Saturday, 30 August 2008
The tour was almost identical to the one we had been on so many years ago. A visit to the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque is a must. This old Mosque sits on high ground looking back to Singapore. Since my last visit there were more buildings - but less hawkers to deal with!
It is a most beautiful Mosque - we did not go inside, but learned a little about the history of it from our tour guide.
Our next stop was described as a private house. This man welcomed visitors to see how he lived. Quite a different way of life to that of the people in Singapore, despite its short distance away. But private house - no way! He may well live there (which I doubt) but it housed an entertainment area where three young dancers performed for us, and later after we were shown the back yard with some mottley fish tanks where they are growing fish for the market, a door was opened that revealed a showroom - full of jewelry and pewter articles.
Our next stop was a craft market where we were treated to a display of some dyeing crafts, and then a musical performance on Malaysian musical instruments. Then we were lead through the retail section. So many items to choose from here too - but we very disappointing targets for the sales staff, as we were already concerned about overweight luggage.
After that visit we made our way back to the border, and again lots of queuing, gates, stairs etc before we were safely back into Singapore.
It is a good trip - and I would recommend it, but it has changed little since I was there in 1992.
Thursday, 21 August 2008
And guess what! Not one whiff of hippo poo!!!
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
The last time I had been in Singapore - other than a brief stop at the airport en route - was in 1992, when my daughter and I spent about 10 days there. Much I had remembered, but it certainly seemed a lot greener than before, and oh, how it had grown.
The trip from the airport to our hotel was most interesting. Places that I had not seen before, but I do remember that it was dark at the time of both journeys along that road before.
Our first major outing was the day tour of Singapore - something I like doing when I "hit" a new place. The bus was rather fun (despite being late and keeping us waiting!), but it took us past some of the significant places like the Singapore Botanical Gardens, Thian Hock Keng Temple, the Merlion Park, a jewelry shop, up to Mount Faber which provided breathtaking views across Marina Bay to Sentosa Island, and a great view of the high rise buildings of the city centre.
We had plenty of time to get out of the bus and stretch our legs and have a close up look at some of the sights.
Sunday, 17 August 2008
When I arrived in Shanghai I had been aghast at the sight of the airport - not knowing that it was about to be closed as the new one was almost ready for business. What a difference! The new airport was astounding with modern shops and facilities.
It is reported that when the Shanghai government decided some 20 years ago to create the new Pudong Shanghai International Airport and the Pudong business precinct, across the Huangpu River from old Shanghai that a million farmers were displaced. Where once there were farms and small villages is now modern high rise buildings including the new financial district of Shanghai, rows and rows of apartments, and of course the airport. Also from Shanghai city to the Airport is the elevated track for the MAGLEV, the high speed "train".
The modern Airport is a welcome sight after the one that I had seen on my arrival - and with huge walls of glass giving visitors a view right over the tarmac, and beyond where some small farms still exist, and out to the China Sea where many boats ply their trade in and out of Shanghai Port.
We quickly checked in, and had time for some breakfast before our flight was loaded for the journey to Singapore.
A good trip - as is our experience with Singapore Airlines, and after a few hours we landed safely at Singapore and quickly found a taxi to take us to our hotel. The Golden Landmark Hotel - just a little out of the main city area of Singapore - is opposite Raffles Hospital, and not far from a MRT station, which we made use of later in our time in Singapore.
After bookingin we went for a short walk around the hotel - and found we were adjacent to Arab Street, which feataured many small shops selling silk and other fabrics, (mostly described as Italian silk - but it was silk manufactured in China, but dyed in Italy - which we were told was the best quality and the best colours and designs.) As well there were rug shops, and small eateries.
A huge mosque was beside the hotel, and there were several major events on during out time there, so many people came from India, and Pakistan to take part in the religous festivities.
How difficult a life did Adeline have? The book is described as being about her life, as an unwanted daughter. When her own mother died, and her father remarried, she suffered so much at the hands of her step mother. Indeed it seems the whole family turned against her.
That in the end she was a successful career woman is extra ordinary, and a great tribute to her amazing strength.
One of the special features of the book, that I enjoyed was the explanation of Chinese sayings. For example, she explained the success of her father who was known in business circules as "'the miracle boy' who had the power of dian tie cheng jin (converting iron into gold)."
