May 2005 Archives

I won't have a summary until HK, and as the novelty wanes, the lesser get posted. Thus, sticking to the essentials...

Singapore (The Merlion, and me, thanks to my most portable tripod <3, - and then K rightly points out that the Merlion is useless on Land and Sea alike).

Kuala Lumpur (The Petronas Towers at night with my improvised tripod: a road-side fence... They really dominate the KL skyline, nothing else is even close, except the KL Tower perhaps, which is built on a hill).

Malaysia is not scary

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In the same vein.

Anyways, I should go out see some sunshine. Kuala Lumpur is the same time zone than Hong Kong, but slighly-to-a-lot westward than it. I saw the Twin Towers already, but couldn't climb up for lack of tickets (for Got's sake, I arrived at freakin' 2PM, and it isn't closing before 5!). It rained a bit (so a lot, according to Canadian standards) at 4-ish, and I walked from Puduraya, dropped my things, went to the KLCC, then hiked on the Putra train/sub line to Chinatown, and did a bit of walking around the paradise of teh fake goods (DVDs of all movies that came out this week, along with some that probably aren't even out yet - take *that* copyright protection).

It's hot. But not that hot, cuz of cloudiness. There is nothing to see, because I neglected to read my travel guide, and I am tired. It's been like that for most of my trip: tired wherever I go. Simply because I've been jumping from places to places for the past two or three weeks - ever since Vietnam I think. There was one week in HK before Shanghai/Huadong, and two after it, and then it's been at most half a week in HK since Vietnam on ... May 5th? I stayed a week in HK after Vietnam and went to Guilin, and then it was Shenzhen the day after returning, and then off to Singapore/Malaysia after one day rest in HK.

Malaysia - Muar/Melaka

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After spending a few days in Singapore, I crossed over to Malaysia two days ago. Singapore-JB-Muar. It's dirt cheap, 12RM (about 4CAD), for a 3 hours trip into the Malaysia "jungle" (on an expressway). A surprisingly modern country - not as much of a surprise after all this publicity from Wee. I met up with his family (while he was still in Montreal (we called him yesterday, but he was sleepy and grumpy)) and we went to Malacca, while having lots of yummy food I never tasted before.

Today, I'm in Kuala Lumpur. Another bus ticket on the Mayang Sari bus service from Muar for a mere 10.40RM. Prices are sometimes low, sometimes high, compared with North American standards. Yoghurt can be 1/3 of the price paid in Hong Kong, but then you have commodities such as shampoo and soap that cost as much as in Canada. The country is by all means on par with the other richer countries in Asia such as South Korea and Taiwan and Hong Kong. Well almost. But it's got oil, and is a muslim country, the first one I visited so far, and probably one of the most foreigner-friendly there is out there. Chinese make up about 24% of the population, while Malays are 58%, and that upset my previous conception that mostly/overwhelmingly Malays supposedly live in "Malay"sia. It's a multicultural country for sure... not in the same way as Canada I'm sure, but this will probably be the object of long debates with Wee upon returning to Canada.

I started today at 7:30AM. It is now 2:51AM, and I am fighting to gain access to the bathroom/shower.

(Meanwhile, the pictures)

The food! Enough said.

Singapore and Cedric and his huge-ass backpack.

Immigration card...

...with protocolar warnings about local laws.
I made a good choice with the Betel Box. The hostel is owned and run by this former IT professional (who worked/studied in England/Australia). They also offer guided tours of the city, including a "food walk" on Thursdays, where you simply walk around the neighborhood for hours jumping from food stall or restaurant to another. Included in cost of bed, which is 18SGD, or roughly 14CAD... Now I understand why Google lists it as #1 when searching "Youth Hostel Singapore" (and the dude knew exactly how it progressed on the Page Rank system too).

So we went for the food walk, albeit a shortened one since two of the walkers were flying away tonight. We were only 5, including Tony the owner/guide. So the food walk was instead a sampling of hawker centre food. Instead of roadside food stalls, Singapore now has those "hawker centres" where all the food stalls are parked in an area, making a sort of outdoor food courts serving local food.

