Vibrant Shanghai: Part 11

Jun 21, 06 at 1:12 pm

Note: No photos in this post. Read further to find out why. 

I woke up feeling tired and giddy. Nevertheless, we packed up and had breakfast before the bus leaving the hotel. First, we went to the Teapot Gallery located somewhere in Wuxi city. It was still early and we were the first batch of visitors.

Hell broke loose when I tried to snap a giant teapot replica displayed at the reception. My camera captured some funny photos. All photos were overexposed. I was extremely worried but I tried to forget it first to join the rest who already sat down in the room. The master surprisingly spoke Cantonese and he explained the history of teapot to us. He also taught us how to differentiate between genuine and fake teapot. Overall, his explanation was useful and I bought a set of teapot.

Back in the bus, I tried to figure out what was wrong with my camera. I tried looking at its settings and lens but still, the photo taken was overexposed. Without knowing, we already reached a place called Three Kingdoms City. I only have myself to blame for losing such good photo-taking opportunity.

Among the several movie-shooting bases located along Taihu, Three Kingdoms City is the largest and most well known one. Covering 35 hectares, the city was built in 1993, totally in Han dynasty style, to film the famous historical TV serial odyssey – The Romance of Three Kingdoms, which is one of the four most famous novels. The serial was a success and then the city became the most favorable location of historical films.

The area was huge to explore and there was a show depicting war scene. The show was great. I failed to take any photo but recorded some video clips to console myself.

We left the place and bade goodbye to the local guide before we headed to Zhouzhuang. Along the way, I tried numerous time to fix the camera but no avail. I was extremely disappointed because from what I know, Zhouzhuang is a beautiful place to visit.

It was already 1pm when we reached and the place was so crowded with tour buses. I guessed we were a bit late. Hurriedly, we took lunch at a restaurant and much to our surprise, we were only the batch of tourists left who have yet to take lunch. The rest have begun sight-seeing around.

We sampled Zhouzhuang’s specialty, braised pork leg and it was so nice. After lunch, we took trishaw to the visitors’ area and began sight-seeing.

Zhouzhuang, one of the most famous water townships in China, situated in Kunshan City which is only 30 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of Suzhou. It is noted for its profound cultural background, the well preserved ancient residential houses, the elegant watery views and the strong local colored traditions and customs. In the Spring and Autumn Period (770 – 476 BC), Zhouzhuang was a part of the fief Yaocheng and called Zhenfengli. After being donated to Full Fortune (Quanfu) Temple by Zhou Digong, a very devout Buddhist, in 1086 during the Northern Song Dynasty (960 – 1127), Zhouzhuang got its present name as a memorial of the donor. In an area of half a square kilometer (124 acres), 60 percent of the Zhouzhuang’s structures were built during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, which is from 1368 to 1911. Taking the most convenient form of transport in Zhouzhuang, a gondola, we will present some of the breathtaking sights one by one.

We also given a gondola ride in one of its canal. Much to our surprise, the gondola was operated by an old woman. We couldn’t care less because the surroundings was so scenic and beautiful. The old woman also offered to sing a few songs in her native language. It wasn’t offered, we paid to listen. Anyway, we didn’t know what she was singing about, but enjoyed thoroughly throughout the ride. I consoled myself with a few video clips as well.

Before we left for Shanghai, we bought a few braised pork legs which have been packed into airtight containers to take home.

The journey back to Shanghai wasn’t smooth as expected. There was horrible traffic jam all the way to Shanghai. It was running late and the driver worried we might not make it to an acrobatic show in time.

We finally reached Shanghai again after 5 days and hurriedly, we went to a restaurant to take our dinner before proceeding to the show. We took the upper floor seating to enjoy better view. Overall, the acrobatic show was nice, although we always see them on TV.

The show took over an hour. We left the place and checked-in into hotel to have proper rest before departing back to Malaysia the next day.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

We woke up earlier and had breakfast before leaving for airport. Horribly, the crowd was jamming the immigration counters. With our plane scheduled to take off at 9.50am, we were still lining up at the counter when the clock ticked at 9.40am. We knew we wouldn’t make it because there were roughly 20-30 people in front of us. We had no choice but to jump queue because the air stewardess had already waiting for us in front of the immigration counters. What an embarassment!

We finally made it but it was delayed for around 20 minutes. Finally the plane took off at around 10.30am. Phew, what a drama!

