The grounds of the Zhaojue Temple and the Manjushri Monastery are vast. In both temple grounds, one could easily make a small pilgrimage, pit stopping at the numerous separate buildings housing separate halls for different prayer or contemplation purposes.
As I walk along the street, my arms laden with books, a woman with a child in tow stop me to ask for directions, “Do you know how to get to Tianfu Square?” she said in Mandarin, without hint of any regional accent. “Yes, you go straight and then take a left up ahead. Just follow this road.” I replied. As soon as I turned my attention from her to continue walking back to the hotel, the realization hit me that I, having spent less than a week in Chengdu city, China, was giving directions to a native of the land. I smiled and hoped that Tianfu Square was really where she was headed. I might have heard wrong.
The landscape of Chengdu, China, are said to have inspired poets from as far back as the Tang dynasty.
At Swan Lake, located within the compounds of the Chengdu panda research base, visitors will find more than pandas to sit and contemplate their hours. Some very hungry koi, a couple of black swans, and ducks, send ripples through the otherwise perfectly still cane coloured water reservoir.
I wonder what it is with sons of carpenters. One launches an entire institution of religion and the other, saves us from bad travel experiences and gives us the gift of luxurious, resilient travel bags.
The name Louis Vuitton evokes in me, not the large conglomerate fashion house with Nicholas Ghesquière (from 2013/4, who succeeded Marc Jacobs, from 1997) as artistic director of the empire, but rather the humble beginnings of the son of a carpenter who at age 14, in 1835, packed his bags in Anchay, Jura where he was born in France, and headed for Paris – on foot. He took odd jobs along the way to pay for food and lodging, all this while, perfecting his carpentry skills and expanding his knowledge on various types of wood.
400 km further away and one year later, Louis arrived in Paris to find a flourishing haute couture culture, where lavish and elaborate dressing was all the rage. It was here that he learnt to pack such elaborate outfits to perfection. And it was his dress packing skills and not foremost his carpentry skills that attracted the attention of Empress Eugénie. He became her favourite packer.
It was not long before he combined his dress packing skills with his carpentry skills to produce the first flat, stackable trunk for transportation. These stable and solid trunks were covered with grey Trianon canvas.
When in Shanghai, the last place I expected to find myself exploring come sundown is Lujiazui, the city’s financial district, as the more popular of nightspots would include Xintiandi or even the quieter street of Hengshanlu lined with all sorts of eateries from Turkish and Thai to Hunan cuisine.
Shanghai Word Financial Center (SWFC).
Still, walking down the pristinely clean streets of Lujiazui lit blue and orange from the surrounding buildings, called to mind the quiet of Raffles Place and Singapore’s very own Central Business District by night, where all at once, despite the glittering globes of the Oriental Pearl Tower in festive blue ahead, I couldn’t help but feel at home, thinking – this is Asia! – and how much I miss its vibes when living and working in Scandinavia.
I’ve far too often heard that Hong Kong has the best dim sum, so I was naturally excited about being in Hong Kong if only for the food.
But when in Hong Kong, like its so many shopping establishments, you’re confronted with so many eateries and interesting food choices that finding the recommended dim sum spots doesn’t even occur to you. You’ll find yourself pulled by interesting sights and smells to various foods on display, not the least amusing is watching people enjoy their meals standing at street corners, oblivious to heavy traffic not two feet from them. People stand and eat with the current rain on their shoulders, playfully dampening their fresh clothes and all of this plus the noise of the traffic and the rush of footsteps from others, makes you as a visitor want to get in on the act too – go completely local and tuck into some interesting food, standing in mud puddles and all.
Steamed meat dumplings.
Char siew bao.
After the first rush of excitement and confusion with authentic Hong Kong cuisine, I set about to find the Guide Michelin star dim sum restaurant, Tim Ho Wan (添好運點心專門店) which means “Add Good Luck” at Tsui Yuen Mansion, Kwong Wa St, Mong Kok. The place is notoriously tiny in seating capacity and has been described as literally, a hole-in-wall place to eat. Well, suffice to say, without much planning this time around for Hong Kong and worse, without a map, I didn’t manage to find that place but ended up at New Star Seafood Restaurant along Stewart Road that, to my serendipitous discovery, had some truly awesome dim sum!
As you walk around Hong Kong, you realize that there are those who visit and who even do business in the country, but who never get involved, like a bystander that avoids the puddles when it rains, and then there are those who are living the very heartbeat of Hong Kong because they must.
Hong Kong Museum of Art, flanks one end of Avenue of Stars along Victoria Harbour, Tsim Sha Tsui, providing visitors a perfect starting point for walking down the waterfront.
These two sides of the same coin is most poignantly illustrated at Tsim Sha Tsui, along Victoria Harbour that shows the two facets of Hong Kong still meeting in this day and age, one of old China and one of what is modern China demonstrated literally by two vessels of different times passing each other. It is at this waterfront that western savvy gathering in The Peninsula, Intercontinental and Shangri-La meet eastern traditional that is just a stone’s throw from the harbour, down from Nathan Road at Mong Kok’s street stalls and wet markets.
Characteristic of Hong Kong is the information overload that greets you along its busy streets, not only from signboards that hang abovehead, but by all the minute happenings along the street and around every street corner. From the movement of goods from van to store, to the bargaining for the best prices and the rush for buses, taxis and the MTR, it’s tempting to want to observe everything when you’re there. For a first time visitor, it’s perhaps sometimes easier if you just ignored for the most part, the things that happen around you in order not to feel overwhelmed by it all, for Hong Kong like Singapore with a sliver of difference, seems also a city that hardly sleeps.
These pictures were taken mostly in Mong Kok, Hong Kong, with the wet market scenes most familiar and heartwarming to me.
The Shanghai Expo 2010 will open in just 3 days, running for 184 days (from 1 May to 31 October, 2010). When it comes to China, nothing is on a small scale these days if they can help it, just browsing the Events section of the Expo gives something to look forward to, from parades to song, dance, insights into the local food and culture.
The theme for this expo is “Better City, Better Life” and aims to bring awareness to and perhaps tackle the challenging issues that face global cities in the near future.
In this post, some pictures of Shanghai today, from food that includes century eggs to braised pork and chicken, to the clean modern lines of a hotel, a room on the 27th floor with a view over Shanghai.
The rebuilt replica of the first East Indiaman Gotheborg, the Gotheborg III has now made its old trade route trip around the world, from Sweden, around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and up to Canton, China. On its way back from China, it touched base at Singapore earlier this year, where some of you might already have had a chance to view Her in Her majestic beauty. To me, she looks every bit belonging to the movie Pirates of the Caribbean where I can almost see Captain Jack Sparrow at the helm, albeit in the wrong flag colours.
The project was based on the excavation of the original East Indiaman Gotheborg which sat sail in early 1743 not to be heard of again before September 1745 when upon homecoming, She, with a huge crash, hit an underwater rock just outside the home harbour of Gothenburg and sank. The salvaging of the immensely valuable cargo of silk, tea and about 300,000 pieces of Chinese porcelain started immediately. This salvaging of lost treasures continued intermittently for centuries, since her foundering.