Posts Tagged 'transportation'

Kuala Lumpur

With Hong Kong celebrating the Buddha’s birthday, we had a day off work on Friday 17th May. Tony, Aids and I headed to Kuala Lumpur for a weekend city break, in what turned out to be one of the best bits of travelling I’ve done so far.

With a 1am flight getting us there about 5am, we got a taxi to the hostel, Suzie’s Guesthouse, who were kind enough to give us our 3 beds for no extra cost to have a kip that morning. We got up properly from our sporadic sleep at about 11am, showered and headed out to explore the city. We did a lot of street wandering, found a Hindu temple, Buddhist temple and Central Market all before lunch. Despite our best intentions of wanting to avoid Chinese food, we had to settle for a Chinese restaurant, but continued out street walking. We found the old colonial Kuala Lumpur railway station, before exploring the edge of a park, wandered into the Police Museum and saw the National Mosque.

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We headed to the world-famous Petronas Towers after where we were very snap happy, and asked to pose for pictures with lots of people, including a Sikh guy and some Chinese birds, they love it…

That evening, we had a fiesta and met Paul, an Irish guy in our room, who we went for a spicy-as-hell Malaysian meal with. We then headed out to a club called ‘Zouk’ – what is known as one of ‘The Best Clubs in Asia’ (no shit – http://www.clubbing9ine.com/news/top-10-best-nightclubs-asia/). Was a sick night there!

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On Saturday, we met 2 other guys in our room, John (from Australia) and James (from down South somewhere) and 5 of us headed out of town to see the Batu Caves. We caught the tallest national flag pole in the world too, as well as some proper good sights in KL.

The Batu Caves were amazing. A huge golden statue stand flanking the steps to the caves; wild monkeys roam the steps and you can buy bananas and food for them; and the caves at the top could easily have been beneath Wayne manor and house the all of Bruce Wayne’s vehicles. There’s a nice little temple right at the end of the caves too.

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That being our last night, we went hard. I met up with mates from Uni, Alex Stewart and James Gough who I found out were in KL that weekend too, such a small world. We met at the Petronas Towers so we got to see them during the night.

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So we ended with the guys from the hostel, having a proper Indian chicken roti that you eat with your hands, then at night doing an organised Bar Crawl. The bar crawl was pretty good as we got to explore the Bukit Bintang area of bars and clubs. We met loads of people from everywhere: Denmark, Iceland, Lybia, India, France and someone who went to Manchester Uni. Great atmosphere, and as Adrian screamed when we were in the club ‘Lust’, ‘THIS IS SUCH A GREAT TIME, EVERYONE IS HAPPY!’. Flight back the next afternoon was done slightly hungover and very tired.

All in all, KL is a fantastic place. I was genuinely gutted to be leaving but feel I’ll be back one day hopefully. Would recommend it to anyone thinking of going.

Finally, the classic cheeky video of our trip:

“But where’s the giant inflatable turd??”

The past couple of weeks have been pretty busy with work and fun stuff happening. Danny had a great time while he was here, with a night out in LKF on Friday, before him ending his visit on Tuesday with a visit to Ozone Bar at the top of the ICC with Nat and me. Like I said in my last post, it was great to see an old Lonsdale mate all the way out here.

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We also had our first Departure meeting at work with the protocols of what to do now we’re a month away from leaving Hong Kong. Shit definitely is getting real now, but we all have some great plans for the next few weeks before May 31st.

On Saturday that week, Rich organised a Scavenger Hunt on the island, which was a good laugh going around everywhere on the island, despite being ridiculously hungover and slow-moving. The Thursday after that Nat made a huge pile of Spag Bol at hers for 10 of us in total, so massive respect for her sick kitchen skills. On Saturday Tony, Aids and I went to check out the M+ exhibition ‘Inflation’ at the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade. There was massive inflatables – a Roast Hog, pair of legs, a bug and Stonehenge bouncy castle with was probably the best bit. The giant inflatable turd was deflated that day, which is a bit shit, but still cool to see them.

