Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fish Leong

I went to her concert and have no regrets admiring her.

Thank you, Jie Hui, for spending those few magical hours with me.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Study trip: Back to Shenzhen

The buffet was packed this morning. We were making wild guesses as to how many of the other guests were Malaysian as well. I did not enjoy the breakfast this morning for some unknown reason. Perhaps it was the thought of them ferrying us to yet another money-sucking factory that spoilt my appetite.

Bao An Tang was the first stop of the day. Despite being one of the two supposedly approved Chinese medicine manufacturers in China, I did not buy a single word they said. However, some other members of our group did and we waited 1.6 hours for them! We wasted so much time waiting for them to finish with their consultation, after which we headed to the statue of five goats or whatever it was called to have a quick photo session.

Mr. Chan did not even bother explaining its significance as he quickly gathered us for lunch, which was at the same restaurant as last night's dinner. That was where Steven joined us after handling our freight.

We had plenty of fruits as Mr. Chan bought two big bags of longan and lychee. It was on the journey back to Shenzhen from Guangzhou that the fruits became handy, especially the lychee. Steven was bullied to the max (we forced lychees down his throat - he hates them)! Ok, I did not particularly condone the act and was zoned out most of the time anyways.

Halfway, we stopped at a place called the Saigon House. I actually cannot remember the significance of this house but it served as a working museum, much like the Peranakan Heritage Museum in Melaka.

We arrived in Shenzhen at 5:10pm at Dongmen.

We were lucky to have a full moon on the night. Perhaps it was the 15th day of the lunar calendar. I headed straight to Sun Shopping Complex to buy the dress I saw a few days earlier and was so disappointed when they would not accept my credit card without the presence of my passport! In the end, I paid in cash, which I had to borrow from Miss Sik. After dinner, we skived off again to buy a pair of shoes from a local sports brand called Anta. I so love it! It was not only comfy and light, it was in the colour I wanted - yellow! Yes, finally a pair of shoes to match my uniform!

The last night in China was spent in room 1101, which to us was terrible. Oh well, it was our final day there so better not to complain. It was great fun traveling with people of different backgrounds doing the same thing.

The next morning, we bade farewell to the mountains that kept Hong Kong out of view.

We bade farewell to the mosque a few streets away.

We bade farewell to the wonderful people and new friends we've made.

Steven, when and where to will be your next educational outing?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Study trip: More serious business in Guangzhou

The breakfast buffet was good at Rosedale. Haha, I suppose it really does make a difference how many stars the hotels are rated. Here, have a look at the view from up above. Can you see the mixture of old and new?

As the weather was good, I quickly took a picture of our hotel:

After breakfast, we visited a kindergarten called JinBaoBei.

Also part of a big group of schools, this group is much bigger than the one in Shenzhen, as it encompasses education from the kindergarten level right up to secondary school level.

It was totally different to the one in Shenzhen, as they cater to a different market. Located in the heart of a village, their children do not arrive in flashy cars and they do not need to pay their fees bi-annually. Fees are paid monthly at a reasonable rate. All their teachers looked young, including the principal.

The visit was short as the principal did not have much to share. Hence, we had early lunch, after which we visited the stationery wholesale market. Boy, there were so many shops to choose from!

I only bought some photo paper and skived off with Steven in search of a place to sit down for a drink.

Next stop: Guangzhou Book City.

Fuah, you should have seen the size of this place. I purposely sent an SMS to Jie Hui to tell her that I'm in HER heaven. And I thought the place in Shenzhen was huge - this place was MUCH BIGGER! And, I was so happy to be able to use my credit card!

After dinner, I quickly went to the T-shirt shop to buy a few t-shirts as souvenirs. I flagged a cab to head towards 上下九步行街 to meet up with Kei Kei and her colleague for dimsum at a restaurant called 陶陶屋. Gosh, you should have seen this place - it was grand and even at such a late hour, it was full with yumcha diners. It was so good to catch up!

By the time I got back to the hotel, it was 11pm. Upon exiting the lift, I could hear the three Johorean girls still packing their luggage. I had to pack my luggage, too, so I hastened my pace...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Study trip: Going around Guangzhou

Our morning call was half an hour earlier this morning. We had the same brekkie and checked out at 8:00a.m. Before we headed in the direction of Foshan, we stopped by a silk factory where the Malaccans bought blankets and pillows. The three-hour journey northwards was bumpy due to the thick lines painted on the roads. I noticed that their roads are very organised and wide, used by many expensive cars! Their roads are well-manicured with plenty of fruit trees, mostly lychee, mango and jackfruit. Also, it seemed as though the recycling campaign is successful, as there were many people collecting recyclables and segregating the different materials.

We had lunch upon arrival in Foshan and boy, it tasted so much better than the food in Shenzhen. Why were we in Foshan? Well, to do this:

Yup, play with clay. Haha.. well, we visited the oldest ceramic kiln there is. The place is a heritage site, as the fire that's been burning in the kiln has not been put out for 500 years. Yup, amazing! That explains why the area surrounding the kiln looked like a distribution area for ceramic items of all sorts.

From there, we moved on to Guangzhou. Along the way, we saw a protest at the side of the road. According to our local guide, it was conducted by the local villagers who are protesting against the government taking away their ancestral lands.

We also saw this when we arrived at the restaurant we were to have dinner at:

Talk about spoiling your appetite...

Tonight, we stayed at Rosedale Hotel, room 2322. Downstairs, there were plenty of shops selling assortments of food and clothing. There was a shop selling T-shirts, which I particularly liked but with limited cash, I put the thought of buying on hold. We took a walk round and haha, ended up empty-handed. But, we did fill our stomaches with some super spicy Sichuan hotpot! I literally turned red from the spice! Yin and yang cannot exist without the other, right? So, we had McD's soft cone sundae as dessert. Haha, what a conconction!

