Monday, December 31, 2007

계획 2008

I am going into my third year of Korean study and 2008 will probably be the last year I will have proper Korean lessons in Singapore. Just to make sure I make the best out of 2008, I have drafted a plan for my Korean study next year. After more than half a year away, I will probably be back at NEX to support its newly-opened Intermediate course. At the same time, I will be repeating my Advanced 1 at SKS while waiting for Advanced 2 to start in the second semester. Hopefully, the returns in the coming year will be as fruitful as 2007.

My Korean Study Plan 2008

Advanced 1 Course @ SKS: 8 Jan - 18 Mar
Intermediate 1 Course @ NEX: 2 Feb - 19 Apr
Intermediate 2 course @ KHU: 3 Mar - 21 Mar
Advanced 2 Course @ SKS: 8 Apr - 17 Jun
Intermediate 3 Course @ NEX: Aug - Oct
Preparation for TOPIK: Jul - Sep
TOPIK Intermediate and Advanced: Sep
Korean Language Proficiency Test: Oct
Intermediate 4 Course @ NEX: Nov 08 - Jan 09

In addition to attending lessons and taking tests, I plan to influence my SKS teacher to open up Advanced 3 and higher level courses. I am also thinking of creating a blog dedicated to explaining Korean grammar. From the look of things, it is going to be another busy year ahead for me. If nothing changes, 2008 will be the last year of my Korean study and whatever comes next will have to be decided at the end of next year.

Before I end, I like to share this phrase which I picked up while walking along the street in Seoul. 책읽는 사람의 얼굴은 다르다 or the face of the person who reads book is different. So let us all read more and study harder in the coming year.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

400 번째

Picture taken on 9 Dec 07, aboard Singapore-bound flight CA969


For friends whom I met along my Korean language learning path, I know well the reason why we met. The reason is best described by 유유상종 - people of the same kind follow each other. Fate or coincidence is too general to be considered a reason and to ignore the reason is to take thing for granted. So I am glad that I know this reason and that every of this meeting is never meant to be ... accidental.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

선물을 줄게

A roadside stall selling soft toys along Jong-no, Seoul. (Click to Enlarge)

Whenever it comes to gift exchange during festive season, I am always getting gifts that are "non-edible". Like you know, people usually buy chocolate for gift exchange and I have never once got a box of chocolate in return. I am not even getting cups or mugs even though they quite popular gifts. The gifts I often get in return are toys. It is almost always the case that there is no more surprises for me. The best thing about receiving gift is that surprise elements. You are not expecting any gift and you are surprised with one and then the surprise of receiving something that you like. While it is nice to receive gift, I would rather be the one giving away.

책을 읽기와 독서가 똑 같애

Recently, I have not been blogging as much as I will normally do after a trip. It is not a case that I have run out of ideas but rather I have been spending my free time reading books which I bought in Beijing. I must attest to the fact that books are indeed cheap in Beijing. My friend used to tell me that she shipped boxes of books back from Beijing and they still cost so much cheaper than if bought in Singapore. I am no book-addict so I was satisfied in just getting a few books to read on my flight back to Singapore.

Among other books, I bought a Korean Conversation Handbook at about S$5. I have been learning Korean for two years but I always find myself tongue-tied when I have to converse in simple Korean. In any language, there is always some differences between the written form and the spoken form. The problem with learning Korean in Singapore is that there is very little opportunity to practice speaking. I guess, the next best thing is to self-learn from a conversation handbook. One thing good about this kind of handbook is that there are a lot of "banmal" sentences. Our teachers don't teach us "banmal" in class and yet it is spoken everywhere in Korea. Since it is not taught, I shall self-teach.

열차가 들어오고 있습니다

지금 수서, 수서행 열차가 들어오고 있습니다... 열차가 곧 출발합니다
(Now Suseo, Suseo-bound train is entering... The train is leaving soon)

Listening to the announcement in the subway station is a good way of measuring how I have progress in my Korean language learning. I started from not understanding, to guessing, to understanding and to be able to repeat what was announced. The change is gradual but I can notice small improvement each time I visit Seoul. I have yet to fully understood everything that is broadcast but it is always good to know that I am at least making improvement.

