Monday, May 23, 2011


"To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . .", said the fox.

"I am beginning to understand," said the little prince. "There is a flower . . . I think that she has tamed me . . ."

I was always reminded of this conversation between the fox and the little prince whenever I saw a field of flowers. Thousands and millions of them but they all look the same to me. In the end, I only saw a sea of colours and not a single flower.

The month of June is the blooming season of Shirley Poppy (개양귀비), also known as 'Yang Gui Fei' in Korea. You heard it right, "Yang Gui Fei' (楊貴妃) is also the name of one of the four great beauties of the ancient China. With a name related to an ancient beauty, you can imagine how much more beautiful it would be to be standing in a field surrounded by thousands and millions of scarlet Shirley Poppy. 

"There is a flower . . . I think that she has tamed me . . ."

A sea of scarlet Shirley Poppy in England

One place in Korea where you can enjoy the spectacle is "View Botanic Garden" (포천뷰식물,, located in Pocheon, Gyeonggi-do. It has a 7,000 'pyeong' (1 'pyeong' = 3.3m2) field filled with waving poppies every year in the month of June. Besides Shirley Poppy, you also get to see other species like Iceland Poppy, Tulip Poppy and Calfornia Poppy. These poppies are 'safe' in the sense they are not the poppy species which are known to produce opiates. The botanic garden held its first "Red Poppy Festival", the largest of its kind, in June 2006. During this annual festival, visitors can expect to taste food made and cooked with poppy petals. I wish I am in Korea in June so that I can tell you how they taste like.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A road always leads to somewhere. The problem is you can't see it now.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I found that I have never written any post on Insadong (인사동, 仁寺洞). Perhaps I have nothing much to elaborate about the place. If I am to describe it simply, Insadong is Korea equivalent to Chinatown. It covers a short stretch of street where you can find Korean traditional snacks peddling on pushcarts and plentiful traditional handcraft shops and restaurants. It is a recommended place to visit in urban Seoul, if you like all things traditional.

Probably the only Starbucks in the world that uses hangeul for its sign and it is found in Insadong. The thing about good branding is you would have guessed correctly it is Starbucks even though you may not know how to read hangeul.

Inside Ssamzigil building. This is the centre of attraction in Insadong. Ironically, things you see inside here are more trendy than traditional.

You can take a slow walk up the Ssamzigil building as it 'spirals' up from level 1 to 4. Things change quite frequently in here. I was never tired of walking up the building every time I was there.

Have a caricature done for you

Or try the popular red bean pancake that comes in the shape of ... (err... you look at the picture and then go and figure)

An unlikely place to find a chandelier - stairway in basement one. Contrast is always quite impactful. On the other side of the glass is  a room where you can get hands-on experience making handicrafts.

If you are wondering where is the traditional part of Insadong in my posting, you are quite alert. Indeed, I have shown nothing of it and in view of that, you will have to discover that for yourselves. It won't take very long to walk one round; an hour or two should suffice.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

비가 오는 5월

Entering May, the campus sprung into activities. Celebration of college's anniversary lasted for weeks. Free open-air concerts went on every night. Joy and laughter filled the air, just like in wonderland. One drizzling evening, I received a call from my friend. Apparently, a famous boy group was going to perform in my campus that night.

We went early and there wasn't much crowd. I was told fans would only 'surface' when their idols perform and leave once their idols exit. As we waited for the boy group, relatively unknown singers took the stage. Drizzle became rain when a group of four young girls went on stage. The cheering crowd was pathetic. The girl group was unknown and had no fans. Despite that, they tried their best to please the crowd. Holding mic on one hand and an umbrella on the other, they sang with their heart.

Before their last song, they put away their umbrellas and and told the crowd, "We will stand with you in the rain now." After the girl group left, we thought we would be seeing the boy group soon. But information soon arrived that the boy group is not turning up because of the rain. My friend and I left the concert feeling short-changed.

One of the group of four girls. She has a very good vocal and could well be the main vocalist in one of the many Korean girl groups now.

May in Singapore this year is the season of election. In a few hours time, I will be going to the polling station. Trust me, I will be voting for people who will sing for me, who will sing with me, in the rain of May.