Taipei 103

It has been some time since I did a pictorial on Taipei. It is a lot easier to do a pictorial than an editorial, and not forgetting the massive work I have lined up after coming back from Turkey and Henan Province. In the mean time…
Should have done this long time ago. This week marked the first time I used Taipei's Song Shan airport, right in the center of the city. No queues, 15 minutes from gate to taxi (some exaggeration, no doubt, but almost feels like it!) and same on the way out of Taipei.

No pictorial of Taipei is complete without Taipei 101. So here is the formality, now on to the next...

Playground. Should I say more?

Ah yes, the bastardization of the word "professional" is everywhere. I have no idea what a professional coffee is. I guess as opposed to homely coffee?

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Henan Province, China: Anyang, Luoyang and Song Shan


On the second part of this Henan trip, I will go up north to Anyang from Kaifeng and then swing to the east towards Puyang, a city that seems to be historically important. Right after that, it’s a long bus ride southwest to Luoyang where I plan to spend the longest stay of my Henan trip this time, a mere two nights. And on the way back to Zhengzhou, Song Shan lies on the way and this is where Shaolin Temple is.

2 October 2009:
The bus from Kaifeng took close to 4 hours to make the 200km to Anyang. Having a GPS at the bus window showed why it took that long. We took the small road, went through small towns where the main activity is to dry corn kernels on the road and just about any bitumen or concrete surface that is available. People should be poor. And the toilet is everywhere, and it seems to be quite obvious even from the bus. All transports here has 3 wheels, motorcycles, cars and tractors. Every active shop has in front of it, again corn drying. Petrol station, the same story. Everywhere corn, and more corn. If you’re not sick of corn, you will be after coming to Henan.

The bus arrived in Anyang at the long distance bus station next to the train station. Anyang looks much more modern and prosperous than Kaifeng by far. Less farm vehicles on the street, and things look a little more orderly. Not too much so, still a little messy as usual. Everything is so modern I don’t expect to see too many ancient relics here.

1908hrs: Walked the back streets of old Anyang after visiting People’s Square earlier on. Its a relatively long walk from the Train Station where I stay. Started off with a 2km walk to People’s Square on Jiefang Dadao passing modern shops on both sides. Switched the film on my Leica M2 to Neopan1600 in anticipation of night shooting. There is just this sliver of sunset light remaining, so the Leica M6 loaded with Kodak Ektar 100 comes along as well. There are not too much on the street that is particularly specific to Anyang. Rather similar to other large cities in China. People’s Square may also be called a park, perhaps it is called so. There are lakes, half moon bridges, etc.

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Shanghai, China: Changxing Island


The term “non-linear” applies especially to this post. I have made 2 trips to Changxing island over a few weeks, both times armed only with black & white film. As usual, I would type out this blog post on my Nokia E71 and then combine and edit them on a Macbook when I’m back in the comforts of my living room. However, somehow I got the post on Hengsha up and I forgot about this one till March 2010. So here I am, working on getting it out of my clogged up draft box.

As I originally wrote: after Hengsha, it is only natural the next island on the Yangzi River Delta to visit would be Changxing island, a lot bigger than Hengsha and slightly to the west. Not the biggest of course, that honour would go to Chongming island, subject of a future trip which I planned but never got to carry out before this post went online. It is not too difficult to get to Changxing. Same bus or metro to Wusong port and a boat to Majiagang, which is the only pier on the island, I was told. There are a lot more boats to Majiagang than to Hengsha, and the same for the return trip, so it shouldn’t be any issue to get there and back and advanced ticket is not necessary.

There are not too much information about Changxing Island on the internet, at least not the English internet that I can search for. I was told that this island contains many orange farms, of the green skinned type. Lokam, some call it. Shanghainese would go there in their car in autumn and pick them, like a novelty item as if reminding them of the agricultural origins of Pudong. As the ferry passes by Changxing Island on the way to Hengsha, all I saw on Changxing was a lot of shipyards, so I have expectations of orchards, four-stroke tractors and shipyards.

