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China

Shanghai - Suzhou - Hangzhou

Shanghai Expo 2010

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Shanghai Expo 2010 on Lingering's travel map.

10/9/2011: Brunei - Singapore - Shanghai
The last time I went to Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou was back in 2006. 4 years later, my main aim is to check out the Shanghai Expo. Ever since before the Shanghai Expo officially opened for the public, there has been a lot of commotion on it for months so a lot of people wanted to check it out since Shanghai is not too expensive to go. Since there was no flight to go to Shanghai directly from Brunei on our scheduled trip, we transited through Singapore to go to Shanghai. Once again like in the past, Singapore Airline flight from Singapore to other destination is always after midnight which once again, this time, we left at 1.15am. It's a good thing that SIA have comfortable planes to rest but still not good enough to catch any sleep.

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11/9/2011: Shanghai - Suzhou
After only a few hour of shut eye, we landed at Shanghai Pudong International Airport at 6.15am. The airport is fully operational now as compared to back in 2006 where it was only 3/4 complete at that time and I remembered we had to walked down the runway and then get on a bus which took us to the airport building. This time, we just walk through the airport building from the plane. We then met up with our Shanghai tour guide.

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The first place we went to is the Oriental Pearl Tower which I've been before. There are some change like now part of the floor is made of glass which you can look down to the bottom of the tower just like the CN Tower in Toronto. Not for those of the faint hearted though as you have this feeling of just falling down from 263m high. Other than that, there's not much changes except that there are some major changes in the scenery around it with more new high rise buildings continuously being built. After that, we had lunch in a Chinese ethnic restaurant and they also had a few dancing performances for us. After lunch, we went to check out a small fruit stall just opposite to the restaurant to see what fruits are available in China. They have the usual peaches, apples, pears, grapes, prunes, berries but most of all, what we didn't expect to find in China are the Thailand mon thong durians!

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We then proceed to Suzhou and stop by the Hanshan Temple first which I visited 4 years ago. My intention was to make a wish and strike the bell again 3 times just like what I've done 4 years ago but this time, there was a long queue of people just waiting to make their wishes. Then we proceed to the Suzhou museum which is something new to me. The most impressive article to me in that museum is actually the carving of miniature warriors from one end of an ivory tusk to the other end. I wonder how many months or even years it took the artist(s) to complete the whole detailed carvings.

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I never did go to any shopping centre in Suzhou before so it was nice to check out the so called Guangqian Street. In order to get to this street, we had to walk through a shopping centre first and the most offensive smell that strike me at that time was like the smell of bird shit inside an air con room. I thought the shopping centre had very bad air ventilation that even the smell of the bird shit could get in but when we went out of that building and stood on that Shantang Street, I finally realised what that awful smell was. It was actually the smell of stinky tofu because the food cart was just next to that building and they kept on frying that stinky food! Of course since stinky tofu is only sold in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China, this is the opportunity not to be missed! When you stand near to the frying station, it actually smelt very enticing and delicious, nothing like the bird shit smell earlier on. It looks like a typical fried beancurd but when you bite into it, it looks greenish grey instead of the pure white colour. It tasted very nice and I actually ate 2 cubes with the red salty sauce on it but after that, every bite started to taste funny and the smell started to change to something which puts you off to eating it anymore. I wouldn't say I will be specifically looking for it again next time but maybe 1 or 2 bite would be enough. There are high end shops, medium class shops and food shops selling all sorts of titbits like cookies, candies and mooncakes. Our accomodation in Suzhou wasn't that bad, very spacious and has a very big fridge! Too bad there's no kitchen or else it would become and apartment already.

