Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top 10 2008 Malaysia Headlines

These are the Top 10 2008 Malaysia Headlines

As we usher in the New Year, let's just reflect a bit on beloved country, Malaysia.

1. Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek's resignation after admitting to be the one in the VCD. VCD aside, many were saying that it's rare for a politician to admit his/ her faults, and this is commendable. And in a surprise 'comeback' he later went on to become VP in MCA in October.

2. 8 March General Elections
This 'political tsunami' must be the biggest election fever ever in Malaysia - with intense campaigning. However, many were stunned with the results - where the ruling party Barisan Nasional (BN) didn't managed a 2/3rd majority vote and 5 states are now under the Pakatan Rakyat alliance.

3. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim
From leading the opposition coalition to make massive inroads during the 8th General elections, to his rare appearance in the much aniticipated oil debate on TV, and his bigger majority win to be MP after his wife Datuk Seri Datin Wan Azizah stepped down to allow him to contest, he really made headlines in Malaysia.

On the other hand, there is the Saiful Bukhari allegations, the Bala incident and the 'haven't materialised' Sept 9 takeover.

4. Raja Petra & Behind Bars
The blogger behind the popular Malaysia Today site and the many articles on Altantuya's murder case was sent behind bars twice. And his site blocked in Malaysia. He has since been released.

A Sin Chew reporter (Tan Hoon Cheng) and MP Teresa Kok (MP of Seputeh) were also sent behind bars, and later released. Apparently, the reporter was sent in order to protect her.

5. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad & his blog
From being an instant famous blogger in his blog, causing a big buzz in the blogosphere and off, he has his fair share of opinions on the current government.

His blog is his source of voicing his opinions and is many times quoted by the Singapore press.

What's also interesting is that there was a front page photo of him & Pak Lah shaking hands and all smiles when they bumped into each other during one of the festivals.

6. Petrol price
The increase of petrol price. The arguments are - with continuing subsidy, this will affect the country's oil reserve in the very short future... while on the other hand, some argued that the oil rates are high for an oil producing country. Oil prices has since been revised a couple of times.

In between, some proposals - banning Singapore cars or cars from Thailand to pump at nearby petrol stations were suggested and nearly implemented.

7. Pak Lah's Retirement & UMNO Elections
Pak Lah first set his retirement in 2010, but later brought it to an earlier date in 2009.

There was also much guessing on the UMNO elections dates, which was brought to 2009.

8. Datuk Shah Rukh Khan
The datukship honoured to Bollywood actor caused quite a stir in the nation. The arguments - there were more deserving Malaysians or even other international acts who've yet to be awarded. On the other hand, a well known celebrity can bring much attention to the state.

9. Olyimpics: Malaysia Silver Medal
Some positive news - Malaysians came together to support shuttler Lee Chong Wei who reached the finals and brought home a silver medal in the Beijing Olympics. This is really the 'silver lininng' in Malaysia's 2008 history.

10. UNESCO Award
If going by other countries benchmark, this is something to be proud of - where Penang & Melaka (Malacca) are listed as one of the World Heritage areas by UNESCO.

There, the top 10 things that make us read news updates and the endless coffee-shop talk. I wonder what's in for 2009.

To Malaysia, Malaysians, and those who love the country - here's a Happy New Year! :)

This list is compiled by the author in his eyes only and is merely stating the facts.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

China Incidents (Stressful)

As merry the year end period is, with the cool weather (at times too cold), and the holiday mood... but I've also encountered a few stressful China incidents.

Now, so far, the holiday has been very fun... but I thought I'll share some of the 'behind the scenes' too.

1. Boat ride at Hangzhou's westlake
I remember I heard clearly the boatman says he'll take me to see some views & BACK. But, as we arrived to the destination - he say's that's it. For that destination is his parking deck (ie the place where he parks his boat for the day).

And to makes things worse, that part of the lake is a lil deserted where there are no taxis around - but touts.

2. Hangzhou restaurant
I went to this restaurant for noodles - and asked for a bowl. The waiter told me the price is old price and now the prices has changed (from 10 yuan to 16 yuan).

I thought, that's it's ok since I'm already there and this is already one of the cheaper restaurants I found in Hangzhou Westlake area.

stressful china trip, foodI was stunned when the food arrived - see how big the bowl is! Thought it a bit weird, but ate what I could anyway.

stressful china tripAfter eating, I asked the waitress why do they serve such big bowls for 1 person - and she replies, I could have ordered a smaller one.

As I went out, I just asked the waiter - "Why did you give me such a big bowl?!"
"Ah.. ah.. I thought you were 4 people".

3. Wuzhen Hotel
I thought I had a good deal when the boss of a budget hotel told me his hotel rates (140 yuan/ night with internet).

