Friday, December 30, 2011

Bangkok and Back

Yup! Did a short trip to Bangkok from the 27th to the 30th of December. Just gonna do a quick summary in one post cos it's seriously nothing to break up into days for.

Day 1) 27th of December
Got up all bright and early! Last minute packing before I was supposed to leave home at about 0730. Flight departs at 1055 from terminal 1 but Friend A told Friend B to meet her at airport for breakfast at 0800. I wouldn't have know about this arrangement had I not asked both A and B if we were going together or separately and B told me that she was meeting A at 0800. Oh well, is not the first time A only sms B and probably think she is telling everyone...

Dropped off our bags and had BK breakfast!! Hands down so much better than sucky mac's.

We were gonna fly by Airasia so I have to say I had a little bit of apprehension going on. I flew Jetstar to Beijing and back, so I do wonder what Airasia would be like. Was aggravated the night before when I was doing online check in, because I thought that I had purchased designated seats ($9) when I booked the airfares, but it turns out the seats were split 2 and 1 out in the boondocks... Paid $9 to get seated in a row. Same for the return flight but since the one seat was just one row behind us and a similar seat to the one I wanted to change, I decided to save the money and try asking the passenger if he'd be so nice as to change seats with us.

Flight was fairly ok. Seats not that bad, just awfully small leg space as expected.

Landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport and proceed to the Immigration counters .. and there was this huge swamp of humans!! It looks absolutely crazy cos you have absolutely no idea whether there was even a queue! We managed to get ourselves somewhat into a queue and then some russian-looking people started to squeeze past us to get ahead in the queue because they had someone there. Lucky it wasn't my queue but I was still just as pissed. I got so pissed I didn't allow a poor Singaporean boy to pass when he asked if he could pass. Sorry but I really get my heckles up when queues get cut and my brains doesn't work well when I'm like that! Good thing was, he was also upset at the queue cutters and tried to inform the staff to no avail. Airport with smiles = you cut queue they also smile.

After finally clearing the immigrations, we collected our bags, bought prepaid phone cards and grabbed a taxi to our hotel. Although they have a taxi assigner there, the driver still didn't switch on the meter. Charged us flat 500 + toll for total of 570 baht. Because I had previously heard from my friends that getting into Bangkok would cost around 300 to 500 baht, I didn't want to haggle on the price and the meter. Incidentally for info, on our way home we took the cab to airport for 330 baht (toll inclusive) the driver was so sad when I wanted to get the 20 baht change back from him (gave him 350). Lol, maybe I should have tipped him.

Stayed at Miramar Hotel along Mahachai road. It's really near Yaowarat which is Chinatown so it's great if you think you want to be in Chinatown all the time but it's not so good because the taxi drivers will tell you traffic jam due to the massive jams in Yaowarat and then try to charge you 100 baht to get there. Throughout the trip we were usually overcharged by around 40 baht or so which is ok.. but I was upset at the 200 baht we were charged for travel between Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kheow. Serve us right, cos we didn't know the location. By meter it would have cost only about 40-50 baht.

Anyway sometimes you will still get a driver who will turn on the meter once you ask them to. The odd thing is they don't ask you for flat rate when you get on so I wonder what their plan was if I never asked them to turn on the meter? Maybe they have a "Free 1KM" or something like that promo hahahaha! Dream on.

After checking in at around 1530, we walked all the way through Yaowarat and ate at China Scala. The food was not bad and since we were there kind of early, there was no one else in the restaurant.. which was kinda scary but service was good. Ate a 100 baht bowl of Bird's Nest and my mum scolded me over the phone when she heard that. "why eat cheap stuff!! Eat the better stuff!!"

The list different types of bird's nest and then for the same listing they have different pricing. That is NOT the size of serving, like I erroneously thought... it's the quality. So I got the cheapest crap in the house lol!! My friends got the 200 baht version which looked like agar agar. Mine looked like mini pellets lol.

After dinner, it was taxi to MBK. We were quoted a flat 100 baht for this ride but as the ride went on, I got happier cos it was incredibly jammed wherever our driver turned and I was sure the meter would have read more than 100 baht had he turned it on!! Too bad loh, I ask you to turn it on, you don't want and you say traffic jam. Not my fault.

Shopped at MBK and found lovely Auntie Anne's Nori Ham and Cheese mini rolls. I tell you it is DAMN YUMMY. Oh I forget nowadays people no like salt in SG. Ok maybe not yummy to you.

