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Sunday, November 3, 2019

Seoul, at Myeongdong Day Time



We can say that Myeongdong,  Seoul’s main shopping street, is the face of modern Korea which is driven by the “Hallyu“  or “Korean Wave” which is a collective term for the phenomenal growth of Korean popular culture encompassing everything from music, movies, drama to clothes and cuisine. The Korean Wave  first spread to China and Japan around the year 2000, later to Southeast Asia and several countries worldwide where it continues to have a strong impact and has become one of the biggest cultural phenomena across Asia.

As we walk in Myeongdong we can see various paraphernalia  of K-pop and K-drama in the shops, from calendars and coffee mugs to t-shirts, socks and even potato chips, just about everything featuring the faces of the country’s most celebrated idols.  We can see faces of K-pop girl group  Girl’s Generation, Blackpink, or boy group Exo , Super Junior on shirts as well as on stationeries, and also we can see traces of Winter Sonata, Autumn in My Heart, or My Sassy Girl on displays reminding us of the popular K- Dramas.
                      
The Korean pop culture also influenced both women and men around Asia nowadays to have more interest toward Korean skin care and makeup products. Yoona of Girls’ Generation group has been chosen as a model for Innisfree, and Taeyeon also of Girls’ Generation promotes Nature Republic to bring Korean cosmetics to become a globally recognized brand with their clean images. Because of that in recent years, Korean cosmetics have stormed Asia in just about every corner. From face masks and body cream to cleansing products and hand lotions, Korea has some of the best, and most affordable, beauty products on the market.  That is why both small cosmetics shops and department stores at Myeongdong are always packed with many shoppers to look for the products of The Faceshop, Innisfree, Missha, Nature, Tony Moly, Etude House etc.

Myeongdong  which in Korean means “bright tunnel” or “bright cave” perhaps has its image enhanced by the bright, shiny, and polished image of this place and the Korean pop idols. You may see everywhere advertisement at this “bright tunnel” displays beautiful faces promoting flashy brand clothing, smooth cosmetics, and fashion accessories.  Whether shown on billboards or on TV screens, jackets, hats, and outfits can become iconic when worn by Exo’s Chanyeol,  Twice’s Nayeon, or BTS’ Suga. High rise department stores and small stores popping up acting as a platform to encourage you to buy latest style clothing, with a K-pop idol standing card-board welcoming you at the front door.

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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Tokyo, at the Disney Parade


Seeing the people arriving at Disneyland in Tokyo, we can understand why Disneyland claims that it is “The Happiest Place on Earth”.  Since before the opening hours, many visitors excitedly rush out of the metro train to see how this place looks like.  Expecting a welcoming early entrance to site, their excitement dies out rapidly after seeing the massive long queues at the entrance gates.  

Everybody have to line-up in the long queues, kids, teens, parents, grand-parents, while they start to feel the Disney atmosphere during queuing.  Joy fully Mickey Mouse in his black tuxedo greets kids at the front garden, and their smiles are captured in the photos they make. Thus the long queuing experience is not so bad, thanks to the Disneyland’s hospitality and efficiency, as well as to the Japanese considerate behavior.  The long queues are even forgotten once the visitors enter the main gate of the Disneyland to a different world, a mini world from the eyes of kids as told in story books and movies.


But we can see that actually the number of kids is much lower than the number teens and young adults visiting the theme park, perhaps because the young adults are more mobile to go around while kids need their parents to accompany.  Surely Disneyland realized these numbers and provides a wide range of attractions to suit all ages and personalities. Here we can see that many of the attractions are made for the young adults, focusing on activities, ridding, adventures, and romantic musicals.  Further the adults and the teens can enjoy the nostalgia of their childhood by meeting Winnie the Pooh, Donald Duck, Sleeping Beauty after the rides on the Pirates of the Caribbean, the Indiana Jones  and the Jurassic Park.

 One of the most popular attractions in Disneyland is the daytime parade which features gigantic floats with Disney characters dancing to the music. The theme of the parade that time was “Happiness Is Here” which enhances the Disneyland’s claim to be “The Happiest Place on Earth”.   So to say, who cannot be happy watching the parade lead by Goofy on a horse, followed The Three Little Pigs pulling Mickey Mouse drum toy, and Pinocchio leads a magical train with Sleepy and Grumpy as passengers. Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Pluto, Chip 'n' Dale ride an enormous float featuring a carousel, canopies, and  Minnie Mouse waving on the back. Then the final float features Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse aboard a giant hot air balloon made out of Mickey Mouse balloons. The balloon is held up by Goofy, and Mickey and Donald wave goodbye to the guests.

