Posts Tagged ‘Travel

21
Oct
12

Things can get complicated

Coming soon to a loo near you….

Instructions and procedures
(So sorry for you if you can’t read Chinese characters…)

Operating panel

….so as you can see, all toilets in China are not created equal. At least some of those rumours you hear about squat toilets are not true!

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21
Jul
12

Visit to Macau (2)

Some interesting contrasts in buildings and architecture – ranging from the Portuguese influence from the 17-1800’s and later, as well ancient and current Chinese influence, the rich and swanky side by side with the neglected and downtrodden.

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15
Jul
12

Visit to Macau (1)

A few weeks ago we spent a weekend in Macau – part of our “need-to-get-out-of-China-every-90-days” visa restriction. We decided to visit Macau as opposed to Hong Kong as neither my husband nor I have been there before. I didn’t have much time beforehand to research the trip but found a hotel with good reviews that seemed to be located in a fairly central location. We were far more interested in the historical sites than the umpteen casinos that liberally adorn the small peninsula and related islands, but we did stroll through some of the OTT gambling venues and hotel lobbies on the way to finding a good meal!

Haven’t had a chance to download the photos from my camera yet, but here are a few that I took with my phone. The subject is a carving from what looks like a tree trunk, and is displayed in one of the casino lobbies.

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Isn’t the detail in the carving incredible? And in such contrast to the garish surrounds in which it has been displayed.

More interesting (hopefully!) snippets about Macau to follow.

30
Apr
12

Chinese Checkers

No, I am not referring to the board game: Chinese Checkers

Chinese Checkers

What I am talking about is more of a real-life situation played out daily on the streets of Shanghai – and it does happen to involve Chinese people (and Westerners).

Aim of the game:

Getting a taxi despite all odds, while trying to remain polite and civilised and well-mannered.

Required:

  1. Busy time of day – preferably rush hour, people leaving the office, dinner time, etc.
  2. Maximum number of people trying to hail down a taxi – especially fun when a huge crowd of wanna-be taxi passengers are gathering in the same place at the same time – outside an office park, a restaurant, etc
  3. Minimal number of taxis for hire – choose the taxi-drivers’ dinner hour for best results.
  4. Pick a rainy day with howling wind and even some sleet or snow for an extra challenge.

How to play:

  1. Stand for a moment amidst the throng of wanna-be passengers.
  2. Get frustrated that everyone else seems more adept at pushing and shoving (more practice!) and less concerned about getting up everyone else’s noses
  3. Start sidling off in the OPPOSITE direction to where you want to go – the direction is very important.
  4. Try not to attract anyone’s attention – you don’t want others to realise that the game has started.
  5. “Hop” over/around each group of players that have already moved away from the crowd and have started new gatherings further up the street
  6. If necessary, “hop” all the way to the next block, around the corner, two intersections away – strategy is very important at this point.
  7. It doesn’t matter at all if you are moving further and further away from your destination – just “hop” along until you have bypassed all the opposition.
  8. Walk in the road so that your view of the oncoming traffic is not obstructed in any way – this gives you and your future driver a better opportunity to bond before you wave him down.
  9. Eye contact and initial engagement is vital to determine right of passage.

First one to get into a cab is the WINNER!

18
Apr
12

Seen on the street (2)

In no particular order….
1. Poodle being taken for a walk in a pram.
2. Underwear (bras & panties) hung out to dry – pegged to the handlebars of an upturned wheelbarrow/garbage cart next to the road.
3. Dog being taken for a walk backwards. No, that’s not the right way to put it – the dog was walking normally, it was the dog-walker that was walking backwards!
4. Behind a tree, in front of a wall, next to a bush, alongside the front wheel of a car – some or other man relieving himself.
5. A pair of sock-encased feet sticking out of the open window of the passenger door of a stationary mini-van – the feet belonged to the driver who was having his after lunch snooze.

For more street sightings…..

30
Jul
11

Yu Garden

I have started dabbling with watercolours and am working through a series of lessons on landscape painting from a DVD course – Watercolour Secrets by Bob Davies, a UK artist.

This is my first attempt at a real “postcard” from Shanghai – my techniques are still hopelessly inadequate, and I have a lot more to learn (and practice, practice, practice), but here goes:

The Yu Garden, or 豫园 – established by a high-ranking official from the Ming Dynasty in 1559, consists of beautiful pavilions and walkways wandering through carefully landscaped ponds, bridges and rocky outcrops. Except for the endless tour groups, it is a “quiet” place in the midst of the noise and bustle of the city of Shanghai!

It is definitely one our favourite places in Shanghai and hopefully the next time I paint it, I will be able to produce a more deserving rendition of this beautiful space.

Further info from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuyuan_Garden

16
Jun
11

Spitting mad!

To quote Monty Python: “I spit on your British Queen” – this is exactly what I felt like doing a few weeks ago – except that Queen E was probably less at fault than the corrupt Department of Home Affairs officials that have rendered the South African passport an item of international suspicion and contempt.

Even though my husband is a British passport holder and I have two step-children who live and work in the UK that have British passports and even a sister that has been in the UK for the last 20 years and also has a British passport, my little forest-green travel document has the misfortune of being labelled “potentially fake” by the British powers that be and I now need a visa to visit my family in the UK.

To make matters worse, I had to apply for this visa in Shanghai, with the clock ticking towards the 90-day deadline by which we have to exit the borders of China.

– So far I have avoided writing about the inherent complexities of our being able to live in China – one day I will have to summon up the courage to do so –

Until then, let me just say that we can only stay in China for a maximum of 90 days at a time. When the 90 days are up, we have to leave the country, go through border control, do a u-turn, and then we are allowed back in – for another 90 days. Unless our annual visa has expired, in which case we have to return to South Africa to restart the application process. [My husband would be able to apply from Hong Kong…..but once again, my little forest green book is not treated with equal importance and significance as his maroon one!]

I digress…I had to apply for my UK visa in the Shanghai office of the agency to which the UK consulate has outsourced the screening process. Initially I tried to apply online – you would think, that in this enlightened age, an online process would be quicker and more efficient, or am I alone in that thinking?

After filling in a 15 page questionnaire, which including questions about my now deceased parents that were South African, not British, and obtaining invitations letters and copies of the passports of all my British family members, I came to the part where I was informed that the nature of my application required that I make a personal appointment.

The earliest available slot for said appointment was in 3 weeks’ time! Only about a week after we would be deported for exceeding our visa restrictions.

I threw my toys (again) and was told (in more polite terms) – Suck it up! So my husband persuaded me to relinquish my passport, not sure if I would see it again before I was escorted onto a plane heading back to SA for overstaying my welcome in China. He reckoned that, being British, he had some clout at the consulate 🙂 and if necessary would track it down to help me to get out of the country. A couple of phone calls and emails, he acknowledged that he didn’t have as much influence as he would like. The Chinese employee at the embassy – Harry – was not interested in our problem. So passed a week of uncertainty and inability to book tickets to….anywhere!

The good news is that the story has a happy ending and a week later the visa was approved and the little green book was back in my very grateful hands. We flew out of China on 2nd June (1 day before deadline)….




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