Dinner was Japanese. Japanese food is cheap in Bangkok. If you do not know what to eat, go Japanese. After that we went back to hotel.

Day 2)

Started the day with breakfast in Hotel. As our booking did not include breakfast, we had to pay 295 baht for the buffet. It was so not worth it. Sunny side up eggs, one type of cocktail hot dog, fried rice, fried noodle, bread for you to toast, soya bean milk.. is all I remember from the spread.

After breakfast took a taxi too....... MBK again. One of my friends likes to shop. And I thought.. well we could have used the 295 baht per person to stuff our faces with Auntie Anne's!!! The Nori Ham n Cheese was only 89 baht for 10 pieces....

After MBK, went Siam Discovery and Siam Center and we ate at CoCo Ichibanya in MBK for lunch!! Never managed to try it in SG yet but tried it in Bangkok. Not bad, I shall certainly go for it back in SG!

End of day we went to Yaowarat on our way back to the hotel, bought the pork products (crispy pork skin!!) bought our KFC dinner and tried the hotel's massage services. One of my friend's legs were hurting so bad so she was really eager for massage. I only tried foot massage though but my friends went for the head, neck and shoulders option too. They originally wanted to do it again the next day but one session was enough to let them take a few days to recover!!

Day 3)
Morning was shopping again, near the hotel there is this place called Chinaworld so we went there for breakfast and shopping. Also went along Soi Wanit for more shopping. We wanted a drink so we stopped by one of the roadside stalls and one of my friends was like "Yay they speak teochew!!". Didn't intend to order food but we decided to order a bowl of kway teow just to.. you know.. be nice even though the lady boss didn't say anything. I took one bite and declared that it was something one of my friends would love cos it tasted it kway chap! So she decided to have one bowl too but she did not want pig's blood in it. Oh yes, that bowl was 30 baht and had pig's blood. You blood lovers should start going there now.

After a morning of shopping it was finally decided that we would go visit some Wats. Took a taxi ride to Wat Pho to view the Reclining Buddha and then got bloody overcharged for the trip to Wat Phra Kheow (my fault really cos I didn't know the distance.)

While at Wat Phra Kheow... I wasn't sure if it was the heat.. but my 'shopping' friend looked not so happy. Anyway my other friend's legs gave up on her and so we went back Chinaworld, had dinner at a hotpot place which had pretty good service and then back to hotel.

Day 4)
Wen to KFC for breakfast and ended up in Chinaworld again for more shopping. went up to the hotpot place to clarify some receipt issues with the place and then we bought donuts to prep for our flight!!

Checked out and got to the airport in good time. Do always be careful in Bangkok because of the unexpected jams and queues (if you can find the queue) that may delay you. Dropped off baggage, chilled in Starbucks... and then when we went into the departure area...... more shopping for my shopping friend!! I think she really loves it.

Finally got on the flight back home and the passenger did change seats with us. Thank you so much! Although I could see that he had an unfriendly face at first... I probably would give that face too if initially asked!!

All in, it was almost a complete shopping trip. My friend was always buying something for mum etc so it's quite amazing how she keeps going!!

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Roundup of Beijing Trip.

Ah. End of the trip and it'd be good to do a quick summary.

I usually wouldn't go on group tours because I like slacking out, especially when on holidays! I chose to go on a group tour this time because I decided that would be more convenient for my parents. My original plan for when I bring my parents to Beijing was to get a local guide so that we can customise the itinerary. I even got a contact from my friend who liked her guide! However due to planning issues and changing of destinations and all that, I decided to go with Chan Brothers since their itinerary included a half day free time.

Cost us about 1.1k+ each person, flying by Jetstar. As previously mentioned, the half day free time vapourised. Haiz. I'm not too happy about that but that is how things are when you are with group tours. They will definitely make time for you to go shopping, cos that's where their commissions are.

Food wise, the local guide kept emphasising how we get specially arranged food and all that. I have to say that it was really healthy food with low salt and oil. This was 'special order' because apparently northern food is not so bland. The local guide went on about how northern food was not suitable for Singaporean palates due to the oiliness and saltiness. I'd like to think that that it's only in recent years that we Singaporeans ate like that. "Too Salty!" "Too Oily!" "Too Sweet!". The health conscious. I"m not health conscious so I felt most of the specially arranged food was blah. I remember the food I ate last time was way tastier... cos it was not specially arranged. Anyway, what's the point of going somewhere to eat something that doesn't taste like how the locals eat it?

