Sunday, May 31, 2009

Metro Korean Academy

Starting in the beginning of May, I started taking a Korean class at a private language school (hagwon) here in Seoul. I originally came to Korea to learn Korean, and I'd been doing a poor job of studying really... I hadn't made nearly the progress I thought I'd make by the 10 month point. So, I started shopping around for a Hagwon. A friend of mine was attending classes at a school in Gangnam, but her class almost got canceled because of small class sizes. Another co-worker had signed up for a class in Hongdae but his class too was canceled because of lack of students to fill the class (there was a 3 person minimum to run the class). I found Metro Korean Academy in 10 Magazine (a magazine for foreigners here). I went there and they leveled me that day with a written and oral placement exam. I placed into the second lowest level.. just above hangul. It was really depressing to me, because I knew present tense, past tense and future tense! But, that is just a sample of how limited my vocabulary is I guess. Not to mention that the test was conducted in the highest formality level which I never use (imnida, imnikka...). But, I signed up anyway, especially when they told me that there was only one other person in the class... and they were running the class anyway!

Friday I just signed up for another month with the class. I love it. I go Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7-9pm. The small class size is amazing because you can't hide and let someone else answer. I have two teachers, one on Mon. and Wed. that teaches from the book, then another teacher on Fri. to teach conversation. Also, starting at such a low level is great because I understand everything very easily and it lets me focus on picking up the vocabulary and not be stumbling over grammar while trying to do that too. It's really reinforcing the vocabulary that I know I've learned, but never gotten a chance to use. I feel so smart too, because the other student in the class only just came to Korea 2 months ago and had no experience whatsoever with Korean before he came here. But... he is an exchange student and he needs Korean in his daily life much more than me.... he is picking it up at an unbelievable rate... and starting to make me look slow.... hmmmmm....

Anyway, I highly recommend Metro Korean Academy if you're looking for a good Korean hagwon in Seoul. It's located right near Gwanghwamun Station, and is a 10 min walk from City Hall station, so you can reach it easily from line 1, 2 or 5. All classes look very small, and they may even create a class if there is none at your level of Korean. They also offer intensive courses and Saturday courses too. I highly recommend them! Please check out their website:

The ACTUAL reason behind the North's recent missile launches

Kim Jong Il Announces Plan To Bring Moon To North Korea


Saturday I went to Everland for the first time as a "going away party" for two of my friends that are leaving tomorrow morning *sniff sniff* to go back to Canada. As it turns out most people couldn't make it, so only three of us, including only one of the girls leaving wound up going. But, it's ok, we still had fun. Everland is the biggest amusement park in Korea. There are some smaller ones like Seoul Land at Seoul Grand Park and Children's Grand Park has a lame amusement park, and then, of course there's Lotte World which is an indoor/ outdoor amusement park in Jamsil, but Everland is the closest you can come to a large style amusement park like what we're used to back in the states. I'd put it on the same level as a Six Flags.

There were a few worthwhile rides at the park. By far the best ride was the T Express wooden roller coaster. The roller coaster at Everland is supposedly the steepest wooden roller coaster in the world. I'm not sure if that's just Korean pride talking, but the 77˚ drop was pretty darn impressive to me. Sure we had to wait an hour in line, but it was worth it.We went on a few other rides while we were here, like the Ferris wheel. Ferris wheels in Korea are a little different from the ones at home. They only do one, very slow rotation. Once you get to the bottom, then you get out again. But, it's always fun.

We also waited for an hour to go on this ride called Let's Twist. It was fun but probably not worth an hour wait...
We went on a Amazon water rafting ride. Now, I feel as though the most exciting part about going on water rides at home is seeing how wet you get. There's always the mystery about whether or not you'll get soaked or you'll come out dry. Here, some Korean mastermind developed a tarp to keep you dry in the water ride:

Let me not forget the It's a Small World remake... Korea style. Just think of It's A Small World from Disney world... then just think of Koreans doing it.... Korea style:

Obviously every German boy has a brimming stein of beer. Of course, I've never been to Germany, that could be accurate for all I know...

The Spaniards dance in the streets...

The Kenyans are ready for battle in the jungle with their spears.

We probably had the most fun in the Animal Wonder World which is actually the best zoo I've seen in Korea. Most zoos in Korea have terrible habitats for the animals. This one wasn't perfect, but it was a vast improvement on the zoo at Children's Grand Park, that's for sure.

