The Mayor’s Shoes

The Mayor’s shoes!

The City of Toronto in eastern Canada has a major scandal brewing in the past a couple of months now, over the mayor in office who now admitted he smoked crack cocaine, and got into drunken stupors now and again.

When I was in Ningbo during the flood, many heroic and selfless acts were broadcasted over and over again, to boast the awareness of neighborhood spirits and China as a progressive society.

I am in total agreement with that, in this day and age of massive and effective news media coverage, if you don’t cover it, someone else would. At times grass root coverage via internet seems to be more welcoming by the mass, and news of concern seems to be spreading faster than conventional news media.

One such news was generating a huge amount of interest in the internet media.

A small county in the flood zone was doing their darn best to fight the ravaging flood, as usual; all dignitaries big or small all showed up, have their say, and a photo-op.

This sort of propaganda tactic or PR exercise is universally practiced, nothing done by the politicians or events happened in China during disaster period that weren’t being done or practiced in other part of the world.

The following gossip that went through the Net like wild fire has a degree of humor and irony in it, I am not sure if it is even a 100% true or accurate in the circumstance that leads up to this expose and enjoyed by thousands of Net surfers.

As the story went, the mayor of this county and others did their speeches and photo-op in the town hall, and him plus all the dignitaries were about to do some field inspections in the flood zone. All of a sudden, he realized that he had his Sunday best of a pair of shoes on when he left for work that morning. Some report said it is a $2000 RMB pair of nice footwear. (About $300 Canadian dollars)
Now a three hundred dollars pair of shoes is not news worthy in the western world for some well to do people, but in a small county, and a minor official, that raised some eye browse, after he expressed concern if his shoes would survive the flood water, a 60 years old county worker offered to piggyback the mayor in the field during the fact finding mission! And the mayor accepted! What went through the worker’s mind, no body knows, may be he was thinking about a nice package in his upcoming retirement?

I am not sure if that mayor loses his job, but the incident stirred up a lot of skepticisms, resentments and bitter feeling, ordinary people feel that (some) officials are lining their own pockets, after doling out personal favors for those who come knocking on his office door.

Nowadays, one does not even need slipping a cash envelope under the table anymore. We give out gift cards during holiday seasons all over the world! I am sure there would be gift cards dealing with men’s apparels in the “land of opportunities”!

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What happened to the guard dog?

What happened to the guard dog?
The episode with the dog bite did not end there, the factory has to be seen to do something, to prevent future reoccurrences, however, we could not rid of the dog, we need them to guard the compound, and we also need to ensure the workers that these animals are not vicious, it is just that we need to be more vigilant around dogs, especially those got chained up all day, all night.
Dogs are social animals; they want to interact with people.
The decision came down that the male dog that bit would be neutered; I was wondering what the vets would do in a situation like these, and the cost that associates with this procedure Do they have animal hospitals in the area?
On a sunny afternoon before lunch, my question in my mind was answered, two guys who dressed causally rode pass the gate on an electric bike, they looked like any other millions of workers riding their electric bike to work everyday.
Lo and behold, these two are the vets, or better say, country vets. They might be partimers for all we know. Everything here is negotiable, with my limited capacity in the language, I knew they are negotiating a price, the men wanted $650 RBM, my friend talked them down to $400 RMB or there about.
We didn’t ask to see the surgical equipment, neither did they offer, all they said was that they will be back after lunch and do the deed. As for the female guard dog, they declined to perform, as the procedure is more involved, and they frankly said they did not know how.
My friend and I did not have the stomach to be around the factory site, as the procedure probably would not include the application of anesthetic on the animal, the howling and crying from the dog would probably be unbearable from our point of view.
After lunch, during which we downed a few beers, speaking of beers, a brand of locally brewed beer with the name of “Snow Flakes” is very popular amongst locals, it costs about less than a Dollar Canadian per bottle, OR equipment other than a sharp knife? I hope.
From thousand years of folk wisdom, neutering male animals was the only way to prevent dominant farm animals from untoward behaviors and injuries to other animals when they are in heat, because anything could have happened. A few days later, all blood stains on the ground were washed away by rain.
Life goes back to normal. The male dog appeared a bit more subdue and docile. The workers got their shots from the hospital had no side effects, other than a few stretches. Time healed all wounds, including the dog’s!

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Animal welfare and worker’s medical welfare
The factory where I stayed and work in China has two guard dogs, one stationed by the main gate, a second one stationed off the middle section in the factory compound. Both are chained up during the day, very rarely they are allowed to run free. Because of their size, and some workers would deliberately annoy the animals, teased them with sticks, generally pets in China are not loved, they are there to guard their master’s properties. Or in some extreme cases, served up on dinner tables, unfortunately it is going to take a while to educate some segment of the society.

