Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Went with a group of forumers to watch the 3rd sequel of Pirates of the Caribbean last evening at Cineleisure. Had been waiting eagerly for this ever since part 2.

PoTC: At World's End

Don't care about what others' opinions of Pirates of the Caribbean. I really enjoyed the movie, same as to the first two! Plenty of swashbuckling action & overwhelming splendor of CGI special effects in those madcap adventures of the charismatic Captain Jack Sparrow. Really love that witty Captain Jack Sparrow's character! Totally insane, devil-may-care & eccentric! Laughed out damn loud at all those funny scenes! Love those charmingly goofy characters & Captain Barbossa's monkey is so cute! Some disappointment in the movie are: Those pirate lords. Dunno what they are doing in the movie except dressed fancy & fought among themselves... "It's politic." They didn't even engage the enemy except by shouting a lot... That Sao Feng character portrayed by Chow Yun-Fat is also confusing. What the hell is he doing all those time other than talk a lot, fight a little, run away & then die so fast? The most memorable thing I remember he said was "Welcome to Singapore" & " More steam!" Duh... Anyway, look like there's going to be a part 4. Was hinted at the end of the movie when the camera zoomed in on the map Jack is holding. I'll be waiting...

Parley... again? =P

Booming sea battle

After the movie, we went to the food court at Youth Park to chitchat. Discussion range from the serious to ridiculous as always...

The 3 Musketeers?

While the rest of us chat, this bored fellow who brought along a laptop with wireless internet was updating the forum of our outing in real time! He was also chatting with people(girls?) on MSN. I think many forumers find the virtual world easier to deal with than the real. =P

Simply couldn't live w/o the internet.

Virtual chatting in preference to real.

And there's this pretty girl who always complained she don't look good in her pic. She looks very pretty what! So pretty till so many guys noticed & kept asking who is she lor! Also, she has this weird habit of always lugging a huge bag around. Said she's too lazy to sort out things in her bag. So she needs a big bag to just dump them in. I've seen the inside of her bag & it's like... woah... You need a screwdriver? No problem! USB cable? Sure! Full make-up kit? I think so... Maybe she even have her whole wardrobe inside her bag! Magic Bag of Endless Wonders? Hahaha...

Ugly me, Pretty her... this should boost her confident! =P

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Guangzhou Part 5 ~ Getting Around

As in Singapore, Guangzhou have three kinds of public transport systems. Taxi, train or bus. Air-con, cheap boarding fare of S$1.60 & all run by meter, made taxi my preferred mode of transportation. In Guangzhou, all taxis have metal bars separating driver from passengers. Only children or women are allowed to sit at the front. Newer taxis are equipped with mobile TV like those in some of our buses. In the back seats of every taxis, there's a notice in Mandarin & English. It have all the information you need in case you wanna lodge a complain. Some cabs even have auto-announcement in English, telling you the boarding fare & asking you to put on the seat belt.

Taxi interior

In the recent years, Guangzhou had lay down a modern underground rapid transport system like our MRT. Much cheaper than our MRT though. Tried it a few times, just for the experience & fun. All signs or notices are in Mandarin & English. Oh, their English is much better now & appearing more in public usage. Last I was there, very few English words around & anything in English don't make sense, like those direct translations from Babel Fish. =P

Guangzhou metro

If you can't read Mandarin, there's an English language option on their computerized touch-screen ticketing machine. In my opinion, it's much more simpler to operate then our MRT ones. No deposit. Just pay the actual fare. The one trip ticket is a black plastic coin. Tap coin on gate sensor when going in, put coin into slot upon exit. For regular users, they also have something like our EZ Link card.

How to take train

Some underground waiting platforms have glass panels barrier, some don't. Fine(500 Yuen) if you jump onto the track... guess they will let you off if you get smash by the train. Kekeke... All seats are metal... so cold on my butt! Everything is very clean though, unlike the streets above.

Traveling by train

Some things puzzled me in their stations. They have these devices with long antenna, LCD screen, card slot & numbered buttons. Video phones? Satellite phones? Those antennas look like those used by satellite phones. As far as I know, these devices can only be found in train stations. Took pic, but slipped my mind to ask their staff. Maybe someone can tell me what are they? =P

What the hell are these?

Bus, I didn't try. Dunno how. Very crowded & no one queue. When bus arrived, all charge forward, pushing & fighting for seats. OMG! I'll be squash! Saw two types of bus in Guangzhou, diesel & electric engine. Electric engine ones move so soundlessly. Wonder what will happen if power failure? =P


Previously, millions of motorcycles on the streets & pavements. Now, all motorbikes & motorized bicycles are ban from downtown areas of the city. Our host told us that the ban was implement coz of too many cases of snatch thefts using motorbike. All residents & companies within the area have to surrender their bikes within a deadline. They were not allowed to sell off their bikes. All were scraped by the authorities. Compromise is only 50 Yuen(S$10) for per bike surrendered. Our host told us lots of business were affected by the ban. His company lost three brand new bikes, bought for tens of thousands of Yuen & got back only 150 Yuen(S$30). The benefit from this ban is, unlike my previous visit which we had to be constantly on the alert for snatch thieves, streets of Guangzhou is much safer now.

