Boryeong Mud Festival

Only 1 week back in Korea and I find myself rolling around on a mud flat surrounded by about 100 others foreigners and preparing to run a 5km “Mud Marathon”. This could only happen at the Boryeong Mud Festival, an annual festival held on Daechon beach on the West Coast where 1,000’s of Koreans and visitors converge on a stretch of beautiful beach and cover themselves in therapeutic mud, roll around in mud baths, slide down mud slides and compete in mud races. There is also big money to be made in the annual photographic competition, which is probably the reason we had photographers making us jump around like performing puppets for the day, lining us up so they could snap the perfect festival snap!

I think these photos, many of which were taken by Katrina from Adventure Korea (the travel group which organized our festival weekend), convey the fun to be had much more than my words ever will! :)

Before the race, numbers clipped on and ready to roll!

Before the race, numbers clipped on and ready to roll!

Time to get muddy - race warm up exercises!

Time to get muddy – race warm up exercises!

After the race with medals and beers!

After the race with medals and beers!





Colored paint and wizard staffs!

Colored paint and wizard staffs!





Helipad Lounge – Kuala Lumpur

While in Kuala Lumpur last week I heard about an amazingly unique “pop up” bar, located on a helipad on the 36th floor of an office building in the centre of the city. Pretty cool, right?

Well I spent 2 days searching for the place and simply could not find it. I knew it was in an office tower called “Menara Kh” so I kept telling various taxi drivers that is where I wanted to go. I kept saying take me to the “menara” bar or to the “menara tower” but kept ending up at other tall random buildings. I later found out that “menara” means “tower” in Malay…no wonder the poor taxi driver was confused considering the 100’s of tower blocks dotted around the city!! Whoops!!

It wasn’t all wasted time though as I did come across another cool rooftop bar called “Luna” on the 34th floor of the Pacific Regency Hotel. It had amazing views of the KL skyline, an outdoor swimming pool, good tunes and excellent cocktails.

Enjoying a Cocktail at Luna Bar

Enjoying a Cocktail at Luna Bar

The amazing outdoor rooftop pool at Luna Bar

The amazing outdoor rooftop pool at Luna Bar

After 3 days searching for the mysterious Helipad , a kind local couchsurfer pointed out the building to me and I was able to re-trace the same route the following day and finally ascend to the 36 floors to the mesmerising  Helipad Lounge!

First off, you go up to the 34th floor of a pretty deserted office building, where I continued to doubt if I was indeed in the right place. However after briefly wandering around the empty office block I found the bar and was pretty ecstatic! I ordered a Mojito and was told to head on up the stairs, a further 2 stories, to the Helipad.

Walking out onto the roof, 36 floors up, was pretty amazing. There were 360 degree views of the city skyline unobstructed by fences or barricades or netting or windows, from the Patronas towers, to the Kl Tower, it was really a spectacular sight. I arrived just as the sun was setting, which meant the sky was turning a moody pink and the 10 or so other adventurists who had made it to the top were all snapping away getting once in a lifetime shots of themselves drinking cocktails on a Helipad.

Sunset cocktails on the Helipad = AMAZING!

Sunset cocktails on the Helipad = AMAZING!

Posing on the Helipad - 36th floor of the Menara KH

Posing on the Helipad – 36th floor of the Menara KH

The drinks were only 20 Ringgit, so around 5 euro, the service was great and the views were sensational. I highly recommend going to this bar if you are in Kuala Lumpur. (The bar is only open from 7pm until 9pm (perfect for sunset cocktails) so make sure to get their early.)

Pick your seat...just make sure there are no helicopters trying to land!

Pick your seat…just make sure there are no helicopters trying to land!



Ten things you NEED to know about Ireland

In line with my Irish patriotism this week, and declaring war on anyone stupid enough to refer to St Patrick as ‘st patty’, I am dedicating this post to the little (but awesome) nation of Ireland. So here is a list of things you may have thought were Irish but aren’t and things you may not have thought were Irish but are!! Confused yet? You will be!

10. Saint Patrick was neither a Saint nor Irish!

Many people are completely oblivious to why Irish people all over the world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Why do over 2 MILLION people show up to watch the parade in New york City,  why they go as far as dying the river GREEN in Chicago and why 100,000’s of people in Ireland hold a week-long festival  around this time every year. Well it is all in the name of Saint Patrick…despite that NOT being his real name and him not been born in Ireland. So now every year we get polluted drunk, dress up like leprechaun with lucky charms dangling for all and sundry to see, dancing around in circles praising some Welsh man who apparently rid Ireland of snakes. Crazy, right?!

9. Potatoes are NOT from Ireland

So turns out St Patrick is no more Irish than potatoes. Which, FYI, originally grew in Chile as far back as 500 BC and only arrived in Ireland as late as the 16th Century. Crazy..I KNOW! On the subject of potatoes, or spuds as we call them back home, people in Uganda have a special name they call mashed potatoes and I didn’t believe it until I visited for myself. In Uganda, if you want some mash with your dinner you must order some “Irish”.

