Thursday, May 26, 2016

Guangzhou Circle (广州圆大厦) - The Fengshui Golden Coin @ Guangzhou [China]

As the coach drove into the provincial capital of Guangzhou, our eyes had to get used to the many tall buildings that clustered together; a rarity in Yangshuo and even Guilin.

Amidst the many towering urban structures, one totally stood out and even our guide had to take the trouble to explain a bit about this circular building known as the world's tallest at 138 meters. 

I personally find the Guangzhou Circle to be extraordinary and absolutely no mean feat in the architectural realm. The imaginative me would wonder if a slight bump on the side would result in the building rolling down the road, similar to a wheel.

For the ignorant (like me again), i would assume this was based on the design of a Chinese coin with Fengshui inclination and gold is like the most precious currency even in ancient China. The truth is far from what i thought as the designer is Italian! 

There were elements of Chinese-ism of course. Like its reflection on the Pearl River right in front of it (that's not captured in the picture); which make up the number 8 that Chinese absolutely adores! I didn't have the fortune to explore its interior but you can find some pictures on the web; hint, it's still gold. 

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Location
Guangzhou City,
Guangdong Province,
China

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Grand Buddha Monastery (大佛古寺) - With a History of Over 1,000 Years! @ Guangzhou [Near Beijing Pedestrian Street]

Nestled in between modern buildings along Guangzhou's most famous street, i would not have given the green-tiled entrance much notice if not the Chinese character "古" (which means old, ancient etc).

In most cases, i doubt if many people would even pay it any attention! There were just so many people walking on the streets on the lookout for two things; food and shopping.

As we had ample time to spare on our last day in China for the Guilin-Longji trip and dad wasn't exactly keen on food and shopping, we catered for a short window to check out the supposedly ancient monastery.

In an area where prices for real estate were said to be rocket high, it's refreshing to see such a huge space that remained untouched by commercialism. 

Other than that, i didn't think the structure look any different from what we have in Singapore. Personally, the majestic Siong Lim monastery appears to be much more impressive.

However, i remained curious on the "古" character and did a search on the monastery after i returned to Singapore. And it's a shocker to know that its history went back to about AD 917 - 971 and was previously known as Xinzang Monastery.

There were of course periods of ruins, damage and the monastery we see now dated back to about AD1663, during the Qing dynasty. I believe it has a certain standing in the capital city as the place had quite a number of worshippers even though it was at a lull period of around 4.30pm! 

Three statues of Buddha were placed at the grand hall. As explained many posts before, they were likely the Shakyamuni Buddha (who found Buddhism), Amitabha Buddha and Bhaisajyaguru Buddha. 

Each was humongous at 6 meters tall, made of yellow copper and weighed a hefty 10,000 kilograms! 

A strange thing that i noticed at the offering altars; instead of mainly fruits, i found cans of potato chips! I didn't know the Buddhas are into such unhealthy snacks! No disrespect here by the way.

I actually didn't stay long in the monastery as unlike dad, i was really looking forward to having food in my tummy. What surprised me more was that the monastery was way larger than i expected! Do check out what i didn't if you happen to be in Guangzhou! 

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Five-Flavour Traditional Hong Kong Style Wanton Noodles (五宝云吞面) @ Kao Mei Noodles Restaurant (巧美面家) near Beijing Street [Guangzhou, China]

I am extremely careful whenever i travel with my dad as his legendary nagging can be triggered easily and this could mean repeatedly if i don't handle it well.

Hence, with lunch that wasn't covered by the tour package, i took a while to decide what to have at Gunagzhou given my dad's aversion to unhealthy and expensive food and eventually banked on the "safe" noodles with soup and wantons at Kao Mei Noodles Restaurant (巧美面家)!   

I admit; the wantons on display were the reasons why i even stepped into the tiny shop in the first place although to my dad, the emphasis on the wantons was greatly reduced. 

It wasn't overcrowded with patrons (unsurprising since the timing then was only about 5pm) but all the tables were filled once we took the last available one. As usual, i didn't think of doing much research for trips via tour package and was hoping this would turn out to be a good meal.

Our five-flavour wanton noodles - the five flavours referred to the five wantons that each had different fillings; crab, small abalone, clam, prawn and crab-prawn mix. A sip of the soup only affirmed that Guangzhou was really a food paradise; it was plain yet insanely addictively! 

Noodles were thin, springy and i think i wouldn't have any problem downing another serving. The draw for this meal was obviously on the wantons! The seafood filing was generous even when compared to the dumplings type wantons we have in Singapore although i could probably rave non-stop for the "liao" which was juicy and just so rich in flavour! 

Finished up to the last drop and if not for the watchful eyes of my dad, i would have considered ordering another bowl.

