Get set... and Go!

Still Packing...
"Overslept" this morning... it was already 6 when the alarm rang... was still packing... the very last items to be included in the luggage. Oh yes, my toothbrush! Remember there was once I went around hunting for a toothbrush overseas immediately I landed... hahaha... imagine... Hunting for a toothbrush overseas???

~ penned @ Changi Airport on 9 May 2007, 8.45 am

Making a Choice... the Airline...
In fact, never crossed my mind to fly by Air China... Hm... Must admit that I've been 'pampered' all the while... and hm... apart from its established reputation, I guess probably also because this national pride that I hold, Singapore Airlines is usually my choice. Yes, I remember comparing the various airlines with SIA, especially when I flew DrukAir - paying at an expensive rate (USD750) yet .....! Well, too bad, Drukair is the only airline that flies into Bhutan and I will not dare to take any other airline, knowing how challenging it is to land in Paro airport.

In fact, through this trip, I realised one of the criteria that I have when trying, especially free-and-easy (unknown to myself previously) is to have everything hassle free. Yes, accommodation must be near to main attractions, as many as possible - So that it's within walking distance :D In fact, I would rather pay more for hotel than an air ticket (Surprised? I just discovered myself!). The amount I can top up for the SIA ticket is enough for me to spend a night comfortably... So, I opt for the latter.
~ penned @ Changi Airport 8.45 am

I made a wrong assumption: The comfort inside the aircraft - the overhead cabin is smaller than usual (looking at the amount of things packed in)! To my horror, when the plane landed, one of the overhead cabins' door swung open while the PA system advised the passengers to be careful when opening the door, to beware of the stuff falling off! What an irony!

Yes, lots of things are limited - choice of juices, variety of food, there is only one "Programme" projected on the common screen, there is limited elbow space... and more importantly - smiles and warmth are limited, too... Still remember a song that Ms Sally (my P3 teacher who taught us...) "You can smile, when you can't say a word..." Yes, smiles are very very important in the service line, especially (as I realised) language is limited. That helps to break the barrier and make the customer comfortable. One immediate reaction - "Quality Service!" is absent... and am I going to see more of such in Beijing? Oops! What did I do to myself to land up here?

~ penned upon return... 14 May 2007

Die-hard habits and Service Attitude
Oh! The "Chinese" habit! I hate to say... on the street, there was no less than 10 times within a day that I would hear the typical sound of the Chinese clearing the throat and spitting - be it on the street, at Tian-an-men, at the Forbidden City or Garden (you mean it, you'll hear and see it!). Oh no! I hear this common (disgusting) sound again, right behind me on my return trip... I was hoping the worst will not happen - spitting. Thank god! Nevertheless, this was bad enough to spoil the time in the air!

Next is "air pollution"! In fact, the skies of Beijing went 'blur' on Friday (I was surprise as the past 2 days were very clear). What I meant was smokes! Yes, be it man or woman, young or old, it's so common to see them holding a stick between their lips! How inconsiderate!

In fact, sign boards were put up (almost) everywhere in Beijing to remind its people to behave in a 'cultured' manner... I think, it's hard, but need some hard and fast rule to reinforce it! I guess the authority put up advice because it wants to project a good image of its people to the world when the Olympics come. On the other hand, just wondering, is the authority taking the opportunity to push the society towards a more cultured one? I think lots to be done here...

Quality service - something that struck me quite strongly. Realised that there are attempts to ask for feedback - in the bookshop (王府井书店). the airline, the immigration counter (that I was a bit surprise), but am impressed by the effort, at least. However, sad to say, it's not widespread. Sales people do not seem to bother if the customer needs direction or has enquiry. At the extreme, their can't-be-bothered attitude seems to tell customers that it is no big deal if you don't buy the stuff. This includes those on duty at the places of interest. They are more interested in engaging in small talks among themselves. It doesn't give an impression that they mean business... this is the saddest part of the service line. Customers are not served. In fact, these people are just there to collect the payment! What a contrast as compared to what I experience in Hokkaido, or even Hongkong! In fact, is this the Chinese way of doing business? This is not what's cited or taught in the good old days.

