Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 Malaysia Super Series

It's been a while since my last update, but it's because the power switch to my netbook broke and I was only traveling with my Kobo Vox e-reader in Malaysia, but now that I'm back in Korea, I can update about the last week :) Unfortunately, since I couldn't update, I didn't really take too many pictures and I only recorded the Canadian matches, so if you're looking for more this time, sorry :(

We had to wake up early to catch the bus to go to the airport in Incheon, Korea as we had an 8:45am flight. Being on the Korean Air Limousine bus, I scanned the duty free magazine they provide on their bus and stole the Kim Yuna ad out of the magazine. If anyone is looking to buy anything she is advertising from the duty free magazine I ripped the picture from, I apologize! For those of you who don't know her, she is the 2010 Winter Olympic Women's Figure Skating Gold Medalist for South Korea :) Well, that was pretty much my highlight of the morning :P We flew Asia Air X to Malaysia, which is a pretty interesting airline. They discount their tickets but make you pay for extras on everything, including luggage, food, and water on the plane. Overall, if you're not too picky, it's actually not too bad. It was a 6 hour flight so I did get hungry and I wanted some water for my cup noodle from Korea. Apparently they do not allow outside food or drink, but my convincing argument that I will purchase their cup noodle if they give me hot water for my noodle (i.e. MY noodle is better :P) and they kinda thought it was stupid, so they just gave me free water. With the money I didn't spend, I bought a drink :) I guess that's the start of practicing bargaining in Malaysia :)

Kim Yuna ad for J.Estina
We arrived and waited a while in immigration, as the lineup was terrible with Chinese people trying to cut in AGAIN (even the immigration officer was rolling her eyes) and had a long ride into the city. The tournament hotel was the Berjaya Times Square Hotel, basically attached to Berjaya Times Square, a giant 10-floor shopping mall but we couldn't get a room on the Monday so we stayed across the street at the Melia Kuala Lumpur Hotel, also a 4 star hotel for about the same price (minus breakfast). The accommodations in both hotels were quite nice, but I actually preferred the rooms in the Melia instead. Unfortunately, we arrived right during the manager's meeting, and apparently we had a practice time at the main hall for 6pm, with the bus leaving at 5pm. We had actually arrived at 4:30pm, with the manager's meeting starting at 4:00pm, so you can see how tight we were with the scheduling. We took our luggage with us and went to the hall and practiced for an hour and a half. The stadium was quite windy, with a diagonal draft, but it wasn't too bad for the tournament as we fortunately got to play on the same court, but I'll explain that later. After, we finally checked into the hotel, had some food, and then called it a day :) Much too much traveling in a single day, that's for sure o__O

2 giant cups of milk tea, cuz my Kobo Vox has a 7" screen
On the qualifications day, we couldn't get any practice courts as they were all booked up. It was a little frustrating, but ironically, we decided to head down to check out the internet in the mall as internet was a paid service in the hotel rooms. We bumped into Linda Zechiri of Bulgaria and asked if they were using their practice court. Apparently she didn't even know it was booked and said she would not be using it. We scrambled and found Michelle and Alex, fortunately via Facebook, as Alex just happened to buy a cheap sim card which gave her 3G data for the whole week! Anyway, we rushed to meet up, got our stuff and grabbed a taxi to the practice hall. To our dismay, it turns out that there were MANY practice courts available, even more than we could book. Unfortunately, the practice courts were quite hot and humid, so training was quite difficult with the humidity and loads of sweat :P We took the shuttle back fortunately, so we at least had a practice before we played. Later that night I ventured into the mall and found some Thai food! Food in Malaysia was incredibly cheap and I was able to pay less than $7 CAD for the entire meal. I will sure miss their food prices.

Pineapple Fried Rice + Tom Yum Soup
The next day started off with Michelle and Alex playing against the Wang sisters from the USA! This was an excellent draw for Michelle and Alex and they definitely took advantage of it and took the win in straight sets. Next up was Michelle in her singles against last week's WS champion, Wang Shixian of China. She didn't do too bad, but I think her knee started to really bother her a lot in the match. Last up for the day was Grace and I against another Chinese team. We had quite a bad start, being down I think 11-1 at the interval and we lost the first set maybe 21-8. We picked it up in the 2nd set, taking a good lead at the beginning before letting our opponents catch up and get to the interval first. From there, the game went kind of up and down, especially with a lot of net rolls going back and forth on each side. In the end, it came down to us being down 19-20, but we couldn't get that point back to lose 21-19. I wouldn't really say it was that close, as I felt it was a wild game. I felt I did some things well, but I also did other things poorly, as I was very bent on trying to do a select few things correctly. Also, Jan O Jorgensen from Denmark was having a really long match against China's Du Pengyou on the TV court, so that's why everyone was cheering and all. They definitely weren't watching my match :P

