Thursday, 26 September 2013

There's a deer in there!

Coming back to Toronto from nearly a year spent abroad, the jet lag has hit me hard this week. I've been waking up constantly at 4AM, wide awake, unable to fall back asleep.

Luckily, exercise is supposed to help with jet lag, so I went for a run this morning.

I didn't bring this little girl, though. It was still dark outside when I left, and she showed no interest leaving her warm bed.

I'm glad I didn't end up bringing her because I saw two deer on my run (she would've scared them away)! 

It doesn't look like it, but I swear there are deer in these pictures!!!

This one was a young male. I could see the beginning of antlers.

This was a female deer. She's quite deep among the trees, but she's there!
My stats: 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

We're coming home, Toronto!

I cannot believe it's been 10 months since we've left home!

And I cannot believe it's time to go back! This last month around Asia has been an absolute whirlwind.

Our paws feet have been all over Asia; Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong. And within each of those places, we've truly done our duty as good tourists and took massive amounts of transport/patience/lining up to get that perfect tourist picture. I'm officially DONE with living out of a backpack! DONE!!

I'm looking forward to driving a car again, walking on real sidewalks, practicing yoga daily in a real yoga space (basically, anywhere except a hotel room) and having some good vegetarian home cooked meals.

I'm also beyond excited to see this little lady:

Remember that face? Yup! She'll soon be back regularly on the blog!

Also, running! I can't wait to begin running regularly, along my favourite paths and trails. Add in Two-Two and running all together and I'm probably going to explode with happiness!

See you soon, Toronto!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The Korean DMZ

Last week, Steven and I arrived in Seoul as the last stop to our Asian adventure. Steven has a bunch of friends in Korea that we've been and will be visiting. But I really wanted to come to Korea to see the DMZ, the demilitarized zone, the only border in the world that is heavily patrolled by the military... on both sides! 

It's a fascinating, scary, and sad place. This border separates families--they have absolutely no way to reach their ancestral homes, or contact any surviving members on the other side. Only 4 km wide, but spanning over 200 km in length, the border cuts Korea right in half. For a country that has been through so much war, defended itself in history against Japan, China, Mongols, etc., it's a shame for it to still be fighting itself.

This statue from the War Memorial in Seoul really says it all; Brothers meeting each other on the battlefield and embracing.One is from South Korea, one from North.
You can't really take many photos in the real and proper DMZ, so I don't have much to post about here. But the tour is definitely worth your time if you are ever in the neighbourhood. Even though it's PACKED with tourists from all ends of the world, the infiltration tunnels, the info centres, the observatory, the train station...these are all fascinating to see and learn about. 

Just a note: the DMZ isn't something you can see on your own as a civilian. If you're driving, guards will turn you back far before you get anywhere close to the DMZ. So everyone must sign up for a tour. REMEMBER TO BRING YOUR PASSPORT!!!! I was amazed that so many people would actually forget! Sure, they've made it all nice and easy and pretty for tourists to see, but IT'S A FRIGGIN' MILITARY ZONE. Bring that identification shizzle yo, and keep it on you!

Toeing the "No Photo Line" at the Doresan Observatory. 

Though I'm talking non-stop about the DMZ in this post, the main attraction is really Panmunjom, the Joint Security Area, where guards stand face-to-face like in all those famous photos. Panmunjom is where heads of state gathered to discuss peace, so it is an important location in history. It's also smack dab on the border, where one step either way means you've crossed over to the other jurisdiction (but I doubt they'd allow tourists to even get within stepping distance). 

To book this tour, you will need to reserve a spot 3 days ahead. They require a passport check and have quite a strict dress code. Unluckily for us, the tour was already full so we couldn't go even though we were ready and willing!

Anyway, it's definitely a wake-up-call kind of place. You realize how lucky we are to be safe and happy back in North America, no mandatory military service, no unfriendly neighbour to the North... kind of important, eh?

Monday, 9 September 2013

A Tsurumi River Run

Living outside of Tokyo for these few days have been a breath of fresh air (literally) compared to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.

For the past few days, Steven and I have been meeting friends and touring around Tokyo - Shibuya, Harajuku, Asakusa, etc. It's a lot of effort, fighting HORDES of people through subway and train stations, streets, markets, etc. By the end of the day, we are always exhausted.

This morning, we decided to have a glorious sleep in, as our only plan was to hit up Studio Ghibli later in the day (I'M SO EXCITED I CANNOT WAIIITT!!).

