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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!