There was a bug and bird house where butterflies flew around your head, giant bugs were in boxes to touch and you could feed birds right from your hand (and when I say you, I mean not me).
There was a giant monkey area where they had primates from all over the world. They also had some chimpanzees who were trained to do tricks for food from a trainer.

The bird area was also quite fun to see, but I wonder if the birds have had their wings clipped so that they can't fly... otherwise, why wouldn't they just fly away?

Getting to Everland is quite simple. You can pick up the bus from Gangpyeon Station (where the Dong Seoul bus terminal and the Technomart is). The bus is actually not in the bus terminal, but you can catch it on the opposite side of Gangpyeon station across the street from the TechnoMart. There are actually two buses that go to Everland, but I highly recommend taking the 5800 bus. This bus has about 5 other stops in Seoul before it gets on the highway and goes straight to Everland. The 1113 bus also goes to Everland, but it goes back streets the entire way and the trip is about double the time... more if there's a lot of traffic. The fare is cheap too, only 1,800 won, and you can use your T-money card. So, check out Everland if you have time, it's a fun day out of Seoul.

The whole world on edge and yet no one is even talking about it....

I've gotten so many messages from friends and family this past week worried about the current situation on the Korean peninsula. The North has said it is no longer bound by the armistice and is threatening war. The whole world is scared except for South Korea. Headlines in the JoongAng Daily and the Korean Herald (two of the three major English newspapers here) tell about the funeral of ex-president Roh Moo Hyun. Only in the secondary headlines do you see anything about North Korea. South Koreans are so blasé about the entire situation, it's not even conversation worthy. I don't think anyone is stockpiling food and money in case of an emergency or anything that you would expect of a country that the rest of the world thinks is on the brink of war. Life just goes on as normal here. I used to get so frightened every time North Korea would start it's rhetoric, but I'm starting to understand the South Korean mentality towards the North. This sort of talk is so normal that it's really not even worth talking about. Nothing has happened in 50 years, so why should we think something will happen tomorrow? Anyway, I hope the South Korean mentality is the right idea to have right now... because the way everyone at home is talking, this could be more serious than before....

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Having a baby in Korea

Dating a Korean has really given me an opportunity to see the real everyday life here. Today I went with my boyfriend to visit a friend of his whose wife just gave birth to their first child a few days ago. The wife is staying at a sanhuchoriwon (산후조리원). This is a place where mothers often go for 2-4 weeks after giving birth with their child. Here, the mothers can rest and relax with their newborn for a while before having to return to their home. The sanhuchoriwon provide meals for the new mothers, assist in taking care of the babies, provide instruction for mothers on baby care and even give massages and yoga classes. Korean people believe that the first weeks after giving birth are critical to the mother's health. If she can not rest during this period, she may fall ill. Seems like logical thinking to me. Oh, and the price? 1,850,000 won ($1,472.02 USD) for two weeks. We went to the room to say hello to the mother for a few minutes. They keep the place quite clean and sterile. You need to take off your shoes before even entering into the ward and you need to use hand sanitizer before you walk in too. The room was quite simple, but nice. There was a bed for the mother and a cradle for the baby. There was a sofa and a TV for the mom to watch too.

After, we let her alone with the baby, we didn't want to bother her too much, since she only just had the baby on Monday. My boyfriend, two of his friends and I went to get dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. I tried really hard to understand the conversation for a while... but though I can pull out many words, it's still really hard for me to make any sense of what's going on. I might be able to figure out what the conversation is about, but basically no details. Anyway, I'm going to my Korean academy now 3 days a week, and I've definitely seen an improvement in my vocabulary. That's really my biggest weakness right now. I'm just going to keep plugging along... maybe by the time I leave I'll at least be able to understand the conversations, even if I can't participate in the conversations.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Swine Flu Comes To Seoul...

Swine flu has made it's way to Korea... I suppose it was inevitable. Unfortunately, it came by means of newly arrived English teachers from the US. I am already anticipating the suspicious stares I will start receiving once the word spreads. The word has been spreading fast among English teachers since one of the Americans quarantined has started a blog to tell the world about his experience.

I found this blog yesterday. Also, yesterday one of my co-workers also received a phone call from the Korean Ministry of Health (?) to ask if he has experienced any flu-like symptoms, since he was recently abroad. Abroad being Japan.

