Archive | August, 2011

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Heart and SEOUL

Posted on 31 August 2011 by admin

Koreans call it summer, but it always rains from July to September. Although the sky was not blue and we should have had an umbrella when out and about, nothing could stop us exploring Seoul.

Thousands flock to the shopping area in Myeongdong.

Themed coffee shops are all the rage in this modern city, and there are various uniquely designed cafes where one can spend hours sipping a latte.

Dozens of coffee shops, including international brand franchises and small to big size local shops line the streets. One cafe can be as big as three connected buildings and can occupy at least two storeys of a building. Each coffee shop has a unique magnet to lure customers. For example, some offer cats or dogs for customers to play with. Others offer fortune-telling services or painting cartoon characters.

Street food stalls in Myeongdong.

“We also have drama-set coffee shops where you can wear cosplay,” said Seoul Tourism Organisation senior director for tourism marketing Kim Jihyun. When asked if she prefers international brands or local coffee shops, Jihyun immediately said that she preferred the local taste.

She said the coffee shop boom started about five years ago. Today the shops are frequented by youth, who like to hang out, and are also used for business meetings.

Another new service by the local government launched a couple of months ago is yachting along the Han River. The river runs through the capital, which is much like the Chao Phraya River is to Bangkok.

According to Korea Thailand Communication Center (KTCC) managing director Hong Ji-Hee the Han River used to be polluted, as its banks were home to many communities. During the 1980s, the government decided to clean-up the river as part of its environmental efforts to transform the river into an ecological jewel for Seoul. All construction along the river banks was stopped, while houses were relocated and replaced by pedestrian walkways, bicycle paths and public parks.

Sailing yachts along the Han River in Seoul is not reserved for the rich alone. Thanks to Seoul Metropolitan Government, which opened the Seoul Marina Club Yacht in April for the public and with affordable prices. The aim is to offer a facility that everybody can use, according to Seoul City. The marina offers 45 yachts serving three to 28 people. Before boarding, every passenger is required to wear a life jacket. And to ensure safety, there is always a captain to drive a boat. An hour’s cruise is 120,000 won (3,350 baht) for eight people. There are also courses to teach adults and children to sail a yacht. Seoul Marina Club Yacht is recorded as the third biggest marina in Korea following Suyoungman Yacht Marina in Busan and Jeongok Port in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi province.

“Within the range of three metres from the bank, there must not be any private constructions,” said Ji-Hee.

To encourage people to see the beauty of the river, the Seoul Metropolitan Government also introduced a yacht service in April. It is a luxury cruise, but with affordable prices as Seoul City wants everyone to have the experience.

There is also a new comedy show where you can sit back and laugh through the 80-minute performance. The show is called Bibap and is about two chefs who are to have a bibimbap (traditional Korean mixed rice meal) cookoff. Audience members are called on stage to judge both dishes. The show is fun to watch and might be an alternative choice if you’ve already experienced Nanta or Jump.

“Seoul does not only consist of palaces and shopping markets like Namdaemun and Dongdaemun, there are various stylish attractions that co-exist with traditional ones,” said Ji-Hee.


TRAVEL INFO

- Situated about 50km from the border of North Korea, Seoul has been the capital of South Korea since 1394. The size of the city is 605km 2, less than half the size of Bangkok (1,568km 2). Seoul has an estimated population of about 10.5 million compared with nine million in Bangkok

- The flight time from Bangkok is about five hours. Choices of the direct flights between the two cities are Asiana Airlines (flyasiana.com), Jin Air (www.jinair.com), Jeju Air (www.jejuair.net), Korean Air (www.koreanair.com) and Thai Airways (www.thaiairways.com).

- To travel around Seoul, the easiest choices for tourists are double and single-decker tourist buses or the subway (www.subwayworld.co.kr or www.smrt.co.kr), which connects every corner of the capital.


Visit www.seoulwelcome.com, www.visitseoul.net or www.miceseoul.com.
Korea Thailand Communication Center (KTCC) also offers travel information in Thai at
www.k-tcc.co.th.

