Looking for a nice half-day escape from the concrete of Seoul, yet not too far and accessible by subway? The National Museum of Contemporary Art is a good choice! From downtown Seoul it takes about an hour to make it to Seoul Grand Park subway stop, from where you take the museum’s free shuttle. Then it’s a nice ride up the hills. The grounds of the museum are quite nice and host a sculpture park. The museum itself has a good collection of Korean art from 1900 onwards.
Highly recommended!

Loo Mirror, originally uploaded by Elise in Asia.

In the same line of thought than the previous post, here is one good example of the national image obsession: mirrors in the public loo…

If pictures of people in elevators checking themselves out in mirrors were easier to take, I would have a realllllyyyyy good collection, but it wasn’t very practical. And when I say checking themselves in the mirror, I don’t mean a quick glance to see if everything is OK, I’m talking about totally staring at themselves with a satisfied smile (like nobody was around) for the duration of the entire ride….

If you live in Korea and wonder if the people here are as¬†obsessed with their appearance as they seem to be, you are not dreaming: they are!!! Wanting to look your best is one thing, but downright putting all the importance on looks is another one… Enjoy the video ūüėČ

Nothing new really, spring is here, trees are blossoming, it’s nice to watch nature come back to life! Can’t believe it was snowing only one month ago!

Tiger by Dury Luong, originally uploaded by Elise in Asia.

Happy year of the tiger to all! I hope it brings you plenty of happiness and prosperity.

Like last year, I chose an illustration by Dury Luong, a designer from Toronto who does great work.

Malaysia Trully Asia, originally uploaded by Elise in Asia.

I’m back from a 2 weeks trip in Malaysia with my friend Irene. Malaysia is one of my favorite countries and it was great to go back there for a third time (been there in 2000 and 2003 already.) The place sure did develop a lot since I last visited, but the vibe is still the same. It is very interesting to see people from different ethnic background work and socialize together.
Malaysia is a bit like South East Asia, China and India rolled into one! And almost everybody speaks English, so going around is very easy and pleasant!

My New Chinese Books, originally uploaded by Elise in Asia.

For anyone who’s learning Mandarin, you know how hard it is to acquire new vocabulary, and specially remember it for more than¬†a week. Finding the right material for your needs is also a challenge.
Here in Seoul, there are tons of nice textbooks to learn Chinese, the only problem for me is: they are written in …. Korean!!! Now that doesn’t help me much, does it!?!?! Try advanced grammar pattern explanation in Korean…

The books I brought with me from Taiwan¬†are a) outdated (wonder if¬†they were ever actual as a lot of content sounds funny even to Taiwanese!),¬†¬†b) in traditional characters that are not in use anymore in China, and c) really geared towards local expressions and vocabulary that Mainlanders don’t use (and really make you sound like¬†a country bumpkin!!!) On top of it, each book is about an inch thick and weighs 1 kilo, so they are not convenient to tote around. So goodbye Shida books!!!¬†¬†

I found this nice online bookstore with great prices and fast shipping: WINCLC, a Window to Chinese Language and Culture. They have a great selection and charge a reasonable fee for shipping (it¬†cost 10 USD to ship the 3 books on the picture and I got them withing 1 week.) Service is great, you email an inquiry and you get an¬†answer in good English within 24 hours.¬†Choosing only a few books was hard (temptation temptation…… as most of the books are priced at under 10 USD, if not 5 USD, including 1 or 2 cds), but I went for these 3 books: Talking About Chinese Culture (a bit too easy but a good way to get used to simplified characters,) Chinese for Economics and Trade (oh¬†dear Lord, that one¬†I keep for dessert, as¬†the vocabulary is really not ‘daily’ stuff)¬†and Advanced Hanyu Kouyu (just the right level and the¬†dialogues are fun.)

What do you use to learn Chinese? What works for you????