Every meal was in a restaurant and seriously I have to say that these were well arranged. Just that we ALWAYS had that infernal fish. That same fish, prepared in different ways. That same fish with gazillion bones in it's body. Scary fish.

On the last night when we were supposed to have dim sum supper and the restaurant screwed up, my mum commented that it was the same vegetables all over again. However, the dishes in that restaurant was much more to my taste!! It was saltier, hehehe but we had already had dinner and I was feeling sick too. Bah.

On hindsight, yeah, for all the meal we pretty much had almost the same stuff, albeit at different restaurants. The special stuff was Peking duck at Quanjude. Goubuli buns in Tianjin. Shaomai (烧卖). And Jiaozi (饺子) feast.

Good stuff actually but.. just not that fun food wise.

Oh and it might be a good idea not to stay with my parents in future. I always get woken up WAY earlier than morning call!! My father wakes early and towards the last few days tended to leave the room early to go down to breakfast. Nobody needs to rush down to breakfast at 0600+++...... *grumble grumble*

Itinerary was a bit tight, as to be expected. Hardly get the mood for photos, really. I was worried because I forgot to bring my CF card reader and my card could only capture about 291 shots. Turns out I didn't even manage to fill it up. However the good part is that we get to listen to the guide explain things to us. Just that we can't leisurely stroll wherever we want and that means certain places you don't get to explore fully (like the Temple of Heaven when we didn't get to go and see the spot where the Emperor used to stand to pray to the heavens).

Good to go on a group tour if you want to see most in the shortest span of time, don't want to bother arranging things yourself and all that. Bad for slackers like me.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Beijing. Day 8 (Day 9 by itinerary)

Two hours into the flight and my bum hurts. Jetstar has different flight configurations and this flight has an individual monitor for each person. You still don't get entertainment though but I think that you get free earphones.....

Slept a bit on the flight but felt generally lousy. Couldn't even eat much of my breakfast.

Lousy thing was I started getting diarrhea. Lucky thing was it only started as we were landing in SG.

Home Sweet Home.

My lovely sunny warm humid Singapore.

Oh I hear the MRT went kaput.


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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Beijing. Day 7 (Day 8 by itinerary)

Tianjin today. We checked out of our hotel in the morning and stuff our luggage onto the coach. We will go to Tianjin by the Intercity train that travels at speeds of around 290 km/h. We reach Tianjin in 35 mins. The return trip will be via bus.

AFter arrival in Tianjin, we take a taxi to the food street for lunch.

Tianjin is mainly for shopping and I had long planned to pick up some stuff here. Tidbits... not so much but the arts stuff here is nice and cheap compared to the stuff we're brought around to see in Beijing (jade, silk etc). Spent some time walking up and down 食品街. Every other shop sells the same thing so it doesn't really matter who you buy it from. My mum bought some 麻花 that was not from 十八街 though. Anyway, probably the taste will not differ much.

After lunch, we went to 文化街. This is a much larger area than the food street. My first aim was 泥人张. They have some very nice clay sculptures at reasonable prices.

There was also a 妈祖 temple here and we visited it as well. I kept thinking that there was a large shop with paper cuttings, but we couldn't find it. I think it's all the shops that have some kind of paper cuttings or another instead of one shop like 泥人张.

When you come to Tianjin, there are the 饮食三绝: 狗不理包子 (Goubuli buns), 十八街麻花 (mahua), 耳朵眼炸糕 (fried cakes).
When I last came with my Orchestra conductor, he said that there was also the 文化三绝: 泥人张 (clay figurines), 剪纸 (paper cutting), 笙王 (Maker of Sheng). Whether or not 笙王 is really counted as one of the three... I guess it depends on who you talk to. I believe others will tell you that calligraphy is the third. 笙王 is this person who makes the music instrument 笙. On my last visit to Tianjin, my Orchestra conductor claimed that I had technically seen all the 天津之绝 (Best of Tianjin).

Tianjin is also where my (ex) erhu instructor comes from. And also where some of the best erhu players come from. It's a good place, it is.