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12/9/2011: Suzhou - Hangzhou
Today, our first destination was to the silk factory. Very different from the one that I went to 4 years ago as this was located near to town area. It's a very small building where they show how silk quilts are made and how they stretch the cocoon of the silkworm to make the silk sheets. We had a try to pull 1 sheet of the stretched cocoon on a quilt before they push us through the big business area where the quilts and silk bed covers were displayed. One thing that I forgot to mention is that we had 2 guides in Suzhou, one is our Shanghai tour guide and the other one is our Suzhou tour guide since our Shanghainese tour guide said that she doesn't know Suzhou as much as her colleague. We have no problems with having 2 tour guides at all but what we don't like is being forced to buy something so expensive which we are not even interested in and that Suzhou tour guide was rude to us, being impatient because none of us wanted to buy the quilt blankets which was already prepared before hand for each of us. No one told her to wait around since she had to go off at noon time and expect us to buy so that she can get commission when we were just waiting to leave and move on to our next destination since we have nothing to buy. But no, we had to be stuck there for 30 mins before that Suzhou tour guide left and then our Shanghainese tour guide finally took us to the next room to watch a silk fashion show. Never in my whole life have I come across a tour guide who force people to buy things when they already told her that they do not want to buy it at all!

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After lunch, we headed to Hangzhou and went straight to the Dragonwell Green Tea village, the same one I went to last time. Bought 500g of Emperor's green tea because they don't sell in small tins anymore. By the time we left the tea village, it was already time for dinner in a very busy street. We didn't expect people to spit again since we haven't come across anyone doing so for the past 2 days but we were so wrong about it. An old man actually spitted on the restaurant floor while we were still eating! Ewww.. so gross! Good thing I wasn't sitting near to that old man. Mingqing Hefang Street was just walking distance from the restaurant where we had our dinner. They have all sort of shops and even small stalls in the centre of the street. They had one shop selling peanut candies where they smash and cut the peanut candies freshly right in front of you. The hotel we stayed in was in the middle of nowhere, so far away from the town centre. Even though the surrounding and the hotel itself look nice, the room we were given is so pathetic. With our 2 luggages and 2 single bed inside that small room, there was even hardly any space to walk around except to walk in a straight line just to go to the bathroom.

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13/9/2011: Hangzhou - Shanghai
When we complained about the room to the tour guide the next day, she said it's because there were 2 of us in a room. Apparently 3 groups stayed these small rooms while the rest stayed in a spacious big room even though we paid the same price for the tour package like them. We were really not happy with it because we felt we were being ripped off so we told the other members of our tour group about it. They also brought up why we had to pay for some of the places she took or is going to take us on the first day of our trip since it should be included as stated in our package itinerary. So we confronted the tour guide about this and she said it was her company who told her those things weren't included while we showed them the itinerary we got from our Brunei travel agent. Apparently, there was no communication between both travel companies and the China's travel company's policy is, once they get the money from you, they cannot pay you back in cash at all. So in the end, we were only given the option to either see the Madame Tussaud's wax museum or 1 other option which was not even worth up the amount we had already paid.

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Our final destination before leaving for Shanghai is the West Lake. We took a 1 hour boat cruise around the lake on a dragon boat before taking a walk around the park. We saw a lot of people eating black coloured corns so 2 of them went and bought it because they wanted to have a taste of it. Although the black corns looked unique, the taste is otherwise, nowhere even near to it's so called "sweet" black corn at all because it was tasteless. No one finished it and ended up throwing them away only after a few bite. Before heading our way to Shanghai, we had a very nice Hangzhou lunch before going for a free foot massage at the Beijing Tong Ren Tang. Now, I do understand that businesses are trying to make money as much as they can but they should not just stop the foot massage halfway and tell you to leave because they want to accommodate the next tour group coming in. The result of a 1/2 completed foot massage was an aching foot which i had to walk on for more than half a day! The worst foot massage I've ever had in China!

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The ride back to Shanghai was at least 2 hours long and the scenery changed from farmlands to the modern buildings as we got closer and closer. Have I also mentioned that traffic jams in Shanghai after office hours are unbelievable! Barely even moved 500m after 5 mins. Anyway, we got a glimpse of the expo site from the highway. Very fascinating to look at how big the whole site is (and not to mention how far we have to walk from one end to the other too!) Looking forward to 2 full days of exercise tomorrow with an aching foot! After dinner, we had a relaxing cruise around the Huangpu river and we could actually see a row of people with their camera flashes taking photos from the Bund as we cruised through slowly. Full of colourful neon lights on all the buildings, it makes you wonder how much of electricity Shanghai use in 1 day. Once again, our hotel is way out of location but the rooms are very big and spacy. Didn't even realise that it's located in the automotive area where one of the car factory is just visible from our hotel room.

