Monday, August 20, 2012

China Trip Autumn 2011 (Oct 22nd - Nov 13th 2011) Part V-Hong Kong in 24hrs

Hong Kong 11th-12th Nov 2011:

I arrived in Hong Kong via MRT metro and got off at Wanchai MRT stop and found my way to my hotel in Wanchai. I had to lug my luggage everywhere on the streets of Wanchai whilst attempting to find my hotel and it was pretty tiring given the heat (despite being mid-nov!) and crowds on the streets of Wanchai. I did cross some interesting things though such as a filipino sari-sari store and a group of students with their teacher on an outdoor study excursion in the markets. I checked in and rested for 1 hr or so before heading out and making the most of my 24 hr in Hong Kong.

I had Teochew/Chiuchow Fishball soup, Hong Kong style Milk Tea, visited and ate traditional chinese rice cakes at my favourite chinese rice cakes store in Hong Kong located in Sham Shui Po as well as toured the area and visited a Hong Kong wetmarket.

I took the MRT to Yuen Long and then the lightrail, both the first time for me i think. I toured Yuen Long downtown area and it was very lively and i ate at a Michelin star place called Hou Dou Dai shop, and had their Wonton noodle soup which was really only average i felt. Then i took a lightrail to Tin Shui Wai new town, which i had wanted to visit as it was famous for being a lower socioeconomic area with frequent cases of domestic abuse and social looked quite normal actually..i also went into a Hong Kong sports/running track for the first time, as i passed by one called the Tin Shui Wai Sports Ground whilst there.

I took the light rail and Metro back to Kowloon and visited the Mongkok area and then made my way to the Star Ferry terminal in TST and took the iconic ferry ride to Central (just for the experience once again and photo ops!) and then took a tram (again for the experience more than anything else even tho i have taken both during the last time in HK!) and went back to the hotel.

The next morning, i woke up early and checked out and then checked in at the downtown checkin station with my luggage. Then i took the metro as well as lightrail to the Pingshan Heritage Trail which is the only heritage trail in Hong Kong. It was a unique and different experience away from the usual shopping and city experience of Hong Kong.

I took the metro back to Central and toured the streets quickly before having a quick Wonton Noodle at the famous Mak Kei's on Wellington Street (just opposite another famous wonton shop called Tsim Chai Kei's). I took the famous Mid-Levels Travelator and then rushed to buy the well known  Joy-Hing roasted duck and chicken takeaway from Wanchai, gobbling it down at the MRT station and leaving the rest to what looked like a homeless man then took the airport express to the airport and taking my flight to Sydney enroute stopping over at Pudong International Airport, given it was on China Eastern Airline.

This thus finished my 3 weeks Cross China Trip 2011 and my blog post series on it, finally, after almost a year since i left! Hahaha..;)

China Trip Autumn 2011 (Oct 22nd - Nov 13th 2011) Part IV-Natural UNESCO Town and the Original Reform/Opening-Up City

Lijiang 9th-10th Nov 2011:

I arrived by plane from Chongqing to Lijiang, the UNESCO world heritage ancient ethnic minority town situated in the mountains of Yunnan province. I met my dad there and we spent 2 days together. It was a very touristy place and although the view of the Snow Jade Dragon Mountain was beautiful..overall the ancient town was very touristy and commercialised for my liking with nightclubs and bargirls pumping out loud music deep into the night serving alcohols and half-naked dancers inside the clubs as well as girls asking you to go into the clubs..there were alot of artistic shops and nice cosy looking cafes and restaurants too, but they tended to be further away from the central ancient town centre.

I visited another village in Lijiang which was less well known and liked it way better...some of the architecture there was reminiscient of some 1930s set movie..haha..

I ate with my dad some of the hotpot and bbq food there and it was nice...also got a chance to see the ancient town from atop a small hill area...overall, i personally wouldn't go back to Lijiang again as it was just too touristy for my liking..;)

Shenzhen 10th-11th Nov 2011:

I flew into Shenzhen from Lijiang, after a delay of the flight, and took the airport bus shuttle into the area where my hotel was located then took a taxi.

I had a good rest and think i was upgraded once again (throughout my China trip 2011, i was upgraded into a way better room on many occasions, for reasons i do not know, but i'm not complaining!!) and had one of the largest hotel room experiences of my life with the powder room being so large, and a nice bathroom with stand-alone bathtub, separate shower area, and even a separate toilet area with floor to ceiling windows out on the city views!!

The next morning i woke up later than expected and behind my schedule but hurriedly took a quick soak in the bathtub again with the city views outside and rushed out to Dongmen main pedestrian shopping street of Shenzhen. I took a quick tour and headed by metro MRT again to visit the Shenzhen Library/Concert Hall area. This area looked very new and clean. The Shenzhen Library was designed by a famous Japanese architect apparently and was one of the nicest and most modern public libraries i've been to. China is changing, and it was very impressive. There were many study areas and desks and even sections with South East Asian newspapers as well as overseas study abroad reference books!

I rushed back by MRT to the JW Marriot Shenzhen (where i was staying) and checked out and took a taxi to the Futian Port Immigration checkpoint, being the closest to my hotel, and crossed over to Hong Kong.

This officially ended my Cross-China Trip 2011.;) I felt surreal and nourished with the memories, experiences, as well as photos i got from this trip:-)

China Trip Autumn 2011 (Oct 22nd - Nov 13th 2011) Part III- Former Wartime+Ancient Capitals

Xian Nov 6th 2011:

I arrived in Xian on an early flight from Beijing, flying from the current capital of China, Beijing, to the ancient capital of China, Xian. When i arrived at the airport, i was already left with an indelible impression that the city's residents were overall quite wealthy as the first ad i saw at the airport was for Porsche. Indeed, the city is quite wealthy as i saw huge shops selling luxury watches along the main shopping fare and other luxury food places such as Haagen Daz Ice-cream parlours..which i ate in,hahaha;-)

I visited the Bell Tower of Xian (or was that the Clock Tower of Xian?!) and the view atop from the Tower was amazing, walked along the ancient city walls and also visited the Muslim Quarters of Xian, trying out the fantastic and cheap food there. However, commercialisation was to be seen everywhere, with the Muslim Quarter's shops selling very touristy and over marked prices. The food streets of the Quarters were great though!