After Tianjin, we get back to Beijing, dinner and then we are headed off to a massage parlour. My parents and I didn't want to get a massage, as well as another family so we spent time lounging around their cafe area. I wasn't feeling too good either so it was getting kinda depressing as we waited. At least the cafe was warm!

Finally, after their massage session ended, we headed off to supper which was supposed to be dim sum. The restaurant screwed up and we got the regular dinner menu which really stressed us out cos we weren't really that hungry! Our SG tour leader was very upset and started screwing the restaurant crew over. They managed to get the restaurant to prepare century egg porridge, which was pretty much the only stuff we managed to eat.

We scurried away from the restaurant before they served the fish. It's scary fish I tell you. Same fish every meal.

From the supper place, we headed over to the airport. Our flight would depart at around 0250, so we reached the airport just after midnight. It was cold... and it was a bad idea to open my backpack's buckle outside the airport but I obviously didn't learn from breaking a buckle in Wangfujing... so I opened my backpack to stuff something in and one of the buckles 'tooth' broke. My backpack!! So sad.. if I had the patience to wait till I was in the airport, I would be warmer (less exposure to the winds) and my buckle would still be ok :(.

Oh well. The buckle was still functional.

Check in and prepare for departure back home!

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Beijing. Day 6 (Day 7 by itinerary)

Today we go to 承德 Chengde. This is where the Emperor goes to hide when it is really hot in Beijing. We visit 避暑山庄.

Chengde is around 10 degrees cooler than Beijing, so it was easily subzero temperatures even in the daytime. Along the way, the bus windows that were not facing the sun started frosting up!

As we all know, 乾隆 really liked calligraphy and would write for alot of plaques. This is to show you even Emperors can write a wrong word!

So it's ok that I don't really know how to write Chinese characters ok :P

Apparently, in the days after the fall of the Imperial system, there was looting of the wood off the pillars as the wood as apparently good for warding off bugs. The wood was subsequently repaired with the same material being plugged into the holes created.

We also saw what was probably the world's shortest river, the 热河 (Rehe) . Think it's only about 30 meters long.

It's quite amazing cos everything else is frozen and the water here still runs and there's even fishes! The water is still cold though, it's apparently about 10 degrees.

We also visited 烟雨楼 which is supposedly where they shot some scenes for 环珠

Overall 避暑山庄 is really quite pretty. Chengde itself is a small city with nothing much but 避暑山庄 is probably the one location that brings in the dough.

After lunch, we headed back towards Beijing... and more shopping.

After dinner we went to Wangfujing. The winds were really biting!! I didn't realise it was due to the cold at that time but it was so cold, when I opened my camera bag's buckle one of the teeth broke. Very sad.

Might be due to the cold, but started feeling not so good. Got back to the hotel at almost 2200hrs and we have to pack cos we are checking out in the morning!! frigging intense schedule... I didn't even get my last chance to watch 节振国传奇... :(

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Beijing. Day 5 (Day 6 by itinerary)

Skiing day!! Woohoo!! So excited to be going out to a Ski Resort where we will get to ski although it's on man-made snow. So my parents also decided to try out the skiing and we got ourselves an instructor just for 2 hours. Can't learn much during this time but we probably wouldn't get anywhere if we didn't get an instructor. I suppose all the instructors there come from the North East, primarily Heilongjiang. The one we got has a regular job but comes to Beijing to earn extra from the winter skiing opportunities. Haiz, the things people do just to earn more money. It's so competitive in there, little wonder why they want to come out of China to work too.

It's quite fun chatting with them actually. Especially since the instructor we got didn't quite know about Singapore but he's all like we're all Chinese anyway! He asked me who the President of Singapore was, then decided he wanted to ask about the PM and then we finally figured out he was trying to ask about the Philippines and that terrible excuse of a President who smiles at people's tragedies (recall the hijack of the HK tourist bus and how el presidente handled it with a smirk?).

I was quite disappointed with the afternoon's itinerary. The main reason why I picked this Chan Brothers package was that it included a half day worth of free time for us to spend as we please. I had planned to being my parents to 白云观 (Baiyunguan) which is a rather important Taoist temple in Beijing. When we booked the package, we were told that we would fly in one day in advance due to flight timing of Jetstar. So basically I was given to understand that I would fly in today and tomorrow I would start the itinerary proper as opposed to SIA and Air China flights which start on the day they arrive. My SG tour leader said that was not the case and we were actually short on time to complete the itinerary and thus we could not afford the half day free time. I wanted to suggest that we give up the half day arranged for us after the skiing as that was when the half day was supposed to happen anyway but she was concerned about us leaving the group.

