Saturday, November 25, 2006

Korean Toilets

In some places in Korea, the ones I saw were in Seoul and Busan and in restaurants, they have small toilets marked male and female. However, the male toilet is in fact the urinal and the female toilet has the toilet bowl.

Friday, November 24, 2006

map updates

Oops, I upgraded to the new blogger and my inserts stopped working. I added a new < div > section and hopefully all is fixed.

I have added all the places I stayed to the community walk map. I was having some troubles with the lines, so I have not updated the lines.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The best

I had not really considered this, but Tebby and a few others had asked me what was the highlight of the trip. I do not think that there is a single thing that stands out, so I will include a list, not in order from top to bottom, but in order occurrence.
  1. Staying at the Tea Guest House. This was a pleasant way to start the adventure. A traditional room with wireless internet, no other place would come close for a pleasurable stay.
  2. Cheong Ju. Perhaps the surprise item of the journey. The traditional guest house where I stayed was more authentic and better set up for long term travelers. The sights were impressive and easy to get to. The people traveling there were as interesting as the place. The history was an unexpected surprise.
  3. In Cheong Ju and the nearby temples I was for a short time a rock star. At first I was having my photo taken, and having people wave at me. By the end of the day I must have signed 10 to 20 autograph books. Perhaps this is the only time in my life this will happen.
  4. The rock concert in Dan Yang. It was free, as it was part of the Sillia Kingdom festival and we had some of Korea's top pop performers. The old man was my favorite. It was broadcast live on SBS, and I suspect, as the only foreigner I may have been on the TV. One camera certainly spent about 15 minutes pointing at me as the light on the camera was starting to hurry my eyes.
  5. Being stuck at Gangneug station in a flood.
  6. The hotel at Sheng Yang. It was not a great hotel, but to get to it I had to go through a restaurant, down some dark corridors and up a lift to the top (8th) floor to get to reception.
  7. The plant sculptures at Taiyangdao Park in Harbin.
  8. The Acrobatics show in Beijing. This is a bit unusual as I do not normally enjoy these shows.
  9. Xitang, the water town south of Shang Hai scrapes into the list.
  10. Teaching the English class and visiting two schools near Yang Shuo. This was my first teaching experience. I did not know what to do and Eliot saved the day. In fact he organized it.
  11. Visiting the Islands of Cheung Chu with Richard and Lan Tao with Tebby were pleasant interludes at the end of a long trip.

Last of the travel posts

This is the last of my travel posts. I plan to add a few posts later to describe specific things and events.

I spent my last day in HK traveling to Lan Tao to visit a chair lift. The yellow rain alert had been cleared the previous evening, but the rain persisted. I met Tebby and her husband and we were unable to catch the chair lift because of the bad weather. So we hopped on the bus to Tai O. This was one hour over the top of the Island. Tai O is a small fishing village. Unfortunately there was a fire 5 years ago and many of the fishing huts on stilts had to be rebuilt. It calls itself the Venice of HK, but I suspect that this is a somewhat overblown analogy.

Returning from the village we headed up the cable car. The cloud was down to about 50 meters and the view we should have had of HK International airport was only a wall of white mist. At the top we visited a small, modern village, built to service the people visiting the Big Buddha (not his name in Chinese). We had lunch (I had Beef Brisket, the first time I have seen this on the trip) and visited the big Buddha. Unfortunately he was covered in fog and you could only make out the shillohet of his head. I have not yet processed these photos, so they will either not work or will be really good.

Back in town I raced to get my bags from the hotel and travel to the airport. In the end I was short of time, so I used the check in counter at Kowloon station. This is a very civilized arrangement where you check in at the station and then travel to the Airport.

The flight was uneventful. I had two seats to my self and so had a slightly better nights sleep as I could half stretch out. There were no dramas at the Australian end and I am now at home.

Fish Shop

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A rainy day in HK

Well I started the day slowly. I slept in so much I almost missed breakfast. After an attempt to leave for Macao. I decided that I was too tired. So I spent the morning my hotel room. At lunch I left to send my papers (maps and brochures) I have collected in a package by mail. It turns out that of the 17 kg my bag weighed, 7 kg was this paper. My pack will now be much lighter. I wandered down to go to a local park, but the rain has set in so I returned to my hotel room. So no photos from today.

Chinese Icons

Monday, November 20, 2006

Visiting Work

Today I had an easy day after the hectic last few days. I went to work and visited my work colleagues here in HK. An unexpected thing happened. We had a fire drill HK style. This in itself was interesting. They has signs on the stairs where there might be confusion about the correct direction to take and there seemed to be people on the street directing us in he right direction. Though this may just have been the normal security guards. At the gathering point, there were sections marked off for each company and a stage. There was a lesson on what to do, including using fire extinguishers. We were given English translations so as not to miss out on the training.

