Culture

People: Pixelventures Photo Challenge

This week’s theme over at Bastet’s Pixelventures is PEOPLE. I have snapped some interesting pics of people here in Shanghai and when travelling around Asia. The hard part was narrowing it down to the most interesting and ones you hadn’t seen before. One of my favourite pictures of PEOPLE was posted here for Juxtaposition & Surprise back in January.

Monks at Angkor Wat

Monks at Angkor Wat

This first picture was taken on our trip to Cambodia. Inside the Angkor Wat complex you will often see Monks dressed in the bright orange. I decided to post this one because they were just like the rest of us tourists smiling at the photo they had just taken with their camera. It also shows a variety of other tourists who come from all over the world to see the Angkor Wat complex.

Picnic in the Park

Picnic in the Park

 

I have posted similar pics of this before, but this one is clearer and up close. When local Chinese go to a park they often take small tents to provide cover and shade. Sometimes the grass will be covered with tents and blankets. With so many living in apartments warm spring weekends often draw out everyone and they descend on the local parks.

 

Little Red Riding Hood is that you?

Little Red Riding Hood is that you?

 

OK I really am stumped with this one. A few times I have seen younger Shanghainese walking around dressed up like in costume. I am not sure if this is part of the Japanese phenomenon of dressing like animated characters or something else. Last spring we went to Shanghai Botanical Gardens and we ran into the lone girl dressed like Little Red Riding Hood basket and all. We did a double take and said   什么 (Shénme  – WHAT???)

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These last 2 are typical sites as the older way of moving things still lives on. Small electric trike bikes or bikes with a trailer are often piled high with recycled material, small animals in crates, large bottles of water or other things to be sold. The first bike is either someone moving items, or old broken and unwanted items being collected. The second one has a pile of wood with the wife along for the ride. When we first arrived some of these piles would be well over 5 feet high. Now the police crack down on these unsafe heights.

These are my example of people. Check out Bastet’s Pixelventures for more examples.

Hit the OLDER POST button to see some examples of Letters and PEOPLE from yesterday’s post.

Stay Tuned…

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Culture, Photography, strange adventures, teaching overseas, Tourist in My Own Town, travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

On Top in China: Photo Challenge

For this photo challenge I thought I would take a look back. These photos are from 2011 from a day trip to Zhejaojiao (ZGee-jah-je-ow) just outside of Shanghai. For some of my  followers you may recall the one photo used to be my header. This is my take on this week’s theme set by word press On Top. Which Sara states can be a physical location, or perspective.

Crowds of People On Top of a Small Bridge

Crowds of People On Top of a Small Bridge

 

Many old buildings are adorned with dragons on the tile rooves. Here is a close up.

 

Decorative Dragon On Top of a Roof

Decorative Dragon On Top of a Roof

 

This small town is called the Venice of China with the winding river and many small bridges. Many little shops, tea houses and restaurants line the river. You can take a small boat to cruise around and avoid some of the crowds. To get there we took a taxi which cost about 400 RMB ($60-70) back in 2011. The drive took 1 hour, one way. We were off the meter, so we could negotiate the price. We also had the driver wait for us, so we had 3 hours to explore at our own pace, which was more than enough time. If you want to read more check out my original post The Venice of China.

 

I have been busy blogging away this weekend. I took advantage of the extra day off. You can check out my other posts by following the links here:

Hoppy Easter (:)

Stay tuned…

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Culture, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , ,

Shanghai Street Scenes: Photo Challenge

This week WP has asked us to show a street scene. There are so many interesting sights and sounds here in Shanghai that it is hard to pick what to show you. Streets are generally crowded with people and sellers showing off all things to tempt you from t-shirts to DVDs to books to dishes to flowers and fruit.

A few weeks ago we had some visitors from home and we took to the streets. Here are some new and interesting shots I captured while we toured around.

Enjoy my views of the streets of Shanghai.

One thing you see on occasion is a small gathering of men playing this traditional game.

Game ON!

Game ON!

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These men were near the bird and insect market that I posted about here. Quite a crowd gathered to see this man’s items for sale and  little birds.

For Sale

For Sale

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A typical side street is crowded with people, bikes, and cars. There is always laundry hanging out of windows. It certainly makes for an interesting site. This is more typical in the older part of Shanghai. With newer buildings the balcony has racks for hanging laundry so it is not as noticeable.