But what I found out later - if I had stayed in the Xizha Scenic Zone, I need not pay for entry, meaning I could have slept in a house by the canal at the same price in the end. Ok, that to me doesn't really matter.

However, when I got to the bus station, one of the ticketing aunty asked me out of friendliness how much I paid for my hotel... which she just went "What?... usually, it's only 40-60 yuan.. at most 100 yuan!"

Seriously, in my mind - 'hotel also can cheat?'

4. Shanghai Hotel
Upon returning from Wuzhen, I actually booked a hotel in Shanghai. On the website, it's stated as a self rated four star hotel (yes it says 'self rated').

The reason I chose this for 1 night was because I knew I would feel tired and would like to rest and maybe use the hotel facilities - mainly the gym.

But first, none of the equipments in the gym were working. So, I paid more for same - another one of those 'good deal' (I wonder whose side is this 'good deal').

And then, when I was checking out, the cool to cold reception staff (the ones who stare) said I have to pay more. To settle this, I had to actually speak to the Manager in charge and showed him the hotel website.

5. Cold Rude Bookstore Staff (Shanghai): Of all encounters, this is ranked no. 1!
In one of the bookstores which I went today, I met this lady who speaks without talking to you and without a movement of face expression (with rare blinks) - yet staring at somewhere else.

And the part that got me fuming is that she gives me directions to others and then to others.... and which finally, I found out she is the one in charge!

And when I asked her again, she just again "bu xing bu xing..." - again with that cold face and the 'don't care attitude'.

Seriously, this 'bu xing' (cannot) sounds so much like Pusing! (bluff!)

I was really dissapointed with the rudeness of such staff, who to me disgrace the city of Shanghai.

6. 'Not nice one'
These hustlers throughout the famous Nanjing Dong Road keeps asking tourists to buy stuffs or pay for services. And on once instance, when I said no but continued to take pictures, the guy just said "take for what... not nice one".

7. Push me, push you
One more thing I encounter here is that there's a lot of pushing. Maybe this is the normal way of life. Like when I'm at the door and about to open it, someone will barge in. This happened more than once.

Or when walking, some will just push you aside to hurry walk their path. No excuse me, but just pushes - though many times you are not even blocking their path.

*Not all Shanghainese stare blankly, pushes or are rude. These are just my own experiences with some of the 18 odd million here. There are some very nice hotel staffs and even people on the streets who willingly give directions and help a foreign tourist who look so like them.

In fact, after I came out of the bookstore flustered, a Shanghainese couple were quite nice and said 'they understand & know'. And the girl nicely ended with "... but we (meaning the 2 of them) are not rude" (smiles).

Anyway, despite these incidents, the trip has been fun & even fruitful for me. And I'm looking towards exploring Shanghai further! :) (btw, I'll be seeing 'Jackie Chan' today!)

Wuzhen - Shanghai

When I went down from the hotel in Wuzhen in the morning, I was greeted with a beautiful mist.

wuzhen cold mistThe weather was really cold and it was drizzling a bit.

I then headed to a nearby restaurant to have my brunch. And after that, along the way back to the hotel, I noticed this.

wuzhen charcoalAs a foreigner, I found this charcoal quite amusing... but to the Wuzhen locals, they find the tourists amusing!

In Mandarin:
Lady: "It's so common here... but you tourists all do stop and take the photo".
Me: "Yes, cos we find it unique... and if you come to my country, you'll take lots of pictures too!"

Not asking where I'm from but seeing an opportunity, she says:
"Do you think if we sell, would you buy? It's only here you know you can find such unique charcoal".

And I thought to myself: "What a twist!"

Anyway, soon I left to the bus station (without the charcoal of course) to catch my coach to Shanghai. The 2 hour ride (46 yuan) bus ride wasn't as comfortable as the Hangzhou - Wuzhen one, but nevertheless, decent enough and quite clean.

wuzhen-shanghai busI'm lucky to have gotten the bus ticket which I purchased the day I arrived in Wuzhen, as some who didn't had to actually take the stool and sit at the aisle of the bus! (thought it wouldn't be polite taking photo of them here).

So finally I'm back again to the bustling Shanghai!

But after checking into the hotel, I was too tired to go out and explore the city. I rested the day in the hotel till night fall...

And it hit me that I needed a break from the holiday (a holiday in a holiday).

And a break I got.... before the stress later. That's coming up next!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Wuzhen Xizha

From one scenic place to another - that is simply what I did in Wuzhen.

