Sunday, January 25, 2009

财源 vs. 裁员

Retrenchment seems to be the most used headlines on the newspaper financial page these days. Almost every big company has announced slimming program coupled with organization restructuring. Banks announce record loss, mega projects have been called for a halt or deferment, national economy shrinking, unemployment soaring, salary freezing, compulsory no pay leave… We should cherish to have a secured job these days… well, I’m looking for one.

I reckon this year economy would be worse. The 2nd wave of financial crisis is surfacing, the developing countries would be harder hit this time. Under the term of globalization, no one would be spared from this crisis.

Lots of peoples are hoping Mr.Obama, the new president of the USA, would salvage this global dilemma. Hope is just a hope, I’m pessimistic. The present problems can’t be solved by himself or by the USA alone. Otherwise the worldwide share market wouldn’t tumble 4% on his inauguration. When his strategy doesn’t bring instant positive results, lots of his supports will turnabout and become the voices of critics.

I wish this year of BULL would bring prosperity back to the world.

Photos Uploaded - China

Photos of the recent China trip are available in my Travelogue now.

Friday, January 23, 2009

新年快乐 Happy New Year


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

ShenZhen (09-Jan-09 till 11-Jan-09) – Friends

To ShenZhen was to meet friends. Teddy, met him 3.5 yrs ago in XinJiang, China. He is one of the handful met on the road who still keep in contact. Lani, I knew her in Sudan. She is working with her British husband here. I’m really happy for her marriage.

The hostel is situated quite far away from the city center. Had thought to shifting out the night of my arrival. Luckily I didn’t. The hostel itself was a converted loft. Nearby there are many more used factories converted artistically mainly to design related businesses. It’s a lovely place.

I spent a few hours in the shopping district DongMen. The crowd was so dense that people were almost elbowing each other. Went to a shopping mall frequented by the locals. The space was so packed and narrow, I think it has seriously violated emergency evacuation regulations. Most of the items seen were imitated products… cost a fraction of the original if you could bargain hard. I bought a jumper… for EUR8!... Lani said it could be cheaper…

Want to thank Chuan Dong for his kind companion to show me around ShenZhen. He is voluble, knowledgeable and promising. I bet he will be successful in his career.

FoShan (08-Jan-09) – YeWen & HuangFeiHong

Again, unexpected turned out to be quite fun.

The highlight of FoShan is the ZuMiao (Ancestor Temple). It was not to my knowledge that the exhibition halls of YeWen (martial arts teacher of actor Bruce Lee) and HuangFeiHong were situated inside the compound too. The movie stories had exaggerated their heroic background. In fact they were just ordinary people.

The main structure of ZuMiao is frequented by devotees, quite different to the other temples. In general, FoShan is worth for a day trip from GuangZhou.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

GuangZhou (07-Jan-09) – Defensive

I had to be here in GuangZhou to catch my flight back home. I didn’t expect much from this city, but somehow I had some fun here. By speaking the local dialect (Cantonese), basically no one suspected I’m a foreigner… I liked this trick.

The QinPing market was full of traditional herbs dealer. Crisscrossing the alleys, discovering some funny and exotic things, and observing local life. Adjacent to it, the wet market was busy with fresh seafood trading, ranging from huge lobsters, shells, frogs, turtles, snakes, crocodiles to the tiny scorpions. Wondering what else we couldn’t eat?

I spent a morning to the temples, seeing the devotees praying to the Buddha and deities. I prayed for my family and friends, hoped they will be blessed.

Something was strange in GuangZhou. It happened 2 times that we (with another backpacker) were asking someone for direction, they retreated instantly a couple of steps backwards trying to avoid us. Did we look like bad guys or something abnormal? One man even refused to hold our camera to take photo for us. I didn’t know what had happened before making people so defensive and cautious to each other.

YangShuo (03-Jan-09 till 06-Jan-09) – River Cruising

A Mecca for backpackers… the attractions are similar to GuiLin i.e. the beauty of river and hills, but YangShuo is more laidback and less hassles.

River cruising is a must-do. The manually maneuvered bamboo raft was drifting slowly on the YuLong River, complete serene, quiet and peaceful. The reflection of the hills on the mirror flat river composed natural beautiful Chinese paintings. This was my preference.

The trip on the higher traffic Li River was quite noisy. Tens of ferries were cruising on this wider river, the sceneries were grander but the engine of the bamboo rafts was disturbing our mood throughout the trip.

