An afternoon around Shanghai

sh2Last weekend, I found myself in Shanghai to play in a football tournament. Arriving Friday afternoon, I just had a few hours to dedicate to tourism.  Since I was staying in the Jing’An Temple area, I first headed to People’s square.

This area, once a racecourse, is now home to Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Urban planning and exhibition hall and the grand theater. While these were all great to see, the square was all about the people. People were sitting out on their work breaks, some were waiting for their friends, some were meditating, feeding the birds giving it a great vibe.

sh1

sh5

 

sh4sh6

sh7

sh8

After the square, the original plan was to walk through East Nanjing Road, a shopping street, to the Bund. However, I got completely distracted when I saw the Bund in the distance and just walked in that general direction. Although this method took me through some side streets and had the locals looking at me funny, it made for a true Shanghai experience.

sh10

sh11

sh13

Finally, I made it to the Bund……..

wpid-20140530_165602_pano2.jpg.jpeg

wpid-20140530_165602_pano.jpg

This whole area features beautiful architecture and the boardwalk is the perfect place to relax and see the area at your leisure.

sh14

sh15

I did manage to find Nanjing Road on the way back…..

sh16

Feeling a bit hungry, I followed some locals into this food alley and using charades, bought a delicious vegetable pancake…

sh17

sh18

East Nanjing Road had so many stores, this would be a day trip in itself

sh20

sh21

My final destination before leaving was the area around my hotel. This is the Jing’An temple area. It looks great during the day but is at it’s best at night.

wpid-20140531_195655.jpg

wpid-20140531_195909.jpg

wpid-20140531_195839.jpg

wpid-20140531_200145.jpg

All China Gaelic Games and GAA in Korea

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to join 2 ladies and 14 men from Seoul Gaels in Shanghai to compete in the All China Gaelic Games. Teams from Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Dalian and Seoul, over 200 players from 10 different nationalities took part in the competition.

This was a weekend that showed that GAA in Asia is well and truly alive. I can’t help but wonder if, in 1884, Michael Cusack ever thought that 130 years after the GAA was founded, it would see clubs doing so well in Asia, thousands of miles from Tipperary.

I also think about how we, as Irish people, take GAA for granted. Every parish, village and town has a pitch with proper goals, people who know what Gaelic football is and how it’s played, access to footballs, jerseys, sponsors and trainers.  In Seoul, I see the committee struggle each week to secure a pitch for us to play. Each year, due to the very nature of expat living, there is a huge changeover of players. But despite all the difficulties, clubs continue, training goes on and so starts the dedication to the season and the team.

wpid-img_46108650272820.jpeg

Playing here is a little different to how we play back home. Games are 7 minutes a side, 9 players per team. In 30 degree summer heat, 7 minutes is a long time. In Korea, we have our own league with teams, mens and ladies from Seoul, Busan and Daegu. If numbers allow, teams are divided A and B. The league has at least 3 rounds so it provides a great opportunity to improve on fitness and skills between rounds, especially for new players.

wpid-img_46146063147285.jpeg

Then, there are Asian competitions like the All China Gaelic Games (ACGG’S), North Asian Gaelic Games (NAGG’s)and the Asian Gaelic Games (AGG’s). For the ACGG’s, only three of us were able to travel from the Seoul ladies team so Shanghai kindly agreed to let us play with one of their teams. This is the perfect example of how attitude is the winning formula for GAA in Asia. There is literally no such thing as “can’t” here. Everyone is welcome regardless of age, nationality or skill set. Everyone is encouraged to come out and get involved regardless of whether they’ve played before or whether they can commit to every tournament or not. It’s that welcoming approach that makes me regret not joining my team sooner. Despite never having met the women from Shanghai before Saturday, they welcomed us as part of their team and by playing with them, we walked away from the tournament having learned a lot that we can bring into the next games with us.

wpid-img_46203876143304.jpeg

Our mens team enjoyed exceptional success in Shanghai, losing out on the gold medal by just one point. Two of our players also won All star awards so overall a successful outing.

wpid-img_46129148931561.jpeg

It’s not all about the football either. Being part of the team is as much about the craic we have off the pitch as it is about the football itself. The theme for the after party last weekend was “Pirates of the Carribbean” and there were a few strange looks from the other guests in the hotel as pirates walked in and out of the lobby!

wpid-img_46159093806134.jpeg

Here in Korea, we’re preparing to host the North Asian Gaelic games this year which we’re really looking forward to. Teams from Japan and China as well as our own Korean teams will travel to take part in the tournament on July 5th.

