This tournament was kind of a last minute deal and something sort of spontaneous. I was fortunate enough to acquire a sponsor that gave me full support to attend the tournament and that made it a must attend. As well two of my friends were living/training in Korea so I would get to see them. In 2013 I competed in the Brazil international cup and made it to 2nd round there which gave me a lot of world ranking points. This year however they were testing the 11 point system at that tournament and I was not really wanting to enter because of that. Due to not entering this meant I would lose all those ranking points and my rank would drop, not something I needed to happen. So out of the blue this opportunity presented itself and I jumped on it, play a tournament and go back to Asia of course I was in. I had traveled a decent amount this year but the thing is that I booked a lot of flights on rewards points which meant that I didn’t acquire status miles on those flights. This meant that I might not even get status for 2015 and that’s a year that a lot of travel would be happening be it Olympic Qualifications starting in May. Because of this I booked my flight to Korea through Asiana airlines but that meant flying to LA first then to Seoul, Korea.
The day came it was time to leave and of course being Calgary there was snow on the ground, it was November after all. Arrived at the airport checked in and went to catch my flight but guess what it would be delayed. No big deal I thought I had a 2 and a half hour layover in LA before my flight to Korea how bad could it be right? Wrong turns out we were delayed almost 2 hours so I got into LA half an hour before my flight to Korea departed. Talk about stressful the next flight to Korea was the following morning and that would mess everything up, so I had to run (me and one other guy) through the terminals to get to the international terminal. Arriving at the gate just as the last few passengers were boarding the plane I had successfully made my flight but unfortunately my luggage didn't. 12 hours later I stepped off the plane in Incheon airport and had no luggage just my badminton bag and backpack. Now the fun part because the journey wasn't over I still had to take a bus roughly 4 hours south into Korea to make it to Jeonju. This was the killer part after flying for almost 15 hours already to sit down even more, I just slept the majority of the ride except when we had a pit stop.
|4 hours of driving through the Korean countryside|
So I arrived in Jeonju and got picked up by the tournament, dropped off at my hotel and told that my luggage would arrive the next day at 1pm. Thankfully I was in main draw and that meant that I did not have to go through qualification on the first day. This let me rest and wait for my luggage but not really explore or walk around. I got a little familiar with the immediate area but there wasn't much to see just places to eat and the odd store. There was a bunch of hotels grouped together where we were but they were almost like hostels or “other” kind of hotels judging by the area and all the gentlemen’s clubs that surrounded us. The interesting multicolored lighting in the rooms and the light up hot tub didn't help break the perception of the place either. Regardless it was still a nice hotel and perfectly fine for staying a week in the country. After having a hit in the main hall it wasn't looking to bad, the venue was big but because of the altitude and weather it felt similar to playing in Calgary which would be nice. The downside though was that the venue was cold and during the tournament you would see the umpire and service judge wearing actual winter jackets to stay warm.
|The area around the hotel|
|Signs like this everywhere|
|My hot tub/Jacuzzi changed colors...|
The following day rolled around and it was match time, I was scheduled to play one of the first matches in the morning while Grace and Henry (my 2 friends from Calgary who are living/training in Korea) were scheduled to play just after noon. I played a left handed player from Korea and at first appearances it was obvious just the physical differences between us. He was easily 6 feet and a bit as well was stockier in a good way compared to me. I appeared to be a small kid standing next to him, this also made him a beast on court easily covering the court and making moving him around a tough mission. Needless to say I got my ass handed to me on that faithful day, I just was not able to keep up to him in any way, shape, or form. There were some points where I played amazing and just by looking at that one would think I was on top but in reality they were rare strokes of pure luck mixed in with a bit of genius but my lack of experience or my uncertainty/over thinking was what ultimately lead to my downfall. After my match I stayed and watched Henry's and Graces mixed match, they had a close one with a Korean pair.
Well that was the tournament for me, nothing I wasn't accustomed to fly all that way play 1 match and then be done. For half of the draw that is the tournament, you fly all that way and lose 1st round, the other half wins and advances. But although the tournament was done I still had a day left in Jeonju to go out and explore. When we went back to the hotel Grace and Henry invited me out to eat and also invited the Egyptians out as well. So I would make 2 more friends as well as get some good Koran food that day. The following day would be my last in Korea before beginning the long journey back home, a quick turnaround just 5 days in the country which is normal for me traveling to tournaments. We all went out for some Korean hot pot and then later on in the day me Grace and the 2 Egyptians went to sight see in a place referred to as Hanok Village and it was a traditional looking area, lots of shopping as well as a fantastic church to see, Pungnammun Gate which was quite the sight located in the middle of a built up shopping area. Also went to Gyeonggijeon Hall which was a symbol of the Joseon Dynasty where the king had his royal palace. We spent a few hours browsing around and I was able to get some gifts for people as well as take lots of pictures to remember my trip down south in Jeonju, Korea. The day was not done yet though, there was still dinner plans for later.
Once we left the area and got back to the hotel, Grace told me that we would be meeting up with one of their friends for dinner and drinks later. The night started off with Korean BBQ and as always everything is so much better in its country of origin. The food was amazing, the various cuts of meat we got melted in one’s mouth and the flavor was both intense yet satisfying. The night was still young an after Korean BBQ and getting loaded up on both Soju and Korean beer we headed to get what else but fried chicken, something Korea is famous for and does damn well. Finding a location that was close to our hotel we hit it up and went crazy with the chicken and of course more drinking both Soju and beer. At this point we had had a lot to drink but at the same time I made sure to drink my fair share of water so I wouldn't have a nasty hangover to deal with the next day. I had already done the party all night and then fly super early in the morning the following/same day many times before and doing it without a hangover makes it substantially more bearable. We finished around 2/3 am and I had to catch the bus at 8am to take the 3 hour drive to Incheon Airport near Seoul in order to catch my 1pm flight back home to Canada. Needless to say I ended up getting a few hours of sleep followed by a hot shower to wake me up but ended up sleeping the entire bus ride up to the airport.
|Friend Chicken in Korea|
So that was that, the trip to Korea had come and I was on my way back home well to LA then to Calgary. The upside was that I would be flying in style on the Airbus A380, the double decked plane, but would be in for a surprise. I had only booked an economy class ticket on the 2nd floor but at the last minute I was able to upgrade it to a business class ticket on the 2nd floor. It might not be one of the private suites downstairs but it was still nice to fly a 12 hour flight in business and have a pod with a lay flat bed to relax on. The trip was complete I arrived back home Friday night and would sleep then go to work Saturday morning for 8:30am only to finish 9pm that same night. What about jet lag you ask well it was there and was it every a tough, long, and painful day…another that was repeated on Sunday as well. That was Korea, my 2nd last international of the year, I would play 1 more tournament to cap off 2014 and that would be Puerto Rico.
|My ride home|