After the factory closed the gate for the day, the majority of the workers would finish their dinner in the factory canteen, do their laundries, and ready for bed. From time to time, some would venture out to the town center, do some shopping, and have dinner out, just to break the monotony of a 12 hours work day.

One such evening, two lady workers returning to the factory compound after dinner, as they were passing through the security gate, unbeknownst to them, one of two guard dog (a younger male dog) was having its collar adjusted by the security guard; this dog is a healthy one year old, cross of some sort.
The two young ladies as all young ladies do, giggling and were playful with the dog, they are not strangers to the dog, there was no barking, baring of teeth, somehow, the dog being a dog, jumped up to play with them, both ladies fell on the ground, both got some scratches on the elbows and the hands.
It became two medical incidents; they were transported to the local hospital, to be checked out by the doctor on duty for rabies. Both weren’t bitten by the animal. But they were offer rabies shots just the same. Here is the funny part; the doctor gave these two emergency patient three options in their rabies shot. #1: Locally manufactured Rabies shot at $ 350 RMB a shot. #2: National brand name Rabies at $800 RMB a shot. #3 Import Rabies Shot at $1400 RMB a shot.
If you were the dog bite victim, what would you opt for; especially the bill is taking care of by your employer? The good old days when medical coverage was still taking care of by the State, all things being equal, and people did receive medical attention when they need them. Admittedly sometimes are rudimentary and basic.
Ever since the cost of medical coverage fall back on the working people themselves, or on the employers themselves, a very large disparity has opened up, and developed in the Chinese society, each and every hospital runs and balances their own budget, what doctor in the world would ask what his or her patients what level of treatment they want to receive?
To be a doctor, the first Aristocrat Oath they learned is:” To do no harm!”

I am not sure if medical staff in hospital receive bonus at year end, but it is ludicrous to pop a question to some 19-20 year old patient at a stressful time like that. The $1400 RMB import variety turned out to be some stuff manufactured under license by some foreign drug manufacturer in Shenzhen, Canton anyways.
The whole exercise cost the factory driver and the two workers hours of waiting in frustration and a sleepless night. The factory owner a bundle of expanses. And I will relate to you readers out there – what happened to that playful dog later.
( The Dog – To be continued )

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Why Ningbo again!

Why Ningbo?
Many friends of mine perhaps wondering why of all cities in China, I picked Ningbo as a destination twice in a roll, why?