Joo Chiat Road, at night. "Joo Chiat" is also the name of the pretty famous neighborhood our youth hostel is located in. Photo courtesy of riding on the back of a pick-up truck. ^^;

Lost in Singapore?

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You can't possibly get lost in Singapore, although K insists I/she will get lost.

On the other hand, I am booking Malaysia. Super-random moment, I spoke with Wee, and I somewhat invited myself to his home (while he isn't there). How more random does it get? Like, going to Kuala Lumpur on the next day? ... Sigh.

I'm either out of ideas, or out of cash. One of the two is causative of the other - they are not occuring independently. I'd like to think that I am afraid to spend my cash... Can't possibly run out of places to go to? South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, some more China Mainland even perhaps (I'd have to be Yunnan or Hunan because I can't give a damn about Xi'an or Beijing anymore... I want to see nice landscapes like Guilin, and I want to get lost in China, but then anyone in my entourage would not advise it).

Shenzhen pictures

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Shenzhen is the city bordering Hong Kong in China. I spent most of my time Monday, Tuesday in Dongguan, another city towards the provincial capital of Guangzhou, but only technically on the border of Dongguan with Shenzhen.
The city of Shenzhen. Like a cheap version of Hong Kong with more space between buildings. Even their MTR looks cheap in its green, and uses special token seemingly embedded with IC's instead of the Octopus...

My uncle Chi Tong, showing me the factory in Dongguan he shares with his brother, specialized in household electronics. He himself rarely goes to Dongguan, as he takes care of trading in HK. His brother manages/presides the production section on the Mainland.

My uncle Peter runs the family's business passed on from his father, and which started in HK until they did like everyone else and their mothers and settled in Shenzhen/Dongguan in 1993. They're primarily a metal company supplying some big names in Japan and the States.

I had a Zhongshan suit tailormade in Shenzhen later on Tuesday, as I shopped with my aunts. Wanted one for the longest time, so now I have it, for 700RMB, roughly 110CAD.

Someday, there won't be a need for a border anymore... You travel to Shenzhen, you suddenly feel the irresistible force that is China...

Guilin pictures

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On the Li River, near Yangshuo, an hour and a half in bus, southeast of Guilin.

View on a mountain on the outskirts of Guilin.

(Judy and Mary - The Great Escape)

There was previously no explanation made, but my dad had the same reaction that I would've had seeing this lone entry with a link that the site could've been hacked. Which is a cool thing that parents thing like you (after all, one is their flesh and blood).

Well, the new music I had since getting to Asia has almost been exclusively sang by Yuki, formerly of Judy and Mary. It's a band that started in the early 90s, until the end of the decade, and specialized in this sort of pop/punk/rock/ska-whatever sort of music. No, not quite The Brilliant Green, but I think about the same level of (relative) notoriety, and identically with the lead singeress going solo afterwards (Yuki has become more pop/mainstream, while Tomoko, well, a bit less of it ^^). I can single out RADIO and Daydream as some of my favourites on their Best Of album, "The Great Escape", but I haven't really compared the song titles of others I liked. They're generally the more upbeat, fast-paced ones, versus some of the ballads. Not a big fan of J-ballads.


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I'm in Shenzhen, for those who don't know, a "town" on the border of China with the HK SAR. I'm (slightly) in violation of my visa, because I'm not technically in Shenzhen, but on the outskirts of the Special Economic Zone, in Dongguan (which is really part of the Shenzhen agglomeration). The area has been pouring with money, I can so feel it. Well, ever since coming to China from Japan, this is what I've been feeling: money. I get a stronger sense of where money comes from, where it goes, and what it is for. Not in the sense of just getting a salary from work, but all the workings of the economy. It's not as if I'm suddently enlightened with the Spirit of Economy - more like a feel - or actually you can say something like that, the Spirit of Capitalism is really growing in China, and I can sense it (all the headlines about the yuan reevaluation must also be filtering through).

