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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Sunday in Tokyo…

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First of all, no, I still did some shopping in Tokyo. But the good news is that the value seems to have gone down. What I have bought so far since arriving this Sunday afternoon: 2 Printfile binders to store my negative sleeves, 1 Artisans & Artists camera strap for my Leica (ACAM-102), 2 rolls of Kodak Portra 160 VC film and finally a leather mousepad, since I think I need one at home before I get some problem with my wrist!

If I had unlimited budget today, I would have bought the white colour Nikkor 28-70mm f2.8… Its just rare to see a white colour Nikon lens. Ok, some call it gray. Was tempted also to buy a pack of Kodak D76 developer in powder form. Didn’t do it at the end, as I still have a litre of HC110 I have not used yet.

Shopping aside, been a nice day in Tokyo, whatever was left of it. When I got to the hotel the sun was about to set, and mostly spent the whole day wandering around Ginza, Nakano and Shinjuku all in the dark. I already know where I was going to go, so I could easily do all in 3 hours. Helps to have a Suica metro/JR card and a rough idea which direction I was going to go since I dont have a railway map with me. Didn’t get lost so I guess I was lucky this time. I was also lucky not so spend more than 10,000 yen this time! But then again, I still have 4 more days to go.

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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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More Taipei Night Market

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Subject of the current trip is to visit the largest night market in Taipei. And usually what that means is narrow corridors with tons of people squeezed into impossible-to-move spaces. And for that the Shihlin market does not disappoint. I cannot recall if the size of this market is bigger than the Longhua market that I went to during my last visit, but surely this beats any market in terms of impossibility of moving.

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The layout is the same as most asian markets. During the day you have normal shops, and when the evening comes, stalls spring up on the road and sidewalks and the customers walk on the road. By now the shops would have been concealed unless you know which and where to go.

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Taipei 102

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In Taipei this week. The land of the scooters, buzzing like mosquitoes all over the place. Nothing new here, just gloomy weather. No earthquake yet. As usual, on the flight from PVG-HKG someone took my seat again. And again, there’s a lot of people that just refuses to sit down during boarding and prefering to block the aisle when everyone is trying to get to theirs. And again, even on Dragonair and Cathay Pacific, its advisable to do the online check-in so that you avoid the queues. When I got to Pudong Airport, within 15mins I was already at the waiting gate. Ok, the 7am time is partly the reason.

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Also heard on a podcast this morning (Google for ‘TWIT’) that frequent travellers pack their bag at the last minute. I do that all the time! At least someone’s validating that this is the most efficient way to pack. If you pack too early, you will always have items that you will need to pack later, and chances are you’ll forget it. I pack usually the night before the flight.

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Otherwise, nothing special on this trip to Taipei. My third in 2007, and numerous in a lifetime. Here are some photos during the trip. Most of the time I’m in the office working, otherwise I’m looking for some Taiwanese food on the street. Most of them I can’t find outside of Taiwan at all, so that’s definitely interesting.

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And here’s one of the waiting room at the Taipei Main Train Station where most people are, I assume, waiting to get their tickets since the booths are directly in front of them.

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As usual, my hard working Ricoh GR Digital at work, sometimes with the 21mm wide angle adaptor, and sometimes without.

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: Taipei

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While on business trip in Taipei, had the weekend of 8-9 Sept 2007 to roam the city. Saturday was with Jerry, an old colleague and friend. Sunday was me roaming Taipei without a map or a real plan, but eventually visiting Kwanghwa Market and Taipei 101.

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Po-Ai Street

First thing to do in the morning while waiting for Jerry to pick me up for a Saturday Taipei tour… What is a visit to any city without a visit to where locals buy photographic stuff? Po-Ai Street is the place to go in Taipei, it seems. Quite close to the main train station. Coordinates are: 25.04692N, 121.51124E for the start of the road closer to the train station. How do I like that place? I don’t think it has the feel of a place I’d like to shop in. Most shops look like the type that sell mainstream stuff from the major brands. Ok, they need to make some buck, but I didn’t find anything very interesting in the shops. All more or less the same. Schmidt Marketing (regional distributor of Leica cameras) has a showroom over there that looks a little more like a museum with a guy with suit and a tie on. Very big contrast compared to the other shops in that area. Ok, result is I didn’t find what I was looking for and since I was going to Hong Kong the next week, I was not in a hurry to get anything.

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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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