It was definitely a memorable parade, the happy characters dancing to the repetitive music in tune with what Walt Disney once said: “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever."

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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Dubai, at the Dubai Mall


Arriving Dubai at six in the morning, while it was still cool, at the world class airport, made us feel like arriving in a modern oasis in the desert. The dusts of sand were not visible, no one seemed to be sweating, and the fragrance of perfume from the local people dressed in their traditional robes filled the air, it smells like the smoke of incense.

Upon leaving the airport, I realized that the airport is practically inside the city, cars started filling the roads rapidly as people trying to avoid the traffic jams which would come in a few more hours, with the heat of the day.

Soon I can see why Dubai is called the business hub of the Middle East, the Hong Kong of the Middle East. Oil revenue helped accelerate the development of the city, which was already a major mercantile hub, but Dubai's oil reserves are limited and production levels are low: today, less than 5% of the emirate's revenue comes from oil. Dubai's economy today relies on revenues from trade, tourism, aviation, real estate, and financial services. The most extravagant hotels, restaurants, attractions parks and beach resorts all made for us to enjoy the best this life has to offer.

One of the most sought-after leisure and shopping destinations is the Dubai Mall which attracted lavish shoppers from all corners of the world. Featuring over 1,200 retail stores, including retailers such as Bloomingdale and Galeries Lafayette, and hundreds of food and beverage outlets, the Dubai Mall covers more than 1 million sqm. It is the world's second-largest mall, a gargantuan complex with an aquarium, a virtual-reality theme park, an Olympic-size ice-skating rink, Gold Souk (Market) and hundreds of high-class boutiques and restaurants.

The Dubai Mall is structured like a city, with internal pedestrian streets, junctions and landmarks, integrated into the design and organized by wide, straight boulevards terminating at beautifully decorated junctions connecting the many shops. You can walk in the cool climate from Sega to Kidzania to the cinema, from Versace to Gucci at the Fashion Avenue to the electronic shops and drink, eat at the many restaurants and caf├ęs in between. After tired of shopping and stuffed with food you can go watch the movies at the comfortable cinemas. It really feels like walking in a city in an oasis in the middle of desert, where you see nobody is thirsty or sweating despite the soaring heat of above 40 deg C outside the mall.

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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Ave Maria Night at Lourdes



The famous French writer Emile Zola first visited Lourdes in September 1891 and was taken aback by the number of pilgrims that visited the shrine of Santa Maria. He returned the following year during August, which is the busiest period for pilgrimages, and spent time with the pilgrims, carrying out interviews and observations to form the basis of his novel, ‘Lourdes’ which was published in 1894.

During his visit Zola watched the Ave Maria evening procession and described it in his novel: 
”Thirty thousand candle lights were burning there, still and ever revolving, quickening their sparkles under the vast calm heavens where the planets had grown pale. A luminous glow ascended in company with the strains of the hymn which never ceased. And the roar of voices incessantly repeating the refrain of 'Ave, Ave, Ave Maria' was like the very crackling of those hearts of fire which were burning away in prayers in order that souls might be saved. “

Every day from April to October at 5pm the Lourdes pilgrims respond to the request of Santa Maria by gathering for the Eucharist Procession. The procession begins at the open-air altar on the prairie across the river from the grotto and is led by sick pilgrims followed by a priest, bishop or cardinal carrying a the Holy Eucharist.

Then at 9PM the pilgrims from all over the world gather for the procession of Ave Maria of Lourdes. The procession begins near the Grotto and continues around the esplanade ending in the Rosary square. The procession is led by sick pilgrims followed by volunteers carrying a replica of the statue of Santa Maria. The focus of this candle lit procession is the rosary. All five decades are recited, usually in a variety of languages. The Lourdes Hymn is also sung, with verses in different languages. Intercessions may be invoked followed by the Laudate Mariam.

In the serenity of the evening, each pilgrim carries his or her own personal intentions as the Ave Maria song was repeated over and over during the procession lit by thousands of candle lights. As Emile Zola wrote in the novel: “The roar of voices incessantly repeating the refrain of 'Ave, Ave, Ave Maria’, penetrates one's very skin. It seems to me as though my whole body were at last singing it.”

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