We reached Malaysia at around 4pm. We did some shopping at the airport before taking bus home.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

That’s the end of this travelogue. I enjoy writing it. Hope you enjoy reading it too. Shanghai is a modern metropolitan city. It is really an eye opener for me. For the rest of the places like Hangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Wuxi and Zhouzhuang, they are more like historical places to me but they are worth to visit.

Here’s my 2 cents: Invest in a more durable digital camera. Mine is a Kodak, maybe the unit in my hand a bit cacat, therefore the lifespan is so short. For your information, the replacement lens cost RM500, therefore I decided to get a new camera. My now defunct Kodak sits along with my antique toys.

Vibrant Shanghai: Part 10

Jun 20, 06 at 1:33 pm

Morning rise and shine. Packed up and had breakfast. This time, the breakfast was delicious because it was western-style breakfast. I had hams, scrambled eggs and hotdogs for the first time in 5 days!

After breakfast, we headed to Yangtze River Bridge to enjoy China’s third longest bridge (Sorry, I have no idea where is the longest bridge in China :P).

The bridge flies over Yangtze River, northwest of the city. It was the first double deck and double track highway and railway bridge designed and constructed by Chinese themselves. As a milestone, it was Chinese people’s pride. The construction of the bridge started in 1961 and ended in 1968. The highway bridge flies 4589 meters across the river, 1577 meters over the water and is 15 meters in width excluding two-meter-wide pavements on both sides while the railway bridge is longer and narrower. The bridge totally has nine piers, of which the highest one towers 85 meters and its base covers 400 square meters. The highway bridge approach is full of Chinese characteristics. Rising 70 meters high, two bridge towers stand on each end of the bridge. Inside of towers, elevators reach the two decks and watchtowers atop. The bridge banisters are decorated with 200 cast iron relief inlays. Beside the pavements, there are 150 pairs of yulan lamps. Like a rainbow the bridge spans across the river. When night falls, with more than 2,000 various lamps turned on, it looks like a pearl string of the Yangtze River.

The structure was awesome. We took a lift to the observation area to have some photography sessions. Too bad, that morning was misty, so we weren’t able to see the river clearly. But one thing for sure, there were a lot of cars crawling along the bridge and over the river, quite a number of trade boats were seen cruising along the river.

47
A never-ending bridge

48
Gigantic structure

We left the place and Nanjing to move down south-east to Wuxi, a place I’ve never heard before. As usual, we spent most of the time in the bus as the journey was long. When it reached Wuxi, it was already 2pm. We had lunch at a restaurant and had chance to sample Wuxi’s specialty; pork-ribs.

The Wuxi local guide joined in as we left for Lingshan Buddhist Temple. Much to my surprise, the guide spoke good Cantonese too. It took the driver 15 minutes to reach the temple, and we wasted no time to walk in.

25 kilometres from the city’s downtown area, the Lingshan Sakyamuni Buddha (Lingshan dafo) stands solemnly at the site of famous Tang Dynasty Xiangfu Temple, which was ruined after a series of ancient wars. The bronze icon is 250 feet long, 100 feet higher than the Statue of Liberty. Entirely made of tin and copper, the statue weighs more than 700 tons. On the left side, the Shiwuwei seal is supposed to reduce suffering in the world while the Yuyuan seal on the right delivers happiness. The character on the Buddha’s chest represents solemnity and virtue.

49
Getting to the entrance

50
The spacious area. Note that the giant buddha is already noticeable from far.

51
Bronze lotus flower

Besides the giant bronze Buddha, there’s a huge bronze structure of Buddha’s palm and a statue of the laughing Buddha with a hundred children in the temple. We spent around 2 hours in the temple because of the show; the show relaying the birth of Buddha. It was a very nice show indeed.

Among other notable attraction is the gigantic lotus fountain, where water fountain performance are held at exactly 4:30pm every day. Right at the top of the fountain lies a huge lotus flower, which slowly opens up throughout the performance, displaying a large statue of a baby Buddha in the middle of the flower. The significance of the lotus flower and Buddha is that it is said that when Buddha was born, he was already able to walk, leaving behind a lotus flower in every step that he took. Beautiful water displays that dances to the captivating music further enhances the magnificence of the giant Baby Buddha as it slowly turns around the fountain. It is a definite must to watch the performance, without which the fountain would just be an ordinary structure with a huge closed lotus flower.

52
Large bronze Buddha mural

53
The world’s largest bronze Buddha

54
Laughing Buddha with 100 children

55
Large bronze Buddha’s Palm

We left the temple feeling good. It was probably the calm atmosphere that eased and freed our mind from burden and negative elements. On the way back, we stopped by a freshwater pearl factory.

