Hong Kong – Hotel Views

At last I have come to the last destination on my 21 day tour of China. Hong Kong was less smoggy than anywhere else we had been, though there was a haze as the day heated up.

The hotel as seen from a lovely park which we crossed on our way to the subway station.

The hotel as seen from a lovely park which we crossed on our way to the subway station.

We stayed at l’Hotel Nina et Convention Centre in the New Territories, not on Hong Kong Island, nor in Kowloon, which lies between the New Territories and Hong Kong Island. Our fellow tour-ists also stayed there and ate breakfast there, but we were free to tour Hong Kong on our own time and according to our own tastes.

The hotel consisted of two towers, with a bridge at the 51st floor. I think we were either just below or just above that floor.

The hotel consisted of two towers, with a bridge at the 51st floor. I think we were either just below or just above that floor.

Half way up the rise to our room, we had to change elevators – somewhere around the 44th floor. The elevator lobby at that height looked westward and southwest towards sea lanes and shipping. Most of the following photos were taken out of windows so you will see reflections in some of the corners.

Looking west towards Lantau Island and HK airport.

Looking west towards Lantau Island and HK airport.

The land to the right of the bridge is called Tsing Yi

The land to the right of the bridge is called Tsing Yi

Looking southwest past Gin Drinkers' Bay and towards Rambler Channel. (Don't you believe everything on Google Maps?)

Looking southwest past Gin Drinkers’ Bay and towards Rambler Channel. (Don’t you believe everything on Google Maps?)

This photo was taken at ground level while walking to the subway and it shows another section of the highway which appears in the lower left of the two previous photos.

This photo was taken at ground level while walking to the subway and it shows another section of the highway which appears in the lower left of the two previous photos.

From the same elevator lobby you could also see south towards a densely populated city where building was going on everywhere.

The building on the left is the same one as on the right of  the second photo

The building on the left is the same one as on the right of the second photo

From our room we could see south and eastwards towards the mountains of the New Territories.

The New Territories.

The New Territories.

The New Territories.

The New Territories.

Looking down, you could see the hotel’s amenities, but we never went!

Expensive real estate for a pool and tennis courts.

Expensive real estate for a pool and tennis courts.

This dining table seats at least 25. We breakfast buffet clients didn’t get to sit there!

Longer than my house is wide!

Longer than my house is wide!

Next Hong Kong post: Victoria Peak

Macau – Street Scenes

Below St. Paul's facade

Below St. Paul’s facade

The photo above gives some idea of the tourist traffic in and around St. Paul’s facade.

The following two photos are of the narrow street leading from the remaining facade of St. Paul’s to Senado Square.

On the tourist route between St. Paul's and Senado square.

On the tourist route between St. Paul’s and Senado square.

On the tourist route between St. Paul's and Sedano square.

On the tourist route between St. Paul’s and Sedano square.

The layout of the tiles in Senado Square, in the middle of the touristy area of Macau, gave a tromp d’oeil feeling of an uneven plaza.  The ground is perfectly level but even the pictures are deceiving.  I don’t know if the phone holder is taking a ‘selfie’ or a shot of the plaza.

Senado Square

Senado Square

Senado Square

Senado Square

 

This next “street photo” was taken in Zhuhai near the Fisher Girl, similar to a photo from a couple of posts ago, except that a beggar has been added to the scene.  We did see beggars at some tourist sites, but not very many.

 

Zhuahai

Zhuahai

The following photo is an orphan, not having any relatives in any other post.  We thought the red jacket might have belonged to Mao (?)

In Coloane between our hotel and Taipa. This building may have been part of the "City of Dreams" but there didn't seem to be much life around it.

In Coloane between our hotel and Taipa. This building may have been part of the “City of Dreams” but there didn’t seem to be much life around it.

And finally, a shot of an ad for a CANADIAN English language school. It was a bit of a surprise to me to learn recently that in Prince Edward Island, Canada, where I live, the most-spoken language after English and French is Chinese. After thinking about it for a while, I’m not really surprised at all!

In the 'city' of Taipa in the northern half of the island which makes up the bottom half of Macau.

In the ‘city’ of Taipa in the northern half of the island which makes up the bottom half of Macau.