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Saturday night we headed out to LKF again and one of the best nights for a long time – Jack’s place first for pre-drinks then spent the night with a lot of people. The night was made better by the fact that we were getting updates of the Newcastle-Liverpool match from the Brewhouse, always better hearing about a 6-0 victory when you’re high on life and out with your mates.

Sunday was a usual hangover day, made better by the massive Full English Jack made us round at his place! Again, massive thanks mate, you saved all of us from a pit of hungover despair…

So that leaves me with 5 full weeks here until I’m on a flight home to Manchester. Weird how fast the time has flown so definitely going to make the next few weeks count.

Singapura Singapore

I’d heard a bit about Singapore from colleagues or students. Before I went I had the impression that it was a smaller, more expensive Hong Kong – British colonial relics surrounded by newer, modern economic buildings of a Tiger economy, boasting an international population living in harmony.

They were right about the expensive part: Nat and I took $380 between us for the weekend and had $27 left for Sunday! Suppose though that you spend what you want and a day can be as cheap as you like if you’re willing to budget.

Our hostel was in the Arab quarter, an area with short, colonial-looking architecture with bars, hostels, restaurants and shops on the ground floors and a Mosque on the street. A really lively place, and very welcoming – not a closed off region of the city one might get the impression of. The hostel we stayed at was the Inn-crowd Backpacker’s Hostel – lots of backpackers from around the world, and it was reasonably priced.

We visited the Mustafa Centre (a renowned shopping place) which more or less reminded me of TK Maxx or something. I had to buy some shorts there as it was 31 degrees and I’d only brought my skinny jeans for the 2 days, what an idiot. But it was a decent place to buy stuff.

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We then headed to Chinatown, which. despite its name, had a huge Hindu temple in the middle of it – the Sri Mariamman Temple. There was a small ceremony going on when we got there with a guy with all his Hindu gear on throwing sheets of cloth into a fire pit while chanting. Having been surrounded in Buddhist temples in Hong Kong and Taiwan for 7 months, this was a welcomed change in seeing different cultures.

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Of course, there was a huge Buddhist temple down the road too – the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which is named because it claims to have a tooth of the Buddha in the temple. We didn’t see this tooth, so they may have put it in a statue or urn or something, but was beautiful inside. Again, there was a service on where the monks were spraying the congregation with water from a blessed pot while chanting.


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We headed outside and the famous Chinatown markets were there – old fellas playing Mahjong, stalls selling food and souvenirs etc. We went to a Vietnamese restaurant for lunch and bought some stuff. We took the MRT (subway) to the Marina Bay area – a new area (clearly funded from Singapore’s recent economic boom) with the Singapore Flyer (big wheel, think London Eye) and the casino/hotel Marina Bay Sands (weirdly designed building of 3 separate adjacent buildings with a long roof garden connecting all 3). We went on the Flyer, took some amazing pictures there, then had a chill in the midday sun in an outdoor Greek theatre with a Tiger Beer, which was proper nice. We check out the Pit Stop for the Grand Prix circuit too – weird seeing this after seeing it on TV for the past couple of years, a definite highlight!


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View from the Singapore Flyer

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Me at the Singapore Grand Prix Circuit

We headed to a place further around the bay, where the canals begin to flow into the city. Here there were an array of old colonial relics, interestingly preserved. One was the Fullerton Hotel by the quayside, the Cavanagh Bridge, Victoria Theatre and Museum of Asian Civilisations.

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We then did, for me, the highlight of the trip – we headed to the tallest point of Singapore – the roof garden Altitude Bar. It’s on the 62nd floor of a bank building and the views were spectacular. S$25 entry, with a free drink – which of course had to be a Singapore Sling cocktail. We stayed from 6pm to about 9pm there so got to see the sunset too with Malaysia on one side and Indonesia on the other – amazing!