There are two reasons I want to lay out for those “wonderers”.
I had a lower back pain stemming probably from years of bad postures, I carried tool bag on the job. My friend and old classmate, who is fluent in four Chinese dialects, Mandarin, Shanghais, Ningboese, and Cantonese, he resides and works in Ningbo, and his own back pain was cured by a retired air force medical doctor. I witnessed his pain one year when he was doing R & R in Vancouver, he could hardly move about because the chronic pain that suddenly flared up one week before he was due back to work in China. Doctor Tung cured him, and he showed no time of any back pain, or even a hint of discomfort, yes, a bit of stiffness now and again, it affects nearly 65% of all North America adults.
Anyways, soon after I retired, I wanted to seek this doctor out and had him take a look at my condition. My lower back pain.
Doctor Tung did not disappoint me, I arrived Ningbo in mid October of 2011, received treatment about five times, both in acupuncture and needles that contained muscles relaxant, and both were not for the faint of heart.
The acupuncture silver needles were long and sharp; he unenhanced the effectiveness by heating the free end with a separate heat source. The needle he administered with medication was huge and when the liquid reached you in the area, it felt cool and pain, yes, a bit of pain!
After five or six treatments, I do not, to this day, experience any acute lower back pain, any sciatic pain, minor stiffness, yes, but I will testify that, my back condition is gone!
Plus, I wanted really to bone up on my Mandarin, and experience a bit of the food and culture. 2011, I stayed in China almost three months, I did some travelling though, around the The Three Gouges Cruise, Shanghai City trip, and some local day trip in Ningbo area.
Came 2013, my classmates in HK organized a four day holiday in a Malaysian resort call Sabah Shangri-la Spa and Resort. I signed up for it, and since Stephen also signed up for it, he invited me to visit Ningbo just for old time sake. Why not! Too bad I didn’t get to see Doctor Tung this time, because he was out of town.
So, second time in Ningbo, what happened? You ask.
Ningbo had a bad flood, the second week we got back; we had big rain falling on us for three days solid!
A second hurricane hit China in one month, it landed in a city called Wenzhou, it located about five hours drive by highway south of Ningbo.
Ningbo had precipitation of close to 300 cm in three days straight; all the low lying areas around town, neighboring counties were all flooded, sadly, household even in the big cities, let alone country side. Do no carry insurances.
The flood water ruined household furniture and items, causing havocs with people’s lives, financial losses, and risks of contacting water borne diseases.
A hardware store owner told of his own personal experience in how he fought the flood in his back room storage area.
His hardware store faced a raised sidewalk with a foot of so elevation from the road, so all the business on his street thought they would be spared from the flooding.
Unfortunately ten or so business are part of an apartment building that butt against an ever so slightly incline landscape, during the three hard day of raining, rain water gushed through the back walls of these establishments. I saw people lining up their merchandises to dry out a week after the flood water began to subside. The city called on the province, the province mobilizes the army, just like in here in Canada, and you see soldiers helping residents escaping from their flood ravaging homes. It was a heart warming feeling. Goodness from people’s hearts often came from disastrous time; I saw from the TV screen that people donated their time to set up reception centers for those who lost their home to the flooding, gave out warm meals, water, blankets, and toiletry items. It was wonderful, but it took a natural disaster.
People took disasters on this land with a stride, yes; there were occasional tears when people just overwhelmed by the magnitude of the flooding, by and large, the majority of people are stoic and resolute.
A funny news media hot item was flashing on people’s cell phone during that week of the flood. It went like this:
A taxi driver stopped just a few meters short of a flooded underpass, eye balling at the lowest roadway segment of the underpass; it was all filled with flood water. His taxi safely parked on the road, and he was not anxious to go any further any time soon. Soon a guy with a “Land Rover” drove by going towards the underpass, seeing that the taxi stopped, the owner/driver jumped down, casually asked the taxi guy, how deep did he think the water was? “Oh, about knee deep!” Taxi guy said.
“No problem!” Land Rover guy said proudly. And drove towards the underpass.
Not only didn’t he make it to the other side, his much treasured import 4 wheel drive died right on the spot at the lowest point. He had to escaped the trapped vehicle by pushing out the door, swam towards the dry segment of the road, he had the audacity to ask the taxi guy after he reached safety, “Why didn’t you tell me it was so deep!” Taxi guy said,” I said it is knee deep over there.” Pointing at a meter away, this was indeed about knee deep! Moral of the story? Either Land Rover China Corp has super sales people, or these newly minted citizens figured that with money, it comes with indestructible machines!
I saw a Bentley cruising along a major highway, plenty of high end imports like Porches, AMC, Hummers, BMWs, taking their children to private school in the morning.
China is a land of opportunity indeed for those with the right education, work experience, and right connection, but it is moving at a break neck speed, it is going to take a lot of fine tuning, and adjustment for those up and coming citizens!
(To be continued)

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Short Stop in Lamma Island

Short stop in Lamma Island – Hong Kong

27th of September saw us back to HK, my travelling partner Stephen – who is a Product Designer and Proprietor in the tent making business, decided to test out one of his pilot project – a hammock and one man tent combo – a test in the real environment. We will set up two such tents on the roof deck of a three story building in Lamma Island. Lamma is one of the many satellite small islands cluttered around the main Hong Kong Island, many foreign guests/workers and those HK locals who crave a quieter environment and cleaner air chose to live on Lamma and commune daily.

The original idea for Steve and myself were to sleep in those tents before we part for our Malaysia trip, for two nights, you got it, before Malaysia’s Shangri-la. The plan was drink bear, count the brilliant stars, and reminisce about the high school days. But it was not to be, HK had a close call with a hurricane which later hit some town in the Canton Province, causing a lot of flooding, water damages, and some lost of life.
HK being so small, was spared, but I stayed with my sister in Aberdeen, Steve ended up in Lamma the whole time, Lamma without the shielding of long concrete buildings on the main island, apparently he had to endure a night long symphony of howling wind and relentless rain hitting his daughter’s apartment window.
The jewel on the crown was, his daughter Mimi has a rather large dog, which her keeps in the apartment, this large dog would just keep an eye on him all night, – literally according to Steve, would not brink an eye all night.
I got a chuckle out of that when he told me. But really this dog gave of a low guttural groan when “it” saw me. I had no doubt that “it” will take a chunk off me, if I ever did anything untoward.

So, it was quite a let down instead of a build up – like from a tent to Shangri-La, so after we got back to HK after 4 days of being pampered and well fed, the first evening back, we had to set up tents on a hard tile floor.

How I yearned for clean linen sheets, a firm bed, TV, hot meals, and Tim Horton coffees.

Anyways, the design of the tent is good, easy to set up, minimum pieces of hardware, I actually would buy one if I am hot on camping. Of course, I didn’t tell Stephen that! 
We spent one night in Lamma, next morning was a regular workday, and Mimi had to go to work, her daughter Cici to school, so Steve and I packed up in a hurry, bid them good bye, and off we went. First we took a ferry back to HK, then the super efficient subway system that got us hooked back to the transit system on the Chinese side.