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14/9/2011: Shanghai Expo
Today is the day where the highlight of this tour starts. The SHANGHAI EXPO! Queue was pretty bad and slow at Zone A as they had to check though every bag before they let you in. This happens in all the 8 gates at different parts of the 5 zones. We had a deal with our tour guide who got us VIP access (of course with a price). We managed to check out 4 pavilions within 2 hours without queuing for hours like what most of the other people had to do just to go into 1 pavilion. Of course, the main and most important one of all is the China pavilion with the huge moving wall painting. The most important thing in this expo is not to forgot your Expo passport book where you can get the pavilion stamp on it. The next pavilion we went to is the France pavilion which is also as interesting as the China pavilion. They have the French garden outside the internal building, French food and hundreds (or probably even up to 1000 bottles) of their famous Bordeaux wine. Luxembourg wasn't as interesting as the first 2 but then again, we were the ones who chose to check it out so nothing much could be said about it. However, the last pavilion is the coolest. Italy, which showcase all the modern designs and high class lifestyle like the Ferrari, Biaggi's motorbike, Italian fashion, pasta and wine. A lot of fascinating and interesting taste and designs to see. Not too bad considering we could check out the interesting ones without wasting too much time on queuing just to enter 1 pavilion at a time. However, it's very unfortunate that we didn't check out the Japan pavilion because the queue is just so incredible as we were told that they have to wait at least 4 hours in the queue just to get in and the VIP access for Japan is too expensive for us to afford it.

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After that, all of us are on our own. We checked out the African pavilion first which houses 43 mini pavilion of each African country. Of course we took the opportunity to get all the stamps from each country. Then we opt to check out the pavilions with the least queue so that we don't waste time on queuing itself. We managed to checked out quite a lot of pavilions on the first day alone and also watched the expo parade right in front of us which lasted for half an hour. Our tour guide only gave us until 8pm to spend at the expo but even before that time, our feet were killing us and we had to find places to sit and rest out feet. By the time we got back to the hotel, all I could do is just take a bath and lay in bed only.

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15/9/2011: Shanghai Expo
Final day at the expo. This time we entered the expo zone through Zone D which is less crowded and require people to take a ferry boat to get to Zone A, B and C of the expo site. We checked out the pavilions in Zone D first before using the ferry to get to Zone A. We decided to check out the Asian pavilions as we had not done so the day before. These countries display a lot of artistic skills especially in their fine carvings. Our last pavilion before we finished out Expo tour is of course Brunei's pavilion. It doesn't offer much like other South East Asian pavilions but they did give a button saying "I Love Brunei" and the last stamp to conclude the expo passport is also the Bruneian stamp. The next expo will be held in Milan, Italy in 2014. For those who live near Milan, it's worth checking out this expo if you can't afford to travel all over the world :)

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16/9/2011: Shanghai
Today's the last day in China, packed out stuff and checked out from the hotel. We were taken to a place where they sell puer tea from Yunnan. The lady who explained to us about the puer tea has a very unique way of talking like as if she's singing while talking to us. Then after having lunch, we headed for the Old Shanghai Street. It hasn't changed much but we did pass by all the different lanes and see the items they sell. Things however are slightly more expensive here than elsewhere as this is basically a tourist spot. Then we went to the Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum which is smaller than the one in Hong Kong plus most wax figures here are mainly Chinese artists. We then headed for the Nanjing Road where it's packed with lots of people. Managed to find the vacuum packed braised pork leg at a cheaper price than at the Old Shanghai Street. We had an early dinner since it was the last part of our package but we managed to discuss with the China travel company to give us at least 2 hours to look around and shop at China's Walmart since our flight is after midnight.