Ranked high on a must-see list in Seoul, Insadong is an old residential area where you will find a walking street with several alleys dotted with hundreds of shops. Also known as the cultural street, it houses dozens of galleries of Korean fine art, traditional teahouses, restaurants and antique shops, handmade or crafted products, traditional snacks and souvenirs. You will notice sweet stalls where you can watch traditional Korean sweet treats being prepared. For example, one shop has a large mortar on the footpath where you can see how sticky rice is turned into green rice cake. The vendor allows you to try hammering glutinous rice to test your strength. Other street vendors let you taste their sweets. One female vendor in traditional Korean dress, hanbok , offers a piece or two of a sesame treat, regardless of whether you buy some or not. The street also has space for artists to display their artworks, such as an old man who was painting mountains and cranes on a white fan for sale, while another artist nearby was writing a Korean sentence on a large paper and later gave it to a youngster in a green dress. You’re very likely to spend a couple of hours or more on this street, especially during the evening because more shops are open. Whether it is to window shop or for pure entertainment, Insadong is worth a visit.

Gwanghwamun Square is one of Seoul’s landmarks. It welcomes more than a million visitors each year. The large walking area is 555 metres long and 34m wide and was built on the 16-lane road, which was renovated to six central lanes for the square in 2008 and finished in 2009. The square displays two remarkable statutes; the standing sculpture of Admiral Yi Sun-shin (1545-1598), one of the most beloved Korean heroes, and King Sejong the Great (1418-1ᒂ) who created the native Korean alphabet Hangul and made the country advance in various fields including science, culture, art and politics. There are also two underground exhibition halls devoted to both leaders. Before you leave, check out the east side edge of the square. There are 617 black stone boards imprinting major historical events from 1392 to 2008 on the east side, while the stones of the west are still blank and will be used for future records.

Bibap is the name of the latest stage performance in Seoul. Creative and comedic, the 80-minute show is based on a theme of a cooking competition between two chefs and mixed with beatbox, a cappella, hip-hop, opera, acting, dynamic dances by B-boys and martial arts. All eight performers can sing, dance and act very well. According to the stage director Min Kim, the show is called Bibap because it’s about making the best signature Korean dish called bibimbap . Bibimbap is a mixed meal of rice, on top of several vegetables, mushrooms, meat and raw egg served in a burned stone bowl. The creative team is the same that worked on previous comedy shows: Nanta and Jump , and preparations for Bibap took three years before kicking off in May. ���‘I hope that Bibap will be hotter than Nanta in the future,’’ said the director. Bibap performs only once a day at 3pm at the Cecil Theater near Doksu Palace. Ticket prices are 40,000 won (1,105 baht) and 50,000 won (1,381 baht).

An atmosphere of Bukchon Hanok Village might be familiar because you might see some parts of the streets or traditional houses like those in various Korean movies and soaps. The village is a living museum located between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace. While strolling inside the village, you will find signs requesting visitors to be quiet because it is a residential area. However, there are a few traditional houses that have turned into restaurants, tea houses, art galleries, private museums and cultural centres. One house organises a workshop on making traditional blessed papers by stencilling a big paper stamp and pressing it hard on a sheet of paper. This friendly face is Beak Yeon Soon. She is the owner of a tea shop where visitors can learn how to prepare green tea Korean style. Traditional dress is also offered if you want to try it on for a photograph. Bukchon Hanok Village received the Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage award in 2009 for the effort of locals and the Seoul Metropolitan Government to restore and conserve traditional Korean houses.

Cheonggyecheon Stream is a popular picnic spot in Seoul. Strolling along the 5.8km-long stream, you will see families, youth or couples sitting along the banks and putting their feet into the cold water for relaxation. The stream was covered by concrete and an elevated highway in 1976 due to city expansion. In 2003, the Seoul Metropolitan Government decided to remove the highway as part of its renewal project to make Seoul a modern environmentally-friendly city. It took the city two years to restore the stream with a budget of $281 million (8.4 billion baht).

Lesser known to foreign visitors, Level 5 is a popular fashion area for locals. It is located on the 5th floor of Noon Square shopping mall in the Myeongdong shopping arcade. Although the place is small, Level 5 features clothes designed by ጸ young and talented Korean stylists. Some of the shops offer clothes designed for celebrities and singers such as Dong Bang Shin Ki (DBSK), according to the Korea Thailand Communication Center managing director Hong Ji-hee. ‘‘Since Korean fashion changes every month, this is a new promising shopping arcade for the youth,’’ she noted.