Luckily, HK is not too big at all as compared to China, Canada, or the US in a geographical sense, in one hour and a half, we were crossing back in Chinese territory, in no time, and we were waiting to board our return flight home to Ningbo, China. in Shenzhen International Airport.
The usual hustle and bustle of any large Chinese city, one can also find it very evident in Shenzhen.
I am not beating up on my brothers and fellow travelers in China, men mostly, but we have a lot to learn from other big cities in the world, people here light up anywhere they want, even inside airports; restaurants of course, may be taxation is big business, there are no smoking signs everywhere, there are signs and propagandas banners telling people “smoking is harmful to one’s health”. Sadly there are no bodies to enforce the no smoking regulation in public places.
Two and a half hours later, Steve and I safely touched down Ningbo International; I really don’t know why it is called an International Airport, because the only foreign country airplanes from Ningbo International fly to is Taiwan!

Get this, the highway infrastructures in China are great, the roads are straight, signs are relatively large and clearly marked, but the traffic flow could be chaotic at times. Many large semis are obviously overloaded with cargo, and many of these drivers do not use turn signals when they change lane. It was nerve wrecking if you are in the passenger seats, because you have no way of knowing what your own driver would do in reacting to other drivers’ movies, drivers use their vehicle hones frequently, they are not necessarily be mad at you, it could be simply sending you a message, that he is behind you, or is beside you. Line marker on the road might as well not be there, vehicles frequently riding on the dotted lines that divide the lanes.

I dared not take my eyes off the road when we were being transported from Ningbo Airport back to the factory, it was scary. Even though we took a taxi, and the young driver was pretty proficient.

It would be nice to be sleeping on a firm bed to night!

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Sabah – Part 2

Sabah Part 2
After we drew a hastily retreat from the seafood sinkhole restaurant, the twenty of us marched down the main boulevard, not knowing really where to look for a local seafood plaza, our fearless leader – James and Governing Body – Miriam did have a little tourist map, and we headed towards mid town, and took a sharp right into an older and less commercial looking part of town.
There were lots of taxi stands, locals chit chat along the side walks, some specialty shops sells local featured teas, durian favored coffee, and many other unknown (to us tourist) products. I am the one who really have no hesitation in approaching strangers to ask questions (if I need to). In my workdays, that’s was my job to find out what people needed in terms of people comfort in a large commercial building.
So I strike up a conversation with a sales lady in front of one of the tourist gift shop. What a pleasant surprise, she spoke Mandarin and Cantonese, and we were directed to a local seafood plaza not even 15 minutes by walking.
As we parted ways, we told the kind lady that we will be by to pick up some souvenir stuff if they were still open by the time we came by.
We finally got to this plaza; it is a huge out door gathering place, with round tables upon round tables of patrons enjoying local seafood. By their looks and clothing attires, they could have been locals or tourists, but may be more locals than outside people visiting. That’s exactly what we budget minded travelers had in mind. Eat where the locals eat.
We settled with a restaurant at the far end from our entrance point, we even managed to get an air conditioned enclosed sitting area, and close to bathroom facilities. One thing though, bath room facility in that part of town, some are clearly marked Gents or Ladies, some are just Bathroom, that case, it meant co-ed, not in the sense of “togetherness” , but “first in, first out”
Anyways, food as usual, was fresh and reasonably priced. I think we paid about 70 HK dollars a head for all the food we ate, and all the beer we drank, which was still very very cheap. Freshness and prompt service were the two things I remembered most.
After this satisfying “last dinner” in town, we took a leisurely stroll back the way where we came from, from the text stands and the shop we promised we would be back.
For the guys, we didn’t really care if we buy anything or not, but one or two “professional lady shoppers” in our group, they were determined to shop. So we descended onto the same shop that directed us to the seafood plaza; they were still open, I have a feeling that they were waiting for us, we didn’t let them down.
We bought, and afterwards the shop owner even negotiated a going price for each of the taxi driver to take us back to Hotel Shangri-La. By now we know, it is about 30 dollars Malaysian Dollars.
With our stomachs full, and arm loads of going home gifts, we headed back to our home away from home.
My rooming buddy and I had by now devised a gentleman agreement; I picked the bed closer to the bathroom, he picked the bed closer to the balcony, for he enjoys a quiet drink looking over the bay area and a very large gold fish pond on the hotel ground.
We got along fine, there was no excessive snoring, teeth grinding, or swearing in the three nights we stayed there. I think I will let him travel with me in the future!

