In the first installment of "The Big List," we jogged across the Green Corridor, ascended Mt. Kinabalu, cycled from Singapore to Thailand, and explored many more fitness adventures throughout Southeast Asia. In Part II of this series, we head north to traverse the Great Wall of China, boulder over Hong Kong city slickers, and run through the mysterious city of Pyongyang, North Korea... Say what!?! Yes, for the first time in history, amateur marathoners will have their chance to race in the DPRK (if they're fast enough). Read on for fifteen more East Asia adventures and be sure to have your fitness bucket list handy! If you missed Part I, check it out here.
21. Run the Great Wall Marathon 17th May, 2014
Travel 5,164 steps on the Huangya Pass of China’s Great Wall in your favorite running shoes as you ponder how such an engineering feat could be accomplished over two thousand years ago. Completing 26.2 miles at one of the seven wonders of the world- and a vertical wonder, no less- will be no easy feat, so include stairwell runs in your training plans and acclimate yourself to sun-soaked jogs; there’s no shade on this route!
22. Sport Crag in Yangshuo
Once a sleepy village nestled amidst seemingly alien-world terrain, Yangshuo has exploded into a bustling tourist destination with no shortage of entertainment for all age groups. Climbers now throng to Yangshuo’s karst formations to explore some of the thousands of limestone peaks dotting the landscape. Sport cragging classes are abundant and serve all levels- just pop into one of the many adventure tourism shops in the heart of the village or arrange lessons through your hotel. One small tidbit of advice- watch out for wasps, which build nests within the nooks and crannies of the peaks.
23. Go Bouldering Over the City Slickers
Hong Kong is quickly becoming known as one of the very top rock climbing destinations in all of Asia, and a very unique one at that. While cosmopolitan dwellers enjoy shopping and dining close to the ground in the central business district, more adventurous souls have the opportunity to dangle over 300 meters above them at Central Crags. If you feel like you need a little practice, climbing gyms and drop in classes are numerous.
24. Climb the Temple of the 10,000 Buddhas
While most of the views in Hong Kong are accessible by elevator, you’ll have to put your legs to work if you want to enjoy the over 12,000 Buddha statues at this temple, in the New Territories district of Hong Kong. 431 steps and over 500 gold icons lead the way to the main temple, and nearly 70 more steps must be conquered if you wish to reach the temple which holds the remains of Yuet Kai, the founder of the complex.
25. Go River Tracing in Hualien
River tracing, otherwise known as river trekking, is a combination of hiking, wading, bouldering and climbing in and around a river canyon. The sport is increasingly popular among both Taiwanese locals and tourists alike, who head for outdoor exploration in Hualien, which offers waterfalls, caves, hot springs, clay baths and clear aqua waters. Guided treks are available for people of all fitness levels.
26. Hike Jade Mountain
Rise before the sun beats you to it, fuel up on an oyster omelet, and conquer the highest mountain in Taiwan- at 3,952 meters- in a single day. To summit Jade Mountain, a permit is required from the park administration and it is also recommended that all mountaineers spend the night at Dongpu lodge to acclimatize to the high altitude. The best time to go is in April and May, Taiwan’s prime hiking season.
27. Hit the Trails on a Mountain Bike
Skip the blackjack tables and save yourself a strong dose of remorse! Macau has much more to offer than just gambling, catering to health-conscious early birds and wild night owls alike. Rent a mountain bike and explore the unpaved, hilly trails of the southernmost island of Caloane, an old pirate hangout. Be sure to pack your swimsuit and take a dip at some of the best beaches the island has to offer.
28. Run the “Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset Ultramarathon” 6th August, 2014
Has typical distance running become a walk in the park for you? After a few dozen marathons, are you just plain bored with it all? Then the Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset Ultramarathon has a racing bib just waiting for your name! Soak in big sky, nomadic life and the most beautiful backdrop you’ve ever laid eyes on at Hovskol National Park. 100k and 42k options are both available. Be sure to book some time to explore Mongolia either before or after the race- consider having some R&R in a yurt, and don’t forget to hydrate on some airag, otherwise known as fermented mare’s milk!
29. Run the Tokyo Marathon 23rd February, 2014
Scramble through central Tokyo with over 35,000 other dedicated runners and nearly two million spectators as the wind whips through your skimpy shorts. Yes, it is quite cold in Tokyo in February, and historically, on marathon day, bad weather has become an annual tradition. Participation is granted by lottery, as there are usually ten times the number of applicants than available slots. One runner claimed that one of the toughest aspects of this particular race was actually getting in!
30. Climb Mt. Fuji
Gobble down a sushi breakfast and head out to Mt. Fuji on a clear morning in July or August, the only two months when there usually isn’t much snow. At 3,776 meters, it is Japan’s highest mountain peak and is considered an active volcano, last erupting in the early 1700’s. While the slopes are steep, smooth terrain and clear markers makes this climb relatively beginner-friendly.
31. Go Skiing!
Hitting the slopes isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when people think of athletic activities in East Asia, but the powdery peaks of Nagano and Hokkaido offer some of the best snowboarding and skiing on this hemisphere. Contrary to popular belief, skiing in Japan can be quite affordable in comparison to a winter getaway in Europe or the States. Just don’t expect much in the way of a post-ski lodge scene- the locals, it is said, are just there to ski, eat and enjoy the onsen- nude bathing in near-scorching hot pools.
32. Go White Water Rafting
Thrill seekers rejoice- between bungee jumping and white water rafting, South Korea has you covered. Rafters descend upon Gangwon-do Province in the hot summers to tackle the bubbling rivers in traditional kayaks and inflatable rafts. Rowing against strong currents provides a great upper body workout- tipping over is another story!
33. Run the Pyongyang Marathon
A friend of mine recently alerted me to this latest marathon addition and honestly, I’m very tempted! For the first time ever, amateur marathon runners will be allowed to participate in the Pyongyang Marathon in 2014. You better be speedy though- according to some rumors floating around on running web forums, marathoners will be expected to either finish or quit at the 3:00:00 mark. Last year, only elite athletes were allowed to participate, with a minimum completion time of 2:40:00. Say what!?! Well, it’s something to shoot for!
34. Participate in the Hyderabad Triathlon
Swim, bike, and run your way through the capital city of Andhra Pradesh with about a thousand other participants. While this event is fairly new- just completing its fourth year- it promises to be an annual tradition, adding a new category, “Half Iron” for extreme athletes who are ready to brave the heat and the distance!
35. Take an Everest Tibet Training Climb
Prepare for the ultimate of all climbs as you ascend 7,000 meters up Everest on a training climb expedition. Set aside a month for the entire climb, which includes some serious altitude adjustment, as well as lessons on ice climbing. It is advised that all participants should have previous experience with high altitude climbing and be a highly fit and active winter walker.
* Ok, so we traveled a bit more West than the East intended. I couldn't pass up the last two adventures!
So, there you have it- 35 wildly fun fitness adventures in East Asia to add onto your bucket list... just be sure to cross them off as well! Where will 2014 take you? Have I missed anything? If you could pick one fitness adventure to accomplish in the next twelve months, what would it be? Leave your comments; I always love hearing from you!
Looking to prepare your body and mind for a turning point or fitness adventure? Consider personal training and health coaching with Tangram Fitness! I specialize in turning "no way" into "heck yeah!"