Certainly it was a very good read, and I couldn't put it down. Again more of the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that is helping me understand the Chinese.
"Falling Leaves" The True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter" by Adeline Yen Mah.
The second time I went to Hangzhou that I was introduced to the Foreign Language Bookstore - and later in Shanghai I found a big bookshop there that had many books in English. How exciting. Each time I would buy another book.
The last few weeks of term I spent most of my time working on exam papers etc, so did little reading and was pleased to get to Shanghai and then Singapore to add to my collection of books.
I have decided to read a few books to help me understand more about the Chinese culture, and have read some great ones, which I will report on.
I'm not really good at "book reviews" as such - but here goes. Not in any particular order.
One book that I really enjoyed was a Memoir "The Thorn of Lion City" by Lucy Lum.
Lucy was born in Singapore in 1933, and this is the story of her extra ordinary life with a dictatorial grandmother, and the invasion of the Japanese during World War II.
I couldn't put the book down - it was a great read, and gave me a little more insight into Chinese culture, and the horrific life that people endured during the occupation by the Japanese. It was especially interesting for me, as I recognised some of the street names and places that Lucy wrote about.
What an excellent book! I recommend it.
"The Thorn of Lion City" by Lucy Lum. Published by Harper Perennial.
Thursday, 14 August 2008
The new airport was quite a sight - with vast windows overlooking the runway with some small farms on the other side. As well one could see a variety of watercraft in the sea beyond - making their way into or out of Shanghai.
I love Shanghai - though not the pollution that seemed to hang in the air like a dirty wet blanket during our time there - but happy to move on to our next destination.
We fly Singapore Airlines (recently voted the best airline in the world!), and were soon booked in, and ready for our visit to Singapore.
So we studied the maps again. Cost was an issue - our budget was mid range - and as we were staying for over a week, we wanted something of reasonable price.
In the end we booked in at New Harbour Service Apartments, 88 Yongshou Road, Shanghai. It was possible to walk from our accomodation to Nanjing Road. It was a good walk and we did it once, but as MM had knee problems we chose to taxi most of the time. (There is lots of roadworks which made the taxi rides longer and more expensive but it really was very economical).
On the days we booked tours our tour bus picked us up and returned us, so there was no problem there.
It was a stroke of genius (???) that we booked accomoation that featured Gerbera flowers - as we had been Gerbera growers. There were Gerberas in the foyer, in the restaurant, and on the menu, brochures etc.
Our apartment was great. We had two bedrooms - one we used for our luggage only, and the rest of the apartment was well appointed. I've actually mentioned this earlier.
The point of this post is to encourage would be travellers to look at a map (so easy now with Google) and just see where the accomodation is. I know it is not easy if you do not know the city - and I guess you can be prepared to move if it is not suitable.
The New Harbour Service Apartments was well appointed and I'd recommend it. The restaurant was good for breakfast - but probably not the best if you wanted a good evening meal. The food was good, and well priced - but they seemed to not have all that was on the menu.
They had a good Gym (which I of course avoided) but a wonderful heated indoor swimming pool.
We found the staff very helpful - and highly rate the service of the doorman. Always a taxi was found for us very quickly.
As an added bonus, there was a small supermarket opposite the Apartments - just a walk across the road - so we were able to buy snacks, beer and wine at supermarket prices, which was a bonus. We did not use the kitchen at all!
To find out more and book click here.
Monday, 11 August 2008
The narrow canal
What a wonderful place - I do hope you enjoy the photographs. We walked along the pathway with the canals on one side and shops on the left hand side. There was so much to see and it was just so fascinating. I wish I could remember everything that was explained by our tour guide.
It certainly was an old town - which was easy to see from the buildings. On the canals were small boats, each with an enthusiastic boatman or boatwoman. We were treated to a tour of the town in one of these boats and we were told that if we handed our boatman/woman some money they would sing for us. It was rather fun.
So many tourists did so, so it was quite a musical event. The boats took us for a short tour around the village, which was most interesting and picturesque.