I got out of the house around 9:30 AM for a really hot, sweaty run by the neighbourhood river. As I had no idea where I was going, I had to count the number of bridges I passed so that I knew which bridge took me home when I turned around.

By the end of it, I was drenched in sweat and hotter than a furnace! Even 10:00 AM in early September is seriously hot in Tokyo! I'm actually looking forward to having a cool fall when we return to Toronto.

My stats:
2.30 miles
33 minutes
9.03 mins / km

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Hitting the shrines in Kyoto, Japan

An ancient capital of Japan, Kyoto is still filled with shrines, temples and castles that date back hundreds of years. With only 2 and a half days in the city, Steven and I had to do a quick highlights-of-Kyoto tour. Add in the constant rain, wet feet, crowded, humid, sweaty buses, it was seriously a journey to get to some of these places.

OK. My absolute favourite temple in Kyoto (given that I didn't have time to see them all) was the Fushimi Inari Shrine (the entrance of which is pictured above).

We didn't actually visit the ancient shrine because the Japanese were kind enough to put it on top of Mount Inari. Steven and I were not keen on battling mosquitoes and slippery footwear up a friggin MOUNTAIN. The there-and-back journey is supposed to take 2 hours, and that would have cut into my lunch time.

Still, it's my favourite temple because of all the beautiful scenery along the way. The pathway is lined with torii (gates) that are engraved with names and dates of the donors. The donors are often major companies wanting to be blessed with financial success, as Inari is associated with wealth.

Although not pictured, all along the torii pathway are little shrines, made of wood and stone, most often with foxes guarding the inner shrine. Kitsune (foxes) are associated with the Inari deity, serving as their messengers, and so they guard this shrine. They are, btw, the most badass foxes in the world.

My next favourite is Sanjusangendo, the 750 year-old temple with a thousand golden Buddhist Kannon inside.

Though you can't tell from this picture, the hall is super duper long. In fact, it's so long that it's length is used as a challenge to archers in a yearly archery contest. Like many Japanese things, they took an archery contest and turned it into a 24-hour archery marathon, the winner of which gets his or her name inscribed on a plaque in the hall. The old wooden structural posts even have marks and notches where archers strung their bows, where arrows mistakenly landed, etc. Today, they still hold an archery contest, but I don't believe anyone is interested in the 24-hour archery marathon.

You can't take pictures inside because many of the deities are still being worshipped. With my Buddhist Chinese background, and then my yoga training on top of that, it was fascinating to see all the similarities between Hindu and Buddhist deities, and how they transformed over time.

If you're ever in Kyoto, I definitely recommend these 2 historical spots. While the bigger attractions like Kiyomizu-desu, the Golden Pavillion, and the Heian shrine are all very cool, these 2 were my definite favourites.

For dinner, Steven and I wandered the traditional (read: pricey) area of Gion. Tucked away in an alley was the Udon Museum, which served some seriously yummy noodles.

They had an English menu, were happy to explain anything to the best of their abilities, made concessions for my vegetarianism, and were reasonably priced! Best way to end a hard day exploring.

Make up in Japan....Eyeliner!

Yesterday, I had to throw out my old makeup because it was starting to irritate my eyes. Luckily, Japanese make-up shops are like candy stores; full of new goodies everywhere you look!

I picked up this bad boy for around 1900 yen, or 20 dollars. It's a 3-in-one stick, perfect for traveling. I'm happy with how it looks on me (it's really basic black eyeliner anyhow), and it's really, REALLY waterproof! I can't wait to do more shopping!

However, I don't know how much longer my legs can last. Day after day of touring around in flip flops really destroys your calf muscles. I have never had such SORE ankles before, not even after running.

Monday, 2 September 2013

A Rainy Run in Kyoto


I love this place. It's full of shrines, temples, history, alleyways, shops, hidden cafes, restaurants, and so, so much more that I don't even have words GAH!

We only had a small taste of the culture and history here yesterday, which will continue in force today despite the rain.

I started today with a run, with the ultimate goal to explore the Kyoto Botanical Gardens. I haven't run in about a month.

I didn't even get close to the Botanical Gardens. :)

I was huffing and puffing by the time I made it to the first major intersection, and by the time I got to Kamo River, I was soaked by the rain, and blisters were already forming on my toes. I'm a horrible excuse for a runner.

However, I got to run along this for a while:

It's even more beautiful in real life. I think I'm in love.

My stats:
2.13 miles
33 minutes
9.37 km/min pace