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Me, a Singapore Sling and the amazing view

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Altitude Bar

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We headed to our last stop that day, the Sultan’s Mosque near the Bugis MRT stop. It too was an example of great architecture, and showed how diverse Singapore is. Unfortunately visiting times were over but it looked amazing. We headed back to the Arab Quarter and went to a curry house for dinner. I cheekily made sure we went to the one which had the Fulham vs Stoke match on and enjoyed a beer and curry before calling it a day.

On Sunday, we had a a few hours in the morning before we would head to the airport at 3pm for our flight. We headed to the old British colonial centre to check it out. We went through the grounds of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, a big white-washed Church with the British coat of arms still on its architecture. Next to that was a rugby pitch with a game on, the Cricket fields with a few guys practising in front of the Pavilion. Next to that was the Supreme Court/Government Building, which was being rejuvenated while we were there. There’s also a war memorial in the spitting image of London’s cenotaph, commemorating Singaporeans’ sacrifices in the 2 World Wars.

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A little further through the grass, English-looking public gardens, Victorian waterfalls and lampposts, we found the famous Raffles Hotel, named after Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, whose statue had been unveiled in 1887. Definitely had to get a photo with the head porter, although my shirt does look like it’s licking him…

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Our last stop was the Merlion Park – a Fountain statue of Singapore’s emblem/mascot – a hybrid creature of the Lion and Merman. His image is everywhere on t-shirts, models, keyrings and postcards, and tourists love the dude. After a few banter pictures with it, we headed to the airport and headed home with literally S$2 to our name when we got on the plane. Pretty efficient budgeting…

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Overall, I loved Singapore. It was similar to Hong Kong with its colonial parts, which is the bit of history I find really interesting. But also the pace of life was much slower there. Things were open on Sundays but there was fewer people out and about. The MRT was never fulled to the brim like in Hong Kong’s rush hours. 4 of the world’s major religions and cultures lived and worship there – Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhist. There’s a pleasant mix of European, Chinese, Malaysian and Tamil cultures in architecture, people and practises. Things are expensive but not extortionate. It was a warmer, slower Hong Kong: a place, which, if I was loaded, could see myself spending a lot of time there. The retired, old expats and younger Europeans looked to enjoy life there, every culture on an equal footing. Definitely the little gem of South East Asia.

And as per, here’s a video I made of Spectacular Singapore:

Taiwanese Adventure!

For Chinese New Year, we went to Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. Beautiful place there, and even though it may not be the main priority on everyone’s “Where to see in Asia” list, it is definitely worth a visit.

We visited a lot of tourist places in Taipei, and a few places we just stumbled upon or into. In the 5 days we were there, here are some of the highlights:

  • Chiang Kai-shek Memorial – a big open space in the middle of the city, the resting place for the former leader of the Republic of China, and head of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) – the military arm of the Kuomintang (Chinese Republican, anti-Communist, nationalist party). For a brief history of the NRA, KMT and PRC (abbreviations are a big thing in this period of history…), check out this video below Adrian and I did…

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  • Taipei 101 – what can I say apart from amazing views, the Fastest Elevator in the world, one of the highest post boxes in the world, an outdoor observation landing and a really surreal experience. A must-visit place even if you’re in Taipei for only 1 hour.