Laundry Day

Laundry Day

 

Please visit Word Press to see more examples or find out how to participate.

Stay tuned…

 

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Culture, Photography, Tourist in My Own Town, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , ,

A Market For Everything

It seems like Shanghai has a market for everything. Want new clothes made, go to the Fabric Market. Need some electronics then the electronic market. How about souvenirs, luggage, knock offs? There is a market for that too. I have shown you Art Street, a sort of market for paintings. A class trip even brought us to a flower market. I needed new glasses, where did I go? The glasses market of course! Spread across the city there is a market for a variety of things, whatever your needs. I have stumbled on some, explored others and have many more to discover.

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A market I heard about my first year here has been on my ‘do-to’ list for a while. We had visitors from home last week and they love shopping.  I decided we should take them to see more of ‘real’ China and explore a market that would be filled with sights, sounds, smells and crowds. The market in question was a bird and insect market. The market promised a variety of interesting insects, many of them crickets used for fighting. Small birds and other pets would also be housed here. Now it is not your Western Pet Store, so a warning of cramped and crowded conditions was mentioned in the description as I searched for the address of the location.

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After a wrong turn we found our way jostled by people cramped on a crowded, narrow sidewalk. We eventually made our way to doorway leading to the market. Immediately cricket chirping deafened our ears. Pushy people came pouring in as we stopped and adjusted our senses to all we were seeing and hearing. Stalls and small storefronts no larger than a small closet lined the maze of rows of stalls. Our first section houses turtles, fish and crickets. At the next turn were small birds and bamboo cages. As we neared the end hamsters, guinea pigs and bunnies were for sale, housed in cages and small plastic containers or boxes.

Most of the patrons were locals with a sprinkling of tourists or western expats  like us wanting to snap some interesting photos. Most vendors did not notice or care, but some shooed us on saying ‘NO’ when they spotted us raise our camera. The market was not as big or interesting as the one we saw in Hong Kong, but a cool side trip not far from Xintiandi and YuYuan Garden. The address is:  South Xizang Rd, 西藏南路 From Line 10 get off at Laoximen. It is only a short walk from the metro. Turn right out of the subway away from the Bread Talk and Electronics store.

Stay tuned….

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Culture, Tourist in My Own Town | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Red #2: Tourist in Your Own Town

Each month I have posted a theme and asked you to join in. For February the theme is RED. I haven’t been getting a lot of participation and asked for suggestions on red post #1. Many readers said keep trying and it may be slow going before it catches on. Thanks so much for your encouragement. I did have some takers this month. Patchwork Ponderings, who has participated before, showed us some RED from The Niagara area in Ontario, Canada. I also had 2 new bloggers visit and post. Debbie had a very cool take on the theme in London, England while Jackie, a fellow Canadian, showed some RED from Toronto, Canada. Visit the orignal RED post (in the comment section) to find their links and check them out. They are worth a peek!

When I first thought of RED I wanted to post something for Chinese New Year, but didn’t have any photos. The other day we were out and I captured this.

Red paper from firecrackers litter the streets.

Red paper from firecrackers litter the streets.

Chinese New Year is the big celebration in China. Some compare it to our Christmas, but I think it is bigger. The holiday lasts 14-15 days. The biggest part of the celebrations take place over 3 days. New Year’s Eve brings loud pops and bangs as firecrackers scare away the evil spirits and bring good luck for the upcoming year.  With pollution at high levels Shanghai was said to limit the amount of fireworks, the much more colourful counterpart of crackers. The newspapers reported less polluting fireworks were also being sold as to still allow the tradition to continue. Despite this New Year’s Eve was still noisy and continued cracks and bangs went on at regular and random intervals for close to 48 hours. Another part of the celebration is a family dinner with all members reuniting. With many migrant workers coming into the city for work, or higher wages it may be the only time they see family. This is not just seeing extended family, but it may be people reuniting with spouses and children.

Chinese New Year involves gifts, but not brightly coloured packages wrapped in bows and coloured patterned paper. Instead crisp bills are placed inside red envelopes. Other gifts often include oranges and sweets like cookies in specially designed gift boxes similar to those we see in shops for Christmas at home. The following photo shows the symbols of Chinese New Year as well as red envelopes hanging on a holiday tree. As far as I know they do not usually decorate tress in the way for the holiday. I think this was more a mix of East and Western cultures done by the local hotel.