Cocoons on racks in the silk factory
The display was awesome. Every detail of the growth of the silk worm was on display, and we were able to walk through the factory to see how the treasured silk thread is harvested from the cocoon. In one museum were wonderful silk clothes - some ancient garments with wonderful embroidery.
One awesome display was how they make silk quilts - and I hope I can upload the short movie for this site. It was amazing.
There was much to see. At the end of the tour through the factory, we wandered through the retail section which was amazing. It was similar to a huge department store with so many products manufactored from silk. The first area was where silk quilts, sheets, etc were on full display and there were some very beautiful products on display.
I wandered around - wishing I had more room in my suitcase and more money in my wallet!!!I hope that one day I can return to the Silk Factory - although I am sure there are some closer to Shaoxing.
That is one of the bonuses of this sort of tour - meeting other travellers.
What I like about such a tour is that one gets one's bearings. You can choose where to return to as there is only a short time at each venue.
Some of the places I had been to before, but learning more about them with a tour guide is most helpful.
There are many tour companies to choose from - and there is not much difference between the companies I suspect.
We were very happy with our tour company and tour guides - although on a couple of times they were late to pick us up. However, I think the traffice had a lot to do with it.
A city of some 21 million, with lots of road works does make for challenges for the tour companies.
We did on our own go back to Nanjing Road, Old China Town, Xintiandi and the Bund. More confidant because of our early tour.
Sunday, 10 August 2008
Monday, 4 August 2008
I had been to Shanghai before – a short two day visit with two of my fellow teachers from the college and we walked for miles. Somehow I think I might have preferred to do a tour, even though I enjoyed most of the long walk we did that weekend!
Naturally on the day tour we went to places that I’d not seen before. One that was most fascinating was Old China Town, which we could actually see from the window of our apartment. But seeing it close up was amazing. The old Chinese architecture - and the wonderful gardens inside.
Much of the area is retail – and you could have an amazing day of retail therapy here. Our tour guide whisked us through the complex giving us little time to part with our money but it was well worth seeing, and we did go back again later to experience some of this retail heaven.
Inside Old China Town is a wonderful garden – with an amazing history. How well the Chinese planned these gardens, and how wonderful it is to have a tour guide explain things. Our tour guide was very good, but one part of her spiel confused us. She pointed out some of the amazing stone carvings that were on the walls of this ancient garden, and spoke of the “Purr in the mouth of the dragon.” The English teacher in me came out and I asked for more information. I did not understand.
I asked her how to spell the word “purr”. She said “P E A R” - then we understood. She meant ‘PEARL’ as Pearls are grown around Shanghai. It was so funny as we explained it to her, and had her practice the correct pronunciation. PEARL. Each time afterwards that she had to say the word she looked at MM and myself and carefully spoke the word emphasising the “L” .
It was a full on day. As well as old China Town and the gardens, we visited Pearl City where they tried to sell us wonderful pearl jewelry, we saw the Bund, details of our tour are here. though we did not visit the Silk Factory in Shanghai. Details of a tour are here.
In Old China Town we visit the Jade Buddha Temple, and enjoyed a simple tea ceremony in the Tea House. It was very interesting and there was efforts to get us to purchase tea which had therapeutic benefits. We resistedWe had lunch with our fellow vistors in a huge Chinese restaurant. The food was good and the company great. We met two travellers from New Zealand – Wanda and Adam – who were on their way to the UK and Canada. We met up with them again a few days later on another tour.
Int he afternoon we visited the Shanghai Museum - how amazing. We could spend hours and hours there, but being on a tour we had limited timeIt was an amazing day – and exhausting. But it gave us good insight into Shanghai.
Today I have so many things to do, but one is to update my blogs. I've been neglectful, but I have my new computer going now - thanks to my favourite son-in-law! Complete with Vista! So far so good. Actually I am impressed with it. Hopefully I will not have any of the challenges that others have had with it. It looks pretty impressive to me.
So, today I must do many things include prepare for a talk I am giving tomorrow. In part about my career but very much about my China adventure. I'll have to select some photos today to show, and finish off writing my speech. And maybe visit MM in hospital at some stage. I think he will not be keen for visitors today though. We will see.
Mondayitis? This is the name of the Chamber of Commerce Monday networking coffee morning. I think I will go this morning.