After this we had lunch. This was one of the best meals I have had, and for HK was good value for money.

In the afternoon I just returned to my room, via the local markets. I used the tram on HK Island to get that tram experience. I went down for the free afternoon food and drinks. This is the first place I have been which has this as a offering. After one scotch on the rocks I was a little tipsy. And after all the food of the last few days, I skipped dinner, instead having the free salmon finger sandwiches and fish cakes.

A small footnote - the TV here in the Hotel has two chanels in Japanese.


Outlying Island

Yesterday ended with a meeting between the remnants of our group to see the light show and then we had dinner at the Outback Steakhouse. I uploaded a photo of this before, as I had seen a car of this place in Busan. However, it was interesting to actually go to the place and eat. It was expensive. The food was about as accurate of Australian food as run-of-the-mill Chinese restaurants in the west are of Chinese food. The general ideas were right, but the detail was all wrong and we had one dish I had never even heard of before. Though it was quite OK, it was not Australian.

This morning I met up with Richard. We had noodles for breakfast and then headed off to Cheung Chau, an outlying Island. We spent several hours wandering around the lookouts, beaches, temples and markets. We had lunch on the shore front. In the evening we returned and had a vegetarian dinner with his wife and one daughter. Later we went down to the light show, but this time I saw it from the HK island side. I think I am getting better at taking shots of this event.

outback resterant's car jason and ewen

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Hong Kong

Well I am in a swish hotel in Hong Kong and once again I can access my blog.

We arrived yesterday in Hong Kong and visited the harbor at sunset. It will take me a little while to catchup with the photos. The hotel we stayed in last night was full. So we tried a few other places, but they were also full. This morning I had the thought to ask my full hotel to book a room for me. They did and I have a relatively expensive hotel twin room for $1,400. However, we seemed to have received a free upgrade to executive class and I have free high speed internet in my room. I am very happy.

Today we also went over to HK island and had dumplings for lunch at a famous place, Ewen had been wanting to try. It had good food, but not superior. Perhaps this is becuase the general standard of food is very high.

More Yangshuo photos -

I have also uploaded some much older videos from Dalian.

Chinese Icons

HK and hotel rooms

We arrived by train at shenzhen and crossed the border by foot. After that we caught the subway into Kowloon. We are staying at the Stanford Hotel. They are booked out for Saturday and Sunday, so we were unable to get a room. It turns out the YMCA and several other places I tried were also booked out. So I was worried all night about where to stay.

In the afternoon we wandered down to the ferry terminal and as the sun set we took lots of photos. Prior to that we had to visit Starbucks for a coffee fix for out New York and Canadian colleagues. In the evening we had a dinner in a little HK style eating place. In the evening we went to a local bar. After playing an American drinking game we met some people from HK who have children living in Melbourne and Pennant Hills. I left at this stage (2 AM), but the others stayed until 4 AM.

This morning I had a brain wave while having an early breakfast as I could not sleep. I asked the hotel to book a room and we now have a place around the corner.

Night Lights

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Leaving Yangshuo on a bus and a train

Not sure why I am writing this. After school I spent some time working on the flaky internet connection back at my hotel. Now I am on the train from Guilin to Shenjen. We just had a photo session with Ewen for my photos and his. So I am on a top bunk. The camera is running on batteries as the power point is only accessible from the lower bunks. So we have a 220 Volt outlet with an Australian plug in the compartment. Very civilized. But there is no wireless internet on the trains... Yet.

On the way to Shenjen

yangshuo - boats and schools

Yesterday afternoon we drove to a town between Guilin and Yangshuo as the people in Guilin who control the river do not seem to allow boats to depart from Yangshuo. We did a short trip up river for about two hours including the place that was on the old 20 Yuan notes. The

scenery was spectacular.

This morning we headed off to a school. Eliot, who has been a teacher for many years, met these people who wanted people to come along to their school to help with English classes. In the morning we met this 81 year old Canadian man who has spent 4 years here in yangshuo helping organize the teaching of English. We traveled by small bus to a ferry upstream from Yangshuo and then went across from the river. The school had decided to have an impromptu picnic, which disappointed our guide immensely. I was surprised that he did not know any Chinese and I had to help with the translating until the English teacher arrived. We then headed back to their show case school. Here we held two classes at 11:00 AM. Elliot was great. I would not have known what to do in my first ever class of teaching English. But we got though about 20 minutes of geography, electricity and telecommunications before we lost control of the class. It was a most unusual experience. I took lots of photos.