I had purchased the combined ticket at 150yuan (for 1 day) and after visiting the Dongzha, it was time to visit the next tourist spot! This despite my legs being a lil tired already...

wuzhen, xizha, ferryFirst a ferry ride across the river canal. This one is free for all visitors - as we all need to sit this in order to get to the zone.

wuzhen, xizha, bridgeIt is without doubt that this place is more scenic than the other, though also very similar - 2 long streets along the main canal with many bridges.

wuzhen, xizha riverHowever, the canals even passes through many other 'island like' towns like this one. And some parts of this area is really so 'movie like'!

wuzhen, xizha boatmanAnd as usual there tourist view: hired boatman to simply row his boat with surrounding birds. Well at least it makes a good shot :)
wuzhen, xizha, xuchang garden sauceApart from the scenic canal views, there's quie a fair bit of other places to feast the eyes. I enjoyed this view of the Xuchang sauce garden with the cone shaped covers.

wuzhen, xizha archAnd there is this temple shaped arch (behind is the river).

wuzhen, xizha brick wallThis high rise brick wall got my attention too - really a nice background for a photography shoot!

wuzhen, xizha treeAnd the one place that got me enjoying the view is this - where plants grow on the building walls and covering it up fully like a piece of art! Now, this is something! (I wonder if it will 'ruin' the building someday?).

It was a long walk, and I was getting tired & ready to head back to the hotel... but, I had to wait for the special sunset moment, which came not long later...

wuzhen, xizha bailian towerThe Bailian tower looks so majestic at this time of the day in blue.

wuzhen, xizha laneI was walking hurriedly to capture as much as I could during this 10-15 mins sunset moment before it gets all dark.

In fact, to capture this shot, I actually ran to one of the bridges. Now, this is the shot I've been waiting for! (and I wasn't the only one on the bridge!).

People were exclaiming "Wah, so pretty! Really, so beautiful" (in Mandarin). This is the scenic view that sold to us tourists to come here anyway!

wuzhen, xizha, bridge reflectionAnd then within minutes, the skies grew dark... and the beautiful bridges glow came into view, though it's a lil too dark for photography already.

Visiting this part of Wuzhen is nice - but somehow the feeling that it's like a make up tourist destination keeps bugging my mind. The houses here in Xizha has all turned into restaurants and guests houses (there's over 30 of them).

And though it is nice that one can actually book and stay by the canal, or even to eat beside it, but simply too many and it becomes rather touristy.

But of course, saying all that, this place (or any water village town) is a must visit - at least once. The only thing I missed is actually the snow on the roofs of these buildings - but I think it's ok, cos otherwise I'll freeze taking photos! :)

Anyway, after 3 days & 2 nights in Wuzhen, I'm now back in Shanghai! (I took a 46 yuan bus ride of 2 hours).

*If tickets are purchased seperately, it's
CNY 100 for Dongzha Scenic Area (full day)
CNY 120 for Xizha Scenic Area (full day)
CNY 40 for Xizha Scenic Area (night only)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wuzhen Dongzha

wuzhen river boat
There are 2 scenic must see places here in Wuzhen - the Dongzha Scenic Spot and the other the Xizha Scenic Spot.

Well actually, it's not really a 'spot', but 2 quite huge water villages built along the river.

wuzhen round entranceI started my day visiting the smaller of the 2 is Dongzha, which has a very broad pathway along the river, and with many real houses still there - and the villagers living in them.

wuzhen dongzha streetOn the other side of the river and parallel to it, is a long street of their authentic old houses. However, most of the houses seem to have their doors closed, which is a pity... but I guess to keep their own privacy.

wuzhen blue dyeBesides the houses, this quite cultural place has a fair bit of museums sharing what their culture is about - including this 'blue dye' cloth making (batik China style). I'm impressed the way they hang it up!

wuzhen birdHowever, it's not the museums that caught my attention, but some beautiful shots that one can take just walking down the lanes in Dongzha.

The bird cage is most likely put up for tourist purposes - haha!

wuzhen chairThe mini stool meant for adults! This one I think is for real.

wuzhen food, mutton noodleI especially enjoyed having my meal by the river - this is the famous Wuzhen's mutton noodle.

But that wasn't my only rest-stop, as this whole area of walking really get the legs tired (think a total of 5 hours non stop).

wuzhen fruitsSo before I left, I was looking for another restaurant. But not wanting to over indulge, yet wanting a good place to rest (by the river of course!), I just ordered the 8 yuan chrysanthemum tea (which Wuzhen is famous for).

And as for the oranges - I've brought it along with me (I bought from the night market) and asked them to cut. They served it so well!

And after the good rest, I was ready to continue my journey to the other scenic area - Xizha, which is touted as the more scenic of the two.

That's coming up next! :)

Related: Wuzhen

Saturday, December 27, 2008



wuzhen river boat
I planned this trip to Wuzhen because firstly of its close proximity to Shanghai and secondly because this is the place where some parts of Mission Impossible 3 was filmed.

And of course because I've heard and roughly seen a few pictures of the scenic water villages in China... I knew I would be in for a picturesque holiday!