Today I opened my email to find an e-mail from a girl working in a hagwon in Seoul who's hagwon has now "forbidden" it's teachers from visiting places with high concentrations of foreigners and have highly recommended that they stay in within their dong.

Hi Jo-Anna,
I teach at (school name redacted). I'm writing in in regards to the swine flu quarantine. Today, our director told us that we can not go to places like Itaewon or Hongdae since there is a high concentration of foreigners there or they will fire us. They have also strongly urged us not leave our area (JangAn-Dong). They said it was a decision made by the (school name redacted) Directors. I was just curious if your school has told you the same.
Thanks for your help!

Well, the answer to that is... as of yet... no. Later I received this response from her:

We're specifically banned from Hongdae and Itaewon and strongly discouraged to leave our neighborhood. We were also told to stay away from festivals or areas with lots of foreigners. We had planned a trip to Sokcho next weekend for one of the teacher's birthday's and we were told we couldn't go there either. To my knowledge, there are very few foreigners in Sokcho.

This is sort of absurdity is just the sort of thing most of us have come to expect here in Korea...

Today I got home from work to read an article about the matter in the JoongAng Daily, the article reads as follows:

Foreign English teachers epicenter of new flu cases
May 26, 2009

The number of confirmed influenza A(H1N1) infections in Korea jumped to 22 over the weekend after the nation’s health authorities discovered that a group of 15 English teachers recruited from abroad by a private language institute in Seoul have caught the virus.

This is the first group to contract the disease in Korea. Until now, the handful of domestic cases involved travelers either returning or transiting through the country.

As a result, the Education Ministry yesterday ordered every education office to provide information on the number of foreign teachers who entered Korea after May 11 and report by 5 p.m. if anyone is currently showing flu symptoms. The ministry also made it mandatory for teachers who have just come from Mexico, the epicenter of the flu outbreak, and the United States to not start work until after seven days of arrival. Those affected include teachers at private language institutes as well as those who teach at public elementary, middle and high schools and universities

As of Saturday, the number of confirmed domestic infections totaled 10, including six teachers from the language institute. On Sunday, health officials confirmed that another 11 patients - including eight foreigners from the language institute and three Korean children from New York - had caught the new strain of flu. One more infection from the institute, a 24-year-old American male, was confirmed yesterday, according to the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A 28-year-old female who departed from New York and arrived at Incheon International Airport yesterday morning via Japan was classified as a “presumed patient” and was under further testing as of yesterday afternoon. She and the 18 newly confirmed patients were hospitalized.

Chungdahm Learning, a Kosdaq-listed firm that runs two private English-language franchises, recently recruited some 70 new teachers from eight countries including the United States and Canada.

The new recruits stayed at the same residence in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul, during a training period from May 16 to 22. They were supposed to be dispatched to the company’s branches nationwide after the training.

The company, which serves 60,000 elementary, middle and high school students, said in a regulatory filing yesterday that it temporarily shut down its branches yesterday and will keep them closed until June 2.

A spokesman for Chungdahm Learning said the institute did all it could, claiming it checked the temperatures of the teachers and sent them to local public health centers for further checkups.

But the disease control center, which operates under the Health Ministry, found that the company continued the training sessions as recently as last Friday even though some teachers have started showing symptoms of the flu. Those teachers also hung out in public spots each day after the sessions.

“It seems the institute didn’t have any idea how serious the situation was,” Jun Byung-yool, head of the center, said in a press briefing. “If the institute knew the United States is one of the countries with the flu outbreak, it should have taken every necessary preventive measure with the teachers.” Jun said he is considering mandating temporary suspension of private language institutes where teachers test were found positive for the new influenza.

The first domestic outbreak of the latest strain of flu occurred on May 2. Infections hit three but stayed at that number from May 7 until May 19, when health authorities found another case.

By Seo Ji-eun []

I'm just curious if anyone else's hagwon has mentioned anything like this one woman's school has? Is this going to hit all our hagwons soon???