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  • Longsham Temple – there’s a few temples with this name, but the main one is at its namesake MRT station 2 stops away from the Main Station.  We went on one of the big days of Chinese New Year and it was rammed… Great experience.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Taipei Zoo – I know this is something you can do anywhere in the world, but the zoo here is pretty mint. Tigers, Asian elephants, bears and orangutans were the highlights, with the 2 resident Pandas also being the stars of the show. Cheap enter at NTD 60 (about 1.50 pounds in the UK). There is also the Maokong Gondola at the zoo which runs for 4 stops – the queue was too big for us to go on it, and it was similar to the one we’ve been on to get to Lantau island’s Big Buddha, so we gave it a miss, but it is definitely a highlight of Taipei!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Shilin Night Market – one of the most famous night markets in Asia – great street food, quirky restaurants (we went to Modern Toilet – a toilet-themed restaurant where your food comes in little toilet-shaped bowls, you sit on toilet seats and drink from toilet cups. The toilet there wasn’t ‘restaurant-themed’ though…) and fun fair booths. For more of a feeling of this place, check out my videos below…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Tamshui – beautiful sunsets, Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort Domingo (old colonial fort) and lots of people. What I’d call the ‘Blackpool of Taiwan’. Worth a visit!
  • Xinbeitou Hot Springs – exactly what it says – the public bathes there is $40 entry and $20 for the locker. There are 3 levels of hot springs – the highest being 45 degrees Celsius, lowest about 35 degrees. Tastes like sulphur so don’t dunk your head (my first mistake), but very good for your bones. An old guy chatted to me there, asking where I was from etc, and told me this particular hot springs gets a lot of old people with arthritis and bone aches as it’s soothing for them. The old lad came 4 times a week and was insanely happy he got a 15% discount too, good on him, great chap. There are other springs which are better for skin. Saying that, our skin felt so soft after we dried too. A definite destination if you go to Taipei!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While we were there we did a lot of photography and filming (clearly…). So here are 2 of my final products.

1) A general ‘family video’ of what we got up to there:

2) A more ‘artsy’ video of the scenes of general Taipei. Named after the Taipei 101, I have created this video to be a preview of Taipei life in 101 seconds (so 1 minute, 41 seconds). Enjoy and let me know what you think.

The UntouchableLad

The past couple weeks have been pretty eventful. Work’s been slowly getting busier with kids getting back into the swing of things after post-Christmas exams. We had a big English Ambassador Day Camp at Ma On Shan on Saturday 2nd February – bit out in the sticks but since everywhere is so well-connected it was only about half a hour away from our gaff.

These kids are those with high level English, love to get involved and leave with photos, phone numbers and Facebook requests with/for all us gweilo PCs. I led one of the activities with Nicole where they had to work as a team to make shapes and act out scenarios while being creative. They had drama performances, we played footy at lunch, other team-building and English speaking games etc, so was a great day. Here’s a video from Chatteris, and a photo of me, my colleague Holly and 4 of our students from KT who came to the Day Camp.

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On Sunday I spent the day with Nat, at the Museum of Costal Defence. Sounds like the worst possible thing to do at any time, never mind on a Sunday afternoon, but was pretty interesting. The guns and cannons there were mint. Boys and Toys. And it was funny to see the usual Hong Kong thing of having a hundred security guards stationed every couple of yards, in case it all kicks off. You’d think you were at a Millwall home game or at an Athens austerity measures protest with the amount of ‘security’. Having so many people doing the job that 2 or 3 could easily do is weird, but I suppose it gives some people employment and looks impressive on the front (how things look and presentation being another big HK feature).

 

On Tuesday Nat and I went to see Cloud Atlas at the cinema, which was pretty good. And got to check out the Olympic City shopping mall place where it is – reminded me a lot of Trafford Centre but smaller. In fact you could probably believe you were at the Trafford Centre with H&M, Marks and Spencer and The Body Shop all next to each other there. Anyway, the film was decent and cheaper than other cinemas at only $65 a ticket.

 

On Wednesday Adrian and I went to Happy Valley, and met up with a few of the other CNETs there and saw Steph C for her birthday. I bet around $160 in total and got a winner and a 3rd place. My fav, The UntouchableLad didn’t live up to his name though and only came in 4th. Odds were so low on the ones I won on, I got hilariously pathetic $9 profit from one and $4 on the other (we’re talking 80p and 30p). But like my Granddad, I was appreciating the game and fun of it, not there to make millions. Although millions would have been nice….

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One last thing, it’s getting hotter and more humid here already. There’s been a few days the jacket’s come off – the EAT Day Camp particularly. Not the sweltering paradise I arrived to in August but when I see the snow and ice at home, it is one good thing to enjoy here. Gloves and scarf were a bad investment.

