the 5000 Won (~$4.50 CAD) and had an awesome lunch after! Kim also said that Iksan had really good side dishes and from some of the photos, you can see that he wasn't joking!

The popular spa and restaurant that we visited 3 times!
Side dishes part one: Kimchi, spinich, bean sprouts, yam, egg, seaweed, etc.
The aftermath. Note new side dishes including fruit salad, Japanese pumpkin, and more!
It looks like Jon defending Alan from Grace, but actually, it had something to do with a bee and a screaming Grace =)

Jon and Alan had to leave on Wednesday, but Kim found them some strawberries from a street vendor before they left. We also got to eat some and these strawberries are like none other! The strawberries here seem to be longer and are very very sweet. Not tart or tasteless like some of the steroid North American ones, but they are really something else! The strawberries I had in Seoul were alright, a little reminiscent of the North American ones, but the ones from Iksan were totally different! Unfortunately, I got sick again, so I don't know if it was from these strawberries or from too many McDonald's Chicken McNuggets =P The fruit here is generally fairly priced, though quality is usually a big factor in price. Singko pears, those big giant brownish asian pears are a perfect example. There are cheaper pears for a bout 1500 Won each (~$1.35 CAD) but can go up to maybe 5000 Won ($~4.50 CAD) per pear. I also saw a cantelope today, going for 26 000 Won (~$23.40 CAD). That sure was surprising, given that the prices in Korea are considered pretty cheap for most things.

Korean strawberries
Korean strawberries from a street vendor in Iksan!
Here's a comparison of its size with my hand! They were incredibly sweet and not tart whatsoever.

Training at Won Kwang University is COLD. Especially in the morning, when we get there at about 9am. We do a group stretch, then some running to warm up. By the time we actually pick up a racquet and shuttle to hit, it's probably almost 10am. Training here also seems quite different. They seem to really work on one or two techniques and keep doing it until they get it before they move on. Training is also a lot more individualized, as not everybody does the same program. Sometimes a couple of people are doing multi-shuttle for like an hour, while one person is hitting against the wall, and the doubles players are doing a 3 vs 2 defense. Though it was a lot more structured at KNSU, KNSU was even worse, as they didn't even play games for most of the week I was there. The reason was that it wasn't close to tournament time yet, so that's why they didn't play any games. We can definitely see a difference between training systems, as I feel there is more game playing emphasis in our system. But it's tough, because they are training everyday, while some people might train once a week, so if they don't get to play games, then they might not want to train. Kind of a tough situation, as the government funds one system, and customers fund the other =\

Here is the training facility that the Won Kwang team trains at. 

The gym is shared with other sports including handball. The ceiling is really high and the lights are a little too bright =\
We usually trained on 3 courts, but we could use the other side if we had more people and no handball training.

It was a pretty standard week, though I decided to keep going to McDonald's for comfort food. I don't even think it really is comfort food because I never order a meal, but in 3 days, I ended up ordering 4 meals from McDonalds (breakfast included). Breakfast is pretty cheap, as a meal is only 3000 Won (~$2.70 CAD). Apparently, I found out they also have a lunch menu, where it has a limited menu, but the prices are cheaper! A Big Mac meal was only 3700 Won! That's probably less than $3.50 CAD for the meal and I can't remember when McDonalds was that cheap in North America. Maybe when Cheeseburgers were 69 cents on Sundays =) Anyway, I guess every country has their cultural specialty burger, and there were actually 3 here, though I would say only one is a cultural specialty. I had a Bacon Tomato Deluxe, which was a Big Mac with bacon and tomato, with a red tangy sauce instead of the Big Mac sauce. It was decent, but I had to grab a cheeseburger to fully qualify the meal as comfort food. I must be slowly adding to my list of junk food vices (rice crispy squares, green tea ice cream, and McDonald's Cheeseburgers). The other sandwich I tried was the 'Shanghai Spice' Chicken sandwich, which is pretty much a rip-off of the Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich back home, with too much mayo. However, it was good and I'd eat it again, especially for a 3700 Won lunch meal! The last and the least, unfortunately, was the Bulgogi burger. Being frugal, I went for the Double, because it was only 3500 Won for the meal, so I got two 'patties' instead of one. I put patties in quotations because I really didn't know what I was eating. It looked like beef, but I don't think it was. It wasn't like the Big Mac or Cheeseburger patty, so I'm assuming it's some kind of pork patty. Think of it like the Sausage McMuffin sausage patty, except it just falls apart in your mouth. The sauce was excellent though, truly reminiscent of Korean bulgogi. I just couldn't stand the patties. Oh well. Anyway, I can't believe I wrote a whole tribute to McDonald's, but I hope someone from McDonald's reads this and offers me a sponsorship. Free Cheeseburgers anywhere in the world... then I'd be set. Yup, printing those Golden Arches on the front of my shirts. Hey, a guy can dream =P