 The next day we went to the stadium to watch Michelle and Alex play against the seeded Chinese Taipei team. They did fairly well this time, as I believe they played them previously in the 2011 Canada Open. My match video is in two parts because they told me I couldn't film at a higher level and I had to film from a lower level. As you can see, people at the tournament seem to have this incredible need to walk around and it's a little annoying to see so many people walk in front or through the camera. Especially in Michelle's WS match were I had to climb to the top  and film, there were many people actually standing in my shot so that I had to actually put my tripod on a ledge to make it high enough, hence why it's shaking as I had to hold it down every now and then to keep from falling. Ugh, regardless, I got the footage :P After the match I was able to get a bit of bonus footage of Michelle and Alex getting interviewed by a reporter. I'm not too sure which network he is filming for, but I figure I would take a bit of video just in case we never see it again! Basically the reporter interview Alex and asks her a bunch of questions, then we have Michelle coming in and trying to answer those questions to see how well she knows her partner. Fortunately, Michelle did really awesome and probably answered all the questions correctly! Check out the video below :) 

The last couple of days were spent training, watching matches and a bit of shopping. I bumped into Jessy Sung, an old badminton friend from Vancouver who took up with the Badminton World Federation in Malaysia! It was nice to see her for a bit, even though we didn't really get to meet up, but it's nice to have friends everywhere you go, right? ;) We flew back to Korea on Saturday afternoon, set to arrive at 9:55pm. Apparently the last bus to Iksan, the city where we train with Kim Dong Moon, was at 10:30pm so we were a little nervous in wondering if we could make it or not. Fortunately, we arrived early at about 9:25pm, so that gave us more time than we did before! It took about 5-10 minutes to get to the terminal, 10 minutes to get off the plane, another 10 minutes or so to get to immigrations, another 10 minutes to clear immigration and a little longer to get our bags. We finally arrive and made it to the bus station with time to spare... BUT THE TICKETS WERE ALL SOLD OUT!... Definitely one of those FML moments. In the end, we decided to find a nearby hotel and found one online which included an airport shuttle. Fortunately, it was only 77 000 KRW (~$70 CAD) which was pretty awesome. We took a bus the next day to Iksan and will be there for the week to train with Kim. We're heading back to Canada on the 22nd, so just a week left before I make it home to a Chinese New Year's dinner!

Less than $4 CAD meal in Malaysia
~$8 Meal in Korea... Vegetable Bulgogi... VERY delicious :)

Matches via YouTube:
WD R32:
Alex BRUCE/Michelle LI [CAN] vs. Rena WANG/Iris WANG [USA]
Full Match

WS R32:
WANG Shixian [CHN] vs. Michelle LI [CAN]
Game 1
Game 2

XD R32: HE Hanbin/BAO Yixin [CHN] vs. Toby NG/Grace GAO [CAN]
Full Match

WD R16: CHENG Wen Hsing/CHIEN Yu Chin [TPE] vs. Alex BRUCE/Michelle LI [CAN]
Game 1 (Pt 1)
Game 1 (Pt 2) & Game 2

Thanks for visiting! Next tournament: 2012 Manulife Canadian National Championships, presented by Yonex (Feb 1-4, 2012). Click HERE for blog posting!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2012 Korea Open (Part II)

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to update the blog as much as I wanted to, though I did do some massive postings on my Facebook Page. A lot of stuff here will be up there as well, but this should be more or less the complete package. Another bad thing that happened was that my netbook decided to break on me and stopped working in the afternoon after I came back from some morning shopping. It was quite disheartening, but hopefully I can get it looked at when I get to Iksan, South Korea, after the Malaysia Open. Anyway, let's get back to Korea!

We started play on Tuesday, as Michelle and Alex were in the qualifications. They had an okay game with Korea, but they lost out at the end of each set and lost to Korea in straight sets. The next day, Grace and I were playing a Japanese team we had faced twice before already, but unfortunately we lost for a third time. The hall was pretty nice to play in, although it made the shuttles feel a little slow. We made too many mistakes and that pretty much cost us the match. Later, Michelle had a rematch against Tine Baun of Denmark, the top Danish player in Women's Singles. The match didn't fair too well for Michelle, as her opponent was quite relentless, being a top player, so she lost in straight sets as well. It was a disappointing tournament for all of us, but we are playing at the highest level, so we didn't really have too many expectations. Hopefully the next week in Malaysia will go a bit better.