I am not the only one that is improving, it seems like all underground stations in Seoul are also improving. Many stations are now covered up with automatic doors while many other stations are undergoing renovation to fix up panelling and automatic doors. Perhaps the day of open underground station in Seoul is coming to an end soon. Though I am quite used to covered-up underground station, I think I am going to miss the feeling of cold air sweeping past me as train enters an open underground station in Seoul.

The underground stations in Seoul are slowly being covered up like this.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


I appreciate this sign when I first saw it. To me, it is more than just a advisory sign for motorists to reduce speed when going uphill; it is a reminder to take life slowly. I think life is happier that way because the slow-moving snail is smiling.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

이 거 뭐야?

This week is going to be a short week. The mood to work is not there. I am not talking about my mood. I am talking about the mood in general. It will be hard to get anything done this week as people are either on leave or out of office on retreat or function. Just another 3 days of work and I may probably have another 5 days of rest. I am planning only to start work on 3 Jan next year.

The holiday mood is also affecting my mood to blog. Today I shall not write a long posting. Instead of me writing, perhaps I shall let you guess what is the thing below. Those who live in Korea need not answer. ^^

That's right, this thing is meant for roasting. To be exact, it is a mobile sweet potatoes roasting drum. In the photo, you can see five round covers with handle. When the handle is pulled, a semi-circle metal tray will be exposed. Sweet potatoes are then placed inside this tray to be roasted. The drum is heated by firewood which is inserted through the bottom cover.

Korea's sweet potatoes are actually quite small. That is why they can be placed inside those small trays for roasting. Sweet potatoes are sold in bag and one bag contains about 3 sweet potatoes. They are best eaten when piping hot and during winter night... at least, that is what I think. Hot potatoes keep the hands and the mouth warm in a winter night. The aroma and the steam coming from roasted potatoes are quite appealing to the senses.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

희극 - 웃음 금지







厂商的奖品发完后,舞台剧也就正式登场了。剧院的灯光暗了之后再亮时,台上站着两个人。一个演员背向观众,正摆着拍照的姿势。很清楚的,她是在模仿中国网路自拍红人-芙蓉姐姐。观众一看到都笑了,因为她的装扮和站姿,喜剧感十足。另一个人是演一位艺术家。他正在为“芙蓉姐姐”拍摄艺术照。他要求"芙蓉姐姐"给他一个微笑,那样子照才能拍得好看。当“芙蓉姐姐”转过身来给大家一个微笑时,”公安“就立马把她给抓起来了。她会被抓的原因是因为她违反了镇长所颁布的禁令。那就是: 谁都不许笑。








话说,所有的人都原谅了巴蒂,可是巴蒂因为内疚而喝下毒酒,使自己也变成哑巴。最后一幕,大家都变成哑巴了。所以都“爸爸”来“爸爸”去的说来说去。就连韩语都跑出来了。如,“爸爸爸爸,看萨哈米打(감사합나다)”或“哦爸!萨朗哈米打! (오빠! 사랑합니다!)”。反正有“阿”音的都可以说。真是把我给笑翻了。演员说韩语,还真不是乱盖的。每一句,我都可以听得清清楚楚。想不到韩流在中国的影响力比我想象中还要大。


청계천의 야경

Picture of Cheonggyecheon taken from Ogansu Bridge in Dongdaemun.

Stream fountain with riverside stage to left and wall of culture to right.

Cheonggyecheon Plaza. 120,000 tons of water flow through everyday.

