Saturday, November 12, 2016

Day 6 - Morning Stroll

Day 6, and we decided as early risers to fill in some time before our 8:30 am collection.  A walk through the local park.  It is pleasing to see many older locals enjoying the park, a few sessions of tai chi happening.  Turns out the park has a hill, and intrepid travellers should make the ascent for opportunities of taking photos.

On the top was a temple, and a great view without the smog we had for the past few days.

I did manage to catch a quick glimpse of something we in Australia don't see....a squirrel, complete with his own nut!

 There was also some interesting art work, not sure I was in exactly the required position, but let's see how I went.


Day 5 - Rickshaw Ride

Slightly afraid at this point in the tour, the guide has not joined us on the rickshaw ride, and we head off into the sunset, ok no sunset and the local terrain is not that picturesque!  As we head off using the good old pedal power, I glance at the shirt on our driver....big sigh, this is bound to be amazing!

The health and safety standards from home tend not to apply over here, and I am pretty sure that training to be an electrician is not as stringent as back home.

The rickshaw driver deposits us at some random home for a tour.  Still not feeling overly safe about all this, and quickly realising that after listening to a "local" resident who is impeccabily dressed, that getting out of this tour is likely to cost a few bucks! 

We eventually were deposited back to the where our guide was waiting.  Next on the itinery is the yo-yo factory....oh hang on, I haven't read that right.  Several people rush out with some string and plastic, yep that is meant to be the yo-yo, and we are going to learn all about it....thankfully the heavens open up with a massive thunderstorm and we are rushed back to the safety of the car.

Our guide was lovely enough to help us out with a few options of things to do after the tour ended for the day.  She was even kind enough to go and buy us the tickets to see a live production of a martial arts Kung Fu Panda.  How those people managed to do any martial arts moves whilst dressed in full on panda suits was amazing!  Of course the youngster just had to pick up a panda at the end of the show, so no doubt he will be making an appearance on the balance of the trip.

Our driver is a stoic fellow, doesn't speak a crack of English!  He drove us to the show, and waited for us to take us home.  Very lovely of him, as it wasn't actually his job to do that after hours.  Without the guide to help translate late at night, I managed to break the guy into a big smile by practicing my karate kid crane movement on the side of the path.  It is lovely to see that despite the language barriers, we can share a joke and  laugh.

After a long and tiring day, we walked about 50m and plonked down for dinner.  Hilarious moment, the youngster orders potatoe for dinner.  Not really sure what will arrive, but the little mountains of mashed potato, adorned with berry sauce were pretty to look at, apparently it is a cold dish, so not so fun to eat!  I myself passed on the deep fried bullfrog with bacteria, and was somewhat confused if it was a lost in translation, or really that! Either way, I went with what I think was something more safe!  I did struggle with the spit buckets at the end of the tables, and my poor little, weak stomach rolled more than a few times. 

On the way back to the hotel, it felt like agame of Frogga trying to cross the road.  Apparently pedestrian crossings are not for pedestrians, only sprinters!  Also, I learnt that motorised bicycles are almost silent and when you are in the dark trying to cross the road whilst not being hit by cars, you should also really keep your eye on those pesky bike riders.  Another day down, and we still have not sorted the laundry situation.  Our hotel rooms are going to look like Chinese laundries for awhile longer.

Day 5 - Summer Palace

Like all good tourist destinations, a map on how to navigate around.  Should be right? 


The really amazing thing about China is the really is these quiet little moments of looking at really ancient historical features.  Despite all the people trekking around, there is a sense of stillness in the moment.  This pit stop is the Stone of the God of Longevity.

I really love the statues dotted around the place, fascinating to look at.  It is a sensory overload, the scent of the Osmanthus Fragrans trees are a reminder that we are somewhere I have never been before.


As we walked along the path under the covered walk way, I looked up at the beams above.  There were hundreds of them along the path, each one painted.  It must have taken awhile to decorate them all, and I got the feeling it wasn't a stencil job!

Although there is a lake on onside, there is a stream  on the otherside, it does look like it could use a bit of a current through it, and I certainly have no desire to take a dip, but the little stone bridges that connect the walk ways are cute.  Maybe the pond lillies floating on the water are not pretty enough for Picasso to paint though.

According to google, the park is about 2.9 square km, with 3/4 of it being water.  Good news, it means that we are not walking the whole way!  Next stop is the boat ramp.

To catch a ride on the ferry....can't imagine one of these zipping up the local river back home.  The smog here is still evident in the photos, especially on the shots of Longevity Hill, which is about 60 metres high.

After we land on the other side of the lake, we notice the small foot bridge that we need to walk across.....

The fitbit will be racking up the steps again today.  Of course about a third of the way across the bridge we are mobbed by people trying to take more photographs of the youngster.  It has been a long day and the scene was too much to bear for our travelling companion who made a run for it without us.  Around the centre of the bridge was interesting, some serious kite flying folk in China, check out the gear on this fellow.


Day 5 - Lunch

One of the cool things with a local guide is that the lunch plans are made for us.  We get escorted to some quaint establishment, and helped along with the menu/translations.  This little place is packed with locals and the atmosphere is buzzing, promising signs that the food is great.

