Saturday, 31 July 2010

Bath time on the streets of Nanjing

We were wandering home from the performance at Bailuzhou Park and came across a family having heaps of fun on the footpath near the bus stop. Mum and Dad were giving the children a bath in a large plastic wash basin. The older of the children did not like having water over her face and was screaming at top pitch when we arrived, while the little one just puddled away in the water!

This looked like a nuclear family so I don't know how they fit in with the one child  policy but I may be making assumptions and they were neighbours or cousins - or something else altogether!

A musical play in Bailuzhou Park

Last night we decided to retrace our steps to Bailuzhou Park. On our previous trip we had found a stage all set up on the lake and some seating. On asking around we found out that at 8 pm each evening there is a performance. Last night was a lovely clear and balmy evening so off we went to see if the performance was on (you can't really trust advice in this place - so we went fully expecting that it would not be on!) We had no idea what sort of performance to expect but thought it was a good excuse to get away from the house for a few hours.

What unfolded was the story of 2000 years of Nanjing. Unfortunately our camera hasn't taken great pics at night and at distance but anyway - here are the few we took that turned out OK. It was a delightful show with boats gliding by with singers on them and beautifully constumed dancers. There was also a large screen that described (in Chinese) the history of Nanjing up to the Qing dynasty.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Japan and Korea in the rain

July is monsoon time in Asia and a few typhoons hang around dumping heavy rain and blowing winds right up the Chinese coast and into Japan and Korea, so you would wonder why we might choose to cruise at this time of year! I just was not aware that it would be so darn wet and, after all, this is when Ron has his holidays. We left Shanghai on the 11th July in a warm, humid drizzle on board the Legend of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International cruise ship bound for Japan and Korea and seven days on the sea.

We have not been regular cruisers and only have one other trip under our belts - the South China sea cruise we did in 2007. So we approach cruising with a bit of a dubious attitude - isn't it really just for old people (and we are not yet that old are we?), and isn't it packed with Asian gamblers and will we feel like sardines crammed into a small space with hundreds of people we would rather not be with? In fact nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, the passengers were in a majority from Asian countries - after all we were cruising in Asia! The overwhelming majority were from China and they were families, sometimes 4 generations from the great grandma through to the only child. And they were having just the same sort of holiday any Aussie family would be having! There was a small casino on board that opened in the evening and stayed open till the wee hours and, yes, the casino filled with people who wanted to use it but it was just a small part of the ship and only one of the activities that were happening at the time.Mostly we felt we were living in a 6 star hotel with everything laid on and staff who would do anything to make life easy, pleasant and fun. I had also heard that cruise ships turn into drunken dens of iniquity! I saw no evidence of this but Ron did note that there was a Spanish guy who was watching the world cup final at 3 am who was rather strongly inebriated and showing very vocal support during the game! So really for most of the time the cruise felt right for us and we had a great time. All negative perceptions thrown out the window and now thinking we might try another cruise sometime soon! you can't go wrong checking into a 6 star hotel, unpacking your bags for a week and visiting 2 countries and four cities and never having to wait in a queue or repack your bag! Here are some pics we took when we got onboard and before there were a lot of people around:

That's me sitting in the casino - the only time we visited it really! And then clockwise - the card room, the whirlpools, art gallery, dining room, library, looking over the outdoor pool, internet cafe, and looking down into the music lounge.

Our first port of call was Kagashima in southern Japan. At all ports you could choose to take a guided tour of some of the highlights of the town but Ron and I have seen enough temples and Asian markets to last us a lifetime so we decided to abandon the guided tours and just go experience the city. Armed with a map we wandered the streets of Kagashima and found a market style shopping centre, a bank and a beer. The rain had started to bucket down so we grabbed a cab and headed back to the ship with 2 umbrellas added to the luggage. We all know if we buy an umbrella it ensures it won't rain anymore so we were placing our holiday in the hands of the umbrella gods!

Next port was Nagasaki where the typhoon was in full swing and the rain was falling almost horizontal driven by a strong wind. Sounded like a good day to hunker down with a good book and keep warm and dry! So Nagasaki did not get a visit from us - we observed it from the ship. Does that count as a visit? Oh well - that's how it went. Some of the more intrepid cruisers went to see the Peace Park and the Memorial Museum but I have to say all that war stuff just leaves me feeling depressed and overwhelmed by sadness. Our dinner partners came back from the visit very subdued and quite saddened by the atrocities of WWII and the nuclear holocaust.

Fukuoka gave us a morning of sunshine before turning on the buckets of rain - so off we went into the subways, exploring underground shopping centres and eventually finding me a new camera to replace my other little portable one which I think I have now worn out completely! We strolled some shopping arcades and eat streets, Ohori Park and the Museum of Modern Art. Ohori Park was lovely, filled with ponds with lotus floating on them and really very similar to parks in China, except much better maintained! We enjoyed the museum and picked up a few arty postcards, wandered around the park and found a coffee shop and then headed back to the ship.

Busan in Korea greeted us with a slightly better day and we were now adept at working out the subway systems under these Asian cities. They do transport so well. The curiousity of the locals was quite funny - everywhere we went we were nodded to, smiled at and greeted with courtesy and respect. We spent a short while in a Cultural Centre and the Museum of Busan. Both very interesting and a great way to hear about the history of Korea and it's interactions with China, France, Russia, the USA and Japan. I reckon those poor Koreans have as much fighting spirit as mortally wounded bulls in a bullring - They just keep fighting back!

Here are some pics from the trip :

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Picnic at Lion Rock Beaut Spot!

Summer has come to Nanjing with a blast. Temperatures during the day have not fallen below 30 degrees for a few days now and it is muggy and tropical. What a contrast to the snow an ice of a few months ago!

So to celebrate the good weather and take advantage of lovely balmy evenings we decided to take a picnic dinner to the Lion Rock Beaut Spot - yes, that is the official name! Here is proof!

We had no idea how to find it so my friend Sian who had visited before came along to be the guide!

Ron has been collecting some Chinglish signs, just for fun, and there were many to be found here at the Beaut Spot. (More news on Chinglish later!)

Now there is not much to say about heading out for an evening picnic really, however the picnic spot was delightful and the Champagne and prawns with seafood dipping sauce, followed by honey soy chicken drumsticks, potato salad and a green salad, crispy bread rolls accompanied by a nice bottle of French red was certainly a tasty repast! So it's really not too tough in China now the winter is over!

I think you will agree - the setting was very nice!