Dr Kim Jong-kwon, Migreen director, puts a mungbean-size button on two positions of the external part of the ear of a Thai patient. This is an alternative medical treatment to improve the balance of her body’s elements. This is part of the oriental medical treatment, which has been gaining popularity among Southeast Asia and Japanese tourists during the past three years, according to the Seoul Tourism Organisation. Tourists who want to improve their looks without surgery take the treatments to lose weight, for illnesses and for healthy skin. The treatments include a fire heat treatment (moxibustion), acupuncture, herbal drinks or other beauty treatments with natural products. Migreen’s medical tourism is up 380% from last year.

Hongdae is a shopping area where creative works of the youth are found. It is because the place is not far from Hongik University, which is popular for its arts and design programmes. Every weekend from March to November in Hongdae Park, a flea market is open for creative young artists to showcase their works. But during the monsoons, it might be a good idea to explore various themed cafes along the street. Take Charlie Brown’s Cafe as an example. The coffee shop is decorated with characters, sculptures, dolls and collector’s items of the well-known cosmic strip Peanuts . Another coffee shop is designed as a castle where customers can dress like a prince or princess, and at least two coffee shops have a number of cats for customers to play with. According to the owner of Tom’s Cat Cafe, the themed cafe creates a unique character to add to their services, and is a magnet for the young. In addition, there is a threestorey Italian restaurant, which has a number of private rooms for students to discuss their assignments. There is also a movie room, which can be rented for a party. In the evening, you may find youngsters playing their guitars or singing songs in the nearby public park.


Kimchi -making is one activity not to be missed when visiting Seoul. This traditional fermented side dish is served with every meal in Korea. There are 187 varieties of kimchi to fit your tastes; sour, salty, sweet, bitter and spicy or mixed taste. In Myeongdong, you can attend a short course to learn how to make kimchi at the Kimchi Academy House. ‘‘Kimchi is good for health,���’ said Kim Ji-su, an instructor, adding that it was rich in vitamins, which aids digestion and resulted in healthy skin. Before the class began, the kitchen prep was done — half a head of fermented Chinese cabbage was preserved in salt water for six hours. Ingredients also included a piece of Chinese radish, green shallots and an onion. Chop all the ingredients, except the cabbage, into fine pieces and mix them in the kimchi paste (a mixture of red pepper, ginger, fermented anchovies, sticky rice water and salt). Then gently put the mixture over each piece of cabbage leaf. Then fold the cabbage in half and wrap it with the last biggest leaf. Put white sesame and pine seeds on top of the cabbage. The fresh kimchi is sealed in a container, which should be left at room temperature for a day and another seven days in the refrigerator, before being consumed.


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North Korea launches tours from China, snubbing South Korea

Posted on 31 August 2011 by admin

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Tomato fight paints Spanish town red

Posted on 31 August 2011 by admin

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Squashed tomato battle paints Spanish town red

Posted on 31 August 2011 by admin

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Phuket property

Posted on 31 August 2011 by admin

Bangkok Post special publication: please be aware that this file is quite large. So, it’ll take a while to load. Please be petient.

Click on the above picture to view PDF file. This file is 29 MBs.


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Taipans join Philippine president’s trip to China

Posted on 31 August 2011 by admin

Underlining the trade and investment slant of his state visit to China, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III arrived here with a 270-strong business delegation, including the Philippines’ top industry leaders.
It is the biggest business contingent of Aquino’s foreign trips.

John Gokongwei, Jr, founder and chair emeritus of JG Summit Holdings, Lucio Tan, founder and chair of the group of companies that bears his name, George Ty, chair of Metrobank, and Tony Tan Caktiong, chair of Jollibee Foods Corp. are among the most notable names with the delegation.

Others include Manuel V. Pangilinan, chair of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., Ramon Ang, president and CEO of San Miguel Corp and Washington Sycip, founding chair of SGV and Co.

Many of the business leaders were with the President on the Philippine Airlines special flight PR001 that arrived here late Tuesday night from Manila.

“The primary objective of the President��€™s visit is to further strengthen bilateral ties between the Philippines and China, especially in the aspect of trade and commerce,â€� executive secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said on the day of Aquino’s departure.

Ochoa said the President would be meeting with Chinese businessmen and economic policymakers. “(G)iven the potential of both our economies, we hope to close investment deals that will be beneficial for all those involved,� he added.

If government expectations from the trip are met, the 25 million pesos (US$587,000) allotted for the trip will be a well-spent amount.
The Philippines and China are expected to agree on a five-year economic development plan seeking to boost two-way trade six-fold, to about $60 billion.