I spent only a day in Xian and took the overnighter train to Chongqing (formerly known as Chungking) in the interiors of China. One little quirky, interesting, and at-the-time horrifying experience i had was that as i was abit late for the train and so had to hurry to find my carriage. As i had bought the overnight tickets very last minute (and even had the horrific experience in the morning thinking i had lost it meaning i would have to stay overnight in Xian and lose one day in Chongqing due to the delay which would be catastrophic given my very tight holiday schedule) and wasn't familiar that soft bed carriages could be added, my carriage was Jia-Yi Meaning the 'Plus One Carriage' and NOT the 'One Carriage', which was like the cheapest and most crowded carriage. I went onboard and knew something had to be wrong as there were no beds, only seats for the whole night and it was overcrowded with people standing along the aisles. I had boarded an overnighter during the Dongbei/Manchurian leg of my holiday and knew this couldn't be it but then briefly thought maybe the interior Chinese trains were much more backwards..i asked the conductor(whom thankfully was on the carriage!) and he said my carriage was right at the other end of the train! I hurriedly got off and ran with all my might to the other end and got on in time as the train was leaving! And thankfully, this was heaven, being the soft-sleeper trains with comfy beds!! But it was a forever memorable experience as i got to see what the 'hard seat' carriages are like in China's trains (which i would never have known had i not been mistaken!)

Chongqing Nov 7th-8th 2011:

I arrived in the North Chongqing Station, if i remember correctly, and took the MRT to the city centre. The MRT station line had just been opened recently i think and everything looked swanky new. In fact, the design and overall atmosphere of the MRT metro in Chongqing was probably one of the best i had in China and surpassing even Hong Kong's MRT metro i think!

I have always wanted to visit Chongqing, it having been the WW2 wartime capital city of China from 1938-1945. It is one of the 4 directly-controlled central govt municipalities and the only one in the interior away from the coast of China. It is highly modern and i loved the city. It was actually one of my favourite cities in China during this trip, together with Changchun, for their lovely and unique 'feel' and city atmosphere. The landscape here is mountainous with alot of slopes up and down the hills and the rivers criss crossing the city.

I visited the main commercial Jiefangbei shopping and eating district and tried out the lovely Sichuanese spicy noodles and other delicacies. It was both cheap and delicious!! I also visited the People's Great Hall in Chongqing with its unique Chinese architectural style having been built in a traditional manner in the 1950s as well as the Three Gorges Museum of Chongqing which had a dedicated whole section on Chongqing during WW2, which was pretty informative and very interesting for a history buff like me!:)

I also passed by many interesting things and experiences such as local parents waiting outside a primary school to pick their children up and also could sense Chongqing, like much of the rest of China, was booming, with the economy simply skyrocketing. The development and tall highrise buildings were everywhere and all the branded luxury shops could be found in Chongqing. There was also a newly opened luxury upscale mall which i visited in the Jiefangbei area when i was there. There were also luxury high-end bakery stores in Chongqing which i took photos of indicating the wealth that can be found in this interior city of China.

I also went to the suburbs of Chongqing by MRT metro as i wanted to see what the suburban areas, and not just the city centre, was like, and it was very modern-looking too. I also visited the Chongqing Zoo and got to see real life panda for the very first time of my life!! So exciting! Haha!! And it was a nice time visiting the zoo since i hadn't visited a zoo in over 15 years i think!..

I also went to Shibati, a pre-war district in the downtown area which is earmarked for demolition and it felt like i had wandered into a different was like somewhere in the 1930s/40s..people eating just outside their homes on simple tables and stools, and i loved the stairs and slopes and geography of it all..indeed, this was one of the rare times when i saw an older poorer China on this trip as everywhere i went in China, from the north to south, east to west, development and wealth was pretty much everywhere on display.

I took a Yangze River tour on my last night in Chongqing and the nightlights were beautiful. They apparently want to compete with New York and Hong Kong for the night scenery and they've done well i must say! It was glittering everywhere. I bought heaps of delicious take-away food and drinks and went back to my spacious hotel room in central Chongqing and had a wonderful last Chinese supper in Chongqing whilst watching TV. (by the way, did i mention that my hotel room had a fantastic view of the Jiefangbei Monument and shopping area?!! Waking up at dawn, it was a surreal image of emptiness and tall buildings!)..

Saturday, May 19, 2012

China Trip Autumn 2011 (Oct 22nd - Nov 13th 2011) Part II- Manchurian Dreams

Changchun Nov 2nd 2011:

I took an overnight train to Changchun (former WW2 capital of the Japanese-occupied wartime puppet regime of Manchukuo/Manchuria) from Beijing and this was my 1st time sitting on a Chinese overnight train. It was quite alright actually as for my entire overnight train journeys on my 3 week China trip, i always bought the soft-sleeper class tickets which meant only 4 people in one compartment and the conditions were much much much better (i can't emphasize this enough) than the hard-sleeper and even hard-seat compartments ( yes, they actually sell all-seat compartments for overnight trains meaning people just sit throughout the entire night and you can even see people standing in overcrowded train compartments on Chinese trains going overnight! In fact, on my Xian to Chongqing overnighter, i had mistakenly gone into the last carriage which was the worst and got the shock of my life, given that it was totally overcrowded with no sleeping space n i knew something MUST be wrong as i had bought the soft-sleeper ticket, which i only got very last min as it was sold out earlier on i think n i'd be stuck in Xian for the night but thankfully i got the ticket. Furthermore, i had already slept on a soft-sleeper class to Changchun and back before n knew what it shld be like altho i did momentarily doubt whether it was due to it being an inland train away from coastal China) .