Whilst waiting for the food to arrive, the youngster treks out to the water feature in the entry.  It is filled with goldfish, and a couple of turtles.  I smile politely when looking at the photos, hoping that no one is going to ask for the turtle to be plucked out of the pond and on to their plate!

As I glance at the table across from us, I seen the cutest little tree that was sitting on the edge of the plate. 

Our use of chopsticks is something that needs a little more practice, but we are giving it a go.


With lunch devoured, it is time to roll out of the resturant in search of the Summer Palace.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Day 5 - Temple of Heaven

Ominous looking day with all of the smog around the city.  The Temple of Heaven, well it is not every day that you get to stand on the very spot that the Emperor did to pray for a good harvest. The walk through the outer layers was certainly interesting, and hard to imagine the formal procession, lighting of fires and animal sacrifices on the altar.

And here is the magical spot that you have to run into and pose for, quicker than trying to time the two skipping ropes flicking around at the speed of light!  Everyone wants to stand where the Emperor did.

What about being a gardener at the Temple of Heaven, always prestigious for the resume?

Even the trees looked ancient.

As we wandered out of the temple, it is after 1:30 pm and I haven't eaten lunch.  I am hot, tired and hungry.  Perfect spot to land a tea house I say.  It is a tourist dream, multiple rounds of tea served with free nuts, all in the hope that you will buy some expensive tea or china to take home.  Our lovely guide joined us for tea.

Very serious routine that the tea maker goes through.  I reckon she may have done it a few hundred times before.  To my surprise, the youngster did all rounds of the tea drinking as well.


Day 5 - Beijing

As we drew back the curtains this morning, we were delighted to see the King Parkview.  The scenic view complete with rolling smog ;-)

I picture of true delight for as far as the eye can see.

Breakfast was a large "buffet" room with catering desperately trying to please the international audience.  Big sigh from the youngster and I, this may be a long day and thank goodness for the snacks squirrelled away in our back pack.  The youngster is suddenly aware that she is the centre of attention and starts squirming around.  Apparently an international rock star has arrived at the breakfast hall, cameras are out and Chinese people are starting to make a bee line just to touch or have there photo taken near the blonde haired child.

Our first stop after 5 days was to try and find somewhere to get some laundry done.  After some very questionable directions from the hotel lobby, we headed off down some alleys to try and locate the laundry.  So far in our travels we have not seen very many animals.  So when we passed this little guy, there was a squeal of delight from the animal lover.  A wry look passed between the adults as we noted that this was unlikely to be a long living pet.

After trying to have conversations with several local people about where the laundry might be, and knocking on some random doors, we give up the search and head back to meet up with the guides.  First stop is a local park.  It was fantastic to see everyone out exercising, young and old, people everywhere.  Yep, just taking my sword down to the park to practice my moves.

Aunty Helen thought she would bust a move with some very accommodating people kicking around a large shuttle cock kind of thing.  Unfortunately plenty of air swings and giggles all round.  I was impressed by the efforts, as the youngster and I hung back skulking by the camera.

Practicing your writing was also a popular activity, little brush, some water and away you go.


Day 4 - Travel to Beijing

We left the hotel and Hong Kong enroute to Beijing.  We decided to grab some lunch in the airport, Aunty Helen has purchased some dumplings.  The youngster looks over with an interest and then decides she is going to give them a try.  This is quite a large step for the perennial fussy eater, but the look of joy upon tasting said dumpling was joy.  So I was promptly departed to pick up a tray of dumplings!

After 3 hours flying we were desperate to use a bathroom.  Remembering that bathroom facilities will be an issue, I decided to use the airport ones before we left.  After lining up for five minutes, we arrived at the head of the queue.  Just before we were about to step into the toilets, two elderly Chinese women cut in front of us.  Not really knowing what the rules were, we decided that age had right of way.  Now the next issue is the squat toilets, thankfully we manage to find one that looks like home.  With the youngster needing a bathroom 100 times per day, the squat toilet use is only a matter of time.

We meet our new guides and arrive at the King Parkview Hotel in darkness.  Knowing that we had an early start in the morning, we went for a quick walk through what felt like the Diagon Alley from Harry Potter.  We needed to pick up some travel snacks for tomorrow, and I passed over some currency to the locals.  With no translator present and no English spoken there was a flurry of words being thrown around us.  The note was passed along to each of the staff members and then back to me.  After pausing for a short while trying to figure out what was wrong, it suddenly dawned on me that I had used Hong Kong money.  In my defence, I think they looked similar, ok well they were both red with a 100 on them!  What was interesting was that the Chinese people had no idea what currency I was trying to give them.

After a long day travelling, we found a quaint little bar to source some refreshments.  We were greeted by 80's music, with was amusing.  The food appeared to be the clash of many cultures.  Apparently the mint leaves in the mojito can be substituted with glace cherries, and Aunty Helen's request for a spicy meal was met with a whole plate of chillies with a dash of pork!  Wow the mango frappe certainly did go down a treat.

We haven't managed to find a laundry facility after the hotel in Hong Kong failed to collect the laundry from our room.  Our hotel room now is looking like the inside of a Chinese laundry with our washing hanging everywhere and the hope that it will dry before we leave this hotel.