No Motorbike Allowed!

Sometimes, late at night, I still saw motorized bicycles sneaking by, seldom in daylight. If caught, they face confiscation of their vehicle & a fine of 200 Yuen(S$40). The only 'motorbike' allowed to operate are three wheels scooters. These need special license & for company operation only. They are used mainly for delivery or you get a van. Vans are known as bread cars in Guangzhou coz they look like loaves of bread. =P

Three wheels scooters & a 'bread car'

The only motorbike you'll see in Guangzhou downtown areas is traffic police motorbike like this one I 'borrowed'... heehee!

Recruitment poster for traffic police? =P

Guangzhou is safer now also due to the fact that their police force are now omnipresent. Last time, rarely see any policeman around. Now, it's a common sight to see police cars with flashing lights cruising around & policemen everywhere. Even the army is helping to uphold the law in many places, all in preparation for 2008 Olympic Games. Every major traffic junctions in down town area have four policemen directing traffic. Last time, many vehicles don't stop when light turned red. All drivers ignored pedestrians' right of way at zebra crossings. Now they stop, but zebra crossings are still invisible to them. Many still drive against traffic flow. Seen many drivers drive into one-way street with horn blaring, ignoring the no-entry sign, in broad daylight!

Police & Army everywhere

At popular places not accessible by cars, police used electric buggy.

When I grow up, I wanna be a policeman, driving cute vehicles...

With the ban of motorbikes, car sale rocketed. More than 100 new cars hit the road everyday, causing massive traffic jams nearly everywhere. Cars are cheap. A new car cost about S$5,000. Mostly Japanese, European & American models, all made in China.


Other than traffic jams, accidents occurred frequently too. Last I was there, drivers have superb driving skill. Didn't saw any accident. Now, saw accident nearly every time I'm on the road. Our host was continually complaining about too many noob drivers, especially female ones. Male drivers had their faults too. A bus driver got distracted by me when I crossed a traffic junction. He slowed for the red light, but forgotten to brake completely. Hahaha!

Bus kiss car backside =P

For those who couldn't afford car or van, bicycles are in vogue again.

Me hijack bicycle =P

Bicycles & tricycles everywhere, multi-utility vehicles carrying anything from...

Canned fruits, water bottles & a caged man

Plants, gas tanks & sugar canes

or just pleasure cruising

Other transports I used in Guangzhou...

These didn't get me far, but it's been fun! =P

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Guangzhou Part 4 ~ Old & New

The Pearl River flow through Guangzhou. Its flow slice the city into areas of rich & poor. Almost all Guangzhou's upscale areas lies on the North bank of Pearl River. This area is changing very rapidly.

Pearl River

Changes are inevitable. Everything change. Nothing is stable. Stagnant is death. A need to change is the driving force of creativity at work. Same as many major cities in the world, Guangzhou is a fast expanding city. Last year they just shift their airport more then 20 km from the city in anticipation of that. The land of the old airport was already been sold & development had started. Ya, I know. Guangzhou is the first China city to open it's door to free trade. They had been changing since, but now, they are running like crazy coz of the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games.


In the city central, skyscrapers are shooting up everywhere like mushroom after rain. Shopping malls, office buildings, hotels & residential. The streets are cleaner & safer now. More sweepers & law-enforcement officers around. All in preparation of 2008 Olympic Games.

Modern Street Toilets

More westerners tourists are coming in compared to two years ago when I first visited Guangzhou. Price of housings are rocketing. Rents are going up. Property booming. Yes, time are good.

High Rise of Guangzhou

More & more older buildings in Guangzhou central are been torn down to be replace by tall steel, glass & concrete titans. Some of those new buildings look fancy & some are bland, but it's those quaint older houses that have charming characters.

Soon to be Gone

Old Gloomy Church

No one is allow to enter that church shown above. Don't ask me. I dunno why. Away from city central, you still can see many older buildings.

Brave Fronts

Roof-top pavilion

Many of these buildings have shops at ground level selling things you won't find at shops with more expensive rent in down town areas.


Laundry & Goods

Away from the hustle & bustle from city central, life move at a slower pace.

Quiet Lifestyle

Lanes branch off main road. Alleys branch off lanes. Even in the city central, squeeze between modern skyscrapers, tiny alleys running every which way. Their crashing contrast to nice clean steel & glass towers gave me a sense of contradiction. Imagining you are in a clean air-con shopping mall. When you step out, turn the corner, to be confront by this dirty, smelly & humid tiny alley running between huge modern buildings. I wonder what the city planners are doing. Not that I'm complaining. It just feel weird. I seldom venture into them as I prefer the safety of the main roads or major lanes.