I don’t know if it was a trendy hotel design or what, all the shower facilities has a ceiling to floor glass wall separating the sleeping area and the bathroom, privacy between the two areas was provide by a venetian blind,
I mentioned this to my rooming pal, he mumbled the design was for someone like newly weds or encounters of the third kind. I said, “Huh?”

Anyways, we turned on the news, and soon I blacked out from a day of island hopping and busing from one place to another.

Speaking of being bus from one place to another, we saw many Churches along the roadways and byways; they all had a large cross and white wash painted walls, and a large signage indicated the name of this church, strangely enough, the styles and construction of these signs all looked like they came from the same painter, except at a different location.
I asked our guide – Tommy, he smiled and said, “A local business man donated monies to al the churches around town for a new coat of paint and a new signage.
The job was probably done by the same bunch of painters and carpenters.
Talking about efficiency, and we worship the same God anyways, so what is the difference? 

Next morning came soon enough, my roommate and I made up our mind to make the best of the remaining time in the resort, we took on an early swim in the beautifully designed pool which we frequented every morning, the pool itself is not very deep, but towards the west side of the pool, there is a man made water fall feature, water is being pumped up a stone wall about 12 feet high, and cascaded down continuously, swimmers can swim towards the base of the wall, there is smoothed concrete footing at the base of the pool, partly submerged by water, it all looked very natural and soothing. You can definitely stand on the footing, and let the water perform a water message on you.
The beauty of the pool and restaurant design is that, they are adjacent to each other. When you are tired of swimming and like to fuel up with food, all one need to do is dry up with a large royal blue towel, make yourself looked presentable, and stroll through the side of the restaurant entrance under a large canopy, and you are facing with a beautifully prepared buffet breakfast each and every morning from 7am to 9:30am. Trays and trays of nicely done up breakfast dishes featured western, Asians, and orient.
Life was good, some people prepared your meals, make up your bed, generally you are leading a life of leisure.
We strike up a amicable conversation with a gentleman, originally from UK, but apparently he spent a lot of years in the financial field all over Europe, he is currently retired, spent months on end travelling all over the world. He had done trekking both in the well travelled and unknown trails. Envy is the word when we listened to his latest conquest in those far away place.
We took a leisurely stroll towards the westerly side of the resort complex and explore a bit. To our pleasant surprise, there was a nice sandy beach hidden away just under a rocky outcrop on which they built a wet bar and equipped with plenty of large umbrellas, tables, and large lazy chairs.

Near the end, there was a large, private, and artfully designed spa and meditation center catered to those with health, beauty and longevity in mind, it was staffed by two trained and qualified technicians who specialized in the alternative medicine, message, and spa treatment field, service is by appointment only. Needless to say, we were disappointed that we uncovered such beautifully appointed place. The whole place feels relaxed and harmonized.
Well, we had breakfast, checked out of the room, and just trying to relax before our tour bus come and bring us back to Sabah International Airport. Life is good while it lasts.
We took a groupie picture, and off we parted Shangri-La Resort, and back to the real world. There is not much to shop or buy in this airport, we had a filet of fish from the airport Big Mac, and an ice cream sundae, surely a big drop in travelling status symbols, who would know we just checked out of Shangri-La!
We boarded the return Hong Kong Air Bus on time and about two hours later we were back to the familiar sight and sound of the oh so very busy HK International. We were back to Hong Kong. (To be continued)

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Sabah Trip – Eastern Malaysia

Sabah Trip – Eastern Malaysia

Tuesday 22nd of October, 2013 saw me safely home back to Vancouver, BC.

I still have to enter the Sabah, Malaysia four days trip with my high school friends. Today is 26th, I must procrastinate no more.

We stayed in Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa in the state of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

My impression with this town is that, it is much like the New Territories area in Hong Kong about 50 years ago. A lot of greeneries anytime you are 15 minutes from downtown, plantations, rural areas, wide open spaces, unlike the highly populated Hong Kong or big city centers within China.

We boarded a Hong Kong Express Air Bus around 11:30 am in Chek Lap Kok International, on 24th of September, and arrived Saba same day around 4:30 pm. My first impression was relaxation; the airport terminal does not have the hustle and bustle of the HK airport.

We gone over to the money exchangers to get some Malaysian currency, the staff speaks fluent Cantonese, which was a pleasant surprise, I have family connection in Singapore and Malaysia, a lot of Chinese speaking people migrated to southeast Asia in the 30s and 40s, so did my maternal parents. It gave me a sense of our world is in fact “one” and it feels good to be able to reach out and listen to some sounds and vowels that strike a cord now and again.

By the way, the money exchanger preferred US Dollars in large denominations, so all the small bill US bills that I had with me, just has to wait for another trip!