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Location
401-403, Huifu East Road,
Near Beijing Street, Guangzhou City,
Guangdong Province, China
[越秀区 惠福东路401-403号(近起义路)]

Menu
As above

Price
Five-Flavour Wanton Noodles - RMB 19


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Jiraporn Solar Dried Natural Banana (100%) - Halal Certified from Bangkok [Thailand]

It's quite rare to see me buying snacks straight off the rack without any sampling and but being a banana lover, i found the box of 100% natural solar dried banana too irresistible! No more would i have to face overripe bananas with dark splotches! 

Twelve convenient packs were contained within the box that was priced at 69 Thai baht. Using the computer calculator, one pack cost less than thirty Singapore cents! 

Despite the nicer photograph above, i had in reality open up the box immediately after making payment at the supermarket in Terminal 21. To be frank, the shrunken banana could do better visually although i was more looking forward to the taste.

I chomped down in the middle and the first thought then was "it's a bit sour with speckles of sweetness that didn't agree with my taste buds". Looking at the expiry date printed on the box (15/07/2016) and the ingredients (stated only 100% banana), i drew the conclusion this should be the actual flavour of solar dried banana. 

Guess i am better off with overripe bananas.

Train Night Market Ratchada 2016 @ Bangkok [Thailand]

I didn't intend to blog about the train market in Ratchada as i did quite a comprehensive post back in 2015 (you may click here). Nevertheless, i shall give a short update here so as cut to down the number of pictures dedicated for my "daily" posts for my recent Bangkok trip

Pity i didn't do as recommended in my blog post; which was to check out esplanade mall before having dinner at the train market. We were just too obsessed with the wide array of food at terminal 21 food court and literally stuffed ourselves crazy. 

Frankly, i didn't think the market had changed much and that's hardly a surprise as it was only about nine months ago when i last visited. If you would like to view more photos, do click here

Weather was warmer this time with the occasional light breeze that gave a short, cool respite. If you ask me, the older i get, the more i crave for comfort and in this case, air-conditioning! 

Oh my gosh, a store selling old-school snacks and games popular at a time when video games were non-existent and computers were used only in big corporations! 

I actually like retro-styled stores although i am more likely to reminisce about the old days rather than buying anything. Especially at my age when i honestly need to control my sugar intake; those sweets are just laden with glucose and i very much prefer to spend my limited intake on desserts like cakes and pastries.

Popularity of Descendants of the Sun Korean drama can be seen and felt - i should go watch it and see what the big hooha is. Personally, i like Song Hye-Kyo! 

Exploring the lined up stalls with many of them selling clothes and accessories; not the kind of stuff i am looking for in the trip. As i just moved into my own bachelor pad, my intent was more on house products; decorative stuff etc. 

Vintage light bulbs fall under that category even though i wasn't keen on having light bulbs that honestly speaking, wouldn't light up the room as well as an LED light. I shared my reservation but that didn't stop Alex from buying one for himself.

Thirst got to us at the end and of course, it's the tangerine juice that came to the rescue! Alex was more adventurous than me and got the huge-ass cola instead; he hated it by the way and said it tasted like watered down cola. 

Okay, this concluded the post on Train Night Market Ratchada 2016. As mentioned earlier, do check out here if you would like to have a better feel of what to expect of Ratchada Train Market (Talad Rot Fai).

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Location
Behind Esplanade Mall,
Bangkok [Thailand]

MRT Station
Thailand Cultural Centre MRT station
(Look out for the helpful signs at the MRT station!)

For my relaxing 6 days, 5 nights Bangkok itinerary, please click here. :) 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Feeding the Young For A Fee @ Bangkok [Thailand]

To bank on the popularity of train markets in Bangkok, it's not uncommon to see stalls being set up on the pavements leading to the markets' entrance and i would not have given the above stall a second look if not for the movement within it.

In case you couldn't figure what they are, let me share a zoomed-in picture. Bringing the zoo nearer to you for a chance to feed lambs and kids (young of goats). Being a hypocritical human, i thought this would make perfect sense in a zoo but here in an urban setting, surrounded by tall buildings and stalls selling commercial products; i thought it is unacceptable.

Feeding requires the purchase of a milk bottle at 20 baht and i wonder if the same can be done for the many abandoned and hungry babies. Furthermore, the milk is likely to be diluted so that the animals can drink more for better profit, I guess.  That's my conjecture and i might be wrong. The stall operator could have felt really pitiful towards the lambs and kids and just wanted to fill their tummies.

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Location
Near Exit 3 of Thailand Cultural Center MRT Station,
Bangkok, Thailand


please click here. :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Day Seven - From Guilin to Hezhou



I didn't get to show all of you the swimming pool at Sheraton Guilin (喜来登) the day before; so here it is. Given the cooler temperature, sane and unhealthy individuals like i would prefer to exercise in a sheltered area. 

Like the hotel's pretty comprehensive gymnasium! Honestly, after this trip to Guilin, it dawned on me that my body would benefit a lot from having a gym membership. Thankfully for my wallet, i am too lazy to travel to a gym and prefer to exercise at home.