Anyways, I have always wanted to go to the northeast of China/Manchuria, and have always had this image of 1930s/1940s China with the slow train chugging along the Manchurian wintery countryside with pine willow trees since young watching old Chinese movies, and Changchun fit that picture image perfectly. It was so nice and had a rustic feel to it, just like in the movies set in 1940s China. Of cos, development had caught up even here with brand names such as Hermes having a large store in central Changchun but places like Nanhu Park was absolutely one of the unexpected highlights of my entire China trip and simply an amazing experience and beautiful sight which will forever be etched into my memory. I also had my first proper Dongbei cuisine..of what else but good old dumplings in Changchun and they tasted lovely as i would have expected. There were also still some Japanese puppet government- era historical buildings surrounding the central public square in downtown Changchun which i visited, all of which have been reused for other purposes now such as as a university faculty building and a hospital which i even went in to visit! ha! visiting a hospital as a touristy site whilst on holiday!

I also had some Korean-Chinese food here which was abit different from usual Korean food as they have been modified to suit Chinese local tastes (Changchun is the current provincial capital of Jilin Province, one of the three provinces which make up northeast China, and Jilin province also has the bulk of the Korean ethnic minority group numbering almost 2 million, most traditionally based in Yanbian Korean autonomous prefecture which is located within Jilin province, hence explaining the numerous Korean food and Hangul writing found in the city)

I spent the night in Changchun and had dinner at Guilin Road district, a very popular funk downtown district as well as managed to sit on the only preserved 1940s tram line whilst in Changchun! Highly recommended city to visit, for its authentic 1940s charm and feel..

Harbin 3rd Nov 2011:

I sat the morning train to Harbin from Changchun which took around 2 hrs i think. Once i arrived, I basically went to visit the famous Zhongyang Dajie which is the preserved historical street and main shopping strip in Harbin. I also visited the Matyrs Monument, Anti-Flooding Monument, Harbin's shopping district and of cos the St Sophia Cathedral for an obligatory photo op.

I also visited Walmart in Harbin! Hahaha..had a good look at the products on offer...quite worth the money actually...Before i left that night on the overnighter train back to Beijing, I went to the bankside of the Songhua river, and dipped my fingers into the waters as well as took photos and had a walk along the Stalin park promenade overlooking Songhua River, which i have always known since young as the Songhua River is one of the main rivers of China.

Thus, I was very happy and fulfilled to be able to finally visit and experience former Manchuria/China's northeast, a place which has always captured my imagination since young!

Friday, May 18, 2012

China Trip Autumn 2011 (Oct 22nd - Nov 13th 2011) Part I- Enter the Big Cities

I went to China for a Across China trip from October 22nd to November 13th 2011 last year. It was my first time travelling for such a long extended time, covering China, from North to South, East to West, for 3 weeks. I went to Eastern China (Shanghai, Nanjing, Huangshan), Northern China (Beijing, Tianjin, Changchun, Harbin), Central China (Xian, Chongqing) and Southern China (Lijiang, Shenzhen). Some places i only stayed for 1/2 day trip due to restraints in time given that it was only 3 weeks but due to the amazing and rapid changes in China's transportation system, it was possible to visit such vastly distant places and criss-cross China in 3 weeks.

I'll start with describing each location in order of my travel itinerary:

Shanghai 22nd-26th Oct 2011:

I arrived in Shanghai first on China Eastern Airlines (which was the cheapest airline i could find, as usual, Chinese airlines are much cheaper and more affordable compared to other airlines). It was nice and comfortable, and much better than I had expected, after reading all the horror reviews online, since i had never sat on a Chinese airline before..much like sitting on an airplane in the 90s without TV screens on the back of seats but rather comfortable and food was alright too..people who cannot understand Chinese may find it abit daunting though as the flight attendant's English may not be the best..but overall very good value for the money..

I arrived in Shanghai at night and took the Maglev train wooshing me into Shanghai Pudong in just under 7mins from Pudong Int'l Airport. Transferred to an MRT train line and went into Shanghai CBD near the Bund. My hotel for the 1st night was The Astor, a heritage hotel near 'The Gardens Bridge' i think, another historical bridge which always shows up in old movies and footage of Shanghai. Checked in and put all my luggage and went out for dinner/supper on Nanjing East Road area...basically, i enjoyed Shanghai alot and it was 7 years plus since i last visited and it was very modern and fastpaced just as i remembered it to be, the metro lines have more than doubled since i last visited in late 2003/early 2004 and overall the city is very modern and reminded me of Taipei but a much more crowded, fastpaced, and modernised city...

Huangshan 25th- 26th Oct 2011:

I took the long-distance bus from Shanghai to Mount Huangshan which takes around 4-5 hrs on the modern expressway. Along the way we stopped for a toilet break and refueling and as i looked across the rest stop to another building which had traditional chinese architecture and the clean wide expressway with the cold breeze, it being late Autumn in China already, i couldn't help but feel amazed at the development and sense of modernity as this could be an expressway in Japan for all you knew, but it was China, in the early 2010s...anyways, arrived at Huangshan's Tangkou at the bottom of the famoust mountain, (China has many famous mountains such as Mount Ermei and Mount Lu but Huangshan is THE most famous and apparently most drawn Mountain in Chinese paintings through history) and took a cable car up the mountain. The cable car used European technology and i was very impressed given that it was VERY VERY high up and the view was superb. It was like Hong Kong's cable car in Lantau Island but way longer and steeper. I had booked a night up the mountain so that i could experience the sunrise atop Mount Huangshan given that if you live below the mountain, the cable cars don't start until later and you will miss the sunrise by the time you get up...but prices were very steep given it was up a mountain and all provisions had to be carried up manually such as food, clothing,furniture,etc. I was frankly quite impressed with the hotel i stayed in despite all the crappy reviews online, considering the fact it was so far high up there and everything including staff had to be brought from below the moutain...anyways set the alarm and woke up early with others to watch the sunrise and went down the hill via cable i had been told that the next bus back to Shanghai was much later than i expected reaching Shanghai at night (when i had planned going to collect my tailored clothes and dinner with my friend) i risked it by taking a shared car (very common in China) and going thru narrow winding roads thru semi-countryside into the town (an experience!!) to catch another bus which departed earlier from the town and thank god there were still tickets which meant i could catch this earlier bus arriving in Shanghai much earlier in the afternoon as planned to go to the tailor,etc.
One tip about going up Mount Huangshan, apparently from my friend and pix i've seen online, there can be 1-2 hour long queues just to get into a cable car and the waiting area is long, but when i went, there was hardly any queue and i got into a cable car to go up the mountain within 15 mins, which means try to go late in the afternoon when the crowds have gone as most ppl don't live up the mountain and usually leave by late afternoon as the sky gets darker and the last cable car down is nearing..

Nanjing 27th- 28th Oct 2011:

Nanjing has always been a city that i wanted to visit, not least due to the history of the Rape of Nanking (Nanking Massacre by the Japanese Imperial Army during WW2) and also being the Republican era Capital of China before the current capital city of Beijing.

I had missed my earlier high speed rail ticket to Nanjing from Shanghai and couldn't take the next one as it was fully booked too and thus arrived alittle later than expected for my schedule. The high speed rail was my 1st time sitting a Chinese bullet train (i think!) and it was super fast criss-crossing across the Chinese landscape passing many cities which were very developed beyond my expectations, such as Wuxi, where i could see many skyscrapers. I had originally planned 2 full days in Nanjing which turned out to be only 1 1/2 days and so still managed to visit almost all the tourist spots but some only on the outside as they were closed once i got there, for example the Sun Yat Sen Maesoleum on Purple Mountain and the Zhonghua Gate.

Also visited of cos the Nanking Massacre Museum in the suburbs which was a really good museum showcasing the history and i particularly liked the small garden/park outside the main exhibition buildings which are surprisingly good spots for a picnic or chat with friends despite the solemn meaning behind this museum.

Loved Nanjing street snacks such as the duck blood soup noodles amongst others and visited Confucius Temple and the pedestrian shopping/restaurant area surrounding it. The night scenery was really quite amazing!!

Also visited Xinjiekou, Nanjing's premier shopping district, and some of the malls there were so classy:) Had shabu-shabu too..nice..Nanjing actually has a nice feel to it and also visited the former University of Nanking and Former Ginling Women's College, both refugee camps during the Rape of Nanking..i actually visited/came across 3 refugee camps during the Rape of Nanking whilst in Nanjing, but now you can't see much traces of that due to the time and refurbishment...

Nanjing in many ways reminds me of Taipei...well, one must not forget that the Republican government which governed from Nanjing later fled to and is now governing Taipei and Taiwan, thus the similarities may well be expected i suppose;-)

Beijing 29th Oct- 5th Nov 2011:

I flew to Beijing from Nanjing  and arrived early in the morning. Took the train into the city and checked into my hutong hotel. Got upgraded again and the room was nice and really comfortable and spacious despite having booked and payed for the cheapest room online...(this happened to me almost my entire trip in China, getting upgraded to much better rooms, and coincidentally also in Bangkok 1 month later as well where i was upgraded at both hotels) Went to Tiananmen Square, National Concert Hall, the Forbidden Palace (my first meal in Beijing was good old traditional Beijing Zhajiangmen inside the Forbidden Palace, and it was yummy surprisingly!!) ,Qianmen, on my first day...

I visited many places in Beijing as i had allocated the most days to it for my entire trip, but quite frankly, the whole city didn't give me such a good atmosphere, the pollution was quite horrendous actually and there was a concrete, semi-industrial feel to the city..i went to too many places to mention all, but a few places would be Peking University, Qinghua University campus, Wudaokou and having dinner at a second level hidden pub/dinner, viewing Maple leaves at Xiangshan and the street food there was great (took the Beijing bus there, quite a nice experience!), Summer Palace and sat on a boat there, Beijing financial street area, Xidan shopping area ( had Taiwanese meal for dinner there, so-so),Houhai Area ( had a high-end vegetarian lunch here), Drum Tower, Yonghegong Lamma Temple, Temple of Heaven (omg, the highlight here was actually the group of elderly and others outside in the parkland  exercising, singing, playing badminton, and even a fashion catwalk by a group of senior citizens which i happen to have a whole video of!!, hahaha..), 798 Art District ( bought a pair of cheap working shoes whilst transiting to get here!!), watched a performance at the National Performing Arts Centre 'Rhino in Love', and managed a trip to an authentic morning market called Rendeli/Sihuan Morning Market..the food there looked so good:)

Tianjin Oct 31st 2011:

I went to Tianjin via the highspeed rail from Beijing taking 30 mins only. I had arrived at Beijing South Station (i think!) abit late and was told i had missed the ticket sales for the time i wanted and had to take the next one..however, as the two ticket holders were allowed in around the same time, i just went into the earlier one just as it was about to pull out of the station and got into the closest compartment. I then preceded to find an empty spot and sat down hoping fervently at this late stage that no one would turn up and the train pulled off the station and i was relieved. I only realised i was in the 1st class compartment (the Beijing-Tianjin highspeed rail has a 1st class and normal class) when i had bought the normal class ticket. The 1st class compartment was really really nice and high-end in its atmosphere, the seats had press-buttons and functional buttons and the furnishing of the interior was top class. As the train whizzed through the countryside between Beijing and Tianjin, it simply felt as if i was somewhere in Europe with a Western guy very well dressed fidgeting with his computer. Anyways, after arriving in Tianjin, i got out of the station and wandered around, had a Chinese breakfast, walked through the historically protected buildings abundant in parts of Tianjin, as well as went to the commercial and shopping district for a quick tour for comparison with other Chinese cities. I also passed by and entered a Chinese wetmarket and took some photos ( i just love visiting wetmarkets in Asia!haha!) I also managed to squeeze in a trip taking the Binhai Express metro rail to the Binhai New Development Area but ended going 3/4 of the way and sitting right back to the Tianjin downtown area as i was going to miss my train back to Beijing if i went any further, cos it was quite far in reality as compared to the map...I then took the high speed rail back to Beijing in the afternoon, ending my 1/2 day trip to Tianjing, this time on the normal class compartment which was really normal...

Part Two coming up in a few days (or weeks???hahaha..)...keep posted!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Aamir Khan's Show of Conscience:)

Aamir Khan, whom i knew from the movie 'Earth' (which is a highly recommended film dealing with The Partition of India in 1947, which i saw on SBS channel back in my university days in Melbourne one evening almost 10 yrs back n how i first came to know about the horrible circumstances of the partition of India and Pakistan.) has a talk show called 'Satyamev Jayate' (which is apparently a national phrase of India meaning Truth/Justice will prevail. ) I watched the first two episodes on youtube with english subtitles and it was great, he deals with alot of taboo and sensitive topics happening in India such as female foetal genocide, sexual child abuse,etc.

With his fame and popularity, this show will surely greatly open up discussion and greater social awareness to talk about and deal with these issues in contemporary India.

  Please see episodes (with English subtitles) here: (this is the 2nd episode, the uploader 'StarWorldIndia' has all the episodes and uploads each new episode regularly). Hope you all watch it!!:)

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

March Madness...

I know its May already but a recap of March... I went to the Mardi Gras Parade 2012 and it was great as usual...altho raining heavily throughout and one point i was thinking what i was doing there with the downpour but enjoyed it overall and looking forward to next yr!!

Attended Picasso Exhibition with a friend at the Art Gallery of NSW and altho i didn't get it much (but then, i usually attend and love art exhibitions for the crowd, atmosphere, and the feeling of being 'trendy' and 'artsy' more than the admiration of the art itself..haha...apparently the Picasso exhibition attracted the biggest attendances for any exhibition ever held by the Art Gallery.

Went rowing a small boat at the Royal National Park at Audley for the 1st time in my life and loved it..coincidentally the photo of me relaxing on the boat attracted one of the most 'likes' in my facebook history from friends..hahaha...then had a bushwalk with the gang of friends through the Royal National Park next...

Went again to 'Miros', my fav Spanish Tapas place on Liverpool Street in the CBD..their chorizos in caramelised apple is highly recommended...also went to 'The Red Door' bar again with a friend after for desserts..another intimate hidden underground place suited for intimate cosy conversations with friends..really nice:)

Visited a couple of art galleries and explored the Potts Point/Kings Cross/darlinghurst area during Art Month Sydney and enjoyed re-exploring the Potts Point area..

Met up with a high school friend of mine from Melbourne (and currently residing in Munich with her partner) and took her out to Surry Hill's Monkey Magic for a nice catchup dinner..was fantastic catching up on our lives since 1 yr ago when i visited Melbourne and caught up with her and other Yr 12 friends of ours..i also discovered Sydney's best kept off the beaten track 'treasure' being this underground 'longest travellator in Australia' i swear! So cool..hidden and connecting an underground carpark to an exit coming out in the middle of a park...the travellator's walls are painted with imagery as well!!

I also got to meet with the founder of 'Pink Dot' Singapore and director Boo Jun Feng as well in Sydney (again! as i bumped into him and recognised him when i was in Singapore merely 3 months back and took a photo with him then! so happy!) and i took another photo with him..haha...

Anyways, i did much more stuff in March, not mentioning February when i was in a hummer limousine ride party for my friend's b'day and April when i went up to the the MCA Cafe at the rooftop of the new MCA wing for lunch and the spectacular views as well as toured the new MCA and also went for the 1st time to the Hunter Valley/Port Stephens(saw the dolphins up close!! omg! so unbelievable!)/ Central Coast with a couple of friends during the Easter Long Weekend.:) Oh well, can't update on everything happening in my life..too hectic and busy with happenings and social life i guess so that's my reason for the absences to my blog since this year!

Will try to blog more often though..

Monday, May 07, 2012

Australia's Largest Garage Sale Day 2012:-)

I set up my very own garage flea sale on Australia's annual garage sale last Saturday and sold mainly items donated from my friends from last yr..and did pretty well! I went with the tagline 'Everything for $1, cheaper than the cost of a newspaper, cheaper than coffee, cheaper than the Sydney Morning Herald!' which always managed to put a smile and laughter on most people's faces..and i sold half of what i brought there in the beginning in just over 3 hrs which wasn't too bad..i think i should just consider a side job in selling stuff! Anyways, I met so many interesting and nice people, people who decided to buy stuff i think more out of goodwill and anything else, some not even bothering to try something on and just buying it from me..i also met this elderly gay senior citizen whom proceeded to tell me about his handsome young Taiwanese General Practitioner (GP) whom he describes as very straight and whom rejected his marriage case you were wondering, he had asked me where i was from, and i said not from china and he immediately said 'from Taiwan then?' and i was like how he knew and he was like 'oh, everyone whom insists they're not from China are from Taiwan...hahahahaha..anyways, there was alittle bad note in that i got told off my the owner of a fence which i was using to remove the items, but besides that, it was a really nice afternoon spent...i ended it with a nice meal at a new restaurant in Glebe ( cos i was selling at Glebe Point Road, at the same spot as last yr)...i'll probably do it again next yr!!:)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Singapore+Bangkok 2011-2012 Christmas/New Year Last-Min Vacation:)