There was a minibus and a guide waiting for us in the terminal and after we rounded up all the strayed team mates, some were in the money changers, some in the bath rooms, we boarded the bus and headed for the hotel.

We stayed in Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa in the state of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. A nicely done up resort built about 20 years ago, it is well maintained and fully staffed.

My impression with this town is that, it is much like the New Territories area in Hong Kong about 50 years ago. A lot of greeneries anytime you are 15 minutes from downtown, plantations, rural areas, wide open spaces, unlike the highly populated Hong Kong or big city centers within China. Saba – Shangri-La

This Shangri La Hotel was and still is a very nice hotel about 30 minutes from the airport, it has two wings, both facing a bunch of small islands and a nice bay.

Later on I found out that the local economy is pretty much tourism oriented. Road ways are pretty decent, and Malaysian vehicles took on the British road system, all drivers drive on the right side, as is in Hong Kong.

We had a nice welcome from the hotel staff, a nice cool glass of tropical juice and a hot towel, a bit of waiting, and my roommate and I got settled in Room 9704. The number 9 just means the wing to the right hand side of the hotel; we are on the 7th floor.

There was a nice view of the bay waiting in the balcony, and we were told that the sunset view is always breathtaking every single day provided it is a sunny day. Make sense.

We gathered in the front lobby promptly at 6:30pm to get to a seafood restaurant that locals go, and the price is right, restaurant staff were mostly Malaysians that speak no Chinese, it matters none, English is the international language of the day, and we ordered up a bunch of dishes, plus beer, plus a couple of vegetarian dishes that a teammate couple ordered, since they don’t eat anything other than stuff that grow on ground.
The bill came to about 40 dollars HK per head, and it is a most satisfying dinning experience ever.

We had whole steamed fish, crabs, and local seafood dishes; all in all it was well worth the trouble of trying to find the place. We had to hail five taxis separately. It cost 30 Malaysian dollars one way.

Four days went by quickly, the three most outstanding events during this trip that stayed in my mind were:

The evening boat ride in Klias River – Watching Fire-Flies and the Proboscis Monkeys – these monkeys inhabit largely in the coastal swamp forests. These creatures feed on leaves and seeds mainly. Each male Proboscis Monkey would have a harem of 10 females. Lucky guy!

The boat we were in motored ever so slowly in the inland river, the sun was setting, indeed we could spot now and again, Proboscis monkeys hopping from tree limb to tree limb, from quite a distance away though, again I forgot to bring along my binoculars with me.

The fireflies – yes, when I was a young lad ,I read Chinese folklores about fireflies, a poor farm child collect fire flies in a jar so that he could be able to study at night etc. To be honest, I have never seen live fire fires, so I was curious.

The boat operators offered us a basic dinner while we were on board, you might say,” Dinner is served.” The dishes are adequately prepared, even though it is not piping hot, they are quite alright, no body seemed to be too hungry, with the odd person who always scooped up a large portion on their plates, but end up wasting it away in the garbage cans.

Now that dusk turned into darkness, the motor boat somehow finds its way around the various river bends, I couldn’t honestly say there were a lot of fire flies to be seen, certainly not what I got in my mind, like colonies and colonies of them. Just as we were moaning and groaning about the absence of fire flies, all of a sudden, seemingly coming out of no where, a large, perfectly formation of fire flies appeared on a near by tree top on the river bank, brilliant lights, but just in a flash, the lights were gone! The whole boat load of tourists just went crazy, laughing, clapping hands, and talking excitedly like five year olds! Soon after, some technically minded tourists, me included, were talking aloud that “why these little creatures were so well behaved, why they turned on and off their lights in unison, why was there no free flying!

Well, it turns out that one of the tour guides had brought along a white LED multi beam flash light, he would turn it on and off at random intervals just to get his helpless and hapless charges – us , some false hope, and a laugh – among us – afterwards.

The second thing that was a bit overblown in the glossy travelling brochure Kinabalu Summit. It is hailed as the holy mountain in the area. It took a treacherous three hour bus ride on some winding mountain road to get to some designated tourists center, it is alright if one has never been to the sub tropical countries before, flowers are plenty, and they are very colorful, even trees bear flowers, and roads and areas are generally clean and tidy. I was going to buy a local pictorial book about local plants and flowers our guide recommended, unfortunately the one and only place that sell that particular book was closed.

A third thing was visiting Manukan Island. This small island is about 7 minutes boat ride by ten people seats speed boats. The beaches that are designated for snorkeling were full of tourists. I think a very large number of them were tourists from China.

The tour operators have the organizational aspect of receiving and entertaining the tourists fine tuned to the Tee. Different color large tents were set up, each tent has its own color and different tour guide deals with his or her group separately.