She suggested that we consider not joining on the Chengde leg or the Tianjin Leg instead but I felt my parents would prefer to go to those places rather than half day worth of shopping. Anyways, my mum decided that it was ok not to go to Baiyunguan and we could try to go another time so it was decided that we would stick with the group for the shopping.

Our original departure and arrival dates given when booking the package was 8th Dec depart SG. 17th or 18th Dec arrive SG. When we went for briefing the arrival date was confirmed as 16th. Seriously, Chan Brothers needs to make sure their sales guys know their stuff. If I had known that the half day was iffy... I might not have gone on this group. It's not even that cheap since you also have to add in the tips here and there and the expensive places they bring us to for shopping (think commission).

Anyway the rest of the day was just shopping. Boring.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Beijing. Day 4 (Day 5 by itinerary)

Today is the big day where we get to do all the physical stuff! We're going off to the Great Wall of China and the Ming Tombs. Alot of walking not to mention a long trip on the bus!

After reaching the Great Wall, it's just quite a cool feeling to be there. You know the old saying “不到长城非好汉”. However this was the second time I was at the Great Wall and did you ever hear that there was another line ? “再去长城是笨蛋”。 So I guess I am 笨蛋, but it's ok!! The only thing is this time round I did not bring my Great Wall Capriccio (长城随想). I listened to it at the top the last time round and I tell you, that feeling... was just majestic. I was at Badaling (八达岭) and this time I went to Juyongguan (居庸关) but I am sure that feeling would have been quite as cool.

This time round though, I didn't go all the way to the top. It's bloody tiring for one, and I was with my parents. My father has a heart condition so he should really exert himself too much. He went as high as the third signal tower though!! With enough time, he could have gone up further but he also did not want to end up being late for the group gathering time.

My last trip, you could get your 好汉证书 at the top, but nowadays you can get it right at the carpark! You don't even have to climb. :P

After lunch, we went to the Ming Tombs. So far, only one of the 13 tombs has been excavated. The other 12 have not yet been opened up since there is currently no technology to prevent disintegration of the items once they have been excavated.

There were 16 Emperors of the Ming dynasty. Two were not buried in Beijing and there was one who's body could not be found as he fled after his seat was usurped and thus there are only 13 tombs in the Ming Tombs site.

We explored the area of Dingling (定陵) and also visited the underground chambers. We were told not to touch the walls, although I have no clue whether it was because the walls would be very cold.. or some other reason. No photos here cos our SG tour leader kept reminding us to leave the cameras in the bus since it was considered a cemetery and "no Chinese takes pictures of cemeteries right?". *cough* I actually do *cough*. But it's ok, she was being kind to remind us to be careful about things that we may not know about so I left the camera in the bus.

On the way out, we will pass by this archway and we would need to proclaim our return. It's kinda fun actually and all you do is sweep your sleeves and then go "我回来了!". It's apparently fine to do it in any language so I guess "I"m back!" will work just as fine as "ただいま!" although I don't think Japanese will gain you much favours in China.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Beijing. Day 3 (Day 4 by itinerary)

Now when I keep listing Day x by itinerary in the title, it does not mean that our route follows the stated itinerary... it just means that it is considered Day x by the tour whereas I consider it to be one day less because we left Singapore on the 8th but landed here on the 9th so to me the 9th is the first day in Beijing but the tour considers it as Day 2. Minor detail.

Today we hit the first of our shopping joints. 同仁堂 (Tong Ren Tang). You get a lecture on TCM and then a personal consultation. When you choose to purchase medication from them it is minimum a few hundred SGD for each person. I had previously bought some medication from them when I visited 10 years ago, which is why I am prepared to spend money here this time. For my parents, it's ok. Plus they have this really cool cordyceps pills which you can consume very conveniently. You don't have to boil it or anything, just dunk it. That alone is worth the trip to 同仁堂 (Tong Ren Tang). Total bill for this location was almost as much as the trip. Sibeh broke liao.