Between our matches, training, and watching other people play, we only had a little time to do other things. However, eating is always an adventure in Korea, so here are some of the things we tried. Korean sushi (kim-bab) was definitely a favorite for everyone though the noodles (ra-myeon) were a hit and miss as they were quite spicy. We also ended up trying some dumplings (man-du), rice cake (tteok-bo-ki), among other things for lunch. For breakfast, Alex and I ended up visiting Paris Baguette a few times, getting assorted pastries and breakfast sandwiches, and we all went out for Korean chicken (and beer :P) one night. We also ended up doing Korean BBQ with pork belly (sam-gyeop-sal) and kimchi once, and I went with Alex to a Korean style Chinese restaurant... or is it Chinese style Korean restaurant? There, we had a noodle with black sauce (jja-jang-myeon) and sweet and sour chicken (tang-su-yuk).

Alex vs. 'Tang-Su-Yuk" (Sweet n Sour Chicken
Ginseng Chicken Soup (sam-gye-tang) with Oysters

Breakfast at Paris Baguette!

Alex, Grace, and Michelle with Korea fried chicken

We were able to get a little bit of time to visit some of the more interesting areas including Lotte World and Myeong-Dong. Lotte World contains a giant amusement park, skating rink, duty free department store shopping, a supermarket, and tons of restaurants! It's also connected to a giant hotel which we briefly walked through and has a museum in the mall as well. The next morning, Alex and I went to Dong Dae Mun and Myeong Dong. We were quite disappointed with Dong Dae Mun, as it wasn't quite what we expected (though we really didn't know what to expect, including some weird man who randomly yelled "WELCOME!" to Alex as he walked by her hahaha). However, Myeong Dong was quite a nice place, considering that I discovered that there was a Tokidoki store somewhere in the area. We went there and had a cheap McDonald's lunch (QuarterPounder meal = $4.00 CAD) before trying to find the mall. Unfortunately, we got lost and couldn't find the mall we wanted to go to. We were about to give up and try to ask for directions, when all of a sudden we look up and find the mall right in front of our eyes... but unfortunately across the street still. We went inside and I finally found my store, so I ended up buying quite a bit :) That was pretty much it after, aside from Alex's picture with a guy in a Mario suit :P  

Alex and Michelle at Lotte World
People playing badminton outside!
Alex on an outdoor badminton court
Noon Square at Myeong Dong
Found my Tokidoki store at Noon Square, Myeong Dong!

Tokidoki Ninja Dog hat
Alex and Mario!

Well, a pretty big update I guess... Malaysia will be different as I probably won't be able to have a computer to update, so I won't be able to do anything for a while, including uploading video unfortunately :( However, please enjoy whatever footage I have from this week!

Results: [2012 Victor Korea Open]

Matches via YouTube:
WD Qualifier (R64): KIM Chan Mi/PARK So Young [KOR] vs. Alex BRUCE/Michelle LI [CAN]
Full Match

WS Qualifier (R64): HWANG Hye Youn [KOR] vs. P V SINDHU [IND]
Full Match

XD R32: HIRATA Noriyasu/MAEDA Miyuki [JPN] vs. Toby NG/Grace GAO [CAN]
Game 1
Game 2

WS R32: 
Full Match

WD R32: 
Meiliana JAUHARI/Greysia POLII [INA] vs. NG Hui Ern/NG Hui Lin [MAS]
Full Match

WS R32: 
Tine BAUN [DEN] vs. Michelle LI [CAN]
Full Match

D R16: HE Hanbin/BAO Yixin [CHN] vs. Chris ADCOCK/Imogen BANKIER [ENG/SCO]
Full Match

D R16: Tontowi AHMAD/Liliyana NATSIR [INA] vs. HIRATA Noriyasu/MAEDA Miyuki [JPN]
Full Match

MD R16: 
LEE Sheng Mu/FANG Chieh Min [TPE] vs. KOO Kien Keat/TAN Boon Heong [MAS]
Ending Clip

HA Jung Eun/Kim Min Jung [KOR] vs. YU Yang/Wang Xiao Li [CHN]
Ending Clip

With YOO Hyun Young at the venue
Last but not least, I would like to thank Kim Dong Moon for helping us with arrangements and accommodations in Seoul! We ended up getting to stay at a nearby motel for a much cheaper price! Also, I would like to thank Lee Haeng Ham for spending time with us. He helped us out with directions to Dong Dae Mun and Myeong Dong! I think we will meet up for dinner tomorrow as well :) Additionally, I'd like to thank another player, Yoo Hyun Young for giving me some awesome Korean walnut pastries! I've given random stuff to players before, but she's always given me something back! It's really nice of her so I always bring something extra for her :) Unfortunately, we still have a pretty heavy language barrier... so instead of exchanging words, we're like exchanging gifts :P

Korean Walnut Pastries
That's all for now! I can't guarantee an update until I get my computer fixed but I'll do my best. Thanks for visiting!