The day’s entertainment included a free rental snorkel for those who were interested. A few of my travel mates tried out snookering; it was most interesting, because the tropical fishes in the area were quite used to interact with swimmers, I actually had fishes nibbling at my lower limbs.

It was a pity that the beaches close to our designated tent area was rather rocky; a classmate got his toe cut by some sharp coral unfortunately.

The tour operator organized a self serve buffet around noon in a separate tent, must say I admire their operational skill. There were plenty of food, plenty of cold drinks, even for the few hoarders who like to pile their dishes high, and then end up wasting the food by dumping them, and even they were satisfied.

A casual observation though, a few of my fellow Chinese compatriots in the tents near by still carried on the habit of lighting up a cigarette right in front of their fellow travel mates, inevitably the cigarette smoke would drift to our area, and every body was annoyed, but what can you do other than give them THE look!

The rest of day went by quickly, after trying out snorkeling, showered and changed, and we were transported back to shore around 5pm by the same fleet of speed boat that ferry tourists back and fore between the bay area and those little islands.

There were a very large contingent of Chinese tourists from the main land, small number of Korean and Japanese tourists and independent tour teams like ours.

The day was the third day of our four day whirl wind tour, and we decided to try a different seafood place. Since we hadn’t been to the down town core tourist area, our tour guide suggested we try out so and so sea food palace, and he phoned ahead and booked two tables for us.

We had a long day on the beach, and we were a fair bit tired, so naturally we were very glad to finally get dropped off in front of a very trendy and upscale restaurant parking lot.

We got ushered to two corner tables, some of us got to the wash rooms, some of us sat down taking in the ambience, a few of the more worldly travelers strolled over the fish tanks to check out the pricing of the seafood.

Soon as they checked out the price, word came back quick that the prices were outrageously, astronomically high, every kind of seafood commands a princely sum. How anyone can afford prices like that, no body knows!

So we told the waitresses that we came to the wrong place, and called a hastily retreat. Some of our team mates felt embarrassed that we had to leave. Well, between one minute of embarrassment or a huge hole in our pocket books. We all felt it was the right thing to do by retreating! ( to be continued)

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Excursion Trip to Hong Kong

My excursion trip to HK and Malaysia:

Today is 21/09, Saturday. I flew from Ningbo, China to Shenzhen. An hour and a half short hop by air. I am quite impressed with the travelling infrastructures that the state and private enterprises provide for the travelling public.

The service provider gives a pleasant in flight service, flights are on time, planes are new Air Bus 320’s, and passengers are generally cordial.
An interesting observation though, some of the travelling public like to be in the head of the queue all the time. The concept of your plane ticket is already bought and paid for by you, that the flight crew will have to get you to your pre assigned seat is a given, that there is no need to rush, this travelling etiquette hopefully will become norm at some point in the future.

What brought on this spill? I was lining up in front of the ticket counter in the departing level in Ningbo International, and the line was not overly long. A large group of about fifteen travelled together and they were chatting amongst each other. One additional counter opened up, and air line personnel were trying to direct some of the people in front of me to the new line up. And sure enough everyone wants to be the first one in the new line.

I use South China Airline this time, the Chinese travelling public have utilized air travel for a good many years now, and the service on board is pretty decent. From Ningbo to Shenzhen took about two hours, and the air line crew served a simple snack pack, it consists of a bun, a small pastry, and a hot or cold drink.
Because of the newness of this travelling mode, most cabin service crews are pretty young in age by North America standard.

The flight was uneventful, we arrived Shenzhen around noon. Shenzhen International Airport has two Terminals, A and B. within a short walk above ground, there is a subway terminal that travelers can purchase a RMB $ 9 one way ticket to Lo-Wu Boarder Entry point – the trip lasts one hour, as usual there is no shortage of traveler, the subway carriages are bright and clean, one hour sitting on a stainless hard seat provides plenty of opportunity for people to reflect on the fact that we humans are weak and fragile as compare to the hard seat underneath us!

Passing through the Customs is fast and painless, I use a Chinese Government issued ID to exit China, on it I have my thumb print and my photo record. If they match, an automated gate will swing open, and the process is done. The same process goes for the HK side.
After passing through Customs, we got on a surface train to a stop called Kowloon Tong, as always, the paces of passengers are fast and I am amaze at the efficiency of the transit system here, everyone has a Octopus Transit Pass, it is a pre pay debit card, seniors and children go by a special designated turnstile, they enjoy reduced fares. I am told; it is 2 HK dollars anywhere one way. Quite a deal as compare to regular fares other passengers pay.

The next day, a tropical storm named Sky Rabbit was brewing in the horizon a few hundred kilometers in the South China Sea, me and my buddy was going to camp out in Lamma Island, have a few beers and count the evening stars just like the old days. But it was not to be, so we stay in different places, I stay in my sister’s, and he stays with his daughter.

