Saturday, 5 July 2008

Belgium - Exploring

Brussels is divided into Brussels North or Brussels Noord, Brussels Central, and Brussels Midi/Zuid. I must clearly state here that I don't know much and that information here could be wrong. But I'm lazy to double check so bear with me okie.

My return ticket from Leuven to Brussels. 9 euros return journey on a weekday.

Now I think of it, that's quite expensive isn't it? I mean in London a one day ticket shouldn't cost more than £5. Return journey from Brussels to Leuven on a weekend costs 5.20 euros only. Much cheaper. I wish Central London has that kind of discount on weekends too.

I was supposed to visit Rakesh at LLN the next day but I didn't go. Sorry man, but I was busy at night. I'm so useless.

I decided to explore the usual tourist spots of Brussels first: Grand Place, Manneken Pis, Hotel de Ville, and walked around the central myself armed with only a guide book.

Brussels Central train station.

It wasn't hard to find the Grand Place. Just ask any passer by and they'll direct you down the correct path. The square was full of tourists, not something you see in Leuven. Leuven is void of any tourists during weekdays. Only during weekends, you see some people with a camera stuck to their hands. Like me.

Manneken Pis; Belgium's amusing symbol.

Manneken Pis is a statue of a little boy pissing. A strange mascot for a city. One story alleges that the little boy urinated on a bomb fuse to save the city from destruction. Another story is shown below:

Click for larger image.

This is Belgium's mascot. My home town, Kuching's mascot should be a cat. In Malay language, Kucing means cat. Its always been a source of laughter for my chinese friends. Ever since young we've all known that Kuching is cat city due to the many cat statues around town, and the cat museum. But why i wonder?

Cat City

City Center. I walked in a circle before realizing my mistake and asking people the right way to go.

Among all the stories behing Kuching's name, I like this one the best: According to the story, when Rajah James Brooke arrived in Kuching on his yacht, the Royalist, he asked his local guide what the settlement's name was. The guide, thinking that the English adventurer was pointing towards a cat, said "Kuching."

Grand Place, Brussels.

I got lost wandering down a street full of seafood restaurants. The winding narrow paths only made me nervous as I was approached by various men speaking French to me and trying to lead me into their restaurants. A few tried to guess my nationality. For some weird reason, people tend to think I'm Japanese first.

I always get nervous when apprached by sales people trying to offer their goods cos I don't know if I should politely decline or ignore them completely. I normally say no thank u but in KL when I say that it seems to be a waste of time cos the sales person have moved on to next customers already.

Reason I'm polite is cos I've tried sales like that. Going up to random people and selling stuff or handing out leaflets and it requires a very thick face when people just ignore you completely or are rude to you. And I'd hate to do that to others who are just trying to earn a living too.

The food looks good though: huge bowls of mussels, big ass lobsters, escargots and crayfish. Delicious looking. But I didn't linger long enough to take photos.

The streets. Food. Food. Food..

Finally got out of the maze of restaurants..

In the trains, I didn't know about the first and second class seats. I should have expected it but I was worrying what if this train doesn't take me to Leuven? What if I bought the wrong ticket? Do I still have my belongings etc..

The first ticket inspector asked: You speak English? I nodded. He said, you're in First Class. Your ticket is second class. Ok. By the time I arrived in Second Class, train has already arrived at the station.


Second ticket inspector looked at me and said: French, Dutch or English? I chose English. Its funny and so impressive their language skills. Willie said to study in Belgium, you acually have to take up a year of their language (Dutch or French) before you can continue to Undergraduates.

But, I met a Chinese student studying in Leuven on the train. He's been studying in Leuven for the past 4 years. Apparently, the language is an optional year and not compulsory. Students can choose to study a year (5 levels). After you pass the exam, you can choose to study the Bachelors in Dutch or English. Up to you.

His tuition fees were dirt cheap compared to London. I don't remember the exact amount. You know, I thought my MBA final year was cheap at £4950. But his 4 years tuition fees came to cheaper than my one year. Some more living expenses are so cheap in Leuven. I mean, there's no metro. You buy a bike and cycle everywhere you want to go. A decent bike would cost around 250 euros. And accommodation aren't exactly expensive too.

Me on the train after being chased out of First Class.

In Brussels, most of the people speak French to me. Its actually quite easily distinguishable from Dutch by now.

Artistic trains.

Their trains are interesting; I like the graffiti on them.

Trying to imagine London Underground trains looking like this.

Bought myself a raspberry + watermelon ice drink as I wandered the streets by myself. People gave me strange looks as I bought this drink. In the end I realized why. Seems only little children drink this. The adults all hold pints or wine in their hands.

I shall end this post abruptly here.


Anonymous said...

I wanted to leave a comment since nobody else did. I stumbles across this blog while randomly typing my dreams into google.

I went to Belgium in the summer and loved it. Not so much Brussels I must say, but Bruges certainly, and it made me want to go and see Leuven and the rest for myself.

Anyway, I haven't done that yet. Maybe one day.

Maybe I'll read the rest of your blog, maybe I won't. Either way, happy travelling :-)

Amy said...

Thanks and happy traveling to u too. :)