Cheonggyecheon has been getting a lot of coverage since Lee Myung-bak was elected as the next President of the Republic of Korea. If it is not for the extensive news report, I wouldn't have known that he is the brainchild behind the rejuvenation of a long-forgotten stream that once flow through the city of Hanyang. To rejuvenate a 5.8km-long Cheonggyecheon, it means demolishing long stretch of elevated highway and road that used to cover it, redirecting Seoul's busy traffic, relocating unhappy dwellers, rechannelling sewage flow and at the same time keeping disruption and pollution to the minimal. The end result is a clean and beautiful Cheonggyecheon that is a "must-visit" for every tourist to Seoul these days. Lee Myung-bak's Cheonggyecheon project has earned himself a place in history as well as many electoral votes. I am now looking forward to his plan to build a grand canal that will eventually connect Seoul to Busan via a river route. I can't wait for that day when I can take a river cruise all the way from Seoul to Busan. Perhaps it maybe an empty cheque issued during election to gain votes but I do hope he is like what he says about himself - a person who chooses the most difficult thing to do. I think we can believe him for now since he has already proven many critics wrong by giving a brand new life to Cheonggyecheon.

Friday, December 21, 2007

요즘 매일 비가 온다

Recently, I am attracted to two Korean songs. One is 여우비 (Sun Shower) by J-Walk and the other, 매일 매일 (Everyday Everyday) by V.O.S or Voice Of Soul. I heard those voices many times while I was in Seoul, be it inside cafe or along the street.

여우비 is an interesting noun which I have learnt recently. Its literal translation is "Fox Rain" but I doubt anyone besides Korean will know what it means. I have not quite understand how fox has come to be related to rain. Anyway, 여우비 means light rain when the sun is shining. So "Sun Shower" is a more appropriate translation than "Fox Rain".

Kinda hard to see 여우비 in Singapore during December but it is definitely raining everyday in Singapore recently. Yes 매일 매일.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

화려한 빛

It is not just Christmas lighting but a whole garden filled with Christmas lighting. All the trees are lighted up and so are the bushes. It is hard not be dazzled by this garden of lights at the Lotte Department Store and Duty Free Shop. Words and photos are just not good enough to express that overwhelming feel of being engulfed in a sea of sparkle and brilliance.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

월미도의 이야기

In the early morning of 15 September 1950, hundreds of ships assembled in neat formation off the sea of Wolmido. At dawn, the landing operations at Wolmido beaches commenced with thousands of UN troops being sent ashore to outflank their enemy from the rear. Meanwhile, the North Korean Peoples Army (NKPA) was threatening to overrun the Busan Perimeter. The unification of the peninsula under the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) was almost within sight before the successful Incheon landing reversed the tide. NKPA, now under the threat of being dislocated and cut off from its reinforcement and replenishment line, retreated in disarray back behind the 38 parallel. Fuelled by the success of the Incheon landing, the ambition of General Douglas MacAurther grew. He was determined to take the fight all the way to the Yalu River, right to the door-step of China.

The Communist government which had just won their civil war not too long ago was again forced into action. They understood the "lip and teeth relationship" between Korea and China. When the lip is lost, the teeth will be left to shiver in cold. They learnt their lesson when Japan annexed the Korean peninsula in 1910. Using the peninsula as a staging ground, the Japanese forces invaded and took over Manchuria and from there, they started the invasion of China. The Chinese leadership was quite clear that they could not afford to have unfriendly forces right at their backyard and because of that, they could not afford DPRK to fall. Their concern was justified. General MacAurther harboured the plan to strike deep into Manchuria to destroy the Chinese bases there and through it, neutralised China as a future threat. His plan was met with disapproval from Harry Truman, the US President then. His action also forced the Communist government to send troops, in millions, across the Yalu River. For dragging the Chinese into the war and for openly defying his political master, the hero of the Pacific War, was removed unceremoniously from his command. The Korean War finally ended 3 years after it was started with the signing of an armistice in July 1953. An armistice is an agreement to cease fighting but not a peace treaty so technically speaking, the two Koreas are still at war.

The landing of the UN forces at Wolmido that dawn in 1950 had essentially changed the fate of the Korean peninsula and the hero of the Pacific War. Since then, Wolmido is no longer an island. It has been connected to the mainland of Incheon by sea reclamation. Wolmido (월미도-月尾島) was named as such because as an island, it had the shape of a moon at the tail-end of a lunar month. Wolmido today is better known as place for relaxation and recreation. It has an amusement park, a long stretch of beautiful promenade and many seafood restaurants.