Typical Downtown Alley

Alley Business

Phone Booths

The above pic is of manned phone booths with assistant to help anyone call cross country or oversea. These can no longer be seen in city central. Last of those communist propaganda posters are being replaced by commercial advertisements. Making money is top priority.

Old & New advertisement

Billboard pointing to an alley

In China, most entrance to major lanes & alleys have a stone or marble arch.

The richer, the bigger

The way in & out

Tiny alleys have just square hole in the wall. Gateway out to a brave new world, a brighter & better future.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Guangzhou Part 3 ~ Shopping

It was a leg breaking experience while shopping in Guangzhou. Their malls are HUGE! In fact, the biggest & the second biggest mall in East Asia are in Guangzhou. I don't really like to window shop, so I don't go mall cruising even in Singapore. In Guangzhou, their huge malls are nightmares! Near our hotel, along 天河路 (Tian He Road), is East Asia biggest shopping mall, the Grandview Mall (they are building a bigger one just opposite it).

North Entrance of Grandview Mall

Me at it's West Entrance.

For the record, I didn't explore Grandview Mall completely. Was put off by it's gigantic size. Saw an amusement park at its top most level & a ice-skating rink on 5th level. Haha! Nice ice-skating rink! Bigger than the one we have here. I love to ice-skate! Ok, more about that in a later update coming soon.

Inside Grandview Mall

Ice-skating rink & Merry-go-round

Just 200m away, separated by two small shopping centers is the second biggest mall in Guangzhou, Tee Mall. Was told by our host that local prefer to shop here instead of the bigger Grandview Mall due to better variety in shops.


Interior of TeeMall

Sandwiched between the two giant malls are two small shopping centers. Located in one of them is my favorite shop in Guangzhou.

Two midgets malls squeeze between the giants.

Inside my favorite shop

When I first saw this unique little shop, I wanna take pic of it's shop front. Was so disappointed when a staff informed us that no photo is allow. Later when they discovered that we were tourists, the embarrass staff told us that we are allow to take pic. Do I look local in my outfit? Haha... never mind.

Beautiful crafts made me look lovely too =P

Me with their friendly & helpful staff

This small, but unusual shop sells handicrafts made by minority tribes of China. I so love those beautiful works of art. The shop is stuff full of them, on shelves, hanging on wall & dangling from a frame in the ceiling, all tastefully arranged. On my first visit, I was in a rush & didn't look at everything thoroughly. Too much lovely things to take all in at a glance. I went back the next day after visiting their website from a cyber cafe. This shop is where I bought the most items from & took the most pic of, when I'm in Guangzhou. =P

天河路 (Tian He Road) is like the CBD of Guangzhou with many high rise buildings. Unlike other areas which all shops close for business at 5 or 6 pm. At 天河路 (Tian He Road), you can still find shops open at 11 pm with many people wandering around. Just next to our hotel is a shopping center, The Plaza, which shops open till quite late. There's a cinema inside too. Owner of The Plaza is the same as the hotel we stayed.

The Plaza next to our hotel

Inside The Plaza

At the opposite side of the road, a short distance from our hotel are three malls located next to each other in a row. Inside are full of computers & electronic shops much like our Sim Lim Square, but much bigger.

Guangzhou's geeks & nerds paradise =P

All the locations mentioned above so far are all situated at 天河路 (Tian He Road). Now to a more 'fashionable' district, 北京路 (Peking Road). It's Guangzhou's Orchard Road where all the branded fashion goods are. The whole stretch of 北京路 (Peking Road) is closed to traffic, permanently. You can find most of the famous brands there, but me not a branded fashion person, didn't find much to buy. Just went there to look see, look see.

北京路 (Peking Road)

In the center of 北京路 (Peking Road), covering about half it's length, is a long armor glass enclosure which preserve a history of Guangzhou. Peek into the enclosure & beneath is ancient roadway discovered by archaeologists dating thousands of years back in China's history.

Glass covered ancient roadways at 北京路 (Peking Road)

The People Park of Guangzhou is 三下九 (San Xia Jiu), 'Three Down Nine' if it's name is literally translated. Heehee... Funny, right? Don't ask me why it's named that coz I dunno. All I know is this area have less branded fashion & many locals prefer to shop there coz it's cheaper. It's not a tourist place like 北京路 (Peking Road).

三下九 (San Xia Jiu)

River of shoppers frank by shops

Small stall Big mall

Aiyooo... came across this guy who was carrying an advertising banner. Wanna took a pic with him, instead he handed over the banner, making me advertise for a noodle house for free! Tricky fellow! Hahaha...