The Future of the MTR

The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) run as Hong Kong’s arteries, concentrated mainly in Kowloon and the island line on the north of the island, but extending to most places in Hong Kong. You can reach the border with China for $39 (about 3 quid) on it and it’s one of the most regular, cheapest and efficient transport methods in the world. Here’s a map of the current MTR at the beginning of 2013:

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They are currently expanding the MTR in a few places across the region and have released the map of what the MTR of a few years from now will look like, shown below. Click on it to expand it.

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It first intrigued me when we’ve been down to Aberdeen to check it out down there and saw the massive construction that’s going on there. Similarly, with our orientation hostel being further west than Sheung Wan, we asked why a place as populous as Kennedy Town didn’t have a MTR station. Don’t want to do a boring labelling of the map, but here are the big main features:

– The Blue Line is being extended at the West to Kennedy Town with stops at the HKU and Sai Ying Pun after Sheung Wan (the current terminus).

– There looks to be a new Lime Green line to Ocean Park, the region’s biggest theme park and tourist honey-pot. This continues to Lei Tung and South Horizons (big new fancy estates, presumably worth a lot of money if they’re connecting them to the line).

– The Blue Line will now terminate at Quarry Bay in the East, with the current Blue Line stations from Tai Koo to Chai Wan becoming a new Light Brown Line that will travel parallel to the Blue Line to Victoria Park and the Exhibition Centre and Tamar (named after the famous ship stationed in HK in colonial times). This would connect to the Hong Kong station built in 2010 underneath the huge ICC and ends up heading towards Lantau Island and the Airport.

– Recent news at the end of 2012 showed that China is investing massively in its high-speed networks. It looks like a new grey line from China crosses the border and terminates at Austin (good, cos there’s nothing there atm) as a ‘West Kowloon Terminus’. Don’t know what to make of this – probably good and easy to get to the mainland; but in a city already with its big prejudices with mainlanders and a lack of trust in the Beijing Government, is this a way China is trying to integrate itself with HK? Who knows…

– The Purple Line will go from a random Western LTR to a complete cross-Kowloon network from Tsuen Wan East to connect with the current Brown Line that can only be accessed from Tai Wai. This looks good. Don’t know who’d use it, but yeh, go for it.

-Extending the Green Line from Yau Ma Tei (current terminus) to Ho Man Tin and Whampoa (former dockyard, now property estate with a huge ship in the middle of it. Only in Asia…)

 

Anyway, I also came across this map – could be a sort of fan-fiction, guys with too much time sort of thing but looks like HUGE expansions. Could be the MTR of 2060 or something:

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That’s all well and good, but when will it end!???

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The plans look groovy for the next few years, connecting a lot of places. But some of the ideas I think people need to think very carefully on. Connecting little island south of HK Island seems like the ultimate mission, but what would become of the small Sampans, water taxis and Star Ferry if integration of the island and all of HK to China is what some people in the top jobs think is best for HK? I’m probably being a bit too sceptical of their intentions, but with only 35 years and counting until the end of the ‘One Region, Two Systems’ concept in place here, a full on Sinoisation is definitely on the table, whether it’s just not that in name here in 2013. Whatever happens, I’m sure it’ll be good for Hong Kongers generally but let’s see. Hopefully one day it won’t just end up like this…

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Hong Kong Kai Tek Airport 1925-1998

Hong Kong’s Kai Tek Airport was the region’s international airport from 1925 to 1998. In the early 1990s it was realised that the site was too limited to cater for the modern systems of trade and so the massive International Airport on Lantau Airport took over in 1998.

 

I found this really good blog post on a Visual History of the Airport on the hilariously name ‘Hong Wrong’ website, worth a check out.

http://hongwrong.com/kai-tak-airport-photos/

 

I like this video they included about the future of the Kai Tek Airport site and how it would be used. I’d be well up for going to that club…