Breakfast time! 

This cheese omelette was so delicious; i tried making the same thing at home today and failed miserably! Maybe i should add in more shredded cheddar and be a lot more mindful on the time the pan stayed on the stove.

Final look at the scenery outside our hotel room at Sheraton before we checked out and proceeded to the next leg of our journey; Hezhou!

Towering Mulong Tower as seen from the coach; the tower was part of the Mulong Lake Scenic Area, a purpose built attraction with a show that ASEAN citizens can avoid. Take the time and explore the nature surroundings instead. For more photos, click here

With the rain that started pelting after exiting from Mulong Lake, a few tour mates started asking the driver to open up the luggage compartment so that they can finally make use of their sweaters! 

Another scenic area; the seven star scenic area of Guilin that's not to be confused with the star scenic area at Zhaoqing. For more photos, click here

As this is a guaranteed no shopping stop tour package, i managed to secure the help of our guide to purchase BaoFuLing, a famous cream that's superb for burns, eczema etc, from Bao Shu Tang medicinal hall. My understanding is that the price is standardised throughout China and they don't distribute outside the country. I have seen a kiosk in Malaysia KSL mall that supposedly sells the cream but that's the old packaging and in case you are not aware, there are tonnes of fakes around.

It's not even 11am and we had arrived at the restaurant for, you read right, lunch!

So early were we that there's no other customer! I think the guide didn't expect us to go through the two attractions so quickly but there's seriously no choice when faced with wet weather. 

As mentioned before, our tour group of 16 or 17 had to be divided into two separate tables during meal time and since the other group wasn't too keen on drinking, they had a tendency to pass us their bottles of Chinese beer! Actually quite shiok to drink beer on cold weather.

Our meal as above; nothing really brought up any special memory although i admit it had been more than 6 months since my trip and i am still blogging about it!

Driving out of Guilin; it was generally a gloomy feeling as the impressive sights of connecting karts hills slowly went out of view. Guess dad felt the same way and he continued to give his rave reviews of Guilin till this date. 

Yangshuo!? Weren't we there a few days ago? There's a reason; Guilin was in fact the loop for our coach ride and at this moment, we were on the return trip and would eventually reach Guangzhou, our final destination to take the plane. 

More photographs showing the signature scenery of our trip although they were more on an individual, per parcel basis rather than the connecting ones we saw earlier. 

The never-ending road. 

Hills dotted with trees bearing orange-coloured fruits can only mean one thing; we are near to Gongcheng, the city of persimmons! 

For a moment, i thought we would be making a pit stop at the city and got all excited as i wanted to buy more of their famous dried yet juicy persimmons for home!

Sadly, the coach ignored the exit without a care for my feeling and proceeded to the next city on our itinerary; Hezhou which is still within Guangxi province and has a sizeable Hakka community.

With clouds that heavily enveloped the hilltops, i was glued to the natural painting by mother nature although pictures didn't really do it any justice. I keep forgetting both my phone and camera have a video function!

Stopover for a toilet break and this reminded me of a gory movie scene where the chains for the logs broke when the lorry was driving at a high speed and the large pieces of wood shot through the windscreens of surrounding cars, killing numerous. 

On a happier note, i was blessed with this amazing view a few meters away from the lorry. Maybe because we were stationary and outside the coach, i can intimately feel the breeze, smell the plants and trees and see the crops dancing. A truly unforgettable experience.  

Arriving at Hezhou toll station. As Singapore is so small, i could never quite get the concept of toll stations and should seriously consider driving to Ipoh or Cameron Highlands for a better understanding. 

Big crowd outside this Zhou Liu Fu Jewelry store; this brand is unrelated to the more famous Chow Tai Fook (Zhou Da Fu) which has 2,000 outlets in China! 

Transportation of cardboard boxes that drew similarity to the lorry with wood i shared earlier; one key difference, the damage caused by flying cardboard boxes would not likely be fatal.

Proceeded to Gupo Mountain National Forest Park; a place super rich with negative oxygen ions and was counted as one of the key highlights of our China journey! For more pictures and information, click here

Back to Hezhou city for dinner! Yes, there was another wedding and our guide told us that in China, people generally don't marry for love or to have kids. They marry only when the lady is pregnant!

Our dinner. 

The hotel where we had dinner; our guide actually quite bad. As written earlier about getting married, he said we would know if the lady is pregnant. Their custom is to have the couple standing outside to welcome their guests and if the bride is with child, she would be seated. In this case, the bride was standing but he insisted she was pregnant and got his confirmation from the restaurant manager! 

Hezhou-Zhenglin Hotel (贺州正菱大酒店) - our last accommodation in China. As you can see, prices are not cheap and the location wasn't even in a busy district.

Room was rather spacious though.  

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