From bland to brand =P

Drink that & be a man!

三下九 (San Xia Jiu) had me walking till my legs turn to jelly. Then there's this place called 状元坊 (Zhuang Yuan Fang) with stretch of small shops like our Bugis Village, patronize by mostly teenagers & young adults. Unlike Bugis Village which is just a short stretch with just a few branches off the main lane. At 状元坊 (Zhuang Yuan Fang), along the main lane, there're NUMBEROUS... countless of little lanes branching off. In those small lanes are many tiny alleys looping & twisting all over the bloody place, all lined with tiny shops at both side. Those tiny shops are locally known as 鼠店 (shu dian) meaning 'mouse shops' literally. Ya... like mouse in an alley. =P

Entrance to 状元坊 (Zhuang Yuan Fang)

One of the shopping alley

In Guangzhou, many places like 北京路 (Peking Road), 三下九 (San Xia Jiu) or 状元坊 (Zhuang Yuan Fang), many of their malls together with small shops stretches about 2 km ~ 5 km from one end to the other. And that's counting only in a straight line. From the main road, lots of small lanes branching off & many alleys branching off from those small lanes. Think Mazes. Think Labyrinth. Think Total Confusion! I would have got lost if I'm alone. Luckily, I have a guide who have superb directional sense & knew those areas quite well. Ok, good guide, but I still got to do the walking. Walked, walked & walked some more. "Is this the end yet?!?" I remember an area with lots of shops selling bags. Very many kind of bags. You can find any types of bags there as they claimed. Bag Lover Heaven! My friend brought me to the one end of the road. Took one look into the lane from a high ground. Saw this super long wringing, twisting & turning route with many side tracks. Nonono... Nope! Me not going in there! Not on my life! Me total surrender! What make it worse is when I was in Guangzhou, the whether turn hot... dry heat kinda hot... making my lovely fair skin darker everyday I'm there. =(

China is the Factory of the World. Almost everything is Made in China. Guangzhou is where many clothes & footwear factories are located. So, after covering most of Guangzhou popular shopping streets, you have to try their wholesale area. This is, by my friend's estimation, a 5 km long stretch of route in a straight line, not counting venturing into countless small lanes & their alleys. The route start from 高第街 (Gao Di Street) & stop at the end of 一德路 (Yi De Road). Many of these shops won't sell you single item. You have to buy by bulk or at least a dozen, but imagining a pair of sport shoes for S$2 ~ S$3, a lady belt for S$0.30, a pair of sock cost S$0.20, keychain for S$0.03, cheap handphone pouch or accessories? You can choose not to take one type of item as long as you buy in large amount. Good place to get multiple gifts. =P

Beginning of wholesale adventure

Starting from the entrance of 高第街 (Gao Di Street) you will find socks, stockings, gloves, underwear, lingerie, pajamas, belts & towels. Then comes the footwear. Lanes & alleys of shoes, slippers, boots, sport shoes & many more shoes till it terminate at a footwear whole sale mall. Next to it is another wholesale center called Sea Pearl Wholesale Center.

Masks & soft toys from small to huge

Horns, Swords or Framed Arts, Anyone?

Inside Sea Pearl Wholesale Center is a kaleidoscope of products. Toys, lanterns, flicking lights, masks, deco items, fans, swords, pots, vases, artificial flowers & plants, clocks, watches, bags, handphone pouches & accessories, stationary, lucky charms, wind chimes... the list goes on...

Plastic Butterflies, Paper Fans, Cloth Lucky Charms

In front of the wholesale center is 一德路 (Yi De Road) where many wholesalers of dried food & seafood are located. Sharkfins, sea cucumbers, dried abalones, scallops, salted fish, cuttlefish, waxed ducks, sausages, mushrooms, Chinese hams, salted veggies & many things I couldn't identify... I don't want to know. =P

Wholesale preserved food

The wholesale stretch end at two wholesale malls at the end of 一德路 (Yi De Road). One mall are wholesalers of toys & the other, wholesalers of handphone accessories, stationaries & costume jewelries. It's dusk when I reached there & most of the shops are closed or closing for the day. No chance for photo, but I managed to snared a cute panda soft toy for a friend back in Singapore.

All those shopping/walking trips break my legs. What did I get for my effort? Legs of jelly(I wore flats) & darker skin! The fashion at Guangzhou when I was there don't suit me. Look obiang to me. Well, that's my opinion. I tend to dress quite differently from many girls even here. Don't conform to current fashion & never will. Not into branded stuffs. So, my haul from Guangzhou is not much.
Still, I did bought a new luggage bag to carry back what I bought. =P

My purchases

*Note: The items at the back row & some from the 2nd back row of top pic are bought for friends & family. The keychains at right of center pic are free gifts.