Saturday in Suzhou

Leica M6 photos are included now…

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Agenda for this weekend started with another attempted trip to Nanjing. The last time, the bad weather stopped the trip, and this time I didn’t want to risk the lack of return ticket coming back. At least here in Shanghai they dont have seats on the train back till Monday! Two days! I’m sure there are more stock of tickets in Nanjing itself or I could take a bus back. But the weather is great today and Suzhou it is. Its a quarter of the way to Nanjing anyway.

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Taking train number N482 with standing room ticket in hand, its time for another travel report in China (probably the cheapest ticket at 15RMB to Suzhou). The particular train I’m in, 7:45am to Nanjing stopping by plenty of stops on the way, was packed to the brim, passengers standing from the front of the carriage to the back. You could get a seat ticket, but you will have plenty of natives standing against your shoulder staring at what you are doing. Its amazing in this condition you can still get the tidbit carts working! Amazing. This train will eventually end up in Nanjing, but trip to Suzhou is only around an hour and 90km away, which is not really that bad to be standing. But still, maybe the long distance bus would have been a better idea since I’m guaranteed a seat. So, apparently a train that starts with a N is the normal train, T is for the fast express train (not T for Turbo for sure), and D is the new bullet train that goes up to 200km/h.

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On the equipment front, will be going relatively light today. In my Think Tank Speed Demon waist pack I have a D2H set on RAW as always with voigtlander’s 40mm ULTRON f2 lens attached, and a second camera, the Leica M6 with a Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH with no hood for portability since the two camera has to stick into the Speed Demon. And its pretty snug. Was tempted to bring a 105mm AIS but will take the risk. The M6 currently has an expired Provia 100F loaded, should be ok since it has been sitting in the freezer all these while. In a standard Eastpak backpack, I have 1 Provia 400F (RDPIII), and 2 rolls of Kodak 400TX ready.Usually I shoot 1 roll per day but those were just precaution in case there are more things to shoot than planned. And as usual, blogging live with the Nokia E61.

So on to Suzhou…

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Hong Kong in Pictures

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Another trip back to Shanghai from Taipei via Hong Kong today. On the map, it looks like it would have taken not more than one and a half hours direct, but we had to transit in Hong Kong instead. Taking half a day. So what I usually do is to stop over in Hong Kong for a day trip eating and window shopping. This time it was strange. I was on the way to Ocean Terminal to look for a shop and hopped on the bus to Hung Hom Bay instead. What was I thinking? Darn GPS didn’t get any signal, and when I did pinpoint my location, I didn’t have enough points on my mapless eTrex Vista to know where I was, but at least I knew which direction to walk. Half an hour later I ended up at the KCR station tired. Hungry, so went for a standard rice with roast pork and steamed chicken. Hmmm… Nice. Photo below is a later snack at 5pm with a bowl of wontan noodle… Can never visit Hong Kong without having one.

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After that lunch, there was no time to waste. Jumped into a HK Taxi at the KCR after having to go through a couple of propaganda from the Falun Dafa guys, hanging posters all over the taxi queue. It was time to go to Mongkok, time to look for some outdoor equipment (was in the market for Pacsafe’s security netting for backpacks) and Supreme Co for some 5.11 items again. Did find my netting, but nothing else. Almost walked away with a new Gore Tex jacket but I think I can survive in the cold and wet well enough with my current jacket. So it was a No Go.

The tip of Tsim Tsa Tsui was next. Had to stop over at my favourite Tin Cheung Camera shop at Carnavon St, accessible a short walk away from exit A from TTT MTR station. Had to stop over to look at some used Leica cameras. The prices there are too high to buy, and I guess I realised why. When I was there the shop was full of mainland chinese. There were this two old men looking at new Leica lenses and Billingham bags. As usual, the tactic in China is to complain that everything is expensive and that the shop next door is cheaper. Then they would go on asking for the price of another item and the same reaction. But these guys were definitely one of the ones with money to spare, and they had shopping bags full of luxury goods. Why would a couple of old septuagenarian be holding paper bags from popular handbag brands? However, they did walk away with a Leica D-Lux and a Billingham bag. I enquired the price of an M7, MP, and a 35mm Summicron ASPH and left.

Then it was time for a last noodle before going to Peninsula Hotel to take the K3 bus back to the Airport Express train back to HKIA. On the shuttle bus I came across this strange sight. Essentially, in a construction site, the engineers seemed to have uprooted a tree, placed it on a high platform and continued construction.