I know i should probably start with publishing my China trip post but i'll do one of my Singapore/Bangkok trip 1st:)

Singapore Dec 28th-2nd Jan 2012 (NYE in Singapore):

I went to Singapore after 9 years (last time being Jan 2003!) and it has changed many malls and foreigners (or as the Sg govt likes to call them, foreign talent) all the service people are mainly filipinos and mainland mom joined me for our 1st overseas travel in years (altho its only Singapore) and we walked around Chinatown hearing all this northern/mainland Chinese accent wondering where we were..haha..Singapore is a nice place to visit if you haven't been before or haven't been in a long while..but i wouldn't go every year..haha..went to the new Casino Marina Bay Sands, very impressed with the shopping mall attached to it, very classy, felt like in another country or something, but everything very expensive...also visited Sentosa Island, Chinese Gardens, Punggol Park Connector, Kampong Glam, Little India, Orchard Road, Dempsey Hill, Bukit Timah area looking at the elite schools such as Raffles JC, Chinese High, etc..most importantly, my trip was about meeting people, old friends whom i haven't seen in friend over 7 yrs and another almost as long as was a nice feeling sitting in their cars having them drive me around and also both married different from our uni days..another friend i hadn't seen in 10 yrs..took me around to places like Old Airport Road Hawkers Centre, Holland V, Haw Par Villa, was nice reminiscening..also spent New Year's Eve in Singapore...and of cos, tried Hainanese Chicken Rice incl at Mandarin Orchard Hotel and Yanting Dim Sum at the St Regis ( i think!!)
Was nice catching up with my mom as well..

Bangkok Dec 24th-27th 2011 (Christmas in Bangkok):

As for Bangkok, it was over 5 years since i went last (mid-2006 being my last time) and i really wondered what took me so long!! I took Emirates Airlines for my BKK/SG trip and i was lucky enough to get a seat during the Christmas peak season for a cheap price ($1300 plus i think!) as i booked it like merely 10 days before flying (as this Christmas trip was really very very last min) and i guess the airline lowered the price thinking no one would buy so last min and thus still wanted to sell out the empty seats..actually the ticket even went down to $1,200 the day after i had bought my ticket..this is cheap compared to the $1800+ tickets for all other airlines so i was VERY lucky!

Anyways, Bangkok was heaven as expected with cheap delicious food, fabulous stylish cool clothes,etc and even though i had barely returned from my China 3 weeks vacation in mid-November and told myself not to spend money buying stuff in Bangkok and just spend on food+sightseeing, i still ended up spending quite abit on clothes in bangkok (and alittle in Singapore)..i mean how could you not in a city like Bkk??!!!

The clothes and shopping at Chatuchak Market was to-die-for (as expected!) and the food in Bkk is cheap too..i also managed to have Coca Steamboat which i always loved since young in Penang when they had a branch back then..and shopped around Siam Square, Siam Paragon, Central World, MBK Centre,etc...managed to squeeze in 10 mins at the new(ish) Terminal 21 Shopping Mall in Sukhumvit and also sat on one of those "scooter taxis" which they only have in Bkk!! I actually ask the scooter guy to take me to a specific MRT station despite knowing full well i could simply take the MRT subway right in front of my eyes and they kept pointing to the subway entrance and when i insisted (we had communication problems due to me not knowing Thai and them not knowing English) he took me i'm sure thinking what a dumb farang (foreigner) n what an easy buck to make...i met up with a highschool friend whom i haven't met in over 10 yrs and spent Christmas dinner with was nice considering how both of us didn't really change all that much in appearance nor personality in the intervening years..

I also met up and stayed the last night at my Thai friend's place whom i had known from my Japanese language exchange days back at Keio University in Tokyo for one semester in 2005. Nice to meet her parents and sister again too!!:) Anyways, loved the food, culture, and people of Thailand even more this time round and determined to come bck again sometime in the near future..not another 5 1/2 yrs again! Alright, gonna start writing my China Autumn Trip 2011 now,...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Worthwhile and Interesting Blogs Which I Read Interview Series:) Interview Five: He Needs Food

Once again, i must start off by apologising for my long absence from the blogging world despite saying i'll try to keep motivated to continue blogging, just been too busy with work, social life, personal activities,etc...but hey, this blog has been around since early 2005 so its already a feat its still going on when so many other blogs have shut down, etc..(i know, i know, making excuses for myself.)

Anyways, I wanted to apologise also to the blogger interviewed here as it took me a long delay to post this up, and i really appreciate the time and effort people spent to answer my interview questions, so apologies for such a long delay 'he needs food' blogger!!:-) Truly!! I simply was too preoccupied with other things to deal with this blog but still its no excuse! Sorry!:) Anyways, without further ado, here's the ten Q & A:

1) What is the name of your blog?
he needs food

2) When did you start blogging?
I began blogging in December 2009

3) How did you pick the name for your blog?
To be honest I don't remember how and why I settled on 'he needs food' but I guess it's self explanatory and sums it up perfectly.

4) How did it get started? What motivated you to start a blog and what keeps you going?
It all started when Urbanspoon first began with its website in Sydney. Not only did I add a massive bulk of restaurants to its database, but I started writing user reviews of places I'd been to. My reviews gradually became longer and I remember noticing for the first time that bloggers were linking up to Urbanspoon with their own reviews. This led me to read a few of them and decide to start one up myself on the free Blogger site. Talk about scary! I mean, who would want to read anything I had to say? Within six months I decided to get my own domain name and website and break free from the limitations that Blogger had and couldn't provide in terms of the design I strove for.