The budget covers expenses for the special commercial flight, hotel accommodations, food, transportation, telecommunications, equipment requirements and items, during the three-leg state visit, according to Ochoa.

Assistant foreign secretary Cristina Ortega said at an earlier news briefing in Malacanang that the trip alone was expected to generate at least US$1.5 billion in initial investments. Trade undersecretary Cristino Panlilio said Tuesday night the visit could generate investments worth between $2 billion and $7 billion.

“We will work hard. I think it can be done,� Ortega said of the five-year development agreement’s expected yield for the country’s economy.
Most of it will be Chinese investments in manufacturing, railways, shipyards, mining and tourism as the Philippine economy continues to grow and the Aquino administration seeks funds to increase spending on social services to reduce poverty.

Because Aquino’s choice for Philippine ambassador to China, Domingo Lee, has not yet been confirmed by the Commission on Appointments, it will be the charge d’affaires at the Philippine Embassy, Alex Chua, who will represent the country here.

Back in business
Chua said the meetings with Chinese economic policy-makers and business leaders would be an opportunity for Aquino and his economic team Ã�€œto convey the message about our economy and our policies, and that we are back in business.â€�¿½

China is lagging behind the United States and Japan as the Philippines’ third-largest trade partner.

Beijing’s attempts in the last decade to establish a more powerful economic and political presence in the Philippines floundered as Mr. Aquinoâ€â„¢s predecessor, President Gloria Arroyo, staggered in a series of corruption scandals over allegedly overpriced projects involving Chinese companies.

ZTE, railway deals
Under public pressure, Arroyo in 2007 cancelled a flagship $330-million Philippine government deal with China’s ZTE Corp to set up a nationwide broadband network. Her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, and former elections chief Benjamin Abalos have denied accusations of receiving kickbacks. ZTE has also denied bribing any officials.

The Aquino administration is reviewing a Chinese-sponsored railway project that was initially worth $503 million, but the cost reportedly ballooned to some $2 billion.

State Grid Corp
The President is scheduled to start his day on Wednesday with a meeting with officials of State Grid Corp of China and National Grid Corp of the Philippines.

Afterward, he will meet with executives of China Trend and China Investment Corp and Chinese petroleum officials. He will also meet with Chinese contractors before meeting Vice Premier Wang Qishan.

Together, Aquino and Wang will attend the Philippines-China Economic and Trade Forum.

“President Aquino and Vice Premier Wang Qishan, a very important leader in China, will be addressing the Philippines-China trade forum. Their messages to the 500 business leaders will highlight the commitment of both countries to stronger, more vigorous trade and economic cooperation, and their support for each other’s business sectors as they explore solid partnerships,� Chua said.

Hu Jintao
Following the meetings with business leaders, Aquino will formally be welcomed by Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People.

A bilateral meeting will follow and a state banquet in AquinoÃ�€���s honour to be hosted by Hu.

On Thursday morning, he is scheduled to visit the Great Wall.
Wen Jiabao

More meetings with Chinese businessmen are scheduled before Aquino meets Wu Bangguo, chair of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and Premier Wen Jiabao.

Aquino is also scheduled to make stops in Shanghai and Xiamen.
In Shanghai, Aquino will meet with local officials and major business groups and sign trade agreements. He will also meet with the Filipino community there.

Tree planted by Cory
In Xiamen, he will visit Hongjian Village in Fujian province to view the araucaria tree planted in 1988 by his late mother, former President Corazon Aquino.

ââ��œThe President will be planting a tree in the ancestral village where the Cojuangcos trace their roots,â€� said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.

Aquino will interact with members of the Xu (Co) clan, which his mother traced more than two decades ago as her ancestral roots.
Among the Cabinet members in the presidential delegation were foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, transportation secretary Manuel Roxas II, finance secretary Cesar Purisima, energy secretary Jose Rene Almendras, trade secretary Gregory Domingo, public works secretary Rogelio Singson, defence secretary Voltaire Gazmin and presidential adviser on international relations Domingo Lee.

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NKorea launches tours from China, snubbing SKorea

Posted on 31 August 2011 by admin

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Beneath a village outside Beijing lies ‘The Underground Great Wall’

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South Africa land reform slides back

Posted on 31 August 2011 by admin

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Chef’s new Las Vegas restaurant to serve 24/7

Posted on 31 August 2011 by admin

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