Red envolopes and lucky coins with tassels decorated this unique holiday tree.

Red envelopes and lucky coins with tassels decorated this unique holiday tree.

The last photo is to celebrate the start of the olympics. Here are my RED Olympic Canada mittens which I wear here in Shanghai. GO CANADA!

DSC06643There is still time to participate and post something unique, special and RED from where you live. Be a tourist in your own town and share something from where you live. Follow this link to get all the details. Be sure to leave a link back to your post in the comment section of Red #1

Stay tuned…

Categories: Culture, Tourist in My Own Town, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Cambodia -More Awe & Wonder

In December we took our first trip to Cambodia. We spent 10 days in the Siem Reap area which is known for the famous ancient temples and ruins at Angkor Wat. There are a lot of other things to see and do besides temples. A few museums, a waterfall and silk ‘farms’ are available to visit for a change of pace. The one that sounded the most interesting was out on Tonle Sap Lake; a floating village. We decided to visit the floating village  which  is also quite popular with tourists. The idea intrigued me and I was curious what it would be like. I pictured houses floating similarly to boats, but somehow anchored in place. We decided this would be worth seeing, something different and more unusual than anything we have ever visited before.

Only mode of transportation that works here

Only mode of transportation that works here

There are a few places where you can go and see some of the floating villages. The place our tour driver, Rak, recommended was a little further from the city. He felt it was less touristy and crowded. It was $25/person for the trip which included the price of our driver and the entrance/boat for about 1 hour. It was a short drive on main roads through the city . Next we drove through more open country that reminded me of the wide open spaces back home. Once we turned off the main road it slowly turned into a dirt road, sometimes littered with potholes. Seeing Tuk Tuks bump along in the dust made us very happy we had a comfortable car. The road here isn’t paved since the lake floods each year and the road is under water for a long period of time. The dry season runs from November to May and the lake will be as small as 2,700KM2 and it can swell as large as 16,000KM2. Due to this natural phenomenon the inhabitants have constructed their houses on tall poles made from tree trunks. This would be something to see.

House on stilts

House on stilts

We parked the car and Rak hired us a boat and we were led away. We had the boat to ourselves which was a nice surprise. We started off slowly going along a narrow passage for what seemed like a long time. There wasn’t a lot to see other than some trees that were partly under water. Eventually we started to see some of the houses on stilts. As we rounded a corner the village came into view. Houses varied from those in bright colours, to pale peeling paint, to simpler ones in plain wood or what looked like woven palm leaves or reeds. The locals went about their daily business in small boats. We saw some children going off to school while others stayed home and helped pick small fish out of fishing nets. We continued on passing more and more, which was hard to take it all in.

floating villiage

After about 30 minutes we docked and were asked to get off our boat. Another tour through the mangrove was offered for an additional $5 in smaller boats. We decided against this part and continued on our journey. After this stop there was another place to stop and eat and a large temple, but our driver pushed on. We eventually reached the open lake and our driver stopped our boat. We weren’t sure of the purpose since there was nothing to see. We were like sitting ducks and soon women in small boats approached us, With limited English they tried to sell us unappealing snacks and other items. When we said no thank you they said to buy some to give to the villagers. Again we declined and our driver returned us the way we came.

Houses up close

Houses up close

Back on shore we watched some of the locals in temporary houses, simple shacks, where they sold some food to passing tourists and other local workers.  Nearby there were a lot of rice patties and in small shallow sections of the river men wade chest deep and cast large nets to catch small fish. After watching a few minutes we returned to the car and back to the city.

I took a lot of photos, but it was hard to get the best shots as we were always moving. Sometimes I wish we could have also got up closer to have a better look.

a tourist boat with approaching sellers out on Tonle Sap Lake

a tourist boat with approaching sellers out on Tonle Sap Lake

This is a part of a series on our trip to Siem Reap. Missed the other posts about Cambodia? Check them out by following the links below:

Stay tuned …

Categories: Culture, Photography, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Juxtaposition & Surprise :Weekly Photo Challenges

What is Juxtaposition? According to Word Press it is a pairing of things to show comparison and contrast. Basetet’s photo challenge is to show something that surprised you. Living in Shanghai, China just walk out the door and see examples of these themes. Such a shame that after nearly 4 years  here less things surprise us and have become part of the everyday.

