26 November 2007

T-Minus 10 Days !!!!

10 more days !!! How good is that !!!

10 more days !!!

Sawasdeekrab !!! Tom Yum Goong ! Tom Kha Gai !! Pad Thai !!

Chatuchak ! Siam Square ! Suam Lum !!!

Wat Phra Keow ! Wat Pho ?! hehehehe ... Wat Arun !!!

10 more days !!?!!!!!!11111one1!

24 November 2007

I No Likey ...

The ocassional doctor tagged me to write about 10 things that I hate ... so here goes ... and no, it's not a Top 10 list ...

  • Being stuck in traffic jams caused by police roadblocks that has nothing to do with escaped fugitives, armed robberies, major accidents or incidents, significant events (Merdeka, New Year's Day, etc). Especially the ones where they start the roadblocks a few days before anything's even supposed to happen.
  • Bad service in any restaurants where a service tax is imposed. If I'm taxed for service, I demand service ! I don't have a choice of not paying, so I better get the service. I prefer tipping ... it's at my discretion whether I pay or not, based on how happy I was with the service !
  • Being told that the price of 'something' is still low compared to other countries every time there is a price increase. Get real, if I compare that way, we're expensive compared to many nations ... even before any price increase !
  • Busybody, Malaysian driver style. Accident on another side of the road will always cause as much, if not even more, traffic congestion on the other side !
  • Chinese wedding dinner receptions in KL. If it says on the invitation it'll start at 7.00 pm, plan to arrive at 8.15 pm when they are going to consider serving dinner.
  • The global phenomenon where white skin is treated as superior to other skin colors. It's like what Chen calls Kulitfication, but subtler. It's like when in Vietnam, how ragged, badly dressed western backpackers are treated better than better dressed Malaysian backpackers on the basis of our skin color alone.
  • People dragging me into meaningless meetings simply because they want a show of numbers. Waste of my good time !
  • People turning up for my meetings simply to sleep and to eat the tidbits. If you're turning up for my meetings, you're expected to contribute. I should stop serving fruit platters and tidbits at my meetings!
  • Explaining something over, and over, and over, and over, again. Some people just don't get it. It's such a waste of good time.
  • Waiting. I hate long, unjustified waits. I hate waiting in a queue when a few other counters remain unopened. I hate waiting when someone could have done their job better, but just can't be bothered to. I hate waiting when it could have been avoided - see my 1st no likey item.

21 November 2007

Trip Report: Beihai Park

After leaving the Forbidden City, I waited for a taxi to take me to my next target ... The Temple of Heaven. But after flagging down a few taxis ... all of them told me that the Temple of Heaven is under such heavy renovation it won't make sense for me to go.

If one driver said so, I'd say bullshit. If two drivers said so, I'd be thinking there's a conspiracy. But with 4 drivers saying the same thing, maybe there's truth in it ... so I actually changed my plans, and walked around the vincinity of the Forbidden City, up to the Wanchun pavillion, and also to Beihai Park.

As usual, I'll let the photos do most of the talking.

First destination: Wanchun Pavillion. This is a sightseeing view on top of a man made hill. You see, the man made hill, built to cover the ruined palaces of the Mongols who were defeated by the Ming Dynasty. The Forbidden Palace was built by the Ming rulers at a new site, because they thought the old Mongol palace site was a bit too small.

All that huffing and puffing up the hill to get to the Wanchun Pavillion rewards you with this view of Beijing. It's just about as high as you can get, since Beijing is a flat plain, with no natural mountain or hills ...

The Emperor was out to greet visitors. Really. Notice yellow leaves in background. Autumn is here !!!! Yaaay !

After catching my breath and taking a short rest, it was time to go visit Beihai Park, just next to the Forbidden Palace.

Beihai Park is one huge park - it used to be an imperial garden, enjoyed only by the Emporer and his closest family. It is capped by the spectacular White Pagoda (also called White Dagoba by some Chinese !). The Pagoda is built at the site where Kublai Khan received Marco Polo.

What is really cool about Beihai Park is that it's not like the Forbidden City - it has plenty of open spaces, and it's got loads of greeneries - a sight for a sore eye. I think there needs to be more gardens like these in Beijing - which is usually a place of buildings, buildings and buildings. And not forgetting the sandstorms in summer.

And of course, gardens is where you get to see people relaxing. I managed to catch some calligraphy lesson from this gentleman here who was kind enough to share some tips with anyone who is willing to listen. This is the art of water calligraphy, where people just write on the street with a huge brush and water (instead of ink).

19 November 2007

Trip Report: Forbidden City

My "teacher" asked my to write a report about my recent trips wor ... so I start by writing this one on Beijing's Forbidden City lor, hor ?

Firstly, this isn't my first trip to Beijing. I've been there previously, but it was so rushed, I hadn't had much time to explore the sights of the city. Read about that previous trip here.

This time around, I had a bit more time, arriving on Saturday morning. The MAS flight to Beijing is at such a bad time that when I arrived, it was just 6 am ... and the hotel had no room for me at all. So, I just grabbed my camera, took a map, and finished off what I didn't get to finish the last time around - the Forbidden City, also known as the Imperial Palace.

