Seoul’s Cafe Culture

When I lived in Seoul there weren’t anywhere near as many kinds of cafés. I remember going to a Barbie™ café, but it ran out of business.

The lamb café was quite close to where I was when I visited in April. Too bad I hadn’t seen this video.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant

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1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.

3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great posts.

Other great photos:

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Silent Sunday

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Hotel Review: Grand Mercure Dongchen

The Grand Mercure Dongchen offers beautiful rooms and good service. I actually reserved a room here by accident. I wanted to book a room at the Mercure by Beijing’s South Cathedral, but inadvertently booked this location.

I found the staff welcoming and the room, a junior suite modern and comfortable. (I’ve stayed at enough Accor hotels this year to get upgrades for each reservation.)

One nice touch was that they printed their hotel guide on scrolls to harken to Beijing’s past.

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The hotel is within walking distance of the Yonghegong Tibetan Temple and the Drum and Bell Towers, but these sites are really, in my opinion, of interest for travellers who’ve already seen Beijing’s most famous sites like the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, and Summer Palace. They’re nice but not essential to see. It’s nowhere near the cathedral I wanted to get to and got lost finding. While I think it’s a lot newer

It’s not very crowded and the cocktail buffet had meagre offerings compared with busier hotels.

All in all, I’d suggest staying here if business brings you to north central Beijing but don’t bother with the Executive Lounge as you’ll probably need to eat more anyway. Room service would be the way to go.

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Charlie

Charlie singing

Charlie singing

This weekend I went to Beijing with some friends, one whose travel style is higher than mine. She doesn’t like to take public transportation so she’s been hiring a driver, Charlie, to take her around. I just wouldn’t consider hiring a driver a $100 or more a day. It’s not something English teachers can afford, though business teachers can. (So become a business teacher if you want to make big bucks.)

My friend arranged for Charlie, her driver, to take us around on Saturday. He picked us up at 9:30 and he was full of energy. Neat as a pin, and jovial as can be, Charlie drove us to the Silk Market, then to “The Village,” another shopping area and finally to the Pearl Market. As he drove he sang Peking Opera songs. He’s self-taught and quite good, or we thought so. He’s really serious about opera and after each song, he supplied a synopsis in English.

Not only was he a fun driver, Charlie was a very safe driver and hospitable. He’s lead an interesting life growing up in village near Shanghai, becoming a “little boss” in a factory, meeting his one love there, teaching himself English and opera and eventually starting a driving business which now consists of a fleet of 12 drivers.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: A Good Day

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.

3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great posts. Add Media photos from each month’s most popular challenge.

Other great photos:

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Travel Theme: Gray

Longmen Caves, Luoyang

Longmen Caves, Luoyang

Longmen Caves, Luoyang

Longmen Caves, Luoyang

National Art Museum of China, Beijing

National Art Museum of China, Beijing

National Art Museum of China, Beijing

National Art Museum of China, Beijing

Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack? invites bloggers to post photos on a weekly theme. This week it’s “Gray” or “Grey.”

If you want to join the fun, it’s simple. Just follow these guidelines:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: “Gray.”
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too.
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!

blank”>Where’s My Backpack? invites bloggers to post photos on a weekly theme. This week it’s “Land meets Water.” I’ve posted a photo of Jinan’s biggest body of water, Daming Lake. The Chinese like to define and control water with concrete so the meeting is with a wall.

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Silent Sunday

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New Grand Century Hotel

Typical Room

Typical Room

It turned out that I had forgotten to book a room in Beijing for July 6th. In April I thought I’d just save money and stay at a hostel before returning to my Beijing hotel, Novotel Xinqiao. However, the hostel I usually stay at is no longer part of the Hostels International group.

Browsing Hotels.com I was something about secret hotels, a service where you can specify a locale and take your chances with a mystery hotel at a low price. The website showed The Luxury Collection, x, and y as participants. So I figured
What the hell?

After I complete the no refund purchase, I was disappointed to see that the reservation was at the New Grand Century, a Chinese brand I’d never heard of. Since I’ve had some unsatisfactory experiences with Chinese hotels in the form of poor English ability with the staff, rock hard beds and the staff knocking on the door at 3 am to give you toilet paper, you hadn’t ordered, I was feeling bummed.

However, the New Century turned out to be quite nice. The receptionists spoke English well and were always happy to help. The room was newly decorated and had a modern look drawn from traditional Chinese elements. You knew from the room that you were in China. Avid news fans, can watch the BBC or CNN and ping pong players can make use of the ping pong room. I enjoyed working out in the fitness center that’s full of new machines.

The hotel was easy to get to. I took the airport bus and it was the just across the street and midway down the block. (The driver, ticket seller and guy who helps with the bags at the airport all made sure that the foreigners who dodn’t speak Chinese get to the right spot.) If you’re not interested in the adventure of the bus, which I like because unlike the subway it means no stairs and unlike a taxi, you’re not riding in fear of your life, you can take a taxi or the subway.

Ping Pong Room

Ping Pong Room

The neighborhood is a bit out of the way, three subway stops west of South Qianmen Street subway station, however you’re close to the Cic Metro so while it’s not as convenient as my Novotel, it’s easy to get around.

I wound up paying $88 for a $150 room, which is a good deal. I didn’t opt for breakfast so I can’t speak to the quality of the food. I’d definitely go back if I needed to be on that side of town.

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Silent Sunday

Urumqi, Hotel door

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