So, I've put Wuzhen as my next stop from Hangzhou. And after 2 hours journey from Hangzhou, I arrived in the new Wuzhen's bus station.

wuzhen trishaw
There, I was offered a ride to my hotel on the traditional rickshaw. But at the station as well, one of the budget hotel owner offered me to check out his hotel, which I did and eventually agreed to stay for 2 nights.

wuzhen old townThen the rickshaw rider offered me once again - to bring me sight seeing in the old town of Wuzhen (with payment). The place is really old - but in a way, charming.

wuzhen old townHe brought me along the old tiny streets... which felt very authentic.

wuzhen old streetIn fact, of my trip here, I enjoyed this a lot as I felt this as the most authentic part of Wuzhen - seeing the way the people really live in their usual lives, and not for the tourists.

After my 2 hour ride ended, I continued my journey on my own along the old Wuzhen streets.

wuzhen square restaurantI visited one of the open air square which had restaurants.

wuzhen restaurantThe people were preparing & cooking their food in the middle of it - mainly using charcoal!

wuzhen vehicleI also saw the 3 wheel vehicle - looks familiar heh? :) (btw, I think it's also available in other towns in China).

wuzhen night marketI also passed their night market - where they were selling a fair bit of fresh produce from fruits & even seafood (don't think wanna put them up! - it was even hard to photo some of them... think exotic food and you'll get an idea).
wuzhen old bridgeAnd finally, I also got a glimpse of what the payable 'scenic' & 'preserved' (not to mentioned reserved for tourists) areas of Dongzha & Xizha had to offer.

wuzhen river
And that's coming up next! :)

*I didn't pre booked any Wuzhen hotels in advance - the reason is mainly because there aren't much info for hotel bookings in English. Neither did I know how to get to Wuzhen from Hangzhou... yet, I had put this on my itinerary.

But with the help from the hotel staff in Hangzhou (and some stress), I managed to buy the bus ticket (at 33 yuan with commission). In fact, they were so nice that they actually found a hotel for me too in the Chinese website, but which I didn't stay in the end.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hangzhou Shopping!

One of the places to visit in Hangzhou is this area - which is a cluster of old historical buildings called the Qinghefang.

hangzhou, qinghefang roadThere are 2 parallel roads here - one open to vehicles. This is quite a popular tourist spot and even for locals, with many restaurants serving authentic Hangzhou cuisine.

hangzhou, qinghefang road, hushiluAnd connecting the 2 roads are some small yet very beautiful lanes - big chinese words on white background can look good! :)

hangzhou, qinghefang road, food streetOne of the lanes have dedicated stalls selling all the very local dishes - some looked quite good and some too unique. I didn't dared try any.

hangzhou, qinghefang road, shoppingThis is the closed lane - with throng of visitors and lots of souvenir shops selling handicrafts and local snacks.

hangzhou, qinghefang road, bannerThis is a pretty road with all the shops in very authentic buildings, giving a good atmosphere.

hangzhou, qinghefang road, lanternDespite being a souvenir paradise, it is really a photographer's heaven - though I must admit, it does reminds me of something close to home. Haha!

hangzhou, qinghefang road, artistAnd like many cultural heritage places, there is the cluster of artists.

hangzhou, qinghefang road, paper cutThese talented artists can even cut your face from the red paper - something rather new to me (usually, it's traditional forms that they create).

hangzhou, qinghefang road, sculptureBut the one that got the most attention from passerby was actually this - a guy doing a sculpture of the customer! (He actually had the glasses for the sculpture after that too).

hangzhou, qinghefang road, souvenirThere are also some interesting pens.

hangzhou, qinghefang road, foodAnother seller who got a fair bit of attention is this guy who was selling naan bread - which he heated up on the spot.

hangzhou, qinghefang road, green teaAnd of course, there is the unmistakable green tea, one of the 3 things that Hangzhou is famous for (the others - pearls & silk).

Yan'an Road
As I was running out of clothes (thinking that I'll buy some on my trip), I thought I'll drop by the place where the locals bought their stuff.

hangzhou shopping yanan luI asked the taxi to bring me - and he brought me to this bustling part of the city - Yan'an Road.

I didn't take many pictures here as the driver warned me to be very careful here (the second time I heard this).

Anyway, I realised that one have to check prices before buying & really bargain a lot here (and I mean a lot!).

I did buy a few things, though I didn't manage to really buy any t-shirts - as it's now winter wear season! (which I can't really wear back home).

hangzhou shoppingAnd before I left, I went to nearby this busy street is the up market shops, with much less crowd. This is already near the lake.

*Today is my last day in Hangzhou and I'm heading to Wuzhen next. There are lots more I did here, which I'll share later :)