A trip down to Wolmido took me to Incheon station. The subway trip was about 1 hour and 45 minutes long from Jongno 3-ga station. Upon arriving at Incheon station, I got onto bus number 45 that was waiting right outside the station. I paid 1,000won for the bus fare and the bus trip to Wolmido, about 4km away, took only 5 minutes. After I got out of the bus at Wolmido, the first thing that greeted me was the amusement park or perhaps parks. It isn't a very big area but incredibly, it houses about four Viking rides on top of many other rides. It was late Sunday morning then and the park was crowded with people.

In front of an amusement ride called "Tagada", a large crowd gathered. They were amused by those people who were trying to hang on to their seat as the machine spinned, jolted, tossed and shaked with great intensity. A disc jockey, who was controlling the ride, was enjoying his time teasing the helpless riders over the air. Long queue formed outside the gate as people eagerly await their chance to be thrilled.

Outside the amusement park, "pojangmacha" or roadside stalls lined the street. An instant relief to my hungry stomach. I picked up a few things and ate along the way. A few minutes of walk later, the view in front of me suddenly opened up.

The promenade or the "Street of Culture" in Wolmido is flanked on one side by cafes and seafood restaurants and the other by the "Seo-Hae" or the West Sea. Along the promenade, sea breezes blew, seagulls flew and anglers fished. A friend used to tell me why he is so passionate about fishing. To a seasoned angler, he gets kick from battling with fish which is hooked. The greater the resistance by the fish, the greater is the kick. To "fight" with fish, an angler needs to first let the fish pull away before taking in on the line. After that, the fish is allowed to pull away again but not for long. The angler will take in the line again to prevent the fish from swimming too far away. This action of releasing and taking in is repeated many times in order to tire out the fish. When the fish finally gives up its struggle, the angler will pull it up from the sea with a sense of satisfaction that he has a "good fight". Walking along the promenade, it didn't take long before I felt refreshed and revitalised. That Sunday afternoon, time seemed to slow to a crawl.

It is said that one main reason people go to Wolmido is to see the sunset. Cafes and seafood restaurants with good view are usually filled up with couples during sunset time. I left Wolmido in the late afternoon leaving the sunset behind. On my departure, I have learnt what is meant by not to be defeated. By remaining undefeated, I shall come back years later to show you a better me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

한국어 배우기의 속보

Last Monday, a day after I came back from my overseas leave, I went back to SKS to collect my Korean Speech Contest's "souvenir pack". The pack comprises a DVD recording of the contest, a group photo and an appreciation note from our SKS's principal. I thought the DVD was a really good souvenir. Now, I can really keep my memory of the speech contest for posterity. Very much thanks to those SKS staff who put together this wonderful souvenir pack.

My souvenir pack which comprises a DVD, a photo and a note

While I was collecting the pack, I also took the chance to check with the SKS's admin staff on the availability of Advanced 2 next semester. To my great disappointment, she said no. I didn't know whether I should trust her words. She advised me to re-take Advanced 1 but I was quite reluctant to say yes. Perhaps, I should try to go for Advanced 3 instead but my teacher said she will only allow me to do so if I can get TOPIK level 4 pass. Logically speaking, if I can attain TOPIK level 4 pass, intermediate classes may no longer be relevant to me. She is always so stringent. Anyway, I will check on the options available. In the worst case scenario, I shall re-take Advanced 1. I don't think I can be too choosy when there is not more much opportunity to study Korean in Singapore. The bottom line is that I need to continue with my Korean study.