If you’re interested in getting involved in GAA in Korea, you can contact our clubs;

http://seoulgaels.weebly.com/

https://www.facebook.com/daegu.fianna.3

https://sites.google.com/site/busangaa/home

Or for GAA in Asia

http://www.asiancountyboard.com/

Sleeping in Incheon Airport- Spa on Air, a review.

I don’t make a habit of sleeping in airports. I also don’t make a habit of sleeping there for the good of my blog, I was actually leaving on a trip. Now that we’re clear on that here’s how it all happened.

My conspirator, Olivia, and I were heading to the Feis in Shanghai. So, as a result of not wanted to get up at ridiculous o clock to catch a bus, to the train to get to the airport, we decided to give Spa On Air, the jimjilbang in Incheon Airport a go.

It was a Thursday night at midnight by the time we arrived. The airport was eerily quiet and we set off on the journey to find Spa on Air. Signage for the place is a joke. Couple this with the fact that I can’t read those ridiculous “you are here” maps and the whole thing was a special experience. Eventually, we found 2 adjummas having a break and we were grateful to find signs of human life. We thought we left it behind when we got off the AREX. They were good enough to point us in the right direction and we headed further into a land of nobodies. Eventually, we stumbled onto an area with flags for the much sought Spa on Air and with great relief approached the nice lady at reception. The only thought was that, with this many people not in the airport, there couldn’t possibly be too many people wanting to sleep in Incheon on a random Thursday night in March. I was wrong. No private rooms left (although at that random hour, I wasn’t surprised) but it would cost me 20,000 for a sleep over. This is definitely more expensive that regular jimjilbangs. (It is possible to ring ahead and get a reservation. Here is a link to their number http://www.airport.kr/airport/facility/efalicityInfo.iia?carId=39)
As we changed into our uniforms (the shorts and t-shirt provided at reception, mine could have fit a small family), it was clear that you were paying for quality. The dressing room was beautiful, lockers were large and the toilets were clean and new, ( No squatters here). We also had cleanser and cotton wool to remove makeup and hair dryers and all the usual things to make you look normal. There were mirrors everywhere (possibly so you could enjoy how great you looked in your uniform?) and it was all nicely decorated with signs in English and Japanese.

20130308_071911

20130308_071917

Next task, find somewhere to sleep. They have a lounge room with reclining chairs that look super comfortable, I wouldn’t know since everyone else had taken them and we had to make do with mats on the floor. Not to worry, sleep is sleep. Until someone leans too far back on their recliner and the entire chair falls with the loudest crash, just centimetres away from your head at 4am. There’s the usual coughing, snoring, talking, walking etc. going on during the night so although I caught a few hours shut eye, Olivia didn’t.

Next morning, up, shower, ready and what do you know, you’re already in the airport so it took us about 5 minutes to stroll to the check in desk.

All in all, I definitely would stay here again if, 1) I arrived back too late to take public transport and 2) I arrived early enough to get either a private room or a recliner. It’s the small things in life.

 

*Update- August 2013.

I’ve just stayed at Spa on Air before my trip to Malaysia. I rocked up around 7pm and there was loads of space. Although the recliners are very comfortable I just couldn’t sleep so I found a small sleeping room and slept on a mat on the floor. It was a surprisingly great nights sleep. Quiet, peaceful, and comfortable. The showers and baths here are lovely. They keep your suitcases at the front where they are safe and supervised until you leave.

What I liked;

  1. The place is super clean and new
  2. The staff speak English
  3. The lockers are big enough to fit a small suitcase.
  4. The showers and baths are great
  5. The changing room is spacious, quiet and well stocked with beauty products.
  6. There are loads of places to sleep. The lounge chairs, the public sleeping rooms and the private but public sleeping rooms.

What I didn’t like

  1. If you arrive really late, you might have to sleep on the floor in the lounge area which can be a little noisy with people coming and going and snoring etc
  2. The signage for the place is really bad.