Having my own online opinion about what I ate at a particular restaurant fascinated me and when like-minded people responded and commented on what I wrote started the initial motivation.

5) How did you decide on what your main focus for your blog would be?
Back in December 2009 when I started out my main focus was simply reviewing where I ate and I also threw in the occasional home-cooking recipe. These days my site is a mix of restaurant and cafe reviews, weekly recipes and my personal travel tales and reviews from overseas and local trips. It's now more of an open travel and food journal for me to keep and for anyone to delve into for their own personal curiosity or resource. Also when I lose my memory later in life I'll have this visual record of where I'd been and what I ate!

6) Did any other blogs inspire and influence your blog? What other blogs do you read?
I think it was reading food and travel magazines that inspired me more than other bloggers. I'm far from being a good writer so I make my images more of a focus rather than my ordinary writing. I read a handful of blogs several times a week just to keep up with the blogging community and keep in touch with them. People like Grab Your Fork, Corridor Kitchen, Green Been Food and The Littlest Anchovy. There are many more.

7) Is blogging a full-time job now? Or is it a side-hobby? And if so, what do you do besides blogging?
My blog isn't my full-time job but to be honest sometime it does feel like it. My real job is managing a gift & homeware store, something I've now been doing for about 10 years. It's fun, lets me be creative, sometimes takes me overseas on buying trips and allows me the time and freedom to do what I want. I was once a chef but threw that in over a decade ago.

8) What are some of the perks you've enjoyed personally as a blogger? Alternatively, what have you gained or learnt from your blog?
PR agencies have really embraced the blogging community and many seasoned bloggers revel in the constant emails of event invitations and restaurant and product promotions. I don't do as much as I used to as I find when a group of bloggers is invited to an event the result is a blog written about the same meal on the same night. It gets repetitive and has started to bore me. I have had the occasional free meal but the one experience that stands out is being invited by Wellington Tourism with three other bloggers, flown to New Zealand and whisked around Wellington & surrounds for 4 days of eating, drinking and exploring. I loved it.

Somehow I've gained a level of respect from many of my followers/readers in that they really do value my honest opinion on everything I write about. It's a little bizarre and I'm still getting used to the attention some of these people give me.

9) What is the most memorable compliment(s) you have received about your blog?
I think the most memorable compliment somebody gave me was an email out of the blue from an anonymous reader and loyal follower. They'd never commented on anything I posted and decided to let me know that they tried one of the recipes I posted, loved it immensely and even attached photo's of their dishes. I felt so proud that they even made something I created!

10) What would you like your readers to know about you which they may not already know from your blog?

There isn't a lot that my readers don't already know, especially now that I've said what my real job is. I think many of my readers may think I always eat dumplings (considering I've been labelled as Sydney's dumpling king). The thing is I very occasionally eat them. But when I do, everyone needs to know about it!

Another thing people may not realise, but I'm sure they could guess, is the amount of time I invest into my site. I'm not a professional photographer so I rely on post editing the shots I take and gridding them all together the way I do takes time. As for the writing, my least favourite part, it can take forever sometimes. I think I spend between 20-25 hours a week on my website. That doesn't include the recipe posts, the cooking and the photography. It doesn't help when I'm now posting three times a week!

So please head on to 'he needs food' for his inspiring travel, foodie, and photo posts:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year of the Dragon, Everyone:-)

Happy Chinese/Lunar New Year, everyone:-)

Hope everyone has a prosperous, healthy, and fulfilling year of the Dragon!:-)

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Worthwhile and Interesting Blogs Which I Read Interview Series:) Interview Four: Matt Schiavenza: From the Dragon to the Apple

1) What is the name of your blog?
My blog is called Matt Schiavenza: From the Dragon to the Apple . For the first three years of its existence it was called “A China Journal”. Creative, huh? The three years before that I had a blog called No Borders No Limits.

2) When did you start blogging?
I dabbled in blogs here and there when I was in college, but I didn’t write regularly until 2004, when I moved to China.

3) How did you pick the name for your blog?
I titled my first blog No Borders No Limits because I fancied myself a world traveler who would live in many different countries, teaching English and generally being a bum. Had I known that I’d have stayed in China as long as I did, I might have thought differently about it!
I then decided to have an eponymous blog, for a few reasons. One, I was trying to build a portfolio as a writer and thought it was important that people knew my name. Two, I was getting tired with the anonymity of the Internet; all the comment threads I read seemed to devolve into nasty arguments among people hiding behind fake names.
To be honest, I didn’t put an enormous amount of time into the subtitles of my site. “A China Journal” I chose because it was simple and direct, and that’s what I was going for at the time. “From the Dragon to the Apple” was just something I thought of, and while I don’t like it all that much I can’t be bothered changing it!
How did it get started? What motivated you to start a blog and what keeps you going?
When I lived in Italy for a year as a foreign student, in 2001, I used to write long e-mails describing my life to a group of friends. As the year progressed I put more and more effort into them, and as a result began receiving more positive feedback from my friends. This was the first time I had an “audience” as such.
By the time I moved to China in 2004 blogs had become quite popular, and I understood then that they were a unique and powerful tool that wasn’t going to go away. I felt that writing a blog would not only help my friends and family follow me from afar, but would also provide a platform for my thoughts and ideas. I wanted to join the conversation, so to speak.

4) How did you decide on what your main focus for your blog would be?
Initially, I didn’t pick a focus for my blog at all, so as a result in the early years my site jumped from topic to topic. I wrote about baseball, about American politics, about China, really about whatever popped into my head that particular day.
Then on the advice of a friend I started to focus my writing a bit more on China, because this was an area that I felt like I could “add value”, to use the hackneyed term. I realized that a lot of people were interested in what life was like in China, and as a person living there I could contribute something to their understanding. When I focused on China I found that my writing became more consistently interesting.
Nowadays things have gone full circle- I write about whatever pops into my mind again. This is due to being back in the US, where I necessarily have less to say about China. In addition I feel that I write about China in other forums so can reserve my personal blog for whatever interests me.