Tonight we are off on the Train to HK. In a week I will be back in Australia.

Teaching a class

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Repost of Yangshuo message

For some reason this message did not get through...

Well I spent an easy afternoon yesterday after the bicycle ride. In the evening I had my first western dinner for a long time. Spaghetti Bolognese and Apple Crumble. In the evening I went to a few bars with Brian who is currently my room mate.

This morning the others went on a Balloon Ride. We then went to a cooking class. It was very interesting. The woks are run much hotter than is possible in Australia with the Natural Gas stoves and hence every thing happens more quickly. I learned some interesting variations from the local provinces on the more Cantonese approaches I would use.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Pangan to Yangshuo

In the morning I walked to the next village in the rice terraces with Betty and Heather. It was good as after the first half a kilometer we lost the women trying to sell us cloth, photo modeling and trinkets. The village does not get many tourists and was very interesting. In the afternoon we headed back down out of the mountains and on the way to guilin stopped to taster some tea. One was so good I purchased a small tin.

We arrived in Yangshuo, about 60 km south of Guilin yesterday evening. We had a yummy roof top dinner and today went cycling to half moon mountain. This place has changed very much since I was here in 1993 and I had a good talk about the change with our guide. We had one guide for two cyclists and I cycled with Heather. When I was here with Barbara we did the same bike ride. I think Yangshuo and the village at half moon mountain have changed as much as Shanghai if not more. The small village that was one Yangshuo is new a booming town. At Half Moon mountain, the village is now as large as Yangshuo was and almost all of the 64 mud brick houses have been replaced with many more three story high houses. There is now running water in the town.

Tea Plantation and Guide

Monday, November 13, 2006


Well tomorrow I expect to again get wireless internet and hence there will be a little burst of updates on my travels. We hopped on the bus to Pangan from Guilin airport. Eliot headed directly to Yangshuo I am guessing because of his back. On the way to Pangan we stopped at a roadside restaurant and had an excellent meal. Then it was up into the mountains. Here we are staying in an area known as the rice terraces and the photos will show why. While Pangan is the name of the village the area is called the Longji Scenic area. It is very beautiful. We are staying in accommodation built for westeners and there is another tour in the same building. However, it is quite basic accommodation, simple, clean and good. Though they say that next year they wilol get wireless internet.

In the afternoon we wandered the hills behind where we are staying. I then had my first massage, which was good, and then we had another great meal. The other group had purchased a local show, so we were able to watch that. It was somewhat touristy. Finally I had some wine, like rice wine, but made from some fruit that the owner of the place cannot explain in english.

bowl, ducks and rice

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Airplane Food


  1. Dried fish
  2. dried beancurd
  3. bean filled bun
  4. fairy cake
  5. cherry wafer like things
  6. nuts

Shanghai and Xitang

Well we headed off after a morning of burning DVDs for Eliot to Xitang. We had a small bus and traveled along the motorways. The toll system is extensive, but there are tolls every ten or so kilometers. After about an hour and a half driving south of Shanghai, we arrived at Xitang. We went there because it is close but not too touristy. The fee for entry was 10 Y, but we payed the 60 Y for entry to all of the sites in the precinct. Xitang is a water town. All along the old grand canal there are towns where the main streets are waterways, though there are many roads on the land side of the towns. We split up and I headed off down the main canal. After wandering down many back lane ways and side canals, I purchased a bamboo flute. I spent about half an hour in the shop. They had many instruments, but they were hard to play and only played about 3/4 of an octave. I do not know why they did not play two octaves, most had the same holes as a recorder would have. In the end I purchased a bamboo flutes. I played all the ones in the shop to get one that was at least in tune with itself.

Wandering further through the town, I finally fond the small food stalls like we had seen when we first entered the town. I also met up with Vahid at this time. We had several different types of sticky rice, at 5 to 8 jiao per item (10 jiao in a yaun and about 6 yuan in 1 dollar). They were all very good. I also had some meat, steamed in bamboo leaves. However, these locals only seemed to know their local dialect and I wad not able to determine what type of meat. It seemed to be pork. I also had some chinese peanut brittle stuff that I have had many times and is very good and some kind of local roasted green nut or seed.

In the evening we headed back to the hotel and I spent the evening indoors. I am now on the 7:45 flight with shanghai airlines from Shanghai to Guilin. (flight FM 9335).

bridging the canal

Friday, November 10, 2006

Xian and Shanghai

On the second, and last day in Xian we wandered off the few blocks to the south gate. Here we planned to get shots of people exercising in the park. But mostly there were musicians playing bamboo pipes, flutes and the occasional erhu. Betty and I wandered back down the calligraphy street and then I headed off to the Eight Immortals Temple. There are not many Daoist temples left in China. On the way I left the city walls behind and ended up in a residential area. There were lots of school children and they sent me the right way as I had travelled one block too far to the north. Again, I had some discussions with them in chinese and english and had groups of up to 20 children tagging along behind.