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17/9/2011: Singapore
Finally landed in Singapore at 6am. Having not enough of sleep and having headache, I didn't actually have the energy to go around Singapore much. We did decide to go for a short trip around Singapore though it was too early as a lot of shops have not opened yet. Went around Chinatown and then Bugis area. Then headed back to the airport by 10am and then waited for our flight at 2.30pm. Taking midnight flights is not an ideal way of travelling. Overall, all I can say is that China has only changed in terms of new buildings but in terms of weather wise, the sky however, is still the depressing hazy, yellowish type like 4 years ago. Oh and one more thing. There's so many brands of China beer which is so cheap that if you exchange a bottle of unopened carbonated drink in any restaurants, they will give you 2 bottles of Chinese beer back.

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Posted by Lingering 22:28 Archived in China Comments (0)

Beijing - Chengde - Tianjin

You are not a hero yet until you have climbed the Great Wall

sunny 28 °C
View Beijing on Lingering's travel map.

Friday (7/9/2007) Our transit flight to Beijing started at 3pm from Brunei International Airport. By the time we landed at KLIA in Malaysia, it was already 5.30pm. Since our next connecting flight to Beijing was at 12.30am, we had about 7 hours to spare before flying off. So, we checked out the Airside Transit Hotel first and then spent the rest of the time checking out each shop in KLIA. After having dinner, we sat at the Movie lounge and watched movies until our boarding time. The seats were so comfortable that we almost fell asleep but we had to keep ourselves awake or else we would missed our connecting flight.

Saturday (8/9/2007) We departed from KLIA at about 12.30am and by then, everyone was already asleep when the plane started to take off. Half an hour later, light dessert was served which wasn't too bad 'coz it was cream cheese sandwich. However, I only managed to catch 3 hours of sleep 'coz not only was the seat so uncomfortable but the lights came on and off every once in a while. By 5.00am, breakfast was served which was way too early for me so I didn't managed to eat much and by then, I couldn't go back to sleep either. On the other hand, being awake was a good thing 'coz I managed to see the sun started to rise on the right side of the plane by 5.30am which I assume would be Japan. Unfortunately, I was seated on the middle row so I was not able to take any photos of the sun rise. But it was just a lovely sight!

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We landed at the Beijing Capital International Airport at about 6.35am and managed to meet up with our tour guide, Andy. He looks and talk like a typical China man unlike Geoffrey, our tour guide in Shanghai. Anyhow, he can speak good English though I don't know why some of my friends found it difficult to catch his pronunciations and we were actually very impressed that he knows a lot of vocabularies which we don't normally use when we are talking informally. At least his Mandarin is easier to understand compared to other Bejing people that I've come across. We checked into Taiwan Hotel first before starting our tour.

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Our first stop was the Tiananmen Square (天安门广场) which has a total area of 108.7 acres. Within the square, there is a 38m high Monument to the People's Heroes (人民英雄纪念碑) which was built in the memory of the martyrs who laid down their lives for the revolutionary struggle of the Chinese people during the 19th and 20th century. The Chairman Mao Memorial Hall (毛主席纪念堂) or the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong is currently under renovation so it was closed to the public. On the north side of the square is the Tiananmen Gate, also known as the Gate of Heavenly Peace which separates the Forbidden City from the Tiananmen square and to the south is the Zhengyangmen Gate or the Qianmen Gate (前门), also known as the "Front Gate".

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Next, we entered through the Tiananmen Gate into the Forbidden City which was the Chinese imperial palace from the mid-Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It has an area of 720,000 square metres and took 14 years to complete. Not only was the complex big and very old but it was filled with ornaments and carvings on wood, bronze and stones so it was very interesting to see. It makes one wonder how a big structure cans till stay intact after all these years where no nails have been used to hold them together and how ancient people carve all these things without the use of machines and how long it took them to complete one carving.

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Very unfortunately, the Hall of Supreme Harmony which was used in movies like "The Last Emperor" and "Curse Of The Golden Flower" was undergoing renovation at this moment so we only managed to look at the thrones in the Hall of Preserving Harmony and the Palace of Heavenly Purity. It was a long walk though around the compound but very fascinating.

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Before lunch, we took a rickshaw ride through the Hutong area which is means only a small alleyway or lane as only 1 car can pass at a time. In this Hutong area, there are about 4 or 5 families sharing 1 courtyard. We also ate lunch in a local family in a small room which happens to be the bedroom also. After lunch, we went up the Drum Tower, also known as Gulou (鼓楼). The tower is only 47m high and has 69 steps. Behind the Drum Tower is the Bell Tower, also known as Zhonglou. The purpose of these two towers was to tell the time during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.