And tonight, I spent a bomb on my phone bill answering a call from home.

Study trip: Serious business in Shenzhen

Morning call was at 7:00a.m. Brekkie was nothing to shout about. Well, I was comparing it to those I had in Taiwan and without salad and coffee, I would not even bother considering it breakfast. While waiting for our van at the entrance of the hotel, I quickly took a shot with our local guide:

On this day, we were to visit a well-known kindergarten in Shenzhen. Although the kindie was expecting us at 9:00a.m., we arrived earlier. The kindie we visited is part of a big group of kindies (similar to franchises here) called Jingjing Education Foundation. They have 20 branches in Shenzhen and its surrounding areas. They ferried us to another branch in a different suburb before they took us on a grounds tour of the main Shenzhen branch. I found the principal of this branch helpful and appreciated her willingness to share:

Like any other typical kindie in China, they have the facilities and not to mention ample space, both indoors and outdoors. It certainly helps to have a government that channels funds into the proper development of early childhood education, one that takes education at that level seriously.

Jingjing's main selling point is their special class of arts. When they say arts, it more or less means a separate class of children who go through intensive dance training (an hour each in the morning and afternoon). They get invited to perform at public events, as well as for CCTV. The children are able to execute stunts such as fold their bodies in half, bend over in a full arch etc. Although they also have specific Montessori classes, their main framework is based on the thematic and High/Scope methods.

Personal observation: I wonder if it creates a gap between the classes of children. I mean, they have say, three classes of 6-year-old children. One class is a normal class, one is a Montessori class and the other is the Arts class. I wonder if there is a comparison between the children, if not the teachers. Would they not wonder why they do not get to participate in the extra dance classes? Would they not wonder why they do not get to use the attractive shape sorting apparatus? After the discussion session with the company's director, it became clearer that it is about business expansion. They were talking about buying another kindergarten in another suburb to convert into their own. I guess it boils down to your own philosophies and motives, ey?

I made another observation during lunch: they like to serve celery and also use plenty of salt in their cooking. We made a short stop at a jade factory before proceeding to the Shenzhen Book City. It actually is a shopping complex that sells only books and reference material in audio-visual form. So, you'd get things like the electronic dictionary. I bought RMB607 worth of CD/VCD/DVDs and RMB344 worth of books. Too bad they did not accept credit cards issued by non-local banks. Otherwise, I'd earn more points and would have more cash.

After dinner, Miss Sik, Miss Cheong, Miss Liew and myself ventured on our own to Dongmen.

It felt like the Chinese version of the Taiwanese Ximenting. Inside Sun Complex, I found a sweet English-style dress that was going for half price. Too bad they didn't have my size.

It was pouring by the time we headed back outdoors. Good thing Miss Sik brought shoe protectors (the water that flowed out of the drainage systems was black in colour!). That night, I went to bed with the dress in mind...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Study trip: Welcome to Shenzhen

I've not slept for so few hours in a long time. I think the last time I did not have any sleep was when I was doing my Honours thesis. I left the house at 4:14am so take a wild guess as to what time I woke up.

The plus side of a flight at that hour would be the empty seats on board. I went all the way to the back to be by myself. Er, ok, nearly by myself, as the air steward stationed at the back spent half the flight talking to me. He was helpful and friendly, sharing his flying experiences with me:

AK80 touched down at Shenzhen International Airport 10 minutes ahead of schedule.

We were delighted but the health officers came aboard to take our body temperatures and that took a long time. They were very stringent, even prohibiting passengers from taking photographs of procedures.

One member of our tour group had to be quarantined because she had a slightly higher than normal body temperature and had prescribed medication for flu and cough. So, I took the chance to meet the other members of our tour group while waiting for her. We also warmed up to our local guide, Mr. Chan.

We had lunch at the restaurant below when our group member was released.

Then, it was off to Splendid China and China Folk Culture Village. These two places are connected to each other and is set up like an amusement park. It reminded me of Formosa in Taiwan but a much bigger version. Here's a picture of Miss Liew, my roommate and myself in front of one of the many stages in the park:

I toured the place along with the two teachers from Seremban - Miss Chong and Miss Sik. I enjoyed my long conversation with them, exchanging our experiences and backgrounds. I finally understood why Mum said that I will learn lots just by getting to know the people in the group. Here are more snapshots of the place:

One portion of the park showcased the lifestyle of the many tribes of China. Some of the different architecture and agricultural activities were also presented such as drying corn...

... and cultivating tobacco plants (which we embaressingly thought were gigantic vegetable leaves)...

There were also dance performances. One resembled the Taiwanese aborigines very much.

They were actually from the south, bordering Vietnam, explaining their dark complexion. Curious with the skulls hanging from trees, I had my queries answered when they explained that the skulls of the buffaloes signify the status of a family.

After dinner, which was literally just next door, we re-entered the park to watch two musicals.

One word - breathtaking! Gosh, the costumes, colours, the stage and choreography were out of this world! Particularly noteworthy was the design of the stage. I was imagining the amount of money they poured into the place. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed so I had to rely on memory to recount the details.

Chang An Hotel was where we checked-in for the night.

After a quick shower, we headed out to scout for food and phone cards. We found out that it was not worth the money to purchase a phone card, as with RMB85 you'd only get RMB30 worth of calls. We stopped at a chee cheong fun cafe to have char siu chee cheong fun, porridge and ramen. We nearly went the wrong way when returning to the hotel. Haha, funny but dangerous.

After such a long day, we slept soundly in Room 804, opposite Mr. Chan and the van driver.