Pearls are reared in Taihu Lake, the largest freshwater lake in China. With its shallow water, pearls thrive in it, thus making Wuxi one of the main makers of pearls.

We ended up buying several pearl products like necklace and cream. We ended the day with so-called “Emperor’s Meal” as offered by the tour company. But, the dishes were nothing to shout about. We checked-in after dinner but before dozing off, I headed down to McDonalds with my mum to buy its delicious and yummy BBQ Pork Burger. As the trip neared its end, we were really enjoying every moment of it.

Vibrant Shanghai: Part 9

Jun 19, 06 at 1:37 pm

As usual, damn morning call distrupted my sleep and that morning was definitely the coolest. We had our breakfast ala western/chinese style in the hotel and the food was not bad! Probably we were hungry.

We have to endure another 2-3 hours journey up north to Nanjing today but first, we visited the last destination in Suzhou – a government-endorsed silk factory. Silk is Suzhou’s main produce and is famous for its high-quality silk products like blankets and clothings. The amazing silk has been said to be highly effective and useful. It warms up our body during winter and cools down our body during summer. How true is it, I truly have no idea.

The factory cum store offers visitors a closer look on how silk is produced. There were live demonstrations on how each processed silk is turned into final products. Besides, visitors also get to buy silk products at discounted price. I bought a few as souvenirs and they did not come cheap. Last but not least, there is also a small hall where models perform catwalks to showcase some of the clothes made of silk.

40
Silk weaving machine

41
Processing silk

42
Models parading silk clothings

We bade goodbye to the local guide before continuing our journey to Nanjing. I was so tired and slept all the way to Nanjing. We reached right before noon and it was time for lunch. Nanjing is famous for its smoked duck and we had the opportunity to sample it during our lunch.

43
The lake beside the restaurant

There are two further negative memories of the city. On April 18th, 1927, Chiang Kaishek launched the counter-revolutionary 4.12 Coup and established his power in Nanjing. Also, in 1937, the inhuman Nanjing Massacre happened. In six weeks, more than 300,000 Chinese people were killed including women and children.

No atrocity can go unpunished. After eight years of resistance, in 1945 the brave Chinese people eventually drove the barbarous Japanese invaders out of China’s homeland and the war criminals got what they deserved. However Chinese people will never forget the history. Pictures of the atrocities of Japanese soldiers taken by Japanese army photographers are exhibited in the Memorial Hall to the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre.

It was just so amazing to see the transformation of Nanjing in just 60 years after the massacre. Now, Nanjing is one of the most beautiful cities to live in.

We didn’t waste time. After lunch, we headed straight to the Mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yat Sen located at Mount Zijin.

The mausoleum is situated at the foot of the second peak of Mount Zijin. Construction of the tomb started in 1926, taking three years. On first July 1929, Dr. Sun was buried there. Sun has been respected as Father of Modern China since he fought unyieldingly against the corrupt Qing government and led the 1911 revolution to end feudal system and found Republic of China, leading Chinese people into a new era. He died in 1925 in Beijing.

In short, the visit was worthwhile. The surrounding was beautifully maintained and the view from the top was just too awesome.

44
Breezy walk

45
Endless stairs

46
View from top

We spent around 2 hours there and by the time we got down, the sky has darkened a bit. We proceeded to a jade gallery cum store to have a round of shopping. We didn’t spend too much time as we already felt tired. So we left and grabbed our dinner before heading to the hotel located near Fuzimiao. We had another round of shopping nearby our hotel after we checked in. This time, I managed to buy lots of souvenirs. The day ended with the purchase of another luggage because we had bought quite a lot of things since we were in Shanghai. 

Vibrant Shanghai: Part 8

Jun 18, 06 at 1:36 pm

It was cold morning. We were scheduled to leave Hangzhou for Suzhou after breakfast. On the way, we stopped by a factory manufacturing herbal tea. The journey to Suzhou took another 2 hours by highway. There was nothing to see along the highway except barren land and farmhouses.

We reached Suzhou at around 11am. We took our lunch a bit earlier while waiting for Suzhou’s local guide. The lunch wasn’t nice but we ate it anyway. The guide arrived shortly when the dishes were being served. Amazingly, he spoke good Cantonese also. And found out that he was actually the owner of a shop and taking tourists around was his part time job.

Our journey continued by first visiting Hanshan Temple. First look, the building was just an ordinary temple.