UPDATE 5/28/09: Today my school suggested to us that we "try to avoid" Hongdae and catching Swine Flu in general. Fortunately, we were not told that if we went there we'd be fired, or anything of that sort. Surprisingly, nothing was mentioned about Itaewon, which has a much higher concentration of foreigners than Hongdae.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Children's Day

May 5th was Children's Day in Korea. This is a day to treat children to presents and fun activities. We had the day off from school, and that is when I went to China. The Friday before Children's Day, we had a celebration at SLP. The kids got to go to the gym and play games for about 45 minutes, then they got a "snack party" which actually just consisted of a bag of Cheetos, a nasty sugar drink and some candy and they got 40 minutes to sit around and eat it. I probably should have played a game or something with them, but they just happily chatted and ate and shared their food, so I just let them be.

I didn't really think I would get much teaching done, so during class time I made some origami faces of "brother" and "sister" and "mom" and "dad" since that was our vocabulary for the week. It had actually been on the lesson plan for earlier in the week, but I rarely have time to do art projects on a normal day.

Instead of having our usual Friday story time, we brought them down to the gym to watch a DVD. Trust me, Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory (the original) and 4 and 5 year old kids don't mix well.

Here's some photos from the day:

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Daeriunjon 대리운전

Last night I experienced yet another amazing thing about this country. Daeriunjon (대리운전). What is that? Well, say you have a car and you drank a bit too much and can't drive home yourself. Do you need a designated driver? No! Just call a company and they will send you your very own personal driver to drive you and your car to your home.

The cost is surprisingly cheap too... for a daeriunjon to come to our car in Itaewon and drive us to my apartment which is 10-15 minutes away by car it only cost 15,000 won (approx. $12.00 USD). A cab at that time of night is generally 5-7,000 won. We rode in the comfort of our own backseat while we were chauffeur home.

I think that daeriunjon are typically men, but my boyfriend keeps getting text message spam advertising for "sexy angel" daeriunjon. Their slogan is: Will we treat you like a king? No. We'll treat you like an oppa (boyfriend). 고객을 왕처럼? NO. 오빠처럼 ^^ 섹시1004 대리운전.

Ex-President Roh Moo Hyun Commits Suicide

Today's headlines read that Ex-President of South Korea, Roh Moo Hyun, committed suicide today by jumping off a cliff in southern Korea. Recently he had been under investigation in a relatively small corruption scandal.

Today in my Saturday Korean class my Korean teacher was visibly upset by the day's events. It seems as though Ex-president Roh was really loved by many Koreans, despite this scandal.

Here is the New York Times article on the subject:

South Korean Ex-President Kills Himself

Published: May 22, 2009

SEOUL, South Korea — Former President Roh Moo-hyun of South Korea, whose reputation as an upstanding political leader had been tarnished recently by a corruption scandal, committed suicide on Saturday by jumping off a cliff near his retirement home, according to his aides and the police.

Mr. Roh, 62, died while he was hiking on a hill in Bongha, a village near the southeast corner of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, Mr. Roh’s former presidential chief of staff, said during a news conference. He left a brief will for his family, Mr. Moon said.

Mr. Roh suffered fatal head injuries and was declared dead in a hospital in Pusan, the largest regional city, said Park Chan-jo, a police officer. Mr. Roh was accompanied by a bodyguard during his morning hike.

President Lee Myung-bak, Mr. Roh’s successor, found the news “difficult to believe,” his office said.

Mr. Roh, who had prided himself on being a clean politician during his term from 2003 to 2008, was questioned for 10 hours on April 30 by state prosecutors over his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal that has already landed some of his relatives and aides in jail.

“I can’t look you in the face because of shame,” Mr. Roh told reporters before he presented himself for questioning by prosecutors in Seoul, who had accused him of taking $6 million in bribes from a businessman while in office. “I apologize for disappointing the people.”

In his last posting on his Web site, on April 22, he wrote, “You should now discard me.”

He added: “I no longer symbolize the values you pursue. I am no longer qualified to speak for such things as democracy, progressiveness and justice.”

His apology was typical for a South Korean politician, who is expected to take moral responsibility for a corruption scandal that implicated aides and relatives, even if Mr. Roh denied most of the bribery allegations against him. But prosecutors had been considering indicting him on bribery charges.

In recent weeks, several of his aides and relatives had been arrested or questioned on charges of taking bribes. His elder brother also was arrested in December on bribery charges.

Prosecutors suspected that Mr. Roh, while president, solicited a total of $6 million from a shoe manufacturer, payments that are alleged to have been made to his wife, his son and his brother’s son-in-law. Both his wife and son have been questioned by the prosecutors.

