A Travellerspoint blog

March 2007

Shanghai - Hangzhou - Suzhou - Zhouzhuang

上有天堂 下有苏杭 "In heaven, there is paradise; On earth, there are Suzhou and Hangzhou."

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View Shanghai on Lingering's travel map.

Friday (1/9/2006) What can I say about the Shanghai? The buildings are very modern and they have good transportation systems though the haze and traffic is very bad during peak times. It took us more than 2 hours just to arrive to the New Harbour Service Apartment that we were going to stay even though the distance from the Pudong International Airport was only 45km away.

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We were however, satisfied with the apartment because it has 3 rooms, 2 tvs, 2 toilets, a kitchen, a dining room and a living room. Since our room is on the 12th floor, we could see morning activities going on at the streets. Everyday, there’ll be old people doing tai chi in the park, people selling fruits and also a group of ladies dancing at the side of the street regardless of the cars passing by. It was quite a sight actually ’coz most people seemed to ignore what other people are doing on the roadside while others are just entertained by the sight of ladies dancing with fans in their hand.

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Saturday (2/9/2006) We met up with our first tour guide, Geoffrey. Quite an entertaining guy and a very fast learner. We went to the Yuyuan garden first which is the only place where the old Shanghai town is left now. After taking some photos and looking at some of the shops, we went to a tea house which used to be an opera house. We were shown how the tea ceremony is carried out, how to prepare the tea properly and we were also given 15 types of tea to taste. Good thing we didn’t get drunk just drink different types of tea but we had to go to the loo after that.

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Next, we visited the Shanghai museum which is really big and we were surprised that they allowed visitors to take photos and videocam of the artifacts shown. Then, we went for our lunch in a healthy living restaurant which serves medicated food. We were also offered a free cup of medicated Chinese wine made from seahorses, snakes, lizard tails, etc and surprisingly, it tasted like brandy. We also learnt that if we’re already full, we should leave some food on the plate or else the tour guide will order some more dishes to eat until we are full. What a different culture!

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Finally, we went to the Jade Buddha temple. On the ground floor, there are various gods like the Kwan-yin and Amitabha. Both the Sitting Buddha and the Recumbent Buddha are made of jade. Regardless of how noisy and buzy Shanghai can be, the atmosphere of this temple is very peaceful and transcendent. Then we passed by the French Concession to go to Hua Hai road which is supposed to sell imitation goods but we were unlucky because the authorities have started to stop all these imitation products from being sold in Shanghai.

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Night time, we walked to Nanjing Road which is 3.4 miles long. It took us quite a while to walked there’ coz we weren’t familiar with the streets but regardless of how early or late the time was, there will always still be people walking on the streets. Nanjing road is actually amazing ‘coz it’s a whole stretch of road filled with shops and neon lights. However, things are not cheap there so we just went window shopping. When we got tired of walking, we sat on a trackless sightseeing train which only cost each of us 2 rmb and just watched people walking by us.

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Sunday (3/9/2006) Today, we met up with out second tour guide, Troy who brought us to Hangzhou (Heaven on earth). Troy's character is the oposite of Geoffrey's. He’s very polite, humble and gentle (not to mention tall also so all he had to do was raised his arm for us to spot where he was). It was a long journey to Hangzhou from Shanghai ‘coz it took 2½ hours to reach there but it was worth the time. He also told us that if you go to China, you should go to 3 places; Xian which represent China of the past, Beijing which represent China of today and Shanghai which represent the China of tomorrow.

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The scenery around the West Lake is just lovely and it’s romantic for couples to stroll along the bridges. We visited the Guo Garden Villa first before strolling on the Fish and Flower Harbor and West lake bridge. Then we went on a boat ride cruise around the West lake where we saw the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon and also people paddling in small boats. We were laughing at some of these paddlers ‘coz some of them either got tired of paddling in the middle of the lake or even though they were paddling, the boat didn’t move at all. What a funny sight! Before heading back to Shanghai, we stopped at the Meijia Tea Village or the Dragon Well Tea Village. We were told about the advantages and tips of using green tea for health purposes.

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Monday (4/9/2006) We went with Geoffrey to Suzhou this time. First stop was to the Tiger Hill where the Pagoda of the Yunyan Temple is the oriental version of the leaning Pisa. It is said that the leaning angle of this temple is even steeper than the leaning Pisa. We were also told about the story of the Sword testing rock, Stone peach, Pillow stone, Zhen Niang Tomb, Thousand People Rock and Sword pond which was located throughout this hill alone. Then, we went to the Han Shan temple where each of us paid 10 rmb to hit the bell three times so that our wishes can come true (How true it is, I have no comment but I would consider it as just a mere concidence). Before going to the silk factory, we went to the Fishing Master’s net. The gardens are just so peaceful and impressive. There’s not even a single weed growing at all.

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Tuesday (5/9/2006) We took an extra day trip with Geoffrey to Zhouzhuang Village which is known as Venice of the East. We saw the Chinese opera and then visited the scholar as well as the richest businessman’s house during the ancient times just to compare the differences in the layouts. Then we went on a Chinese-style gondola to cruise on the waterways of the city. The weeping willows along the banks just made the scenery looked so heavenly.