The temple used to be one of the ten most famous temples in China. The poem of “A Night Mooring by Maple Bridge” by Zhang Ji, a famous poet of the Tang dynasty, is so oft-quoted and widely loved that the poetic rhyme and the bell-tolling sounds have made the Hanshan Temple celebrated at home and abroad.

The guide didn’t waste any time by introducing the place. I hurriedly took a few photos while the rest of the crowd listened tentatively to the guide. The visit lasted nearly an hour.

33
Canal outside the temple

34
The temple

We headed to Tiger Hill which was 10 minutes drive from Hanshan Temple. Tiger Hill is indeed a huge place and is located up on a small hill, which means visitors need to hike up a bit.

Tiger Hill, known also as Surging Sea Hill, is a large hillock covering some 14100 square metres (over three acres) and is 36 metres (118 feet) in height. Climbing the hill, you will find a number of historical sites some of which can be traced back over 2500 years to the founding of Suzhou. Although the hill is relatively small it has rich history.

Tiger Hill was indeed a worthy place to visit. You will get to see many weird stuffs like sword-testing rock, pillow rock, sword pool, etc.

35
The gateway to the hill

36
Serene environment

37
Sword-testing rock

38
Pillow rock

Our visit for the day ended with shopping at Suzhou’s busiest shopping street located at downtown Suzhou city. We strolled along the street hunting for souvenirs but ended up with nothing. When everyone was back, we headed for dinner (which tasted horribly awful) and checking into hotel after that. It wasn’t a great day as compared to the previous night we had in Hangzhou but hey, not every city is perfect, okay?

Vibrant Shanghai: Part 7

Jun 17, 06 at 1:34 pm

We took a break to have lunch before continuing our journey later. After lunch, we headed to a shopping area near West Lake to shop for souvenirs. We spent roughly an hour and bought a lot of souvenirs. Our next prime destination would be West Lake where we were scheduled for boat cruise at 3pm.

West Lake was indeed a crowd puller. There were loads of tourist buses plying by the road and lots of local and foreign tourists busy walking around and snapping photos. We gathered around and walked some distances before heading to our boat.

25
The boat

Originally a shallow sea inlet, due to the laying down of silt this six square kilometres (1483 acres) of water became the famous West Lake. With an average depth of just five feet the lake comprises five distinct sections. The largest part is known as the Outer Lake and it is bounded by the North Inner Lake, Yuehu Lake, West Inner Lake and Lesser South Lake. Held in the embrace of hilly peaks on three sides, this water wonderland has been an attraction for centuries and it is small wonder that it was a favourite imperial retreat. The lake and its environs have all the elements of a traditional Chinese garden but on a grand scale. The natural setting of strangely shaped peaks, serene forests and springs, dense foliage and a myriad of blossoms especially in springtime are enhanced by a treasury of sculpture and architectural features. Whatever the season, the panorama is pleasing to the eye and the nuances of light shade together with the moods of the weather present an ever-changing picture that justifiably has been described as ‘intoxicating’.

The boat cruise was indeed worthy as it enabled me to take more photos. :P  Our visit did not end there. We were taken to visit the park – definitely a-must. Every single flower, tree and scrub looked fantastic and beautiful. Our visit to West Lake was indeed an eye opener. Even the famous Italian explorer, Marco Polo once described Hangzhou as “Heaven on Earth”. It is true.

26
Beautiful scenery

27
Breathtaking

28
Panoramic

29
Mesmerizing

The sky grew darker, we thought it was time for dinner. So, we headed for dinner. After sitting down, I realised it was only 5pm. The sky was the culprit, making us into believing it was time for dinner. But anyway, we just ate because we were due to watch a night show at 6.30pm. It was also the first time where we sampled hot wine. Almost made me puke. 😛

The night show was located near to the restaurant, so it took us 5 minutes to reach there. As the sky grew darker, the temperature dropped further. We were left giggling around while waiting outside the theatre. Anyway, we ran in after Xiao Zhi got our tickets because it was too cold.

I thought the show was nothing to shout about but I was wrong! It was truly an eye opener. The story began to unfold with scenes depicting different histories that took time in China. And they were really good especially during the war part. It looked exactly like real. I almost disbelief when I saw real horses running around and cannons were fired on the stage. Kaboom.. the crowd OoOooohHhHHhhhh and aAaAAaahhhHhHhh and they loved it. When it came to another scene depicting romance which involved nature like waterfall, there was water flowing all over the stage and they were smart to sprink some water to the audiences as well. Everything seemed so real. Everyone glued to their seats watching the show which lasted roughly an hour.