On the same day, I also went down to NUS Extension to collect my KLPT certificate. Besides getting my certificate, I was also interested to find out more about their new Intermediate Korean courses. I have gathered that there will be 4 Intermediate levels, i.e Intermediate level 1 to 4. According to 2008 course calendar, Intermediate 1 is scheduled from 2 Feb to 19 Apr. The course will be held every Saturday from 10am to 1pm. It will be 3 hours of lesson every week for 12 weeks. The price tag for the course is a whooping S$600. I heard that this course may be taught by a new Kyunghee teacher. But if I know NEX well enough, there is always last minute changes and someone else may end up teaching instead. Nevertheless, I am quite confident that Intermediate 1 will take off this time. It may also be over-subscribed since this is the first Intermediate course that is offered by NEX. Intermediate 2 is scheduled to start 3 weeks after Intermediate 1 ends and there is currently no scheduled date to start Intermediate 3 and 4. All Intermediate courses will be using the Kyunghee University's Exploring Korean textbook.

There seems to be more opportunity to study Korean beyond basic level in Singapore these days. But to me, I am still feeling kinda disappointed that I am stagnating due to lack of opportunity. Nevertheless, I will still find some way to ensure that I continue to study.

Now talking about the DVD recording of the speech contest. It actually took me a lot of courage to watch myself speaks. Frankly, after I did that, I don't think I spoke that well. I am not self-depreciating here. For a long time, I know I am weak in speaking, whether in English or Mandarin. I took a much longer time than others to speak these languages well. I always blame my inability to speak well on my "fat" tongue. A tongue which cannot roll; a result of recessive genes expressing their full characteristics. Since I know I can't speak fluently, I have always hope to give meaning to the words I say. I guess no one is the best in everything. You just have to find what you are good at and work hard on it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

밤이 됐다

Many years ago, when I first arrived in Seoul, the only two places I knew were Hangang and Itaewon. I knew Hangang as the river that separates Seoul. As for Itaewon, it was the place that I stayed in. As there was a US camp nearby in Itaewon, I thought it would be easier for me to move around as I expected people there to know some basic English. Today, I don't think I even need a map to move around in Seoul. I probably can find my way on foot from Namdaemun to Dongdaemun at night but I have not done that yet because it is going to be a long walk. It seems that I may have gotten too familiar with Seoul. If I am going to visit Korea again for leisure, I will probably explore somewhere else.

Night photos taken along the streets from Myeongdong to Jongno

또 궁을 이야기한다

Unhyeongung (운현궁-雲峴宮) is not really a palace as its name would suggest. It is more like living quarters for the royalties during the Joseon Dynasty. I visited this place more because it was convenient to do so as it was at the backyard of where I stayed. My frank opinion is that you won't miss anything if you don't visit this place. The buildings in Unhyeongung are not unique and furthermore the "palace" is quite small. It didn't even took me half an hour to complete walking one round of the compund.

There are five grand palaces in Seoul but Unhyeongung is not one of them. Among the five palaces, I have visited Changdeokgung (창덕궁-昌德宮), Gyeongbokgung (경복궁-景福宮) and Deoksugung (덕수궁-德壽宮). I have yet to visit the two lesser-known palaces,(Changgyeonggung (창경궁-(昌慶宮) and Gyeonghuigung (경희궁-慶熙宮). I don't think I am in any hurry to do it as I have this feeling that you see one palace you probably see all palaces.

Unhyeongung is more like living quarter for royalties than a palace.

Just right behind Unhyeongung is another "palace". It is the palace that appeared in the Korean drama "Princess Hours". Although I could see the building from Unhyeongung, there was no direct access to the Renaissance-style building. To get there, I have to exit from Unhyeongung and then enter through the main gate of the Deokseong Women's University, Jongno Campus. In front of me, entering the campus, were two Japanese obasans. It was quite obvious that they were there specifically for the "palace". I don't think I would have made the effort to find my way to the "palace" if it was not along-the-way. The "palace" and its surrounding garden are quite nice though in my opinion, they are not exceptional enough to worth a special trip down.

I am wondering why I even bother to visit these two "palaces". Perhaps, I have too much time to kill and in no hurry to go any place. Though they are not that interesting to look at but a walk around these two places is quite pleasant and relaxing as they are tucked in a quiet corner away from the busy and noisy streets of Seoul. I am counting my blessing especially when not many people these days want to take a moment to smell some flowers along the way.