Monday, January 19, 2009

LongSheng (02-Jan-09) – Terraced Fields

Acc’ to the locals, their life had been greatly improved ever since the asphalt road to this village was paved, under the governmental plan to help developing tourism in this area. In the last decade, people were basically isolated from the civilization, students had to walk to school miles away daily over the mountains, communication to outside was completely cut off during the hard winter. Nowadays tourism has become the main income resources for the locals, roughly 60 motels in this small village.

The terraced fields cover large area of mountain slopes, construction began since half a millennium ago, the idea was to solve the problems of agriculture lands shortage and prevent soil erosion. The sceneries now were not spectacular, the spring and harvesting season should be beautiful.

There were different tribes residing at this area. On the hill, a young lady from Yao tribe offered to lay down her long hair for photographing, with small amount in return. I rejected her begging, was not a matter of money, because she was not photogenic.

GuiLin (31-Dec-08 till 01-Jan-09) – Crystal Palace

The gifted crystal clear LiJiang (Li River) and the up thrust karsts studded along the river are forming picturesque sceneries which attract thousands of tourists to GuiLin. Many tourists chose ferry cruising to YangShuo along Li River (costs RMB243 per ticket), I postponed this program to YangShuo later. This river has become the main income resource for the local government.

I didn’t have any specific feeling to this town, but the various kinds of foods and snacks were indeed delicious.

Another attraction of this town is the natural cave LuDiYan (Reed Flute Cave) famed for its stalactites and stalagmites. The cave looked so artificial with colourful lighting projected on the walls. The flooring was well paved and no awful smell at all. I had to admit that a view named “Crystal Palace” was beautiful (see picture). The magic of lighting works… the rest were not interesting… The tour guide was explaining to us that this looked like an old man, that looked an owl etc… again another Picaso’s painting lesson. Boring!

At night there were plenty of pimps on the road, offering massage and lady escorts for all passing-by male tourists. I had been offered not less than 10 times in one evening.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

ZhangJiaJie (28-Dec-08 till 29-Dec-08) – Picaso’s Abstract Paintings

Tourists used to combine FengHuang and ZhangJiaJie in a single trip. ZhangJiaJie is famous, comparable to HuangShan… many people said so, but I was not impressed.

I didn’t like the path up to the mountains, it was not challenging. The sceneries along the path were not that great. Up on the mountains, the view was OK, but getting fed up after short while. A name was assigned to each karst based on the respective shape. Occasionally some tour guides passing by, explaining that this karst looks like a monkey, that looks like a lion and so on. After figuring each one, I think it helps me to understand Picaso’s abstract paintings easier.

Met Ivan and Dong (HK), friendly and funny, would never feel bored with their companion. From our conversation, I learned the general opinions of HK younger generations towards their future, social and political views. Don’t worry about your career, your vision will be expanded later, it’s not limited by the scope of your studies.

FengHuang (27-Dec-08) – Swamped By Chinese Tourists

Being one of the most famous ancient towns in China, it has been over developed and commercialized. The small town is swamped by Chinese tourists. The sceneries are fine though small. The over crowded tourists were too noisy, I didn’t feel relaxing in this atmosphere. Many bars were scattered in this small town, couldn’t tolerate the KaraOK pubs blaring the screeching voices of amateur singers.
The night arrived at the hostel, I met a young lady in front of the hostel selling local snack. She is, quite pretty, talkative and friendly. The snack was delicious. I hoped to meet her the next evening, but she didn’t turn up before I left to the bus station.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

XiJiang (26-Dec-08) – Minorities Are No Longer Primitive

Before visiting XiJiang, the so-called “Miao Village with Thousand Families”, I related it to less development, dirty and poor… I was wrong, instead the village was clean, internet and TV facilities were available and quite touristy.

This was not the right season to visit, the crops had been harvested, leaving dry brown lands which to be irrigated in spring. Somehow it was interesting to get lost in the maze-like villages built on the hill slopes.

It was so serene, people were friendly. A leisure walk to the terraced fields was refreshing. Possibly we could find a much more traditional village somewhere further in the mountains, but the trekking might take hours.

After sunset, the village was so quiet, any footstep on the street could be clearly heard. Was thinking what to do at night, surprisingly a modern bar is available in this village. Glad to have someone to talk.

ChongQing (23-Dec-08 till 25-Dec-08) – Hospitality

I didn’t have any plan to visit this city initially, dropped by only because the way from LuoYang to GuiYang was too far.

The city is built on hill slopes, makes it hard to navigate. The 2 adjacent roads could have significant height difference. Plenty of small paths and alleys with staircases are connecting one road to the other. It is hard for non-local to find the shortcut and determine directions. The driving attitude of the drivers could qualify them to Formula 1.