The weather in HK hovering between 28-35 C, humidity approaches the low 90%. For travelers who just come into town, one almost needs to shower 2 to 3 times a day just to rid of the sweat build up on your body.

The boys I graduated with organized a four day trip to a resort town called Saba – Saba is located in East Malaysia, neighboring Borneo, we waited anxiously for the tropical storm Sky Rabbit to pass HK by Sunday evening, the news we got from television were not encouraging, there are hundreds of flights either delayed or cancelled in the air port.

We kept our fingers crossed, as the airline we booked for this trip and the route we are going is not extremely popular at this time of the year, we plan our trip before what the Chinese travelling industry call the “Golden Week”. From October 1st to 7th, the country will have a week of holiday. Everyone will be on the road, and highways become parking lots, there is no way to escape from the crowds of tourists anywhere you want to go.

Anyways, comes Monday, the typhoon just glazed HK by 200 km, and we were told to be at the airport at the usual time. Hallelujah!

I got there in ample time, got my boarding pass and slide into a fast food outlet for breakfast, next leg, Saba – Malaysia.

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Second Day

It is my 2nd day in Ningbo, my friend took me around town in mid day, there is a strange sort of familiarity, and the traffic still is a bit of chaotic, other vehicles, large or small, still cut in front of you without signaling, pedestrians still are at their own perils if they do not watch out for their own safety while crossing the streets, electric bikes still dashing in and out of traffics to get ahead a few inches. Where would all this go? I spectculate that it will find its own level in many years down the road.

A local friend mused to the fact that citizens at large just found that they can express their feeling and go for their personal freedom and space through owning their own private cars. And local government agencies make it easy for them. Parking still is a problem, people still ignore signs prohibiting illegal parking, fender benders are frequent, but people seem to take it rather well.

I went to a hot pot place in West Bay Road ( 西灣路 ) near The Auchan Supermarket in the heart of down town Ningbo, a hole in the wall establishment, the cooking area is behind a glassed in area, customers walk in, there is a refrigerated display case with all the choices already in skillets. One can either be vegetarian or a meat eater, you pick what you like to eat, and they cook them for you. Three servings and three large cold beers later, the bill came to RMB 42 dollars. About Cdn 7 bucks. I think I will come again for sure!

We took delivery of a bunch of Moon Cake from a bakery and dropped them off to the factory where my friend runs. Local school has one week off, and most factories, offices give one day off to the workers.

About three in the afternoon, fatigue and jet lag finally took hold of me, and I crashed and into a comatoise sleep. It was still 29C outdoors and humidity around 75%.

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Trip to Ningbo in 2013/Sept

Since my paternal ancestral homeland is rumored to be in Jijiang, I have done my first root finding mission in 2011.
This summer, our high school pals in H. K. reunion has organized in four days trip in a hotel resort in SABA, Malaysia, in the last week of Sept, before the Golden Week in the Chinese Travelling Industry, that is, the whole country’s mobile work force will travel home or travel aborad to visit, sightseeing or plan R and R.
I booked my Air Canada Flight to Shanghai two months ahead, I am plesantly surprised that it cost only $ 875 Return. The Plan is to criss cross China a bit, to HK, Malaysia, back to China, and go home to Vancouver in late October.
Arrived Shanghai Pudong International on 17th of Sept, around 2:30pm. The whole 14 hours on the seat was uneventful, food offered were adequate, the crew was pleasant, one steward – a French Canadian chap even did a magic trick to make the creamo for my coffee disappeared in his hand. It is a rarity, and cheered up the road weary travellers considerably. Watched “Skyfall”, “Dark Zero” something or the other, and Tom Cruise’s “something Reacher”. Watching movies is a great pass time during air travels besides sipping coffee/tea/beer or wine. I have found myself very displined in decling offers for alcoholic drinks during this trip from the flight crew. No booze, less trips to the bath room. A Win Win situation!
Anyway, I broke down the 14 hours flight time in segments and Pudong Int’l like magic appeared in the horizon at the end of the road. We lost one day flying east, so it was Tuesday, afternoon, Sept the 17th, temperature was 29C, humidity was likely 80% or higher. Breezing through Customs, picked up my luggagues. My pal and his driver showed up with a big smile on their faces, and I was just as glad to see them.
I am always impressed with the highway infrastructure in China, it operates on a pay toll system, vechiles will come across toll booths on the average of every two hours. Gasoline price is at par with Vancouver. To coin a phase – You pay as you go!
Anyways, three hours later I arrived Ningbo. As always the humanity and traffic are always present. I will spend the next five weeks in Asia, will write and report more to share.

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