Mr. Roh’s case, which involves a relatively unknown businessman, appeared relatively minor in scandal-ridden South Korean politics. Former presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo were imprisoned in the 1990s for collecting hundreds of millions of dollars from the nation’s biggest conglomerate.

The scandal and the ensuing criticism from his political enemies dealt a devastating blow to Mr. Roh.

In his will, which was released to the news media on Saturday, Mr. Roh wrote, “I owe too much to many people. Many people suffered too much because of me.”

He added, “I have thought about this for a long time.”

A former human rights and labor lawyer considered a political maverick, Mr. Roh swept into power in the December 2002 election on the crest of nationalistic — and sometimes anti-American — sentiments among young voters. During his campaign he famously declared that he would be the first South Korean leader “not to kowtow to the Americans.”

But his efforts to free South Korea from its traditional dependence on Washington in its diplomacy alienated many South Koreans.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Teacher's Day!

Uh.... I'm so behind on posts this month... no time.. no time....

May 15th was Teacher's Day in Korea. This is, as the name suggests, a day to honor your teachers. Since I am teaching pre-school nowadays I am the only (well, one of two) teachers the children have, so parents tend to feel quite generous. Here is a list of the gifts I received.

2 gift certificates to Starbucks
1 bottle of Bvlgarti perfume
Clinique face lotion
Botox skin cream
Hera sunblock
Agatha hairclip
Dior lipstick
2 big bottles of GNC supplements: Vitamin C and Fish Body Oil

well.. I guess there is something good about being a pre-school teacher....

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


A few weeks ago my boyfriend got free tickets to go see the Karsh exhibit which was in Seoul for a few months. Yousuf Karsh took many portraits of influential people of the 40's, 50's and 60's. It was a nice exhibit to see, and it really only took about 1/2 an hour to get through the entire exhibition.After the exhibit, we had fun taking photos......

Beijing Post 8: Day 4 Temple of Heaven, The Pearl Market and Back to Seoul Again

For our last day in Beijing we decided to head over to the Temple of Heaven. It was a close by ride in the taxi, probably only about 10 minutes or 30 RMB (approx. $4.00 USD). Entrance into the temple was 60 RMB. The temple was absolutly beautiful. Since everything was updated for the Beijing Olympics last summer, the paint was sparkling and fresh. I was going to write more about this place, but I'm just finally posting this almost a month later, so just enjoy the photos!

Beijing Post 7: Day 2 Kung Fu Show At The Red Theater

Monday evening we made it back just in time to catch our ride to the Kung Fu show that we booked through our hostel. For just 125 rmb/ person (approx. $19.00 USD) the hostel booked us tickets and provided transportation to see a Kung Fu show that is performed every night twice an evening at the Red Theater.

A photo my friend took steathily during the show...
We arrived quite early and found we had quite decent seats. Finally the show started and we had an amazing experience. Amazingly, the entire performance was conducted in English, with the exception of some fo the songs, for which they provided overtitles as a translation. The show told the story of a young boy who was left by his mother to study kung fu, and how he came over his fears and weaknesses to become a great kung fu master. It was not just some exhibition of fighting skills, but a play performed through dance, song and some demonstration of kung fu skills.

Me with some of the young boy performers after the show
One of the many amazing things about this show were the young children performers. Most of them looked only about 8 or 9 years old, but they were able to do the most amazing things with thier bodies.

All the main performers after the show

After the show was complete, there was an opportuinty to pay 20 rmb and go on stage and take a photo with the actors. Asia really is just one giant photo op for natives and forigners alike. I was too cheap to pay to take a photo with the actors, but two of my friends went up and did it. The Chinese have really mastered capitalism you know... Koreans would never dream of charging for something like that... which is why I love Korea so much. :-)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

7급 공무원: My Girlfriend Is An Agent

I wanted to quickly post about the latest Korean movie I've seen with English subtitles. This one is called My Girlfriend Is An Agent. It's a comedy strangely reminiscent of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. They are both secret agents working for the same organization but in two different sectors and they both think the other is mixed up in some nefarious business while they both try to catch a common enemy.

I highly recommend checking this movie out. You can watch Korean movies with English subtitles at Cinus in Myeongdong and Gangnam.