The girls in Shenzhen are hot. Hmm? It's just an observation. I think it's probably because you come to the city from outer province seeking for a better life, and that people from the Mainland are generally from the countryside, thus live less of a sedentary life than in industrialized countries/cities. It's an observation - like the one that in HK and Toronto and etc, not all girls are hot (to my cousins/brother's dissapointment), simply because if everyone was hot, then nobody would be hot. It's a nature's thing, I don't think you can make a lot of sense of it.

The most striking realization is that you can't think everyone's dishonest. Can't think that way. You can think of the World as being limited in resources, and people are just fighting their way to those resources, for themselves, or for those they are akinned with. As simple as that. It's how much you want something - or how much you think you need something - that will bring you to do something about it. Pickpockets? You are not born a pickpocket, but if it means choosing between starving or stealing a few hundreds from a stranger's wallet to survive a month... And otherwise, it's a fringe of the population. To me, the majority of the folks try to live a honest life, just like the majority of people in my own country.

Shenzhen and Guilin pics

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I came back to HK from a four-day trip to Guilin. I am now jumping to Shenzhen (may the Force be with me when I try to get my visa) for two or three days. Then it's Singapore on Thursday morning.

(Temporary folder for Guilin)

Guilin is an hour by plane from Hong Kong, to its Northwest. Fabulous landscapes, and not to be missed if you're travelling to China.

I saw it. It was a 40HKD bargain, with people speaking and handphones ringing during the showing, and with only a handful of people who showed up, probably b/c everyone's working at 11:30AM, or that they already bought the VCD/DVD in Mong Kok.

I am in Chek Lap Kok airport, at the free Internet booth. I will not be staying in Japan, it costs too much (100 charge + 28 airport tax + 150 handling), so instead I'm supposed to stay one or two more weeks in the Land of Dreams or Opportunities (pick one). Which poses the question: where am I going to go, and what am I going to do? But I am fully booked until Thursday the 2nd, after coming back from Singapore...

A view of Victoria Harbour, on the Star Ferry between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. Looking towards the HK Convention Centre in Wan Chai.

Singapore yahoo!

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Alright, it's been planned, I'm flying to Singapore on May 26th (arriving 2:20PM), staying up to the following Thursday (leaving 4:05PM)...

I am flying for Guilin on Thursday night, and probably will be going to Singapore sometime before returning home. Either the week starting May 26th (Thursday), or the one starting June 1st (Wednesday). I need to juggle visiting the Mainland and Macau in between. I can't think of other places I could afford going. It could be South Korea, or Taiwan, but I'm not so interested in other modern cities.

I want to see Singapore because I've friends there (and some who might not even be there when I go -_-), and it's one of those really "special" cities, in its obsessional cleanliness and reputation as a tightly-controlled city-state. I want to see how true it is. If HK is Chinese-run, and Singapore is also Chinese-run, how similar are they?

After insisting, my cousin managed to drag me up the Sheraton, and into the lounge, which, after everything, we didn't need to pay for to get in. I can be that stubborn/stupid sometimes. Made for some beautiful pics, until my camera battery died.



No Day 2, because it would've involved me taking pictures of the bathroom, etc. So Day 3, I crawled out of the bed (a mattress in the living room), and walked around a rainy Saigon.

Stephane and me, unboard a cab.
The best taxi company is Mai Linh (they took me to the airport, and my aunt swears by them). They've got free newspapers unboard!
House where my mother grew up in. It was renovated and made into a municipal government office with something to do with transit.

Lotus, and a lot of it.

Ducks or geese (more like geese), in a cage. Yum?
Central Market. With a lot of foreigners (buying) and ethnic Chinese (selling).
Central Post Office, from the colonial era.
Statue and HSBC building in backdrop.

A guillotine, brought by the colonial leaders straight from France, and freely used to instill fear in the local population. Kept at the War Remnants museum, the very graphic and gruesome attraction among Western tourists who haven't already read enough about the Vietnam War.

Day 1 in Saigon is actually Day 5 in Vietnam. We came back from the Bao Loc province to the North in the late evening of Sunday, and these pics were the first (full) daylight ones I took of Saigon.

A cathedral that looks like the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Built during the colonial era, I believe.