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Wednesday (6/9/2006) We decided to try the Maglev and visit the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in the Pudong district today. We had problem at first of finding subway No. 2 but after that, we were able to go to the Maglev station just next to the Lujiazui metro station. It only took eight minutes (maximum speed of 430 - 431km/hr) to reach from Lujiazui to Pudong International Airport and the two way ticket costed us each 80 rmb (B$16). We then took the subway to go to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower which was worth the money we spent on the entrance fee. This tower is 468 meters high (1,536 feet) and is the world's third tallest TV and radio tower. Since we took the 85 rmb ticket, we could only go up to the 267m level at a speed of seven meters per second and because of the fast speed upwards, our ears got blocked a few times. From 263m, we could see most of Shanghai and the wind was really cold but no doubt, you can actually feel the floor swaying from side to side. Then we went down to 259m and 90m where we could still see the roof of most buildings around the tower. At the lobby of the tower, we saw the Transportations Exhibition, Overview Of The Old City, The Architectural Landscape Of Shanghai At The Beginning Of The 20th Century, The Metropolis Infested With Foreign Adventures, Traces Of Old Shanghai and Architectures Exhibition. It took us 4 hours just going around this tower alone.

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Thursday (7/9/2006) Just as we were about to leave Shanghai, the weather was slowly changing as the haze cleared up and the wind started to become cold compared to the first few days when we were in Shanghai. Basically, I would say, Suzhou and Hangzhou have lived up to the standards of what everyone has talked about. Shanghai is a lovely place for if you like to see very modern buildings but not necessary a cheap place for shopping. Hopefully, the next time I go to Shanghai again, there wouldn’t be too many major changes like what we were told as minor renovations will be done every 3 years and major renovations will be carried out every 10 years.

Posted by Lingering 10:18 Archived in China Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh City - Mỹ Tho - Bến Tre - Tây Ninh

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View Vietnam on Lingering's travel map.

Sunday (18/6/2006) We left for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) at around 2.30pm from Brunei and the flight only took 90 minutes. Landed in Tan Son Nhat airport around 3.30pm (Vietnam time) and had slight problem in finding our tour guide, Mai because there were lots of people as well as tour guides carrying various names and labels. Finally managed to find her by calling her mobile.

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Before we checked into Windsor Plaza Hotel, we stopped by a tailor shop to make our ao dai. I chose a purple 100% vietnamese silk for my top which was combined with purple organza and my trousers was light purple. With the materials, workmanship and embroidery, it only costed me US$35. By the time we reached the hotel, it was already 7.30pm. The hotel looks grand. There's a small mini bar on the groung floor, 4th floor is the reception counter for those who are staying in superior rooms while we had to go all the way up to the 24th floor to check into the executive rooms. I stayed with 1 of my friend on the 21st floor because we took the twin beds while our other three friends stayed on the 20th floor which has 3 single beds. Other advantages include free international breakfast and dinner throughout our stay in the hotel. Now I'm about 3kg heavier than before I left for Ho Chi Minh!

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Monday (19/6/2006) We visited Thien Hau temple first before heading for the textile market. They have numerous stalls inside 1 building filled with cloth materials. However, the place was so cramped with textiles that it was quite uncomfortable 'coz it was stuffy and the lane to walk was just enough for 1 person to walk through. Next, we head to Ben Thanh and then Cholon market. These 2 places are famous for handicrafts, bags, souveniors, clothes, hats and other just about anything. Hoewever, prices do not come cheap because you have to bargain. Even after bargaining, the price is still higher than other places where you can get the same thing. Next, we went on to a lacquareware factory where they use mother of pearls and egg shells to do pictures of sceneries, animals and people.I bought 5 pieces for only US$120, 4 of which belongs to the Chinese myth that is the phoenix, unicorn, dragon and turtle. Finally, we headed to a gemstone factory which sells different types of stones and jewelleries before going to the tailor to try our ao dai.

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Tuesday (20/6/2006) We went to Mekong Delta using the Southern Peace boat which was actually for tourists who uses bicycle to travel around Vietnam. However, luck was on our side because since there wasn't any tourist at that time, our tour guide managed to get the boat for us. It's so spacious, very comfortable and relaxing. Pass through many islands before stopping by Mỹ Tho to see the fruit plantation. The first thing which caught our eye on the way to the plantation were longan trees. So, we just picked them off from the trees and kept eating all the way to the owner's home 'coz they were just so big and sweet! Then we took photos with the biggest pomelo fruit which we have ever seen 'coz the fruit is actually bigger than my head! We also tried the 'rambai' which was quite sour 'coz not all of them were ripe yet before we were served with rice cake crackers and tea with honey. The last destination was to another island, Bến Tre which produces coconut handicrafts and sweets before we headed for land to have our lunch. I don't know whether if it's because we're hungry (had it at 3.30pm Brunei time) or simply because the food was just so delicious.

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We went to Cu Chi tunnel in the morning which among all of my friends, I was the only one who could go into the original tunnel because of my small size but all of us had a try to walk in the tunnel in total blackness. Basically, you have to bend down slightly and touch both walls to see where you're heading to 'coz it's just pitch black. The only person who got a torch light was the tunnel guide but he was walking way in front while I was the second last person. It was tiring walking in that manner and quite stuffy in the tunnel wven though the walls felt cool. How the Vietnamese managed to survive in the tunnel is just amazing. After that, we headed to District 1 where the War Remnants Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office is but before that we had our lunch at Restaurant 19. At night, we ate International seafood buffet for about almost B$20 per person. Worth the value if you are into seafood especially oysters, shells and snails.

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Thursday (22/6/2006) We did last minute shopping and packing before checking out at 1pm. Our tour guide, Mai had also managed to buy for us lai chee which is more sweeter and fleshy than those sold in Brunei and it only cost about B$1.60 per kg.

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What we have learnt about Vietnamese are that they love sweet, salty and hot food. But the food are very delicious and the sceneries are beautiful even though Vietnam is not as modern as other developing countries.

Posted by Lingering 14:43 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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