Day 3 - Meeting Local Friends

Our travelling companion is quite seasoned and seems to have friends dotted all over the world.  We had arranged to meet up in the afternoon at the local museum.  Taking advantage of old friends catching up, the youngster and I headed off to the café whilst the pair toured through the museum.  In the café we were greeted by the smell of coffee, but the taste of the local milk had not yet grown on me.  We did see some local toasted buns, so we ordered one each and sat down to wait.

I am really not sure what we were expecting, but a bread roll with butter and condensed milk spread on top was a bit of a surprise.  There were giggles all round as we tucked into them.  Of course the youngster needed to visit the bathroom, as with most establishments in life.  I know it is politically incorrect around the world to whip out your camera in the bathroom, but check out these toilet doors!

Vicki of course new all the good spots to eat, and I was somewhat excited about not having Japanese for dinner.  I do love going into a restaurant and seeing it packed out with locals, it is a good sign that the food is great.  Vicki was in charge of the menu, and we were soon surrounded by an amazing smorgasbord of delights.  The sweet and sour pork was out of this world, as was the youngster's and my use of chopsticks.

With the friends deciding to take another stroll along the harbour, we bid them farewell and headed back to the hotel, bed and resting our weary legs.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Day 3 - Hong Kong Island

Into the little touring van, and off to visit the Hong Kong Island with the tour host that no doubt wanted to be a famous television game show host.  Man that guy could talk, and it sounded like a recording of what he had no doubt done a million times, shuffling tourists around.

The trip up to the top of the island to Victoria Peak is done via a quaint little tram.  552 metres high with a 7 km running track around the top.  Lovely place to get away and bash out a nice run whilst glancing down at Victoria Harbour, Kowloon Peninsula and Hong Kong Island.  Given we were on a time restriction, I was unable to partake in the burning of calories.  Ha ha...I can't remember the last time I bashed out a 7 km run, thank goodness there was only time  At least the talking guide had all the moves and he managed to navigate his way to herding all the tour into the car at the same time.  No mean feat when you have wandering tourists of every nationality, may have been easier to heard cats!


From Victoria Peak we headed over to the south side of the Island driving past Repulse Bay.  The name is drawn from the battleship HMS Repulse who battled plundering pirates many years ago.  Our next stop is scheduled to be the local jewellery factory.  We were ushered in and stuck there for what felt like an eternity.  After some time of playing dodge with the sales people. and convincing the child that she did not need a $700 AUD miniature jade dog, I dutifully purchased a Rat pendant for my necklace and fended off others as I tried to find my way to the exit.

Next stop is the Stanley Markets.  Although our time to wander around here is now down to less than an hour, due to the length of incarceration at the jewellery factory!  By this stage in the day I have not eaten since breakfast and am nearly fainting.  We race through stalls in desperation, searching for any food venue to plunder!

With the threat of being left at Stanley Street to find our own way home, we quickly ate and headed back to the bus.  The air conditioning of the bus was a welcome relief to the temperatures outside, and the trip down to the Aberdeen Fishing Village was lovely.

We were to visit the "remains of Hong Kong's boat people...with an optional sampan ride".  Marketing people have a lot to answer for. 

Upon arriving at the dock, we move straight onto the sampan.  I am not sure where the tour for the fishing village was, so the spin around the harbour was at least some way of having a look at a boat of some description.

It was amusing to see that a love of gardening could be achieved whilst residing on the water.

The thing that bothered me most about this trip was the obvious problem with refuse and environmental sustainability.

Day 2 - Hong Kong Harbour

After a day of transport hopping and trekking around Disneyland, we were pretty wrecked on arriving back at the hotel.  I didn't want to walk any further, so as we rounded the corner from the hotel I noticed a restaurant called Rubota Kim.  Funky name, so I limped on in and took up residence at a table.  Low and behold, for the third night in a row we were about to eat sushi!

By this stage I wanted something a little different, but the eel and tuna sashimi on the opposite side of the table was not making a run at my side.  I was able to squash in an edamame bean or two.  It had been warm all day, so the crab and mango option sounded nice.  I ordered tuna for the youngster, and looked away when realising that the tuna was not cooked.  The tuna jelly went down fine thank goodness. 

The waiter wandered back to the table to advise that there was not any mango left.  Big sigh from me, but he says that he can put some cheese on instead.  Not being familiar with cheese on sushi, I thought I misheard him.  Apparently not, and it was certainly the first time I have every had grilled cheese on sushi!

Much to our dismay, the next thing on the list was to trek down to Hong Kong Harbour for the famous photo shot.  Have to see it at night, the lights are spectacular.  By this stage my feet had long since passed the hurting stage and had progressed into a state of numbness.  Although there was not a large time zone variation, the travelling and big day at walking had taken a toll on the normally early to bed pair.  But it is a holiday, a life adventure...buckle up travellers.

The view was amazing and well worth the walk. We were also fortunate enough to have a lantern parade that we got to wander through.  A spectacular way to end the day.  The fitbit clocked over 12 km today, and I have felt every step of it.