8. U2 isn’t even Irish!

Well not all of them anyway. In fact not only is half the band NOT Irish but they hail from a land Ireland believes to be it’s enemy…they hail from…ENGLAND!! Both The Edge and Adam Clayton were born in London and Oxfordshire to Welsh and English parents respectively. Only Bono and Larry Mullen are Irish true and true!

7. There is a place in Ireland called MUFF.

And as ridiculous as it is for a Journalist to start a sentence with “and”, it is also ridiculous that there is, you guessed it, a diving centre located in this lovely little town in North Donegal, the ever popular ‘Muff Diving Centre’. There is also a “Muff Hair Dresser”, should you feel the need for a trim. You could always take a trip town to the quaint little town of Nobber in Co. Meath or Sally’s Gap in Co. Kerry if you get bored.

6. It is illegal to drink on the streets in Ireland!

Everyone imagines Irish people stumbling around the streets of Dublin, pint in hand singing to our hearts content. The reality is a little sobering. Drinking on the street or anywhere outside of a licensed premise is in fact illegal in Ireland. Pubs/ bars / clubs etc are all  closed by 2.30am, what could be one of the earliest closing times out of all cities in Europe! Ok it may be one of the most ignored rules in the history of any legal system and if it were to be enforced half the population would be thrown in cells each weekend, would it is technically illegal!

5. Everyone wants to be Irish!

This isn’t some light-hearted joke, “har har har sure everybody wants to be Irish on St Patrick’s day!”. No! This is a fact. How is it that while the population of Ireland, which is a tiny Island really, is only 5 million (and decreasing every day) yet over 80 MILLION people worldwide claim Irish ancestry and hold Irish passports or dual citizenship?! That is a WHOLE lot of people “claiming” to be Irish! Wannabes.

4. Guinness ISN’T that popular in Ireland!

Granted the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin is the most popular tourist attraction in Ireland and Guinness had been around now for OVER 250 years, but I’m sorry to say the drink itself is far from popular. Old men in small quiet pubs can be seeing drinking it day in day out. Some Younger guys and a sprinkle of girls perhaps but that’s about it. Yes Tourists love it, or at least claim to! But the fact remains that MORE GUINNESS is sold each year in NIGERIA than in all of Ireland! Now THAT is crazy!

3. Saint Valentine’s ashes are in Ireland

We may not have St. Patrick, but we do have Saint Valentine! The remains of St Valentine, the Patron Saint of Love and Lovers, are held in the Whitefriars Street Carmelite Church in Dublin. They were discovered in the early 1800s in Rome and some three decades later were given to a Dublin priest by Pope Gregory XVI. After nearly a century in storage, the relics were rediscovered about 50 years ago and are now housed in a shrine at the church, beneath a statue of the saint holding a crocus flower. I think few people are aware of this one!

2. No one’s as Irish as Barack Obama!

For this one you REALLY need to listen to this song on YouTube.

“O’Leary, O’Reilly, O’Hare and O’Hara There’s no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama. You don’t believe me, I hear you say But Barack’s as Irish, as was JFK. His granddaddy’s daddy came from Moneygall, A small Irish village, well-known to you all!”

On the topic of Irish-American relations, did you know that James Hoban, an Irishman, designed the White House and apparently Irish composer John Stafford Smith wrote the tune to “Star Spangled Banner” back in 1750! BAM!

1. Irish people struggle to speak Irish.

 Thanks to the decrease in the Irish language, when foreigners ask their Irish friends to speak Irish they will *most likely* shout random Irish words such as “Ciúnas! Bóthar! Cailín! Bainne!” and  nobody has a clue what they’re saying.  And all thank’s to a clever advertising genius in Calsberg.

“On the day of Judgement, while Christ judges all other nations, St Patrick will be the judge of the Irish.”


St Patrick’s Day in Holland

A Champagne breakfast

Cycling from bar to bar

Green face paint

Guinness and Bulmers flowing like water

Story telling

Cheesy jokes

Singing songs

A Club that changes DJs every 15 minutes

A great day…thanks to everyone who made it so fun!



The Seoul-Mazing Race

Shouts of “I”ve got a bottle of VODKA..whoop whoop!!”, despite having just signed a race waiver that forbade the possession or consumption of alcohol, was a pretty good indication of how the day ahead was about to pan out; full of rule breaking, alcohol consumption and endless high spirits!

Usually, spending my saturday dashing on and off trains, buses and cars and running all over Seoul as fast as my little legs can take me would be a SATURDAY FROM HELL.

However last Saturday was an exception. It was the date of the Seoul-Mazing Race, similar to “The Amazing Race” which I’m sure most of you are familiar with, but organized by NEH magazine in Seoul.

Our Geumchon crew

We started off in Yeoido park, bottle of vodka for one team, bottle of whiskey for the other…Rehydration is VERY important when running a 10 hour race around a jam-packed city on a scorching hot, summer’s day!