My last trip there was rushed, and I didn't even had the time to finish all the sights, so this time, I am not going to let the chance pass me by !

I'll let the pictures describe the Forbidden City, rather than bore you all to sleep with words.

Autumn in Forbidden City means you get loads of Mandarin oranges fruits. In fact, they're all over Beijing!

First thing you do is buy an entrance ticket. Don't be stingy ... the ticket is around RM30, and you have the option of also renting an audio guide, which wirelessly detects where you are and plays out audio commentary. It serves as a really cool map - not just showing you the layout of the place, but where you've been to, so you don't end up walking the same place twice !

First stop is the Jing Sui River ... just outside the Meridian Gate. When I was last here in summer 2006, it was dirty, murky and smelled a little unpleasant. None of that now ! It's much nicer. Must be the Olympics ...

It's from this audio guide that I learnt about these little figurines on the roofs. The more figurines on a building's roof, the more important the building is ! Only 1 building in whole of ancient China can have 11figurines. And all buildings have odd number of figurines ! Ah ... see teacher, I learnt something new !

Of course, then I started venturing inside, seeing all the sights that most tour guides will want to show to their tourists. But the problem is ... these sights are overcrowded !

If you look carefully at the picture above, you will realise that there are TOO many people ! Just like all other places in China ..

It was then that I decided to go to places I've not seen in my previous trip, either because there wasn't enough time, or because they were paying sections. You see, it's quite morose ... but you sometimes have to pay again in the Forbidden City to visit some of the areas. In this case, I visited the Nine Dragon Screen Wall, which was very peaceful and quiet ... until some Malaysian tourist group came in and spoilt it all .. ! =(

Anyways ... this time, I visited some of the exhibits in there. The Forbidden Palace is now a museum, so many of the buildings actually hosts exhibitions.

And besides that, there are some unusual parts of the Forbidden Palace I haven't yet visited, such as the "Crystal Palace", an unfinished western style palace the last Emperor of China was building when money ran out due to wars, etc.

Of course, I had to visit the old favorite, even though it was totally crowded. I had to brave a crowd of old ladies from Foochow who nearly tore my shirt off and were shouting at the top of their voice asking me to move away so that they can see the throne. It's madness out there ... their tour guide actually apologized to me after that.

What was really satisfying for me was being able to visit the Forbidden City at my own pace and leisure, taking as much time as I wanted, or skipping places that didn't interest me. The audio guide made it easy enough, and tour guides, while nice, would not have been necessary, not when there's an audio guide anyways. Next time in Beijing, I probably won't stop by here, unless all the renovations have been completed, that is. I still have not been able to see the Hall of Supreme Harmony due to renovations - it was under renovation in May 06, it's still being renovated now ! =(

Anyways ... last but not least ... if you do visit the Forbidden City, please remember the important announcement above ;)

15 November 2007

Before and after ...

Before lots of travel ...


After lots of travel ...

KL -> Tokyo -> KL -> Beijing -> Shanghai -> Hong Kong -> Taipei -> Hong Kong -> Guangzhou -> Hong Kong -> KL -> Manila -> KL -> Jakarta -> KL

All of that in about a month ... *faints dramatically*

13 November 2007

Yup ... still around ...

After all the travelling, and all the flying about ... I'm back on terra firma. Last week I was in sweaty Manila, doing some work, and staying in the tourist belt area for the first time.

I'll be staying in Makati next time around ... Manila Bay is nice ... but not nice enough ! More on that in a later blog.

Work has pretty much taken over life at this point of time, so apologies for the infrequent update.

I have plenty of material to blog on, having returned from a tour of the Far East. But really ... even for a short update like this, I only have the time at 3 am !

*tsk tsk*

Back to work ...

04 November 2007

12,000 kms later ...

I've been travelling loads lately, and some of you who've been following my blog the past few weeks would have noticed that.

By straight line distance, I've travelled around 12,000 kms. But of course, if we consider all the taxi-ing the planes do when they reach an airport, and how many times I've been taken for a ride by taxi drivers, I've obviously travelled much more than that.

First stop was to Beijing, where there was the Forbidden City revisited, as well as the Great Wall, amongst others.

Next stop - Shanghai - home to the famous Bund. However, I found the Yuyuan Gardens nicer, as was Zhouzhuang, which was nice, but unfortunately, infested with tourists like me.

After scrambling through the haze (also called a fog by the Chinese government), I managed to reach Taipei via Hong Kong.

And from Taipei, I went on to Guangzhou via Hong Kong (again). You see, these politicians think that they are making a really strong statement by not letting direct air traffic go from China to Taiwan. Amazingly, due to the timing, I didn't even manage ONE photo in Taipei.

And finally, I stayed a night in Hong Kong before coming home.

It was one heck of an eye opener - and the food wasn't that bad too. Highlight would be how I've eaten Shanghai crabs 3 times during the trip !!! On the final stop, in Hong Kong, I actually had the most expensive meal ever in my life !!! Good thing someone belanja ... =)

I'll blog about this trip, as well as the previous Japan trip too, very, very, soon once I stop all these travel mumbo jumbo.