Canton, now Guangzhou

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Day 19.  We flew from Guilin to Guangzhou (Canton! Who knew!) in the morning and were taken to visit the sculpture which seems to be the City’s symbol.  If you Google ‘five goats Guangzhou’ you will get many interpretations of the story behind the statue which was originally carved in 1959. The statue is not on the list of the top ten things to see in Guanzhou, but it is symbolic of the triumph of rice and good harvests over starvation.

Another view of the hill top park and some of my traveling companions:

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In Beijing we had seen people doing exercise, often a form of line dancing or synchronized movements to music.  Here it is again on a hot day in south China.

Even the pre-schooler is getting in on the act.

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And finally, a stolen shot as we headed down the hill from the goats.

Another beautiful baby with a proud grandmother.

Another beautiful baby with a proud grandmother.

Next three Chinese posts will be from the Chen Family Ancestral Temple in Guangzhou.

Elephant Trunk Hill

Elephant Trunk Hill.

Elephant Trunk Hill.

After two nights in Yangshuo we bussed back to Guilin for a relaxing walk around the waterfront park with its elephant trunk hill. Guilin – probably because it has an airport – is the home base for touring the Li River, though Yangshuo is where my tour was centred.

Around the corner from the  elephant trunk.

Around the corner from the elephant trunk.

An overview of the area around the park and hill.

An overview of the area around the park and hill.

Graceful arched bridge.

Graceful arched bridge.

Fellow travellers waving from the bridge.

Fellow travellers waving from the bridge.

Next Post: More from the waterfront park in Guilin – street photography.

Li River – Tourism

Waiting for the next tour group.

Waiting for the next tour group.

Taking foreign and Chinese tourists on the lovely River Li is a booming business for the town of Yangshuo and the neighbouring city of Guilin; the name of Guilin is probably more familiar to westerners than Yangshuo. Our boat was bigger (and uglier) than the colourful boats pictured here. There were about 40 of us (a combination of buses 2 and 3 from the Sinorama 21-day tours) so the smaller boats would not have been big enough.

Looking back towards the village of Yangshuo.

Looking back towards the village of Yangshuo.

Chinese tourists always waved at us.

Chinese tourists always waved at us.

A private boat, and photographer.

A private boat, and photographer.

Some boats put in to shop at vendors on the riverside. Ours did not!

Some boats put in to shop at vendors on the riverside. Ours did not!

Ghost City, Fengdu China

A beautiful entrance to the Ghost City proper.  It was very foggy/smoggy and humid.

A beautiful entrance to the Ghost City proper. It was very foggy/smoggy and humid.

It was a steamy and smoggy day when we were offered a ‘free’ tour of The Ghost City. In other words, this tour was included in our overall tour/cruise price. Fengdu is 170 Km downstream from Chongqing and it was our last excursion before we docked and debarked the next morning.  There was a considerable amount of uphill trekking to get to the site entrance. And considerably more to get to the more esoteric aspects of the ghostly city.

Another view of the entrance area.

Another view of the entrance area.

An interesting thing about Chinese floral displays was that they were not planted in the ground, but left in their pots.  Is there something to be learned by northern park designers from this?  There certainly didn't appear to be much vandalism - but then in China, in 'official' places you wouldn't expect any.

An interesting thing about Chinese floral displays was that they were not planted in the ground, but left in their pots. Is there something to be learned by northern park designers from this? There certainly didn’t appear to be much vandalism – but then in China, in ‘official’ places you wouldn’t expect any.

The city has been around for nearly 2,000 years, filling it with a spooky sense of the past. The story begins back in the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), when two officials decided to run away and live out their lives, where they eventually, the story goes, became immortal. Yin and Wang, the names of the officials, were combined during a later dynasty to mean “King of the Underworld.”There is background to be found here and here.

Superficially, Fengdu looked like a fairly typical older shrine.

Fairly typical Chinese architecture, roof lines and colour.

Fairly typical Chinese architecture, roof lines and colour.

Painting detail.

Painting detail.

Roof detail; mythical figures.

Roof detail; mythical figures.

A terrace for gathering and meditating on what one has seen?

A terrace for gathering and meditating on what one has seen?

 

The end of the tour - vendors selling all manner of spirited souvenirs.

The end of the tour – vendors selling all manner of spirited souvenirs.

There was a long set of stairs back down to the cruise ship.

Returning to the ship from Fengdu.

Returning to the ship from Fengdu.

That’s enough photos for one post, and a good storyteller leaves things hanging.
The next post will include the ghost-like aspect of Fengdu.