The temple was not a lot different in design to the buddhist temple, just the deities are the 8 immortals. I took some photos before heading back to the hotel. Here we met and caught the train to Shanghai.

In the train, we were split up. I shared a cabin with Eliot, the other Brian and a chinese woman who has lived in California for the last ten years. She knew little english and had a retinue of 4 young men (we presume family) to get all of her bags onto the train. The others named her the dowager princess. They did not enjoy sharing the cabin, though I was less concerned. We swapped bunks, and because the lower bunk is more expensive, she wanted to pay the difference. But I did not want the money. So after a 16 hour journey, we finally arrived in Shanghai.

It is good to be back here. It is the first place I visited in China, and it is still somewhat special to me. It is the best hotel so far. We went down Nanjing Dung Lu to theBund. I need to get back there at night to see if i can get a repeat shot of my favorite china photo. But I cannot remember which corner I was standing on. After that we headed off to Pudong and went up to a cocktail bar on the 87th floor of a building. It was excellent. We also had a great lunch and dinner down in the French concession. So the food here is Shanghai is excellent modern chinese cuisine.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Beijing and Xian

We had a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant. Then it was onto the train. Same as before, but this time the Z19 train from Beijing to Xian. We stayed up later having some wine. The night was disturbed a few times and we arrived at about 8AM.

We went to the hotel and then wandered around the Muslim district. Xian has changed so much since 1999. There are many more large buildings, though I am in a different part of town to last time. The muslim quarter is still very interesting and the other Brian and I had a lunch of roast persimmon patties filled with red bean paste, followed by a soup of bread, noodles and beef. After that we had lamb on a stick. In the afternoon we went to the terracotta warriors. The place has been updated a lot since 1999 and was much more pleasant to wander around. The warriors have not changed, though more seem to have been uncovered.

After this we had dinner at a place thatturned out by chance to be the same one as where we had lamb on a stick. We had a steam-boat type affair with lots of everything from bread and vegies to crab meat on a stick.

Drum Tower

Monday, November 06, 2006

Beijing day 3

We headed off to the Great Wall. We went to the great wall at Simatai. It has to be the most spectacular spot. We had a quick lesson on the bus. At the wall we tuned left and headed over the suspension bridge. I suffer from vertigo and was prepared for the walk. It is climbing down that causes the most problems, but it is the lack of sides that scares me. I also have trouble when the slope is higher than a certain amount. I made it to about tree towers along before we hit a section of wall with no sides as it was being rebuilt. So I waited for the others to return. It was cold, but as we were all rugged up, it was not too cold.

On the way back we stopped off for dinner. I have some nice foggy photos as my lens fogged up when we entered the restaurant. Later we stopped briefly as there was a head on accident on the road. I think that one of the issues with the roads here is that the is such a large difference in speed between the different vehicles. Drivers are constantly trying to overtake some truck going at 30 kmh. When the fleet of vehicles all become modern, there will be far fewer issues.

Great Wall of China

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Beijing day 2

Ewen gave us a lesson on Photography in the morning. We then went to the drum tower and then the hutongs and wandered around. After lunch Ewen and I went down to the Temple of Heaven and he helped me to learn to use my wide angle lens. I was surprised. I remembered the Temple of Heaven from 1999 as very grungy and I did not enjoy it much. However, they have renovated it and now it is spectacular. I still am struggling with it. Later in the day we went to an acrobatics display and then had a Tibetan dinner. I consider the dinner the highlight of the day. They had lots of great music and I purchased a CD. The others however did not enjoy the music so much. We had yak for one of the dishes.

Acrobatic plate twirling

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Harbin to Beijing

I think the day of rest of did me wonders. The overnight train was great. As I had the most expensive ticket, I was able to stay in the VIP lounge. They came and got me when it was time for the train. We left from platform one, and the wealthier people were driven in their cars right up to the carriage, so there were lots of cars on the platform.

The Z16 train was new. Soft sleeper is actually harder than it used to be. Also there are now 4 people rather than 2 per sleeper. So I shared my cabin with three well dressed women. The cabin also had a TV for each bed with about a dozen channels and headphones. There were two American movies mostly dubbed into Chinese and the rest were chinese shows. In the morning we arrived in Beijing. About every two minutes we passed a freight train going the other way. The journey took about 11.5 hours for a little less than 1300 kilometers.

