Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Shigatse (Day 4)

It was a long ride on the jeep today, 9 hours in total.

Yamdrok lake, the 2nd largest lake in Tibet, at altitude of 4,900m. It was quite cold at the site.

No I haven't drove to Gobi desert. This is only some mountain slope which we drove pass along our way to Gyantse. The sand dune is beautiful.

I am really tired today so this shall be a short post. Enjoy the scenery.

I think I saw Shangri-La (Tibet Day 3)

I cannot explain what kind of ordeal I went through yesterday night. On my 3rd day in Tibet, the altitude sickness hit me worst! Dizzy, drowsy, headache, vomit, fever, cold.... makes me wonder why I chose to come on this hardship tour. In a desperate attempt, I said a prayer, hoping that in this holy land (and after all I have visited quite some number of monastries and paid respect to the Buddha) someone up there will hear me and relief me of these sufferings. Miraculously, today, I am alive and kicking!

Now to back track to Day 3. Visited Gandan Monastry which is located on a cliff side at altitude 4,200m. I think the excitment of seeing Gandan could be the main reason for me feeling so sick that same evening because at high altitude, we are suppose to take it slow and easy. However, I was too excited on seeing the Gandan Monastry and I repeatedly exclaimed "Amazing....". For a moment, the Shangri-La that I have pictured in my mind for years suddenly become real right in front of my eyes.

Gandan Monastry built in the 15th century at altitude of 4,200m

Maybe this is the "Blue Moon Valley" in the Lost Horizon?

This is a prayer flag. Blue=sky, White=cloud, Red=Fire, Green=River, Yellow=Earth. The traditional Tibetans believe in paying respect to the natural elements of the world.

And here's a lovely picture of the Potala by night..... enjoy!

Monday, 22 October 2007

Lhasa Potala Palace (Day 2)

Finally I arrived at the much anticipated Potala Palace.

The original Potala was originally built in the 7th century and was restored by the 5th Dalai Lama to the current state in the 17th century. Once the tallest building in the world (before there were those skyscrappers), the Potala consist of 13 storey.

There are the white and red buildings in Potala, white for political meetings and red for religious purposes. No photographs are allowed inside the Potala but I can tell you that those walls and carpets that are centuries old are very well preserved still.

Today, there are quite many restrictions to get into the Potala. Firstly, tickets are limited to 1,000 per day and each tourist is allowed only 1 hour inside the Potala. From what I read, if you want to get tickets to Potala, you have to go there 1 day in advance to register and the next day to queue. My word of advice, contact a tour agency. Not only can they secure a ticket for you, it's best to have a guide tag along to explain the history of the Potala to you. Have your passport ready because at the security check point, passports are required for verifications.

Pilgrims getting into Potala. These are mainly nomads who will travel to Lhasa only during winter (in other seasons they will be busy with farming and grazing cattles).

The Potala is currently being taken care of by the Chinese authority. It is such an irony that the very people who caused the Potala to be partially destroyed during the cultural revolution are those who are profitering from the tourist visits to this palace today. I feel sad for the Tibetian people, they are no longer allow to enter the Potala freely. Something so religious and sacred like the Potala, who will have the best interest for it? And who will be in the best position to protect it and let it flourish for the many years to come, just like it did for the last couple of centuries?

An overview of Lhasa, the biggest city in Tibet. Once, it was only 12sq km big. Today, it is 56sq km.

A Tibetian lady with her dog. I asked for a photo of her and her dog, she was rather shy and was laughing at it.

Dear colleagues, if you are reading this, here's just a 到此一游 photo to prove that I have been to Potala! No download from the internet haha...

I wish I could share with you my entire photo collection in Lhasa but that will have to wait till I return home I guess. I am going to brave the cold and walk to Potala again to take some pictures of it by night.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Here I am in Lhasa, Tibet (Day 1)

Touched down in Tibet at 3pm today. The weather was great, bright and sunny, temperature 15dc.

At altitude of 3600m, I can't help but feeling dizzy. Despite the 红暻天 that I have dilligently consumed over the last couple of days, the altitude sickness seems to be hitting me now. But ok, I think my condition at this moment is still not too bad. Hope it won't get any worse.

As I flew into Tibet, I took some lovely pictures of the mountains. Isn't the view gorgeous?

The lake is turquoise and the mountains spectacular.

This Buddha painting was created in the 12 century originally. During the cultural revolution however, it was being destroyed. What we see here today has been restored 40 years ago, still bright and colour rich.

First glimpse of the Potala as my jeep drove us from the airport to our hotel. Tomorrow morning will be my excursion to the Potala and I have been warned, "rest well tonight, there are plenty of stairs to climb tomorrow".

Ok I shall go rest now. My fingers are starting to freeze inside this internet kiosk that is not heated. The weather in Lhasa really changes fast.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Shanghai Stadium (Day 3)

For a long time, I had a wish: to stand on the chair in a rock concert and dance and scream all night long. Today, I finally did it! In fact, I did more than that. I travelled 3,800km just to be at Shanghai Stadium tonight to attend Mayday's Jump concert and I was standing on the chair screaming for 3 hours straight!


A stadium that could accomodate 80,000 people. My hotel room has a view of the stadium... it wasn't planned ok, was a pleasant surprise for me as well.

阿信 during the rehearsal

I have never attended a concert that is staged outdoor and packed with so many people. It is amazing to hear the echo of 80,000 people humming familiar tunes from Mayday. Can you imagine for someone standing on the stage, what it would mean to see/hear all these?