30
The crowd pleaser

31
Movements perfectly executed

32
The end of the show

The show ended and we were back to the bus. Although it was still early, we decided to call it a day to prepare for the next day. Literally, Hangzhou is a-must visit place for every visitor visiting China.

Vibrant Shanghai: Part 6

Jun 16, 06 at 1:34 pm

0630 hours. Usual morning call. Headed down for usual hard-to-eat breakfast. That morning was a bit colder than usual. We started the day with a visit to General Yue Fei’s Mausoleum located just opposite West Lake. Another local guide joined in to brief us. She has a very good command in Cantonese.

General Yue Fei is the well-known national hero in the war against Jin invaders during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). He, with his army, had won many great battles, so a minister named Qin Hui was quite jealous of him. With the authority of Emperor Gaozong, Qin Hui ordered Yue Fei back to court at once at a time that Yue Fei was fighting furiously with the northern invaders on the battlefield. In fact, the command was just an excuse to order him back. Yue Fei was wrongly accused of seriously defying military order during his mission and was subsequently put to death at the age of 39.

Literally, the mausoleum was better than the one we had in Shanghai. At least, I could take a few more photos.

21
The entrance

22
The General

Overheard this while I was busy snapping photos.

Aunty #1: *Running out from the toilet* *Panting* *Take deep breath*

Aunty #2: “What’s the matter with you? You saw cockroach?”

Aunty #1: “No…. no… ” *breathe heavily*

Aunty #2: “What’s in the toilet actually?”

Aunty #1: “The toilet… unbearable smell… I vomitted the whole breakfast I took this morning!”

Aunty #2: “Hah?!?! Is it that smelly??” *Disbelief*

Aunty #1: “Super-ultra-damn smelly inside! You better hold on til we get better toilet.”

Aunty #2: “Wah.. if like that, I’d rather wait…”

A popular tourist destination with poorly maintained toilets. Common in China – this was what Vicky told us earlier.

It was very cold that morning. I could feel it in my bones. We hopped into bus and headed to tea plantation located at inner parts of some Hangzhou hills. “Longjing” or Dragon Well tea is another famous product of Hangzhou.

Longjing (Dragon Well) Tea is most famous for its unique fragrance and flavor; flat, slender strips of tea leaves in bright green liquid. Furthermore, Longjing tea aids one’s health in many ways regardless of your age. It is used to deter food poisoning, refresh the body, stop cavities, fight viruses, control high blood pressure, lower the blood sugar level, and to prevent cancer. Hence, Longjing tea is regarded as the elixir for health and is widely sold and accepted all over the world.

The name Longjing is from a small village on the Fenghuang Hill, in Hangzhou Zhengjiang Province. It is said that residents in ancient times believed that a dragon dwelled there and controlled the rainfall. As a result, people went there from all the surrounding areas whenever there was a drought to pray for rainfall, from as early as the Three Kingdoms Period (221-280).

Longjing tea is grown in the Longjing mountain area of Hangzhou, southwest of the West Lake. The fertile land is both rich in phosphorus and sub-acidic sand. This region prevents the cold current from the north and holds back the warm current from the south, thus the growing area of Longjing tea can be coated by cloud and mist for long periods of time. With such favorable growing conditions, needless to say, Longjing tea is considered the best tea in China.

Upon our arrival, we were ushered to a room and the promoter surprisingly spoke good Cantonese also. We were introduced a few types of “Longjing” tea and they tasted good. We also bought some of the tea leaves.

23
Teahouse

We left the tea plantation and headed straight to Six Harmonies Pagoda, which took 15 minutes drive. The pagoda looked so grand perching magnificiently atop a rather small hill. We hiked up some stairs to get to the pagoda and from there, we oversee the whole city of Hangzhou.

Commanding a spectacular view of the surging Qiantang River, the pagoda presents a quiet image of age-old majesty. The original pagoda has nine stories with a light on the top, which serves as a navigation tower. In 1156, the pagoda experienced a large-scale restoration. The artisans used carved bricks when reconstructing the inside of the pagoda. By the end of the Qing Dynasty, the upturned wooden multi-eaves and wrapping structure was added to the pagoda and, in the eyes of the people, presented the soul and labor of ancient Chinese. The pagoda we see today is an octagonal structure 200 feet tall. Seen from the outside, the pagoda has the appearance of a 13-story building; in actuality, there are only seven stories.

Too bad, due to the condition of the pagoda, we were not allowed to go in. We just snapped some photos outside before heading back to bus again.

24
Six Harmonies Pagoda