Most tourists came to ChongQing are to board the 3 Gorges ferry cruise. I didn’t try any, as most of the historical places have been flooded. If there is possibility to schedule a custom plan boat trip to remote areas, I would love to come back again. The 3 Gorges museum was good, housing fine artifacts and rich information.

Was glad to meet a group of local friends at the youth hostel. Their hospitality and friendliness left me a good memory. The atmosphere of the restaurant inside the air-raid shelter was exceptionally impressive, food too but extremely spicy!

Friday, January 16, 2009

LuoYang (22-Dec-08) – “Alternative” International Youth Hostel

Yesterday night, from the bus station to the hostel, I was besieged by agents volunteered to bring me to their recommended hotels. I ignored all, but one lady ran along with me for about 500m kept persuading me that she was the most honest and helpful person to show me the cheap accommodation. Of course I ignored her too, at last she realized that she couldn’t make any business with me, she shouted behind me that I would be regretful.

After checking in the international youth hostel, I learned that the room has no hot water supply, the heating system was not well functioning. The room was cold…

There is something special with this hostel - a sauna business attached to it. It was fine with me (but never seen with youth hostel). The rendered services listed on the board are something fishy… try your imagination what do these mean “Passionate Style 2 – RMB200”, “2 Stars Embracing Moon – RMB400”… (see picture).

LongMen Caves was interesting, better than my expectation. The caves perched along the river bank, though not as grand as Datong’s YunGang Caves, they are worth for a visit.

ZhengZhou (21-Dec-08) – Everything Went Wrong

We arrived at ZhengZhou in the early morning. After settling down in hotel, friends purchased train tickets to Shanghai. A moment later, they changed their mind to fly to Shanghai instead. So they returned the train tickets and booked the flight tickets. The air ticket agent refused our credit cards, but insisted only accepting China bank cards. At last we pooled sufficient cash to pay for it.

10:30am, we headed straight to the bus station. The bus refused to depart before collecting sufficient passengers to make up the trip to Shaolin. It delayed more than 1/2 hr.

3:00pm, we arrived at Shaolin. The weather was freezing coupled with the chilly strong wind, was uncomfortable. We were informed that the martial arts performance was relocated to the open space… gosh… I was sorry for the performers with thin clothing, while we were shivering and trying to cover every inch of our skin.

Right after the show, we rushed to the highlight – Shaolin temple. The guide gave a quick brief introduction, again we had no time to move around.

4:30pm, we rushed and caught the bus back to ZhengZhou. Oh no… the bus broke down on the way back. Not to take any risk, we flagged down a taxi (paid extra). Close to ZhengZhou, the taxi driver said he was not familiar with the traffic in the city. After small argument, we again transferred to another taxi (paid extra).

7:00pm, we arrived at our hotel. We checked out immediately and friends travelled straight to the airport, while I bought a bus ticket to LuoYang.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

XiAn (19-Dec-08 till 20-Dec-08) – Metamorphosis

The main reason to visit XiAn was to see the most famous Terracotta. Everything is still the same… no excitement to me, too.

On the 2nd day, we arranged cycling on the ancient city wall which is said the best preserved in China. We spent about 2 hr to cycle around the 14km wall. At higher altitude, I liked to observe the buildings around and the ordinary life on the streets. Disappointedly, lots of old buildings had been or were being demolished, to spare spaces for new and modern building constructions. The original was no longer felt. The city has transformed faster than I expected.

We spent lots of time on eating, a buffet lunch costs RMB48 (EUR5) was worth a try though not exceptionally special and delicious.

BeiJing (16-Dec-08 till 18-Dec-08) – No More Excitement

This is the 2nd trip to BeiJing after year 2005 visit, with 3 friends, I was their trip planner. Basically nothing really excited me no more. The main tourist attractions were still the same, except the magnificent new Bird Nest and Water Cube stadiums illuminated in red and blue lighting were truly beautiful.

I always oppose to join tour package because it always in rush, wouldn’t allocate sufficient time to move freely. And it was compulsory for them to lead the tourists to go shopping. I later learned that the commission rebating to the tour guide could be as high as 30% of the sales! There was no doubt the tour guide could provide more professional info with all transportation organized, but I still prefer having my own freedom to stay or to move. The “audio guide” is normally available for rental.

For time saving on the 2nd day in BeiJing, we joined a local tour to Ming Tombs and Great Wall. At the Ming Tombs, we were only shown Chang Ling, but the more interesting Ding Ling (which shows the actual underground tomb) was neglected. I complained to the tour guide, she replied that the time was constraint and said not all tourists are interested to visit the tomb. Instead she spent our time on jade shopping and the lousiest foot massage.