After the wallet breaking session, we went to visit an actual Siheyuan (四合院). This particular Siheyuan used to be the abode of an 爱新觉罗 (Aisin Gioro) who is of course related to the Imperial family. Imperial Cousin or Uncle. The host's father bought it back before the cultural revolution and stayed in it until the revolution came along and then the place was confiscated and more families were placed in the Siheyuan. A few years ago, there was a policy to return housing to people mainly initiated by the Olympic projects. I guess the Plympic really did a lot of good to the local populace. So the government gave money to the families staying in the Siheyuan so that they could move out and the host's family reclaimed most of the place except two parts where the tenants refused to move out after receiving the disbursement from the government. Hopefully the tenants move out someday so that the host can finally have their home back entirely.

Oh, the place is worth quite a few millions. In Singapore dollars that is.

very sound advice. Don't smoke.

After lunch we went to 秀水市场。 Bought two overpriced seals for my parents and then just walked around and around and around till dinner which was a western buffet at the top of the same complex.

After dinner we went to view the largest LED in Asia at 北京世贸天皆。It's kinda like a shopping area with low level buildings on both sides of the LED. If you cannot imagine that, then think of Bugis Junction. Bugis Junction is basically a bunch of streets closed off to form a shopping centre. So the area where the LED is, is somewhat like one walking street with similar buildings on both sides and the LED overhead.

They have a very apt slogan. 全北京向上看。 You really have to look up!

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Beijing. Day 2 (Day 3 by itinerary)

Today's locations include........ The Bird's Nest stadium and the Temple of Heaven.

The stadium gets converted to a skating rink in winter and I must say that it is kinda cool to see the way the supporting pillars intersect with each other. Just a tad disappointed to not see where they had the Olympic fire. Our tour guide even had us taking fake cheering photos in the audience seats. Cheap thrill but what the heck :P

In the afternoon, we went to the Temple of Heaven. I know my mum really wants to come to this place so it was an exciting location. The famed building where not a single nail was used.

Unfortunately, due to the time restrictions I could not bring my mother to the spot where the Emperor used to stand while he prayed to the heavens. I went there before but I was also hoping to bring my mum there. I guess that's one of the disadvantages of following groups. We had some free time but we were told not to exit any doors in case we left the park.. so we didn't dare be adventurous... plus I doubt that we could have made it there and back in the time given.

Still, I like the older locations like this so.. not bad! Maybe next time.

After dinner we watched another show. Legend of Kungfu. It was in English so I was stunned when they started speaking in English.

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Beijing. Day 1 (or Day 2 by itinerary reckoning)

Today we go to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City!

We landed past midnight in Beijing and was greeted by the local guide. We were immediately hustled to our hotel and I reckon it was at least 0230 before we started getting ready to sleep. Morning call was supposed to be at 0700 but my father couldn't sleep and eventually my mum joined him and I couldn't sleep by 0600. Cranky start to the day.

I was hoping to get a photo of the sculpture near the Mao Ze Dong mausoleum at Tiananmen, but unfortunately our group didn't go near there. That's the problem with group tours. Haiz.

This is the sculpture that I wanted to get a pic of. This is not my pic. :(

So we went through the Tiananmen Square, and then into the Forbidden City. There is so much history to be learnt in Beijing. It's a great place to be, just maybe not in winter lol. Temperatures are between 5 and -5 degrees and it's quite dry as compared to Singapore where it is more humid.

One of the things that left a deep impression on me the first time I visited the Forbidden City 10 years ago where the large cauldrons that had multiple scratch marks on them. They used to be coated in gold but when the western powers came into China, they scratched away the gold just as they took away whatever treasures that could be removed.

A visit to the Forbidden City is one that reminds you of the grandeur of old and the weakness of a nation that led to trampling by others.

In the afternoon we went to Yiheyuan, the Summer Palace. This is where the Emperor would spend most of the hot days in Beijing. Nice place. We also saw the area where Guangxu lived, it's quite sad actually. Being an Emperor but under house arrest. His personal space was not larger than a 3 rm HDB since the side house in his Siheyuan were blocked off by Cixi.

There is a wall of bricks just behind the door.

Following that we had dinner. Our guide kept emphasising how we would be having a variety of food throughout our trip and that we are not used to the Northern tastebuds so they have specially instructed the restaurants to use less oil and less salt. Oh dearie me. I'm no typical modern Singaporean. I'm still of the era where we live by oil and die by salt.