5) Did any other blogs inspire and influence your blog? What other blogs do you read?
Other blogs influenced me greatly. Back in 2003 and 2004 very few news organizations had blogs, so the medium was dominated by amateurs. There was really a sense that no matter who you were, if you wrote well your voice would be heard. Through these bloggers I learned about the importance of linking to others, the utility of embedding images and videos, and so forth- the nuts and bolts of the medium. Andrew Sullivan, in particular, inspired me. I’ve been reading his blog almost every day for several years now.
I’ve restricted my blog reading now to a handful about China—Danwei, The Peking Duck, China Hearsay, China Geeks, etc.—and a few others writing about other subjects. I love Techcrunch. There’s a blog about the San Francisco Giants, my favorite baseball team, that I love called The McCovey Chronicles. Foreign Policy magazine hosts several excellent blogs, including one by the well-known International Relations scholar Stephen Walt. Nowadays you can find good blogs written about just about everything.

6) Is blogging a full-time job now? Or is it a side-hobby? And if so, what do you do besides blogging?
Blogging isn’t and has never been a full-time job for me, though I wouldn’t mind if it were! I’m a full-time graduate student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and am also currently an online reporter at the Asia Society here in New York.

7) What are some of the perks you've enjoyed personally as a blogger? Alternatively, what have you gained or learnt from your blog?
When I moved to China the community was so small that before long we all got to know each other, at least virtually. Whenever I visited Beijing or Shanghai I made a point to seek out bloggers I knew there, and some of my best friends in China are people I originally knew simply as bloggers. But perhaps the greatest perk was simply being told by strangers that they liked or admired my blog, and even in one or two cases that my blog helped inspire them in some way. That to me is quite an honor.
I’ve learned an enormous amount through the blog, but most importantly I gained a much-needed sense of humility. I’m lucky to have readers who know a lot more about things than I do, and every time they’ve corrected me on something it has made me smarter. Blogging in general has taught me a lot of the basics of being a writer, such as the importance of reading what you write before submitting it, and how to attribute ideas you borrow to the right people. In addition, simply the act of writing a lot, of getting bad writing out of my system, has made me better at it.

8) What is the most memorable compliment(s) you have received about your blog?
To be honest, I can’t think of any single compliment that I have received that stands out. But what I will mention is this—even when it doesn’t seem like anyone is reading, you’d be surprised who has heard of you. I’ve learned this on a couple of occasions, when I’ve had the honor of having well-known people tell me that they’ve heard of my site. Needless to say I was floored.

9) What would you like your readers to know about you which they may not already know from your blog?
Ha, well…I suppose that I’m not always so serious in real life!

Please head over to Matt's blog for a read at:

Friday, January 06, 2012

Happy 2012 Everyone!:-)

Happy New Year readers!!:-)

My sincerest apologies for my prolonged absence but wait...i have an excuse..I flew off to Bangkok and Singapore during the Christmas and New Year Eve break and had a 10 day holiday (yes, i know, just right after n barely a month after coming back from China 3 week holiday!)..anyways, I enjoyed myself ton, caught up with alot of old friends whom i haven't seen in years, their parents, got intro to siblings or partners,etc..and rediscovered Bangkok and Singapore again after 5 years and 9 years respectively! Yes it was that long although i've been to both places, but been literally years since the last time!

I will be posting on my China, Bangkok, AND Singapore trip shortly, fingers crossed, hehehe..hopefully within the next 2 months..

Anyways, a quick update, i kinda like this Singaporean Chinese guy..i got to know him at a social meeting less than 2 months back and after alot of 'fate encounters' (i really believe in yuan fen (chinese term for fate or meant to be)) without which we would never have been friends or had the opportunity to develop a friendship beyond the mere hi-bye acquaintance relationship, i discovered he meets so MANY of my criterias and checklist for a 'husband' (as opposed to boyfriend material, he's def husband material in my books) that i've slowly and gradually gotten to like him more and more, i'm very comfortable around him, and he ticks almost all my criterion checklist, from his age to occupation, to family background, values, and much more..its funny cos he's not actually the kinda guy whom would attract me sexually or in terms of looks right away but he makes me very comfortable..i even met up with him in Singapore as he happened to go bck at the exact time i was there (another 'fate opportunities'!) However, i know he doesn't like me in that way as he's so sensitive and smart, i think he knows i kinda like him and wanna develop our relationship but he's showing alot of signs from his attitude and stuff that he doesn't like me in that way...oh god, i thought of giving up but i told myself, when will i meet a guy whom meets almost ALL my criterias next if i give up on him now? And besides, its been barely 1.5 months since we know each other and we have had so many opportunities to meet and stuff, i don't wanna give up after consulting with some friends of mine, i've decided to keep trying and maybe tell him my feelings in one month or two months time n see how it goes..cos i don't think we can even be friends with his current attitude so what's there to lose anyways i think??

Anyways, 2011 has been a very very good year for me in terms of friendship, family relationship, possible start of my first relationship (Yes, i've nvr had a boyfriend before nor a sexual relationship with a man!at 28!) and travels!
Hope 2012 will be good for me and my readers too!:-)

ps: I actually visited a blogger's store for the 1st time today, he was gracious enough to allow me to interview him for the 'interesting bloggers series' which i have and he told me he opened a store somewhere in Sydney..and so i so happened to pass by today and popped into his's really nice n much bigger than i expected..i think i even saw him..quite a nice thing to do, visiting a blogger's store whom i have corresponded briefly on email..but i didn't say hello as i didn't want him to think it was being weird visiting his shop..haha..maybe i'm thinking too much..but it was something interesting i did today:)