Bacon Tomato Deluxe Set.
They say 'Set' in Korea, because they didn't understand 'meal' or 'combo', let alone 'extra value meal' =P
Looks like a Big Mac...
... but it's got BACON AND TOMATO! *sarcasm*
The Double Bulgogi Meal... 1000+ Calories o___O

Well, I will end the Iksan blog with some miscellaneous highlights and try to put in a few photos as well. We went to the spa another time and had 'galbi tang' (Beef Rib Soup). On Saturday, the head coach invited us out for lunch and him, another coach, and Kim had more or less a drinking contest. Unfortunately, Kim passed out first, but from the amount of alcohol they were consuming, I think I would have died 3 times o__O After, we had an afternoon practice with the women's team from Goon Sang University so we played a mixed doubles round robin, followed by pizza! Then more mixed doubles =P We went out later on Saturday night with Haeng Ham and his girlfriend and had Korean style shabu shabu, followed with a bucket of ice cream at Baskin Robins. Sunday was pretty dull aside from eating two meals at McDonalds in 2 hours, but at night I got to watch the All England MD final live on TV. Monday was pretty normal, but we had a late night snack party between the guys. Fried chicken, chips, uncooked instant noodles, and even squid! We just drank Pepsi... from what I remember =) Yes, I think it was 8 bottles of 1.3 L Pepsi... ANYWAYS, check out the rest of the photos below! We took the train back to Seoul so that's where we will be in Part 4 of our Korea trip!

Hello Kitty Coin Capsules with a cellphone charm inside. It's a breakdance circle =P
Grace attempting to take a bite from Jon's cheese-stick, without using hands =)
Kim Yuna headphones ^________^
Yonex store in Iksan!
Lots of Korean Yonex stuff! Though mostly last years' stuff.
Galbi Tang - Beef Rib Soup!
'Tang Su Yuk' - Korean Sweet and Sour (Pork)!
Seafood 'jjam bong' (Spicy noodle)
Chinese rice wine? All I know is that they drank 7 bottles @ 56%, and one bottle @ 50% o__O
Pond at Won Kwang University...
... where they threw this poor guy into =P
Shabu shabu dinner with Haeng Ham and his girlfriend!
Most of the Won Kwang University team! =)

Thanks for checking out the blog and be sure to check out Part IV next week!!


  1. Oooo the food looks delicious! Especially the strawberries!!!
    hehehe hello kitty <3
    You and Haeng Ham get to reunite again :)

  2. Yeah! It was a good weak. If only I didn't leave my medicine bag in Seoul, it would have been better without all the stomach aches and McDonald's comfort food =)

  3. I hope to return this year to play in Guatemala

  4. why is there a trampoline in the middle of yonex shop?

  5. @ Marlon:
    We definitely will consider returning to Guatemala, but it depends if we are going to Asia instead for Super Series tournaments. We'll see!

    @ Kevin:
    It was actually an entire sports store, so the trampoline was for sale too. The photo was just of the Yonex corner, which is still really big!