Diamond Plaza, Saigon's classiest shopping mall. It's got all the brand names, and almost feels like one of our shopping malls in the West. They wouldn't let me take pics/vids inside. More security guards than sales clerks. T_T

My cousin Stephane! After living most of his life in Canada (was born in France), he decided to move to Vietnam to be reunited with his parents. I think the change did him a lot of good. He's learnt Vietnamese, and contributes to humanitarian causes (teaching English in a famous public high school in Saigon, the 15 May School).

The cheesecake of death. Baked by Stephane's friend working at Highland Coffee. Culturally different from my definition of "cheesecake", as it probably doesn't contain an ounce of cheese. And it's so sweet, it can kill an ant colony. My aunt says I probably got my food poisoning there (from semi-cooked ingredients, etc)...
Highland Coffee. One of the big local coffee chains in Vietnam. Starbucks is still inexistant there, but Highland's the closest thing they got (to me, it's a Starbucks painted red and crossed with Nike - too much space between the tables, methinks).

The 15 May School in central Saigon, where my cousin works. I wrote most of my postcards in this schoolyard.
It doesn't look so, but I took this pic *while* riding on my bike, among motorcycles. The experience likens navigating on a river (rapids) infested with crocodiles, if possible.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival

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Not in Dalat, but early in the morning in Saigon, as we were leaving the city.

A delicious Bahn Mi, Vietnamese sandwich, colonial heritage from the French.

My uncle Hoa, and aunt Eliane.

Orchids in a Dalat garden.

Flower from the same garden.
View from the window of our "mini-hotel".

Fields near Dalat.
A lake with boats.

A 50,000 dong bill (worth about 4CAD or 25HKD). And it's got Ho Chi Minh's face on it (well, they all do).

A cabbage field...

Soup, at dinner.

Interior of a palace (built in the 20th century, mind you) that used to belong to the king of Vietnam, near Dalat.


All smiling, but I now weight more than my cousin (slightly more than 60kg)...
The Dalat city center by night.

Small streets in Dalat.

Dalat Palace, now a Sofitel. Most expensive hotel in Dalat (~85USD a night).

Countryside, on the road back to Saigon.
Place selling tea and coffee to rich tourists. The region (Bao Loc) produces the best coffee in Vietnam.

Waterfalls on our way back.

Chaung Chau is a relatively small island, south of the much bigger Lantau Island (where the new Chek Lap Kok International Airport in is located). It's got fabulous beaches, and a walking trail that takes about 2 and a half hour to do. So, every year they have the Bun festival in Cheung Chau, where enthusiasts climb on towers covered with buns (they used to be made of solid buns?). The last time they held the tower-climbing event was in 1978, because that year one of the towers collapsed.

Me on the ferry in Central, in direction of Cheung Chau. The trip will take an hour or so, passed pretty quickly while reading my copy of The Economist.

Harbour front.


More seafront.

Bun tower!

More bun towers!
Yellow flowers.

A bun.

More buns.

Beautiful beach.

More beaches.

The beach with scrubs in front.

The sea, on my way back to Cheung Chau village from the West Bay.

Yesterday, I went to Cheung Chau (長州), in preemption of the Bun Festival. I wasn't interested in the crowds there were going to be today. Funnily the McDonald's had a "vegetarian" menu, of course complete with mayonnaise in the McVeggie (not sold in Canada, so a first-time for me), and ever-good french fries pre-cooked in beef fat. I saw the beautiful beach, and wish I had company to check over my stuff, as I probably would've just bought a new pair of swimming pants for the occasion, on that superb sunny tropical afternoon.

Then I joined my aunt and uncle's families for dinner, and stuffed my face like I never did (it must've been from dejecting and rejecting of myself in the past few days...) with kwa soup, oily chicken, liver sausages, steamed fish, steamed baby bak choi, and three bowls of rice! The pics and videos have the area around which my uncle lives, and my 4 years old cousin (he's not content with being close to 5, that he already wants to be 6 years old) introducing the flat.