Eventually I would spend a total of two weekends to survey two sections of the island, the middle  and the far western end. It would be total nuts to walk the whole island. Changxing is at least 30km long from one end to the other.

First Survey: 15 August 2009

GPS Plot for 16 August hike

Tried to wake up early, as I expect a long long walk on Changxing. Left home at 0700hrs after packing my own lunch, as I don’t expect to waste time to look for a restaurant when on the island. After a quick breakfast, it was the usual bus 952 from People’s Square to Wusong port. At the Baoshan ticketing office, the next fast boat I could find was at 1000hrs. This means I have at least one and a half hours to waste at the waiting room. I plug in my iPod and Fring on my Nokia E71 and tried to get productive going through some podcasts.

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Shanghai, China: Wusong Pier And Hengsha Island

Flower fields blossom at Wusong Park, yes strange way to start a post, but thought starting with a little colour might be appropriate here...
Summer is finally here. While I’d like to think that I have compiled a list of places to go in China, I rarely adhere to such lists anyway, and most destinations are off the seat of my pants. Last winter was reserved mainly for discovering new interesting back streets in Shanghai. Because of the cold, and the fact that most of my trip requires hours outdoors, it is a lot more comfortable to be close to home.

The first one the list, which has been on my want-to-do-list for some time, is a survey trip to Hengsha island. It desn’t really have to be Hengsha, Changxing is fine as well. The former is one of the larger islands on the Yangzi river mouth, where the Yangzi and the smaller Huangpu rivers meet. I’m not a geologist, but it does seem to form part of the Yangzi river delta, the famous Yangzi River Delta! Trip there requires a public bus to one of the ports where the two rivers meet, as I wrote this, I had no idea which port the boats leave, but Google maps does suggest that I start with Wusong pier and so it shall. Taking a taxi there would be the easiest, but since when has adventure about taking the easiest path? Buses are not really that dodgy in Shanghai, but just for the fun of it, why not the bus? There are many places to board buses that goes to Wusong pier, and I settled on the closest one so that I can avoid taxis.

The Yangzi river from Wusong battery park

Port of Shanghai at Pudong

Over the course of weeks I made a few trips to Wusong port and it took till the third trip before I made it to Hengsha Island, but none of the trips were a waste at all.

30 May 2009

Unlike most other trips I have made, I woke up a little late at 10 am this morning. Has to be the latest waking up time for me on a Saturday! After lunch and a little gear tinkering and packing, and just utter time wasting on twitter, I started leaving my apartment at 1 pm, knowing full well I might have missed the last boat to be able to return on the same day. Let’s face it, staying the night on some island I’ve never been to before in China is not exactly part of the plan today.

So what is in the bag today? Plenty of water since it is a hot day today. Took with me a innocent looking tote bag bought in Tokyo, filled with a Nikon D300, 12-24mm DX, 10.5mm DX and of course a 105mm f4 Macro AI in case the opportunity of insects, details and flowers present itself. Since there will be people to shoot as well, packed in my Leica M3 as well, along with a new 5cm Summitar collapsible lens. I just got this one back from a little repair work by John van Stelten from Focal Point in Colorado about a month ago, and it is time to see if this lens is any good for the price you pay (one of the cheapest Leica lens you can buy!). Film is of course, ERA100, and like I always say – chinese film for chinese people. Packed a Garmin GPS as well, and I can already feel that this unit is getting a little creaky old!

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Tochigi, Japan: Return to Senjogahara Plateau

Chuzenji-no-taki: Chuzenji waterfall
You could say Tochigi is my playground. I just love the place. Take a long slow train over to Tobu-Nikko station and there are many options. Most tourists would spend the whole day at the temple complex, Toshogu, Rinnoji and of course, snap photos of the stable with 3 monkeys. But the hidden gem of Nikko is the many hiking opportunities like Chuzenji to the northwest and Kirifuri area to the northeast.I’ve been to Senjogahara and Kirifuri before, and the links are embedded in the two names in this sentence.