Yanggwan Building of Unhyeongung Palace in Jongno, Seoul.

Friday, December 14, 2007

지금 서울에 안 있는데

I @ Singapore, between Delhi and Manila, about 3,500km SSW of Seoul

Being to Seoul a couple of times, Korea is now more than kimchi. It is also about ddeok, coffee and bread. Kimchi and ddeok represent the traditional Korea while coffee and bread represent the modern Seoul. A day of my life in Seoul can hardly pass by without coming in contact with these four things. They are everywhere and I ate them almost every other days to the extent that I was missing them when I left Seoul. A week later, everything is well back to normal. Life carries on and I am still happy to lead a Singaporean way of life. Secretly, I am still missing my time eating at the roadside stalls in Jongno.

Missing my time eating dakggochi at the roadside stall in Jongno.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

궁에 대해...

Last Thursday, in anticipation that it would snow in Seoul, I went to Gyeongbukgung. I could imagine the beautiful scenery of snow-capped roof of palaces, shimmering snow-laden trees and frosty frozen lake. The sky looked promising that afternoon as well but of course it did not snow eventually or you would have seen photos of snow posted here. The sky did finally break that evening but it was rain and not snow. At that moment, I could understand how it feels to be cold and wet in a winter night.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

북경의 둘째날

Chilling out inside Haagen Dazs cafe at Zhongguanchun on a Saturday.

I didn't have anything in particular to do in Beijing. I have been to the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and the Great Wall. I guess I have seen all that I wanted to see in my last Beijing trip two years ago. Last Saturday morning, at the Chongwenmen station, I came across a poster promoting a Chinese comedy play. I thought watching a play on a Saturday suited my mood quite well. So I made a trip down to Zhongguanchun in the afternoon in search of the Haidian Theatre - the venue where the play would be staged.

When I finally reached the Haidian Theatre at around 3pm, I was told by the ticketing staff that they have only one 380-yuan ticket left for that Saturday evening performance. I must have been very lucky, I thought and without hesitation, I confirmed my seat. After I bought my ticket, I have about 4 hours to waste before the play starts at 7:30pm.

As I was wandering about in Zhongguanchun, a district well-known for its many IT and electronics malls, I came across Megabox and decided to watch a movie. I was quite surprised to see Megabox in Beijing. Megabox is one of those three major multiplex operators in Korea. The other two being CJ CGV and Lotte Cinema. I have always like Megabox multiplex interior design though I have yet to watch a movie in Megabox in Seoul. Since time permits, I bought a ticket for a Chinese comedy at 45 yuan (S$9). Yes, it was one comedy show after another. A really wonderful day for me.

Megabox at Zhongguanchun. The light and reflection are very nice.

The Chinese comedy which I watched. Quite a decent local production.

After the movie, I made my way to Haidian Theatre. Along the road, the aroma of roasted sweet potato was so irresistible that I could not help but bought one for my dinner from one of those make-shift stalls. That one sweet potato which I bought from an old man cost me only S$0.10. I actually felt sorry for the old man. I would have paid 2 yuan willingly if he has asked me. I must say I ate that sweet potato with a heavy heart. I felt like I have "exploited" that old man. It seems like paying for thing this cheap is no longer acceptable to me.

A comedy but no one is allowed to laugh. Sound interesting isn't it?

It has been a long long time since I last watched a Chinese play. Watching the play brought back many fond memories of my play-acting days. Stage fright was really nothing. Play performance was a rather addictive activity. The light, the sound, the applause and the sense of togetherness and accomplishment were those things that kept us going on and on.

At the end of the play, I suddenly have this itch to act again but I thought that was an impulse of the moment which would fade sooner than I knew it. Anyway, the play was very very entertaining. So much laughter that 2 hours have went passed without me noticing it. What a great Saturday!

Monday, December 10, 2007

북경의 첫째날

The China National Grand Theatre. A new national icon of China.

If you are wondering why I didn't blog when I was in China, it was because blogspot is blocked in China. Wordpress, Livejournal and Xanga are all blocked as well. Now I know why live spaces is the blog of preference for many Chinese - it is one of those few blogs that is not blocked.