At night we watched a performance called 金面皇朝 (Golden Mask Dynasty). Not bad, it was quite nice except that the theatre itself was cold and we had to keep our down jackets on... so I have no clue whatsoever how the performers were able to perform in that temperature! Plus they had a huge flooding scene where the entire stage flooded, so I tell you.. all those performers are considered heroes and heroines!

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Thursday, December 08, 2011

Beijing. D Day.

So today is the day that we leave Singapore for Beijing! I'm so excited to be able to bring my parents to Beijing. My main objective for booking us onto a group tour is so that it will be convenient for my parents. They won't have to walk too much (my mum's legs aren't too good sometimes) and hopefully with the guided tour, we can better appreciate the places we go to.

I've been to Beijing before but I'm excited to see what we'll experience with Chan Brothers.

Our flight departs in the evening from terminal 1. It's interesting to note that the passengers taking Jetstar queue up to board very early. I have no idea why since we all have seat numbers on our boarding passes. There were announcements made to ask the people to sit down and wait for boarding which will start with families with elderly and children and then go by seat numbers (which is the usual) but still the queue did not shorten. These people were adamant! The queue only shortened when there was an announcement made that the flight would be delayed, and only shortened by about 15% at that.

It's really interesting to take a budget flight. Almost everything except your seat belt and the toilet comes extra. In fact, since our airfare includes the meal... I felt like a premium passenger. You could rent their Video on Demand system or you could buy ear pieces to listen in to the 'latest' movie shown on the big screen. Said latest movie was Remington Steele. With Pierce Brosnan looking like he was 28. No kidding. I brought my own entertainment though so I didn't shell out on either options. Only thing was I forgot to bring a book as well.

6 hours to Beijing. :D Flight lands past midnight local time.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Beijing. D - 0.

So, I was determined to go overseas in December. Determined I tell you. Why? I have almost the whole of December off from work and I figured that I should not spend it all at home. Can't waste the entire month right?

In case anyone wonders why I got such a good deal, having such long leave during this period... let me explain.

This is NOT a good deal. I did not intend to clear so much leave in December. I originally wanted to clear some leave in June but it was not to be. As such, I was forced (Forced I tell you! It was definitely not my choice to be on leave for so long during the end of year school holidays!) to schedule all my leave in December. I mean, if you can't let me clear in June when I just ended my studies (best time cos I don't have work commitment) ... then I have to clear when I am next available.

Going overseas at this time is both cold and expensive. Not really my first choice but at least I get to go leave!!

So anyway I was initially looking at going overseas with my parents to Hong Kong, free and easy. Then, my father didn't seem too keen on going to Hong Kong, so I decided to try looking for a group tour package to Beijing. My father was interested in going to Beijing, so I decided to pick a package with Chan Brothers because they had a half day free for our own activities. My original intention for Beijing was to go there on our own and get a local guide... but I figured that perhaps we could try going with Chan Brothers.

Paid around 3.3k for 3 pax 8 day Beijing - Chengde - Tianjin, fly via Jetstar. Originally wanted to depart on 12th Dec via Air China since I had a performance on the 11th, but during booking I forgot about the performance and booked for the 8th instead. Oh well. The person who was handling the booking had no clue that they had a flight depart SG on the 12th. I had to tell him they had that flight. Haiz.

Anyway, immediately after booking the package on that day, we went to Winter Time to buy some winter clothing. Spent almost $600 there that day. My pockets are wailing!!

Since then, my parents (especially my mum) has been shopping around for winter stuff. I went to Chinatown twice with my mum just for long johns. My mum has also been quite unhappy that I was not preparing stuff for the trip early enough. I never pack earlier than the day before, but my mum was going on about how her friend's daughters are already packed for a HK trip days before departure.

They kiasu lah.... I tell you the day before and the day itself they still have to be packing. You still have the toiletries and all those stuff you still have to use before departure leh..? Anyway, my mum's definition of last minute packing seems to be the day before departure. I say she ain't seen last minute packing unless the packing is done 2 hrs before being required to be at the airport.

So anyways, most of the packing is done today. Most of our clothing goes into one big luggage and then I'm gonna bring my backpack along for extra space if required. My chargers and stuff will go into the backpack too. I hate packing but when I wanna pack, no one can beat a Teochew at stuffing things I tell you.

Some of the cute stuff my mum wants to bring includes the packaging box for each of the three thermos flasks that we are bringing. Argue not, just stuff it in.

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