It was a great evening though watching the concert for the second time is less exciting as compared to the first.

Tomorrow, I head for Lhasa where my real vacation begins.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Before I could love you more, it is time to part... Goodbye Shanghai (Day 2)

My first impression of Shanghai is that this is a city in a state of chaos. The congestions on the roads, the motorbikes and bicylces that are moving haphazardly and sounding their honks, massive number of people everywhere. A particularly interesting sight is that on one road, you may find old Shanghai street with worn out houses and dirty streets; yet just within minutes, tall commercial and residential buildings are sprouting out everywhere. To add to the already chaotic city-scape, the designs of the skycrappers and their structures are completely unsynchronised.... so much effort put in city planning huh. It is as if the whole city is going through a "revolution". The city is crazy, this was my first thoughts... how about the people? Are they going to drive me mad too?

Exterior wall of the house is black from cooking smoke. This leads to the kitchen of a small eatery.

Bicycles, an important mode of transportation in China.

Street food, can't do without meat, can they?

Modern skyscrapper over looking Shanghai Old Street. Absolute contrast and confusion.

If you walked on a street and you thought you heard people quarreling, but only to realise that 2 simple folks are having a casual conversation, you are in China. If you go to a crowded place and ended up being pushed and banged into by someone more times that you can imagine, you are in China. If while you are admiring a chic and fashionable lady, you suddenly see her spitting along the roadside, no doubt about it, you are in China. This I think is what people call "cultural shock". Perhaps as a Chinese or Asian in general, it is easier to adapt. By day 2, I have become totally indifferent when I suddenly get pushed from behind because someone was trying to get ahead of me.

I went to Yu Yuan today. Shoe told me that this place is almost like Hangzhou. As you can see, historical Chinese architecture, lakes and rock sculptures, pretty much fits my imagination of what a garden built in 16 century should look like.

One thing to do at Yu Yuan (which I read from the guidebook) is to sip tea at Hu Xin Ting, a tea house. It is nice just to sit there and watch the crowd move around in Yu Yuan while also enjoying a good selection of tea.

The tea leaves are bundled into a ball initially and will blossom out into this beautiful "flower" when hot water is poured into the tea pot.

If I have to name one thing which I like best about Shanghai, it is how fantastic the city looks during the night. Whether it is The Bund or Pudong, the well lit buildings look gorgeous at night.

HSBC Building and Custom House

I can never have enough of Huang Pu River and the Oriental Pearl.

Peace Hotel, one of the oldest and first hotels in Shanghai.

So Shanghai has its own merits and charm which is probably why it has attracted tourists around the world to come visiting. I don't know why it took me so long before I decided to come to Shanghai... and if not for what I will be doing tomorrow, I might never come to Shanghai at all. I guess I am not that type who like to travel to modern metropolitan cities (which is probably why I have never been to the States) and I prefer mountains, lakes and breathtaking scenery... often involving long distance of travelling by bus, train, hike.... some call this hardship tour. Anyway, I have enjoyed my short stay in Shanghai.

This picture summarises it all. "A reflection of Shanghai City", where modernisation integrates with tradition and culture.

To be continued......

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Hello Shanghai! (Day 1)

It's good to be back online. After struggling with Shoe's Mac for one whole night, I finally figured out how to resize photographs and surf the internet. I am sure glad that I have been practising my Mandarin lately. The Chinese language platform on blogspot does not intimidate me!

First day in Shanghai, I am Heaven's favourite child today.... there was good weather wherever I go which makes the photographs look extraordinay (from my point of view lah, I'm easily impressed).

The Bund (My impression of Shanghai Tang)

Oriental Pearl and Pudong View

Shoe and her sis brought me to a restaurant M on the Bund which offers stunning view of Oriental Pearl and Pudong. It is a western restaurant and the prices are reasonably expensive (Rmb 100 for a main course which was what I paid for my entire dinner for 2 later that evening). But for a chance to sit at the terrace and admire this fantastic views, I think it is worth it.

Someone ate rabbit stew!

New photography technique that Mr Heng taught me last weekend..... The picture is named: "The world passes by in front of my eyes" (SSR does this phrase sound familiar?)

After lunch, we went to the old French Concession. The main attraction of this place is the unique views of the back alley. And there are lots of cafes and bistros of a mixed Italian / French style. They seem ok but not enough to impress me to sit down for a cup of coffee.

Next stop, Xintiandi. Heard so much about it but turned out to be a disappointment. It is no more impressive than Lan Kwai Fong in Hong Kong, I think even Clarke Quay is better than this.

Look what I saw at Xintiandi!

I love buildings and towers if you had not yet realised. I have started on a collection of "Tall Buildings in the World" and I am happy with the way the collection is growing. This is Jin Mao Building, one of the 5 tallest buildings in the world. I am surprised with how this photo turned out, simply stunning! (it looks better in full view)

I hopped on to a river cruise on Huang Pu Jiang. For just Rmb70, this is a one hour cruise ride. Definitely worth while to try. Along the way, we saw Oriental Pearl Tower.

More of the river view and The Bund at night from on top of the cruise. So beautiful.... wished you were here.

Night scenery of Shanghai City from top of Oriental Pearl Tower (360m)

There is a sight seeing tunnel that connects The Bund and Oriental Pearl. It is a monorail ride with some laser light shows on while you cross the tunnel. Rmb35 for this short ride, which I thought is quite expensive though it saves you the walking. Alternatively, you can take a ferry which cost Rmb2 only to cross the river from Pudong to The Bund. The ferry is not bad at all.