Senjogahara Plateau

Senjogahara is in the northwest just further up from Chuzenji. Chuzenji is, of course, synonymous with a waterfall, not just a normal waterfall, but one that drops hundreds of meters. The lake that feeds the waterfall, Chuzenji lake, is relatively large, and on a plateau in the highlands. On a summer day, there are anglers spaced evenly along its banks. I don’t have proof, but it does look like you need to have permit to fish there and you are probably assigned slots. They do look spaced out a little too evenly to be random!

Fly Fisherman on Yukawa River

... And more fly fishing...

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Travels: Guangxi Province, Guilin, China

Eroded landscape along Li River
The eroded landscapes around Guilin is one of those sceneries that one would think about when China comes to mind. The picture of many little karst hills in the countryside, and a calm river in the foreground with a lone fisherman. This is one of those areas I wanted to go before leaving China, and as famous as it is (meaning many tourists) I guess this is one of those places that has to be seen to be believed. So then it is, I have managed to organize a trip to Guanxi province just after the Sichuan trip on the way back to Shanghai just to see it with my own eyes. Will be flying into Guilin directly from Chengdu.

20 November 2008: Landed in Guilin at 9 pm after an hour and a half from Chengdu. Small airport, obviously so compared to Chengdu and probably not a good comparison at all. Slept during the landing and since it was late at night, it was probably impossible to see anything. Temperature is a nice 13C at night. Balmy compared to Chengdu in the single digits.

Film used during the trip, including Sichuan Province

My luggage is one of the first to appear, good considering I was the last to check in! In 1 minute I was out of Guilin Liangjiang airport (yup, the official name) and into a Golden Dragon brand bus bound downtown. I’m not a guide book so I have no idea where this bus ends but it does go to Guilin Train Station and its where I am going. Dumped my backpack into the luggage hold and its time to wait 30 minutes. The cost of the bus to the train station from airport is 20 RMB. According to what people tell me, as long there is a flight arriving, there will be an airport bus.

Within 30 minutes the bus dropped me at Shanghai Road with a finger pointing to the direction of the train station, quite obvious it requires a bit of a walk. Looking at the GPS maps on my E71, I managed to find a signboard leading to the Flowers Youth Hostel in Guilin. I will have to walk through little alleys and small restaurants selling dodgy food (i’m sure it tastes good though) and mini travel agents. Hostel is on the second floor of a maze of buildings. No fanfare, I’d arrive, get the room, get a shower and do a little blogging and sleep to prepare for the next day to Yangshuo.

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Travels: Sichuan Province Part 2, Mount Siguniang, China

View of the tallest of 4 Siguniangs from Rilong's Changping Gou village
The plan for this trip is a week long trip, including a 3 day trek up to see Siguniang Shan and a day in one other valley in the area around the town of Rilong. Then on the way back to Chengdu, it’s a night over at Danba to see the old villages on the mountain side. Expecting to spend 6 days for this leg, and the backpack is full to the brim, including a full camelbak filled with day long supply of Nongfu spring water, which seems to be on sale everywhere in this country.

Siguniang shan is surrounded by 3 valleys. The most accessible one is Shuangqiao gou where there is a tourist bus herding tourists, the next would be Changping gou where most treks up the mountain start but Changping gou also has its own trek path on the valley floor that requires a bus ride to get to, and Haizi gou, where you will have to trek its slopes to reach base camp for those who are planning to go up Siguniang shan.

9 November 2008, Chengdu to Rilong: The first bus from Chengdu to Xiaojing leaves at 6:25 am. From there, I will have to take a taxi to Rilong. From what I have heard, the direct bus to Rilong does not run anymore from Chadianzi Station here in Chengdu because the route passes by Wenchuan which was the place worst hit by this year’s large earthquake in this region. So longer trip. On the map, Xiaojing looks not further than 300 km but today’s bus trip is expected to take 8 hours. Gasp!

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