Gorgeous Gorges

Another sunrise-in-smog photo.

Another sunrise-in-smog photo.

On our second day on the Yangtze River cruise we boarded smaller boats and navigated upstream through narrow gorges that were inaccessible from the cruise ship. The cliffs were steep and some of the views spectacular. But we were not alone – there were tour boats of several shapes and sizes to keep us company.

gorgeous-3186

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Temple, high above the current water levels.

Temple, high above the current water levels.

There were also private boats and speed boats on the narrower gorges so it is not unreasonable to think that wealthy Chinese might want to escape urban life and sail upriver to an idyllic spot like this.

This "road' seemed to lead to an out of the way vacations home - as seen in the next photo  There were private boats and speed boats keeping us company as we toured the narrower gorges so it is not unreasonable to think that a wealthy Chinese might want to escape urban life, drive to a boat dock and sail upriver to an idyllic spot like this.

This “road’ seemed to lead to an out of the way vacation home – as seen in the next photo

A small compound. Monks or a getaway?

A small compound. Monks or a getaway?

There was supposed to be some sort of coffin in a cave high up one of the cliffs. I thought it was this one, but - no coffin here!  If you go, listen for the legend and get the evidence!

There was supposed to be some sort of coffin in a cave high up one of the cliffs. I thought it was this one, but – no coffin here! If you go, listen for the legend and get the evidence!

Next post: Monkeys!

Three Gorges Dam

Three Gorges Dam-3132

In the afternoon of our first day on the Yangtze cruise, we visited the Three Gorges Dam.   It’s the largest hydroelectric power dam in the world, completed in 2012, and not without its detractors, including Scientific American and an organization called International Rivers.  The major criticisms are social (1.4 million people displaced), geological (there have been landslides in the gorges and streams feeding the Yangtze and there is a risk of earthquakes throughout central China due to the weight of the lake behind the dam), and environmental (downstream droughts, species extinction, water shortages as far away as Shanghai, and water pollution due to what was left in the river before it was flooded.)

First we were ushered into a visitor centre where, among other things, there were some very useful scale models.  The dam is  at back left, the area which accommodates visitors is green and island-like  in the middle, and what looks like two dashed lines to the right of the green island are the two ship locks.

Three Gorges Dam- A very useful model, since the place was huge and we couldn't fly over it.

A very useful model, since the place was huge and we couldn’t fly over it.

In the middle of the green ‘island’ on the model are the visitors’ centre, bus parking, vendors, and a few memorials and statues.

Outdoor escalators so you didn't have to climb the hill.

Outdoor escalators so you didn’t have to climb the hill.

At the top, a lookout and a memorial.

At the top, a lookout and a memorial.

Looking back downriver from near the top of the  escalators.

Looking back downriver from near the top of the escalators.

 

When I stopped to take photos from one of the landings between escalators I was told by someone in uniform to move along. A travel article in the UK Telegraph in early February 2014 by Fionualla McHugh  mentions a much heavier presence of military, but I didn’t notice it. In most other respects, her trip and its review parallel my own experience!  I love this quote from her story:

“In China, you often find yourself juggling two opposing notions at the same time while continuing to function with surprising ease. F Scott Fitzgerald believed this was the definition of a first-rate intelligence; let’s just say an adaptable attitude helps when travelling in the Middle Kingdom.”

The site was very crowded, as I am sure it is every day, but this was the first day of China’s weeklong celebration of  the  founding of the People’s Republic, so the number of Chinese tourists was higher than usual.

Beautiful landscaping.  It was hot. I broke down and had a pea flavoured creamsicle. It was VERY good.

Beautiful landscaping. It was hot. I broke down and had a pea flavoured creamsicle. It was VERY good.

 

If you have a dam and you want to move ships from below to above it, or vice versa, you need to have locks. The Three Gorges Dam had two huge locks and were in the process of building a ship’s elevator for smaller boats.  Each lock is large enough to hold six huge cruise ships or perhaps 4-6 industrial barges.  The first photo is of a lock in action, the second of the top end of the locks and the third of the entrance to the locks (looking downstream) which are far below road level.  (I’ve been fascinated by locks since my only canal boat holiday in England in 1992!)

 

I managed to get his shot through the bus window of ships in a huge lock. Our ship went through the locks after dark.  Each lock rose 100 feet and thee were 5 of them.  We only watched the first one and then went to bed.