However, it is a sweeping statement to say it applies to all in Beijing... There are exceptions... There are nice people, too... The middle waitress in the SQUARE where I had breakfast every morning will not fail to give me a warm smile when she saw me each morning :D I like that :D The 2 sales people in the souvenir shops in the hotel - they are nice and patient. Oh yes, do not forget the 'hawker' who tries her very best to sell the books to us... hahaha... that's extreme... and she left a deep impression... not just me, but to Choy and the Joe family, too :D

~ penned upon return... 14 May 2007

Checking in @ Changi Airport
Just wondering, does the airline engage its own staff to man the counters in overseas airport? Upon arrival, went to Counter 10. There, a staff... asked for a luggage tag (which I though would be so easy... based on past experiences!) Oops! It's an assumption! Number 1, the staff does not seem to know what I'm asking for! Er... I guess because it's in English? But it's ridiculous, right? Being in service, one would have understood the different different ways that an item could be asked/described! Well, was told, in mandarin that it can be obtained at the 'check-in' counter... OK (then what's this counter for?).

There's one counter at the far end - it's empty! There's no other remarks in display except the flight number. Great! So, pull my luggage... and then... the staff look at me sternly and said, this counter is for group checkin. Hey, it's not displayed at the LCD panel at all! Fine... Went back to my queue. At last, it's my turn... asked for the tag - the staff, without talking, just pointed to me the stack of 'stickers' labels at the counter. She took my passport and airticket and started processing. By the time I finished writing and sticking the label on the luggage, the seat was already assigned! Hey, hey, wait!!!! You did not even ask! (again, it's my assumption, as normally the ground crew of other airlines will have to courtesy to ask, especially when it's a solo traveller... I wanted a seat near the oar... I don't want to be trapped! Looking at the seat assigned... OK, I believe it's at the side... well, who knows, it could be a blessing in disguise - who knows, there could be an empty seat beside mine? hahaha...

The migration officer took my passport, processed and asked "Ms Loh, you are still teaching at Ngee Ann?" Ha! Surprised! It's a pleasant surprise... Oops! I can't recognise her! But am very happy she acknowledged me :D Yes, she said she was from the first batch and was in the CCA Red Cross... :D We parted with a smile :D That made my day... at least...

And yes, the first place I headed to is the "Free Internet Access counter". There's one free station... well, it's now, after nearly 40 minutes, I'm the only one left... ok... boarding...

~ penned @ Changi Airport 8.45 am

Landed in Singapore at 5.30 am... what unearthy hour! Yes, the advantage of being seated in front was being able to reach the immigration fast... The immigration officer scanned the passport, passed it back to me... and smile... Yes, I'm home :D

~ penned upon return... on 14 May 2007

Wangfujing 王府井

This is the famous shopping street. On the map, though the road is long, the actual "shopping area" with some attractions appears in the "yellow" portion - nearer to the subway.

Read more about Wangfujing here

~ more photos at

Ming Tomb 明十三陵 on 10 May 2007 (Thursday)

This is the Ming Tomb - the first tomb for the 3rd Ming emperor was completed in 1427.
In fact, did not see much except the structures, one after another... and the interesting one would be the "gate" to heaven, where the coffin of the emperor would cross and signified he entered the heaven.
Read more about Ming Tomb here

Great Wall of China 万里长城 on 10 May 2007 (Thursday)

The magnificent Great Wall of China. There's this Chinese saying, 不登长城非好汉, ie. All good man must climb the great wall... In fact, was surprise that 'climbing' has made easy for visitors! We went up by the slide... Can't imagine, the 'technology' used to build the great wall!

Read more about the Great Wall of China here

~ more photos at

Flag Lowering Ceremony 天安门降旗礼 on 10 May 2007 (Thurday)

Saw the flag raising ceremony on TV. Read about its timing for flag raising/lowering from the Internet website.

We waited for more than 30 minutes. If not because of the 'hawker-at-TAM', we would wonder how to pass time.

There are lots of people - many from other cities of the country. Many heard about it.

The flag was huge. However, we did not hear any music.

The ceremony started at 7.10 pm.

Read more about Tian-an-men and its nearby sites here

Quanjude Peking Duck 全聚德 on 10 May 2007 (Thursday)

Here, every duck comes with a Commemoration Card. (Hey! that's marketing!)

We ate the #150 million + 381076th duck, since 1864.

Read more about Peking Duck here

The Forbidden City 故宫博物院 11 May 2007 (Friday)

The Imperial Palace was built by the 3rd Ming Emperor. To-date, only part of the building remain untouched. The rest are either rebuilt (after fire) or renovated.

Lots of stories within the walls. Some we heard are true, but some are just stories.

Read more about the Forbidden City here
more... The Forbidden Palace (map) Official Website

~ more photos at

Jingshan Park 景山公园 on 11 May 2007 (Friday)

At Jingshan Park, we can have the bird's eye view of the Forbidden City. In fact, according to one guide, except Xi-shan (Western mountain), we can view the whole of Beijing here.
Met this 101-year-old taoist monk (from Wudangshan) at Jingshan park.
Read more about Jingshan Park here

The Confucius Temple 孔庙 on 11 May 2007 (Friday)

Here, we can find the names of scholars who did well in the imperial exams on the slabs displayed outside the temple.