Last spring we went to Beijing to see the Great Wall. As we wandered the market area selling souvenirs to tourists we came upon this unusual pairing. Seeing someone in ancient warrior garb and another fellow in a modern suit playing a Chinese style chess game was a little surprising . A true juxtaposition… had we gone back in time or was it still 2013?

 

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What have you seen that surprised you or was a juxtaposition? Comment on it below or follow the links to find out how to post your own photos.

Stay tuned… more on our recent Cambodia trip later this weekend.

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Culture, Photography, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Awe & Wonder: Angkor Thom

Our recent trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia brought us to the ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat. The best preserved and well-known is Angkor Wat, but there are many temples within the area. According to some research, I read after our return, there are hundreds of temples in Cambodia. One of the largest complexes is a short drive past Angkor Wat called Angkor Thom. Within its grounds are many structures and temples hence the Khmer meaning of its name Big City.

Angkor Thom is unique with many of the gates and some of the temple structures not only having the intricate carvings, but faces pointing to the four cardinal directions. Another of the temples have a large sleeping Buddha camouflaged in the wall. A path and signs pointed us through the grounds where things were spread out amongst trees, small ponds, long walkways and open spaces. Walls and tree roots snaked around the temples adding to the atmosphere. In other areas rubble littered the grounds where parts of buildings lay in ruins. Much of this complex has had some restoration to allow tourists a view back in time to a great empire.

We tried to avoid some of the crowds and had an early start. Our driver, Rak, dropped us at a small temple outside the main gate and told us he would meet us on the other side. John climbed the steep staircase as I took pictures. Next we made our way to the gate and happened to see a naughty monkey knocking over bikes and trying to run off with guide books. As we walked through the picturesque gate we noticed an elephant coming along down the road. We went back outside the gate and snapped a few photos.

an unexpected surprise

an unexpected surprise

On the other side of the gate we got back into the car and drove down a long stretch of road to the first temple complex. I was surprised that cars were allowed inside, but soon understood when we drove fairly deep inside before we saw the first structure. I started to understand the size of this complex in comparison to Angkor Wat.

credit: www.poricany.cz

We started at Bayon, the temple with the faces. We wandered around the grounds where nothing was off-limits. Little piles of stones reminding me of the Inuit inukshuks littered the piles of rubble. We made our way higher and IMG_6442got some close up views of the large stone faces standing watch. From there we went to Baphuon where Buddha lay hidden. The sun was getting hot and this was the first day where the usual high temperatures made an appearance, so we stuck to the shade and didn’t climb the upper levels of the next few temples we saw. My shoulders were not covered enough, so a guard showing me a sign with the universal no symbol, had me sweating under my long sleeves and now double layers. Without a map and a loss of direction we continued to follow the path and people who lead us to a long stone walkway. It was surprisingly massive. I realised we had made our way through the complex, but we had missed the one thing I had hoped to see, the elephant terrace. From what I understood it was a small rectangular structure. After a few more steps I saw the elephant carvings and realised we were in fact on the terrace. People crowded and snapped photos of the elephants. We found a hidden staircase that led below the terrace to a narrow passage. I am not sure the purpose other than the many carvings that graced the walls. We led our way down the staircase to see more carvings. Our driver was waiting for us and as we drove along the road I could see just how immense the terrace was with carvings from top to bottom and along the entire length; it certainly wasn’t what I had imagined. Again Angkor left me in awe and wonder.

This is my fourth post about our recent trip to Cambodia. Two posts are about the site itself and the third is a response to a photo challenge. Want to read more check these out:

Stay tuned for more…

Categories: Culture, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Angkor Wat Awe and Wonder