Ate a bowl of 튀김우동 at Incheon Airport as breakfast.

Anyway, fortunately, there is no more flight delay for my flight from Incheon to Beijing. However, I have come to suspect that Air China may have only paid to use aerobridge at only one airport and not two. For my transit flight from Beijing to Incheon, I was required to walk down stairs and board a bus to the immigration point. Similarly for my CA flight from Incheon to Beijing, I was required to board a bus upon arrival. I felt like I have paid to travel on some budget airlines and not a national carrier.

Took a picture of my flight after I have boarded the crowded airport bus.

Despite some minor inconvenience, everything else was smooth and I reached my hotel at Chongwenmen Road just before noon. After checking in, I left the hotel in search of a place for lunch. Just a short distance was Ajisen Ramen. I bought a bowl of Ajisen Ramen for just 16 yuan (S$3.20). In Singapore, I will have to pay more than S$10 in order to enjoy a bowl of ramen at Ajisen Ramen. Apparently, Ajisen Ramen is a big success in China. It is not difficult to find one of its outlets nearby in Beijing.

This bowl of ramen cost only 16 yuan. Cheap and delicious.

Since that was my second time to Beijing, I wasn't interested in visiting any particular places of interest except perhaps the National Grand Theatre. So after lunch, I walked from Chongwenmen to East Chang'an Street. Along the way, I dropped by the Tiananmen Square. Barriers were set up around the Tiananmen Square and the place was heavily guarded by police. People who wished to get onto the Square were subjected to bag check though I was never checked. Now I know what is called a police state. Despite the tight security, the place is still worth a visit.

At the heart of Beijing - The Tiananmen Square.

Sun setting behind the Great Hall of the People.

A view of Tiananmen from across the street.

The China National Grand Theatre is west of the Tiananmen Square. It only took me a short walk to get there. This newly-constructed Theatre is awesome. While many people call the Theatre an egg, but to me, it looks more like a big spaceship that has landed on a big pool of water. The reflection of the sunset by the titanium plates that clad the building was simply spectacular. It was a pity that I did not get a chance to watch a performance inside this iconic building as it has not started operations yet. The first performance is scheduled around the Christmas period.

Different views of the China National Grand Theatre.

Without anything else in mind to do after visiting the Theatre, I just walked back in the direction of my hotel, though my watch was telling me that it was only 6pm in the evening.

Night at Tiananmen. Pictures taken while on my way back to hotel.

While I was taking photos in one of the five-star hotels along East Chang'an Street I was approached by a Chinese girl, who spoke quite decent English, to take a photo for her group. She asked where I come from but I asked her to guess instead. Her first answer was I look like a Korean. Perhaps, I have found the answer to why I was approached daily in Seoul by Koreans asking for direction. I have to keep repeating that I am not a Korean. I was quite puzzled why the Chinese girl did not think that I am a Chinese. I think I am facing an identity crisis here. Haha...

Raffles Hotel also has a piece of action at the East Chang'an Street.

Stopped by Wangfujing Walking Street to have a look though in my memory it was not a very interesting place. After a second look, I have to say, it is still not an interesting place. I did not spend too much time at that place.

One of those Beijing 2008 posters seen at Wangfujing Walking Street.

From Wangfujing back to Chongwenmen, which was two stations away, I took the subway. You may not believe if I tell you that it is a flat rate of S$0.40 (2 yuan) to take a train to anywhere in Beijing. Yes, subway fare in Beijing is that cheap as public transport is heavily subsidised by the government. The taxi driver, who drove me from the airport to the hotel, was lamenting that the Olympic Games has made their livelihood harder as the Beijing authority is forced to hasten its pace in developing and improving the public transport system. With such an economical means of public transport, who would want to take taxi?, He said. I agree. The cost of living in Beijing is so much lower than Seoul and Singapore but I still dislike the polluted air of Beijing.

Taking subway from Wangfujing to Chongwenmen 2 stops away.