Next up... 2012 Malaysia Open!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Korea Open (Pt I)

Update already!? Yeah, I think I will try to update more often but shorter posts, instead of the incredibly long post once in a while! Something like a longer Facebook status, but with pictures. I think every blog post needs some kind of media, so unless I find a picture or video, I probably won't write anything. Anyway, let's get started :)

I flew on the 30th from Vancouver and would arrive in Incheon on New Year's Eve. Unfortunately for me, jetlag got the best of me and I fell asleep long before it turned into the New Year. I finally got to upgrade to business class, as the last few times were unsuccessful, but it was a pleasant flight even though it was like, 12 hours. I had a lot of food and watched a lot of movies, including The Change Up, Puss In Boots, and Driver (or was it Drive)... anyway, my favorite movie had to be The Change Up... mainly because of Olivia Wilde heheheh...

A wonderful snack in Business Class on Air Canada
Soft fluffy clouds!
So there hasn't been too much happening. The tournament is about to start so it's just practice here and there and hanging out in our own hotel rooms. We aren't staying at the tournament hotel, as Kim was able to find us a cheaper place closer to the stadium. We can actually walk there, but it's quite cold outside. Only Grace and I are here at the moment, but Alex and Michelle will arrive tonight.

Main Venue
Practice courts
Well, that's pretty much the end of part one... or is it?! Let's have a little fun and do some Korean product review :)

This first product is pretty much like a Febreeze air freshener, although you can also spray your clothes and other things. It's also endorsed by Kim Yuna and costed about $4.50 CAD for 500ml of spray. It smells pretty nice and a few of us Canadian players are already pretty big fans about the spray. Definitely beats deodorant spray hahaha... definitely a product I will buy again if I can.

On the left, we have Pocari Sweat, a popular sports drink from Asia. On the right, we have a lychee apple juice by Minute Maid. The Pocari Sweat has a grapefruit-like flavor and is quite light. It's good to chug as it doesn't feel like you have a mouth full of sugar after you drink a lot of it, unlike Gatorade and the odd Powerade. The Minute Maid juice is pretty standard, but the flavor is quite rare and it tastes pretty good, especially mixed with a bit of soju hahaha =P

Both drinks are just drinks that contain a lot of Vitamin C, if anything 10x your recommended daily allowance (RDA in Canada). The one on the left is uncarbonated while the one on the right is. The flavor is actually really good, as it's quite lemony, but not super sour. As it contains 1000mg of Vitamin C, I'm pretty sure you don't want to drink more than a bottle a day. However, it's just awesome as it puts Vitamin Water to shame. The Vitamin Water here doesn't even give you 100% RDA of Vitamin C in a 500ml bottle.

This is a really good instant noodle flavor, introduced to me by Lee Haeng Ham the last time I came to Korea. It's like a clearer soup broth but with a jalapeno spiciness to it, so it is actually spicy. The noodles from Paldo are similar, but these instant noodles are actually a pretty decent quality. Definitely recommend it if you can find it. I think it's called "kko kko myeon".

This is a yogurt drink from the brand "Maeil" (I think it means... "mae-il" or 'everyday') which happens to also be endorsed by Kim Yuna. I don't know if I bought it because I wanted the yogurt, or because I wanted... uh... the box? =P Anyway, I got 8 bottles for about 5000 KRW (~$4.50 CAD), with 4 plain and 4 apple. Unfortunately, I prefer their regular yogurt as I feel this drink is a little to thin.

Korean pears! A must to have in Korea as they are super sweet and super juicy :) They also have different qualities though with the cheaper ones costing about 1000 KRW (~$0.90 CAD) each, but going up to maybe 3000-4000 KRW (~$2.70-$3.60 CAD) each.

Of course, I went and bought some more fabric softener / dryer sheets. I will buy more later, as I don't want to carry it everywhere with me, but since I saw this as the last box and it was a limited Christmas Edition, I kinda just bought it without thinking. Wow, guess that's the 3rd item I bought blindly from Kim Yuna. Guess those adds really work hahaha... Regardless, the sheets do smell really nice and makes whatever you use them for smell really nice too. Definitely recommended.

Last but not least, these are chocolate wafers from Korea that are really good! They are very light wafers with chocolate inside at just the right ratio, so it tastes quite spectacular for a chocolate cookie. They are called "Choco Hime" in Korean. They also have ones with white chocolate instead, called "White Hime" and is in a blue box instead. A box of 15 costs about 3000-4500 KRW, so that's about $2.70-4.05 CAD per box.

So that's it for my quick product review. I might add more later but I guess we'll see... until next time!