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Travels: Beijing Walkabout

Made a business trip over to Beijing this week and managed to get part of Sunday off to roam a few of the famous places around town. Saw some of the Olympics mega buildings, including the yet to be completed CCBS building. This time at least I did not bother blogging on my Nokia E61 so I’m just going to post the photos here and put some comments on where its taken. Here goes:

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View of the Forbidden City from Jingshan Park
(Nikon D2H with 40mm f2 Ultron: 1/2000s, f2.8)

 

 

 

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Main Entrance: Forbidden City
(Nikon D2H with 105mm f2.5 AIS: 1/800s, f5.6)

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Travels: Hong Kong in 6 hours…

HK Airport Express

1233hrs: Same day Hong Kong Airport Express return ticket to Kowloon station cost 90HKD. Not too bad value. Finally, found an ATM that takes Chinese Unionpay cards. Now I can charge this adventure to my chinese bank. Train takes about 25 mins to get to Kowloon. Planning my trip with copied and pasted addresses and GPS coords on my palm TH55. I have approximately 4 hours to roam and iPod fully charged.

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1253hrs: Just arrived at Kowloon station. Looks like free shuttle bus K3 will bring me close to Tsimtsatsui MTR station. Got my octopus card ready to be topped up at the closest metro station… The picture up above is one of my favourite place in Hong Kong: ChungKing Mansion on Nathan Road. I like it because its like a city inside a building. Been to a not-so-bad indian curry house inside, but if you ask me to go look for it again I dont think I can find it! Its a maze inside and it looks terrible outside, but I like it!!

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Travels: Ningbo Raid…

Starting very early this morning. Left the apartment at 0530 in order to catch the first metro to the South Shanghai station and to catch the first bus to Ningbo at 0630. Ticket cost 100RMB one way, and i have no idea how long it takes to get there yet. Some blogs mention 3-4 hours, but we’ll see. Gears today? Garmin GPS for sure, iPod (boredom buster), googleearth printout for God-view perspective and a page of scribblings full of coordinates in case i cannot find a certain location. Gearwise, Ricoh GRD is with me along with the 21mm adapter, Nikon D2H with 40mm, 70-180micro and 20mm lenses. This trip is special as I will be bringing SB800 and SU800 to experiment.

Highway to Ningbo

0931hrs: On board the bus. Garmin puts my position at close to 40km west of Ningbo, as the express bus weaves and dodges around the two laned highway, as though its making up lost time, even though there a couple of road diversions. To be fair theres an awful lot of slow traffic. Trucks carrying pigs, steel sheets and loads of whatevers. Still, looks like we’re good for a 3.5hr bus trip today! On the GPS map, it shows that we had to swing close to Hangzhou before turning left towards east, which explains the journey duration.

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Travels: Shanghai explorer…

Ok, going to go around shanghai today by foot. Bringing a jack bauer-ish nikon tote bag, filled with my usual Ricoh GRD kit and Nikon D2H and the 40mm Voigtlander as default, and 25-50 and 50-135 AIS lenses as backup. An SB800 sits in the bag just in case. To handle the weight, the shoulder strap from my large Lowepro bag is grafted onto the tote.

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9:49 am: It will be 11 mins to the opening time, and the queue at the xiao loong bao (little dumplings Shanghai is famous for) is starting to form. Crazy fellas. I am at the most tourist infested place in Shanghai, YuYuan gardens. Made it here after 2 hours going thru the old city, which unfortunately, looks like its going to be gone in matter of months and replaced with yet another monster office building or mall. Guess I’ll get a dozen dumplings for lunch today. Got slinged on my next the GRD with the 21mm lens attached and set on b&w mode with med contrast. D2H is in the bag, sunlight too strong this morning, with hi dynamic range so not good for shooting digital.

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Travels: Hangzhou Daytrip August 2007

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I did a day trip today to the city of Hangzhou to the south of Shanghai. Primary aim is to roam around the famous west lake of Hangzhou. And planning the trip took visits to Wikipedia, Travelpedia and finally a check on Google Earth to make sure I know what the whole place looks like before going there. The plan was to get to Hangzhou main Train Station (there’s a second station to the east) and then take a 1km walk to the lake front and do a clockwise tour of the lake. On the map, I estimated about 7km distance around the lake, and I should have about 5-6 hours to do it.

The most important thing about going for a day raid is to be well equipped. I wanted to take this trip for photographing the lake and the ecosystem around it, so I brought along my Lowepro Orion camera backpack for this trip. Two camera would be ideal here, so I packed the Ricoh GR Digital with 21mm adapter for closeup street shots, and the D2H with a 20mm f2.8 AFD, Voigtlander 40mm f2 SL, 105mm f2.5 AIS and for macro work, 70-180mm f4.5-5.6 AFD. For safe measures an SB800 was packed as well, as I knew I would be spending most of the time shooting in harsh noon sunlight. For the survival kit, I had my Garmin Vista GPS with fresh batteries, my Sony Clie made it along for blogging but Graffiti 2 just pisses me off again, a mobile phone in case I get lost, loads of mineral water stashed to the side pocket of the Lowepro. The pack was quite heavy, but everything I need (and I’m sure more than what I need) was in there.
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