Booked tour to Guilin, from this Thursday, May 19th, till Sunday. And looking to go to Singapore, dirt cheap fare on Cathay, 1190HKD (+340HKD airport taxes), or equivalently 200CAD + 60CAD. :D

(classified, phew)

Ok, I've classified the pics per day. That was a hassle. Going to introduce the pics a bit later. Now as a preview:

(Beautiful flowers in Dalat)

(Evening Dalat)

(Downtown Dalat in the morning)

(Vietnamese countryside and some waterfalls)

(Saigon during the day - Day 1 / Day 3)

(Evening view of Saigon)

(Their appartment)


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I went to see Eros, particularly for the segment by Wong Kar-Wai, played by Gong Li and Chang Chen. A movie about love, lust, erotism, obviously. Three short movies of 30-45 minutes on the theme of seduction and sensual pleasures, and kind of very depressing when you go by your own. But it's for the intellectual value of the experience.

Vietnam: processing...

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I took over 1 gig of photos and videos during my week in Vietnam... Like bioinfo, it's the annotation that counts, so please bear with me...

(For those who can't wait)

Vietnam: Saigon

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I had a slight gastro. It came out from both orifices, but I've been taking good care of myself. I stayed in bed for the whole day yesterday, and the maid made me some congee, which was about the only thing I ingested (I tried salt/sugar/lemon water, but that just came out five minutes later - I figured that you may not be able to synthesize Pocari Sweat so easily). I am better today, so I dragged myself out, for the last day in Saigon. I saw my mother's house, which is now a sort of government post related to the ministry of Transport. I went to the market in District 1, and saw other various tourist places, including the super-gruesome War Remnants museum near the Presidential Palace. It was another cloudy, tentatively rainy day. I am starting to miss home, which might be found in HK, but I haven't decided that yet... Bought lots of goods. I am sick and tired, teh bleh.

Vietnam: Da Lat

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I am in Vietnam, and it's been one of the most pleasing parts of my trip. Joined family that I have over here, my aunt, uncle and cousin. Aunt and uncle lived in Canada for 20 years before moving back to Vietnam a couple of years ago. My cousin followed them last year. They like it here. My aunt Eliane says this country (whose communism kicked them out, decades ago) is booming. But unlike China, who have HK and Taiwan to fuel the boom, Vietnam's only got the Viet Kieu, like them (my uncle Hoa is half Chinese-Vietnamese).

We were in Da Lat for the weekend. I got here late on Thursday, and we rented a van to get from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City, and more and more locals call it by its pre-Revolution name) to Da Lat, a vacation spot in the mountains, a few hours to the north, and formerly a resting place for colonial leaders back then. My mother and family spent their vacation there. I'm looking forward to post pics when I get back to HK.

Da Lat is a cooler city, the weather might be like that of Montreal, in the midst of summertime (and hey, this is below the Tropic of Cancer). It's got lakes, forests and peaks; pretty hotels - even some which go up to 85USD a night, like the Sofitel Dalat Palace. My mother will be eager to see the so many pics I took.

I feel rested and of a much better mood. It must be from seeing the sun and everything. We played some French music, Henri Salvador, Francoise Hardy, Beau Dommage, Jean Leloup and the rest of my French music CD collection, on the van, on our way back to Saigon.
First, a blue sky to show.

IFC tower number two. Briefly highest building in Asia, but certainly still the highest in HK. Photo snapped from the Bank of China Tower. (pic taken in 2002)

Connaught Road, the expressway on the side of the sea in Central.

Des Voeux Road Central, where the tramway passes on in Central and on towards the West.

(Rest of today's pics, taken mostly in Central after a tram trip through Wan Chai)

One thing people forget about Hong Kong is that it's on the side of the sea, and bathed in a tropical climate. I would indeed show pictures of me, but scaring away my audience (or lack thereof?) is not particularly my goal.



(From Aunt Brigitte's home)

And don't miss the 30 secs from a Korean drama, translated into "Dai Cheung Kam". And now, a beautiful postcard pic from HK taken tonight from Aunt Brigitte's super balcony:


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This page is an archive of entries from May 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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