In the morning I went straight to the hotel. The man who I am sharing with (Elliot) had already been in the room for 3 days. We met and wandered down to the old Ming Dynasty wall, near the train station. It was very interesting. After that we returned to the hotel and met the tour group. We had a group meeting and then went to the Houtongs or a dinner of Peiking duck.

Our little group is small. There is a tour guide, our shr fu, Ewen, Elliot, who is from the USA, an Irainian man who lives in Nevada, A canadian woman, two women from Melbourne and Geelong and a marketing man from the USA who does marketing in the USA for Grasshopper Travel who are running the tour.

I have uploaded the photos to yesterday afternoon.

A train leaving

Friday, November 03, 2006

In my room

Well I extended my stay in my room. I have finished uploading the video's of my time in Korea to . They are in reverse order. I missed a few, most deliberately, but one accidently, so I may upload the rest when I return. So I will check out at 18:00 and my train is due to leave at 20:30. I have also been going through the backlog of photos and uploading some better ones from previous days. I may do some more of that this afternoon. So they will be on Flickr - . The cold is not too bad, but I want to let it rest rather than have a bad cold over the next few days.

I have a cold

Well I am spending the morning here in my hotel. I have to check out by 12 PM. I have a cold and I am somewhat bored, but I think that staying inside rather than going out into the cold is the better thing to do. I might have to pay more so I can stay here for this after noon.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Harbin Temples

Well perhaps I made a mistake. I allowed three days for Harbin and two for Shengyang. With the benefit of hind sight perhaps it would have been better the other way around.

Today I wandered off to visit the temple district. On the way I passed three churches, two of which seemed to be Russian. At the western one they invited me into to listen to the sermon. However, it was all in Chinese. I did wander inside to see what it looked like. A plain room with bench seats. However, I explained that I did not know that much chinese and excused myself.

Only one of the two temples was open. It was an large and active affair and there were plenty of people in it. I had some of the most impressive pagodas I have seen. I will upload a photo of it later. They wanted to charge me 3 quai to get into the closed looking entertainment park, so I passed on that. I headed off to another temple and museum. However I headed off down the wrong road. The third person I spoke to knew where I wanted to go was located, and took me there down many back paths through the Harbin Engineering University. It was a simple temple and the history of nations seemed to be a single room which was a history of the Jin nation.

Hence, after a short day I returned to my Hotel. I will stay here tomorrow until check out time. There is still one park I want to visit, that I did not have time for yesterday as the sun was going down and then in the evening I am on the train to Beijing to start my tour.

Buddha and the pagodas

Videos and Photos

Well I have uploaded some photos from the last few days and some
videos from way back in Busan.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Yay - internet at last

Well between the man who helped, but only understood windows, and myself, we were able to configure my computer to work with the internet. So I am uploading my photos. I am happy again.

Harbin Day 2

Well I am a little annoyed. My Internet connection I finally worked out is in my room does not want to work with my computer. Later a boy with glasses will hopefully show up and show me how to make it work. I suspect I may need some extra software which would be sad. I also made the point of getting a computer in this wang ba with a USB port, but it does not recognise my stick. With a bit of luck I will be on line properly soon and finally be able to upload my backlog of photos.

Today I wandered through the Russian part of town. It is very interesting. I then visited the riverside park, and stopped at the virtual geocache. Again I need to upload the photos. The shops here are almost identical to those in the west and also have similar prices. It is like Germany. There is this old building, and when you go inside you could be in Myers or David Jones in Sydney.

I crossed the river by ferry, only 2 yuan, and visited the park on the other side. This is part of the dichotomy of China. I found a place that sold real cappachinos as I was hanging out for a coffee. It cost 38 Yuan, so I did not have one. Yet the ferry was only 2. Mcdonalds to KFC would be about 20 Yuan (or less) for a meal deal. I ended up having two free coffees in the Walmart supermarket at the nescafe stall.

Back to the park. It was quite expensive to get in, but it was perhaps the best park I have visited in China. It is called Taiyangdao park. I spent many hours in there including an interesting visit to the Russian Art Gallery. I am not sure if they were open. But they sold me a ticket at half price. I joined with a tour guide an one other Chinese man. The man knew some English and translated for me. In the end I got out my Chinese dictionary and we used this to translate difficult words like Mammoth and Abstract.

On the way back, I tried to cross over the bridge. But it turned out to be a railway bridge (I did not pay enough attention to the map). I asked a group of people if I could walk across and they said I could not. So they walked me back to the ferry terminal. They turned out to be going to school, though I suspect it was university. The level of English language amongst the younger people is very impressive.

three dragons