I'm still peeved at Cinus's poor advertisement for English subtitled movies. In fact, they even write IN KOREAN the fact that there are English subtitles for the movie. They don't provide any English title and it appears they don't even have much in the way of movie times. They've made this resource almost inaccessible. But, now that you know, please head down to Gangnam and Myeongdong to check out awesome Korean movies!

Beijing Post 5: Day 2, Bird's Nest

Well, it may have only been from a car window, but I drove by the famed Olympic "Bird's Nest" Stadium twice while in Beijing. It's definitely something to see. Evidently you can't go inside, and we didn't have time to go to the Olympic park. So, we had to just take our view from the car window.

Beijing Post 4: Day 2, The Modern Side of China

After we got back from the Wall and the Ming Tombs, we decided to go to a mall. A friend of mine had done some research before coming, and found that there was an H&M that had just opened in Beijing. My friends all leaped at the chance to buy some western sized clothes, so we hopped in a cab and headed over to Joy City.

It was interesting to see the modern side of Beijing after experiencing the Ancient side of earlier that morning. We found lots of American stores like Sephora, H&M, Starbucks, Burger King, Dairy Queen etc. Lot's of big expensive brand names were to be found here too.

This mall was 9 stories high, for floors of which were dedicated just to food of all qualities, from fast food to fine dining. If you like shopping, this is definitely an interesting place to check out the modern side of China.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Beijing Post 3: Day 2, The Great Wall of China and the Ming Tombs

As soon as we arrived in Beijing, we made plans to go to the Great Wall on Sunday. We informed the woman at the receptionist desk that we wanted to go to Badaling, which is the portion of the wall closest to Beijing (only an hour and a half away). Badaling tends to be the most popular place to view the wall, since, not only is it so close to the city, but it has also been restored.

To our request, the woman at the receptionist desk said.. why would you go there? You can go to another one further away from Beijing, enjoy a nice hike, and stay away from the crowds. We didn't even think about it for a minute. The program she wanted us to sign up for was a 4 hour trip there, and 4 hours back, plus an 8k hike up to the wall. A. We're not trekkers, and B. we only had 4 days to see Beijing. We didn't want to spend it in a van. So, seeing as how we had such a huge group of people (9 people when we were all together) we asked if we could hire a taxi, and if the cost would be reasonable. Well, as it turned out, the receptionist was able to book us our own private van for only 135 yuan per person (about $20.00 USD) to take us to, not only the wall, but also to the Ming Tombs. This was a great deal for us, since the regular tour with a bunch of people we didn't know would have cost us about the same, and we got our own private chauffeur.

One catch. The receptionist insisted that we leave at 5:30 am to beat the crowds, which she said, would be unbearable. Judging from our experience eat the Forbidden City the day before, this advice seemed to make sense. So, as much as we begrudged it, we decided that we'd get up at 5 and take the taxi at 5:30.

We made it to the wall at exactly 7:00, it took exactly 1.5 hours to get there. As we walked up to the wall we realized that we could either walk on the wall going up to the left, or going up to the right. Now, either there's something we don't know.. or we're just too free thinking... I'm not sure which, but we looked at the two sides and saw that one side was virtually empty of people, and the other side was starting to get crowded, even at 7:00 AM. For us, it was a no-brainer to go up the side with no people.

Crowded side

Our side...

I was thinking about the fact that people always say that they climbed the great wall, and not walked on the great wall. It makes so much more sense now... Just look at these stairs... here we were going down, but we had to climb these stairs to get up to the top of the highest peak. That was the best workout I've had in a while. I don't know what was harder. The stairs, or the steep incline of the wall when there were no stairs....

On nearly every brick on the wall there was graffiti. Since I can't really read Chinese, I like the look of it, actually. But, of course, who knows what it really says...

Here's the ridiculous hats that were super popular with the Chinese tourists.

At 9:00 am we got back in our van and headed over to the Ming Tombs, which were about an hour away (though, I think our taxi driver got lost). Honestly, this wasn't the most exciting part of the trip, but if you have the time, if for no other reason, it's just nice to see the scenery.

Entrance gate to the Ming Tombs

Inside the underground tombs

A nice walk around the perimeter

At noon we met our driver again, and headed back to Beijing. It was hard to believe that it was only noon, since we had been going since 5:00 am.