Was cheated 10 yuan by the ticketing personnel - who said that we could see what's inside the temple though the authority is furnishing the exterior of the building. In fact, everything's under renovation, what's the point of paying 10 yuan to read the poster display outside the buildings? If I can read them in the courtyard, I might as well read it from the internet! Untrustable chinese man!

Lama Temple 雍和宫 on 11 May 2007 (Friday)

The prayer wheel looks familiar? More than that, even the setting of the prayer hall, the thangkhas... Yes, for a moment, I thought I was back to Bhutan.

Lama Temple is where we can find Tibetan Buddhism, worship by Emperor Qianlong, who lived here before he became the emperor.

Read more about Lama Temple here

~ more photos at

Ancient Observatory 古观象台 on 12 May 2007 (Saturday)

The time now is 9.45 am, by "Old Sun Dial".
Surprise by its precision?! Here, we can find several time-telling instruments used by people in the past.
There are other equipment build to study the celestial bodies.
Read more about the Ancient Observatory here

Tiantan Park 天坛公园 on 12 May 2007 (Saturday)

Tiantan, in a Saturday morning, comes alive with bustling noise and activities, especially along the long corridor - a place to catch a glimpse of what old-Bejingers do over the weekend.
Read more about Tiantian Park here

Liulichang - Antiques/Cultural Street 琉璃厂街 on 12 May 2007 (Saturday)

This street is well-known for selling books and traditional Chinese stationery - papers, ink, ink slab. Apart from the bookshops, occasionally, we can also find shops that sell tea leaves and other antiques.

Read more about Liulichang here

Summer Palace 颐和园 on 13 May 2007 (Sunday)

The summer palace is one of the best preserved parks. One feature that marks its difference, compared to the Forbidden city is the decoration pieces. There are lots and lots of rocks.
What's so special about this rock? It's also known as the 败家石. It said that long long ago, there's this businessman who wanted to bring this rock home, from a faraway place. In the course of doing so, he spent all his fortune while the 'move' was only halfway to home. So, he gave up and covered it with straw. One day, emperor Qianlong passed by and saw it. He decided to move it to the summer palace. However, when the rock arrived, it was too huge for the 'doorway'. As a result, the emperor asked to break down the gate, move the rock in, then re-built the gate. He was reprimanded by his mother for wasting resources. In fact, the rock was huge. To move it, they waited till winter when the rock can glide through the layer of ice to reach its final resting place.
Read more about Summer Palace here

Panjiayuan 潘家园 on 13 May 2007 (Sunday)

This is a famous 2nd-hand antique weekend flea market.

Read more about Panjiayuan here

~ more photos at

Ox Street Mosque 牛街礼拜寺 on 13 May 2007 (Sunday)

The famous mosque at Ox Street built in 996 during hte Song dynasty.

This is one of the few districts with the muslim community concentrated at - it has its own schools and flats here.

Read more about the mosque here

Hutong 胡同游 on 13 May 2007 (Sunday)

Hutong is a kind of ancient city alley or lane typical of Beijing. These are built during the Yuan dynasty.

The main buildings in the hutongs are the 'quadrangles' 四合院. There are 4 houses that made up one. From the design of the roof beams and pillars, one can tell the who lived there - merchants or court officers.

Read more about hutong here

~ more photos at

The PostCards have arrived!

Have this habit of sending postcards home whenever I'm out of the country. There are occasions when I sent almost everyday - while I was at Hokkaido, as I was going from place to place, each day. This time, same here, at Beijing, sent out 2 postcards, one from the hotel where I stayed throughout my entire trip while the other just before I board the flight to head home.
It was more than 2 weeks since home... the cards arrived at last, together, despite the fact they were posted about 4 days apart. Noticed something added to my postcard, 3 chinese characters "新加坡”. Guess if I had written them earlier, the cards might have reached me earlier... hahaha...

Pleasant Surprise ^.^

It's more than 3 weeks, since return... received a letter, er??? It's from Novotel... I wonder...

Oh, so my feedback form reached the Hotel's Feedback unit, and yes, it took the feedback seriously... at least, they bother to write an one-page letter in response to my feedback... Hey, something I don't expect though... on the other hand, since it's an International Hotel, then, it's part of the customer practice, right? OK, I'm impressed :D

So, this letter reminded me... I also sent a feedback to the airlines... Hm... just wonder... did the feedback reach its unit or??? Let's see...