My team; Cindy, Jennifer and Myself lined up next to the other 34 teams, pumped and ready for a day packed full of challenges and surprises. CJ, the race organizer had given us our first clue (he told us, “your first clue is over there. You will find a bag of rice cakes which you MUST finish before we finding the next clue…)

BAM, suddenly he had lowered his arm and the teams were off. A stampede of Elephants racing across the park in search of a bag of dry, tasteless rice cakes. I too would have been with them if I hadn’t tripped over within the stampede and lost my shoes…! Great start, I know.

As one of the last teams to reach the rice cakes, it appeared there were no rice cakes to be found. What was first confusion and frustration quickly turned to delight when we were simply whispered the next clue and didn’t even have to eat any stinky rice cakes. Ka-Boom…we jumped in a taxi and were off to Noryangjin Fish Market for what which we knew would be a nasty eating challenge.

Me, Jennifer and Cindy "Geumchon Crew"

Eating fermented Skate fish..Bones and all GO JEN!

En route we landed ourselves with the coolest taxi driver ever, who proceded to sing a korean rendition of “Oh Danny Boy” once he heard I was from Ireland! Was such a hilarious journey I was sad to leave him as we leapt out of the taxi to be greeted with the smell of putrid seafood, raw fish and other awful smells one associates with an enormous fish market.

The challenge was to eat a full plate of Sambap; which is supposedly a “Korean Delicacy”, consisted of raw, fermented skate fish, fatty pork belly and spicy, fermented cabbage. As I don’t eat seafood and Cindy pulled her Vegetarian card, this challenge was left to Jen. As we saw her struggling and were anxious to get out of the rotten smelling market as soon as possible, we picked at the plate, flicking bits of foul smelling sambap over our shoulders whenever nobody was looking, until we eventually had an empty plate and were handed the next clue. SUCCESS! 

Next we had to jump on the nearest bus (after quickly deciphering the Korean hanguel and deciding it was going in the right direction!) to challenge number 3! We ended being guided (in reality in was more like chasing after!) by a beautifully dressed Korean Lady, who we ran after for 10 minutes straight through a high class department store and down into a place called “I heart Dalki”, a sort of creche/bakery inside the shopping centre. Here we had to pick a random child and get them to play charades with us guessing the words we were acting out…random was the name of the game here..seriously random.

On the subway..again!

One of our clues

1 subway ride and one crazy bus ride later and we reached our next challenge spot…the Kimbap challenge! (think of a large sushi roll or rice and veggies wrapped in seaweed)..where each team had to make two kimbap rolls and sell them to randomers on the street. This was pretty hilarious watching waygookins running around trying to push badly made Kimbap on innocent passers-by. Bit of a disaster for most teams who ended up just giving money from their own pocket to pay the Kimbap restaurant owner as nobody would pay for their crappy rolls!!

Fast forward through the “impossible to find” pit stop, a REAL pit stop in Burger King which could have cost us the race (no other teams stopped for lunch..! whoops!), a photo challenge in Gangnam, a tour of the Kimchi Museum and getting pelted by water balloons by my lovely team mate as part of a challenge in Jamsil Park, another quick rest stop and we were on the home straight!

Cindy rolling Kimbap for us to sell!

Back on the Bus!

Next up was a mad dash in yet another mental taxi to a TapHouse near Itaewon where we got some nice cold, home brewed beers to make the last stretch more bearable! There were 6 challenges left and 6 challenges that would very nearly make us crack. Very nearly make us quit, drop out, go home, scream, vomit, who knows what it nearly did to us!!

First off was “The writing is on the wall” challenge in Insadong were we spent close to an hour waking around a spiral, 4 storey, outdoor market, in which the walls were plastered in grafitti and we had no ide what exactly we were looking for. Definitely the hardest challenge of all.

Eventually, after calling some buddies for help, we found the blue scrawlings and were on root to challenge number 11...the story of King Sejong! Here we had to enter the underground Museum and write out names in Korean using a traditional method then we had to pay our respects to the long deceased King.

Next up was one of the worst challenges of the day. As a team we had to consume a full tin of SILK WORM LARVAE. Usually even the smell of these creepy crawlies makes me want to vomit, but this time it was even soaked in their juices which was no help to my gag reflexes. Jen to the rescue again, helped by me and Cindy periodically filling our pockets with the grotesque smelling and foul tasting bugs, in a lame attempt to empty the can without really having to eat any!! Another SUCCESS!

Yuck Yuck Yuck

And onwards to the last challenge of the day…the beer tasting challenge! “I’ll take this one girls!”, I told my team mates! 5 beers later and I easily identified the mystery beer I was given. We even opted to sit in the restaurant drinking more free beer instead of rushing off to the finish line…at this stage we weren’t bothered in what position we finished aslong as we made it to the finish line! The finish line, ended up being in AN IRISH BAR(!!!) way south of the river which meant another half hour trip on the subway and another mad taxi ride, only to arrive in 18th place out of 35 teams! Not bad, not bad for a team of dossers, eh? 

We may not have won, we may not have completed all the challenges perfectely but one thing we did do is have a FANTASTIC day! It was one of the most fun, crazy, random things I have ever done and I will jump at the chance to do similar AMAZING RACES in the future!