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Our last stop for the day was the Temple of Heaven (天坛) which was used by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (祈年殿) was used by the Emperor to pray for good harvests. The Imperial Vault of Heaven (皇穹宇) is surrounded by a smooth circular wall called the Echo Wall because sound can be transmitted from one end of the wall to the other end. As told by Andy, we clapped our hands while standing in the middle the first slab in front of the Imperial Vault of Heaven which did not produce any echo at all. Doing the same action while standing in the middle the second slab produced 2 echoes while doing the same thing again on the third slab produced three echoes but the third echo was not so obvious as the second echo. Finally, we stood at the Earthly Mount (圜丘坛) which consist of an empty circular platform on three levels of marble stones that can echo back your voice if you stand at the centre of the circle.

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At night, we tried the food at the Wangfujing road for our dinner. There were scorpions, pupae, noodles, meat, fish, desserts and other stuffs which you would not think of eating at all but it was interesting to see food which we do not normally eat. As they say, one person's food is another person's poison.

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Sunday (9/9/2007) Today's tour started with a stop to the Jade factory. We were shown how jades were carved and polished and also taught how to distinguish between real jade, glass and marble. I bought a jadelite bangle for myself which is a mixture of green, brown and happiness that represents health, wealth and happiness. It is said that the colour of jadelite will become darker as one keeps on wearing it as oil is absorbed from the body of the wearer.

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Then, we were supposed to go to the Badaling (八达岭) section of the Great Wall (长城) but due to heavy traffic jam to that section, we decided to go to the Mutianyu (慕田峪) section instead. Unlike the Badaling section which has cable cars to bring people up, we had to go on foot in this section. Only 4 of us out of 7 decided to climb the Great Wall on the other side of the road while the other 3 just stayed around the parking site. It was an amazing experience to actually reach and climb 1 of the 7 wonders of the world! It was hot though while we were climbing upwards because by then, it was already noon time and the sun was directly above us. But as Mao Zedong saying onthe 'real carrot stone' in the Badaling section said, "You're not a real man if you haven't climbed the Great Wall" ( 不到长城非好汉) which can be found with the saying engraved on it.

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After that, we went for a foot massage before heading back for the Acrobatic Show. The show was impressive if one has never watched any Chinese acrobatic show before but it was not as good as the China National Acrobatic Troupe which came to Brunei last year. Anyway, 2 of my friends actually managed to fall asleep during the acrobatic show even though there was so much noise! After the acrobatic show, we dropped by the Niujie mosque (牛街清真寺) which is the oldest mosque in Beijing. Unfortunately, we couldn't get clear shots of the mosque because it was dark already. Then, we headed for our hotpot dinner which I think most of us were a little surprised and disappointed. The hotpot I saw on tv was totally different from this one and to the others, they thought it was like the steamboat we have here with is either served with chicken stock or fish stock. Unfortunately, we didn't like the sauce that much because it tasted like peanut butter mixed with salty black sauce but we couldn't eat without the sauce also because the meat was tasteless after being boiled in crab water.

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Monday (10/9/2007) We checked out of the hotel today because we were going to spend a night in Chengde. It was a 4 hours drive which was entertaining because we saw the Simatai (司马台) section of the Great Wall, beautiful mountains and agricultural fields. We checked into Jin Jiang Wen Guan Hotel which is located on Mount Seng Guan. It was quite isolated and very quiet but the wind was very cool. It was even cool in the hotel without switching on the air con.

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We then went to the Imperial Summer Resort and because the others did not want to "WALK", we took the bus ride up the mountain and missed out the palaces and temples at the bottom. The scenery on top of the mountain wasn't too bad but could have been nicer if the sky wasn't that smoggy. We also saw the Temple for Potarka Doctrine (普陀宗乘之庙), a replica of Lhasa's Potala Palace on the left side and the Puning Temple (普宁寺)) or Temple of Universal Peace on the right side. On the way out of the resort, we were surprised to see 2 groups of Chinese men playing a traditional Malay game which is also played in Brunei called "Pasang". We were even more surprised that it is even called the same name here. This game could have possibly passed on to China from the 14th century where Brunei and China people used to trade with each other in the past.