I managed to get his shot through the bus window of barges in a huge lock. Our ship went through the locks after dark. Each lock rose 100 feet and there were 5 of them. We only watched the first one and then went to bed.

this time from near the top of the viewing hill.

Another view of the locks, this time from near the top of the viewing hill.

And another view of the locks, which are far below the road levels you can see.

And another view of the locks, which are far below the road and park level.

Towards the end of our time at the dam we were actually behind – as in upstream from – the dam itself.  There is something deceptively peaceful about this photo, which is a favourite of mine.

The top of the dam from the upstream side.

The top of the dam from the upstream side.

The head pond with a few boats. And smog.

The head pond with a few boats. And smog.

Looking way across the head pond to hills and an urban centre enveloped in smog.

Looking way across the head pond to hills and an urban centre enveloped in smog.

Next post: The rural shore of the Yangtze

River Cruise – Shanghai

This is the monument at the end of the esplanade along the Bund.  I showed the base of it in the last photo of the previous post.   The blue cartoon figure is Haibo, the mascot of Shanghai Expo 2010

This is the monument at the end of the esplanade along the Bund. I showed the base of it in the last photo of the previous post. The blue cartoon figure is Haibo, the mascot of Shanghai Expo 2010

Part of our tour of Shanghai included a ‘cruise’ on the Huangpu River, down, then up, a short stretch opposite Pudong and along The Bund.

It was raining and windy out on the water. Rather than hide inside I took pictures. In this post are shots of the boats I saw. In future posts there will be more of the urban landscape around us.

A barge baked by the Pudong waterfront.

A barge backed by the Pudong waterfront.

A coal-carrying barge alongside a second barge alongside a huge cruise ship.  Some of my fellow tourists saw the cruise ship leaving port that evening from their hotel window which overlooked the river.

A coal-carrying barge alongside a second barge (partly distorted by a rain drop on my lens) alongside a huge cruise ship. Some of my fellow tourists saw the cruise ship leaving port that evening from their hotel window which overlooked the river.

A third barge, this time alongside a luxury yacht.

A third barge, this time alongside a luxury yacht.

Our group of tourists on the cruise with a non-tour concerned mother fastening up her son's jacket.  I have experimented with Lightroom's Radial filter to emphasize them!

Our group of tourists on the cruise with a non-tour concerned mother fastening up her son’s jacket. I have experimented with Lightroom’s Radial filter to emphasize them!

Next post: Street photography along the Bund

Venice of the East – Suzhou #1

Suzhou is one of the places our tour should have shown us more of. I just looked at the map given to us by our hotel, and can’t believe how little we saw. This was partly due to the questionable logistics of flying us into the far eastern side of Shanghai and then bussing us (and getting us caught in a Friday traffic jam) to the western side of Shanghai where Suzhou is located.

We stopped at one bridge: the Everlasting Bridge (Wannian Qiao) over one fairly boring section of the city moat.  Also part of the site were a gate through a reconstructed part of the city wall (sorry, no photos), and a larger-than-life statue of Wu Zixu.

Everlasting Bridge - going up

Everlasting Bridge – going up

Everlasting Bridge, looking down.

Everlasting Bridge, looking down.

Suzhou is know as the Venice of the East because of its many canals. You can Google ‘Images’ for  ‘Suzhou canals’ to see what we missed and what you should see if you go there.

Suzhou moat looking one way (compass direction impossible to tell with the smog.)

Suzhou moat looking one way (compass direction impossible to tell with the smog.)

Suzhou moat looking in the other direction.   To be honest, I did not notice all the fishers when I took this picture, but I cropped it to show just them because the rest of the view was uninspiring.

Suzhou moat looking in the other direction. To be honest, I did not notice all the fishers when I took this picture, but I cropped it to show just them because the rest of the view was uninspiring.

Across from the fishers. See another tour group in the background?

Across from the fishers. See another tour group in the background?

Dragon boat detail.

Dragon boat detail.

Wu Zixu was the founding designer and urban planner of Suzhou city in 514 B.C.  Historical records suggest that Wu Zixu lived near to where his statue can be found.

Wu Zixu

Wu Zixu

You can find more information about the bridge, the gate and Wu Zixu here.

Next Post: A Chinese Garden in Suzhou