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At night, the hotel area was so windy and cold and I didn't even felt hot when there was a blackout in the hotel early in the morning. But I couldn't go back to sleep when they started the generator at 6am. A walk to the next block for breakfast was very refreshing 'coz the weather was very cold. If only Brunei was that cold all the time. After checking out of the hotel, we visited the Puning Temple (普宁寺)) or Temple of Universal Peace. This temple is modeled after the Samye Monastery, the sacred Lamaist site in Tibet and has the world's tallest wooden sculpture of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara of 22.28m high.

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3 of us decided to try the fortune telling just for the fun of it. However, Kolin didn't get her fortune told, Pauline got 1 green paper and I got 2 papers, 1 green and the other yellow. Don't ask me why 'coz I do not know also but according to my understanding, this is what the green paper says:
"Originally I will face extremely bad problems but then it will eventually change into extremely good matters. The person who gets this stick (which is no. 99) has very good opportunities and can find a way out of a desperate situation or problem. Even though bad matters will often bring worry, it can often bring unexpected good matters also. This kind of person can turn misfortune into a blessing. Life is not problem-free, but one can only forgive and the problem does not have any danger but ends with satisfactory. If you are currently having a problem, do not need to fear because the extraordinarily good luck is not far away." So basically, what the paper is say is that my problems are actually blessings in disguise. If my translation is not accurate, please correct me but I must admit that most of my previous problems did actually have a very good result instead of the opposite so I hope the future will still give the same result.

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Tuesday (11/9/2007) Today, we went for a 2 hour drive to Tianjin to visit the Food Street and the Cultural Street. Tianjin is more modern but hotter than Chengde. There wasn't much to see here but the food was delicious. The name Cultural street was a bit misleading because there were more of modern chinese commodities rather than the ancient or antique ones.

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Wednesday (12/9/2007) Before our flight back to KL in the afternoon, we stopped by at the Summer Palace (颐和园). It had rained early in the morning and by the time we reached there, it was only a very light drizzle which was very nice. I love weather like this because it is just so cool whereas if it rains in Brunei, it really rains very heavily. So, Summer Palace was so lovely because of the weather. We walked through the Long Corridor of 728m long which has more than 8,000 paintings of landscapes, flowers and human figures. Before going on a cruise on the man made Kunming Lake that looks the West Lake in Hangzhou, we saw the Marble Boat at the southwest foot of the Longevity Hill. It is very interesting to learn that ancient people used to store ice blocks underground so that they can put them around the Marble Boat during summer before refrigerators were invented.

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On our way to the Beijing airport, we managed to catch a glimpse of the Olympic stadium which is still under construction. Our flight back to Kuala Lumpur was delayed by 1 hour and by the time we landed in KLIA, we were so exhausted that we just wanted to check into the Airside Hotel and sleep. The hotel was nice and spacy and from our room window, we saw a MAS plane looking towards our room. Fortunately, it didn't take off or else, it would be very noisy.

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Thursday (13/9/2007) Flew from KLIA at 9.10am and landed in Brunei International Airport at about 11.30am. The differences between Beijing and Shanghai is that Beijing people are much more laid back and friendlier, crossing the road was not as scary as in Shanghai 'coz cars will stop at zebra crossings and wait for people to walk through before moving on and I feel that Beijing is much more safer than in Shanghai 'coz you don't see a lot of police on the road looking after commercial areas. Most of all, even though Beijing has a large population, it is not crowded everywhere like in Shanghai.

However, both places are worth visiting as they have their own special features. Beijing for the historical aspects and Shanghai for the modern concepts. I admit that it was a long trip especially getting there and coming back by plane but it was an enjoyable one for me. I wouldn't mind going back again and check out the other historical places that has not been covered in this trip yet!

Posted by Lingering 20:17 Archived in China Comments (0)

Shanghai - Hangzhou - Suzhou - Zhouzhuang

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

sunny -17 °C
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)

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