The morning started at 4:30 AM with a wake up call. Today was an early start to make sunrise at the ancient temples of Angkor Wat. Quickly we dressed for the early morning chill and ran downstairs to the lobby to meet our driver and guide for the day, Rak. Sleepily we climbed into the car and drove off into the darkness. We drove round twists and turns with the sound of the tuk tuk motors filling the air as we passed them in our car. We came to a large ticket area to buy our 3 day passes ($20 USD for 1 day and $40 for 3), get  our photo taken to be placed on the ticket. The large crowds were quickly handled and within minutes we were back in the car and getting instructions as to where to go once we were dropped off at the gate. It was pitch dark with no street lights, luckily I brought a small portable flashlight. Rak pointed the direction and we were off with the crowds over ancient cobbled stone and we picked our way in the darkness following the simple beam of light. Suddenly a slight outline of the temple loomed in front of us. It was right there the entire time. My breath caught in my throat, as awe washed over me. I had imagined it far from the road, but it was right in front of us the whole time hidden in the inky blackness. We continued on up some stairs feeling our way in the dark. On the other side we could clearly see the temple and where the reflecting pond was to get the best photos.

The large crowd of people spread out along the pond, so it was difficult to get a good place to view the sunrise and see its reflection in the said pond. I pushed through the crowds looking for a better place. On the opposite side a smaller pond was less crowded, so we moved there and waited for the sun. The temples were now outlined by the ever lightening sky. Unfortunately after the early morning start the low hanging mist and cloud along the horizon blocked out the sunrise leaving a bland, dull sky. It was disappointing we missed the glorious colours and sunrise, especailly since the sky appeared clear when we left, oh well the temples were still there, so we set off to explore.

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Two smaller structures were near the reflecting ponds, so we started there. We then went to the main temple area. It is 3 levels and each one is a steep climb. In some places wooden staircases and railings were added to make the climb easier. Few people were around, so we were able to explore and take photos with ease. A large crowd had gathered in one area and suddenly everyone jumped up and a rope barrier was moved to allow the crowds to climb to the highest level. Take note that Angkor Wat is a temple and you must be respectful, so no short shorts or uncovered shoulders are allowed. If you do not follow this request you will not be allowed to enter. As far as I know a scarf isn’t enough to cover your arms and shoulders. It must be a proper top. The day we visited it remained cool, so it wasn’t a problem for us. You should also note the ticket you purchased will be requested to be presented at numerous locations even within the same temple complex. It is a paper ticket, so keep it safe. We clambered up the steep stairs and the view was worth it. The view over the grounds and surrounding area was stunning. The sun was finally making a brief appearance and it highlighted all the carvings and bas reliefs that covered the walls. The amount of workmanship in this temple and the carvings that covered every wall, celing and doorway was amazing. Some told stories while others showed gods, or intricate sdesigns. The detail was fantastic and some carvings were shallow and worn over time while others were deep.

detailed carvings covered every surface

detailed carvings covered every surface

The pillars represented mountains and look like lotus buds

IMG_6059View from the Top

Intricate carvings

Intricate carvings

Leaving the temple we followed the same route we took before sunrise. We were surprised how large the moat was surrounding the temple complex, like a river,  and how close we were to  the edge picking our way through the darkness. The uneven large stone bridge was massive. Along the way we could spot the restoration work that has been taking place to preserve this incredible landmark and World Heritage sight.

view towards the main gate

view towards the main gate

Stay tuned… more temples and Siem Reap to come.

Categories: Culture, Photography, travel, unique experiences | Tags: , , , , , , ,

So this is Christmas in Cambodia

Oh Christmas Twig,   oh Christmas Twig how beautiful are your branches… hmmm doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but that is the norm for a Christmas tree twig here in Cambodia. We did see a few trees around, small table top size, for sale at a shop for travelers. A random few large ones have been spotted too at local restaurants, but mostly they are twigs. I guess real evergreens in the jungle are a pretty rare or impossible find.

A Christmas twig with dead leaves and garland tinsel.

A Christmas twig with dead leaves and garland tinsel.

The festive twigs have mostly been spray painted white. They are then placed in pots and left as are, while others have lights added which at night does give it a Christmas tree appearance –at a distance. Others have tacky tinsel added and some even ornaments, but that is rare. We even spotted this one on Pub Street with added snow cotton balls.

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Christmas dinner  in Cambodia-tacos and cocktails

Christmas dinner in Cambodia-tacos and cocktails

Lights adorn the trees and these lights across the main street sparkle in rows and rows down the entire road every few feet. They shine with the outline of Angkor Wat. It certainly is an untraditional Christmas. This is what Christmas dinner looked like: Christmas tacos, beer and cocktails. The weather was warm and employees wore Santa hats and said Merry Christmas with giggles. Either they didn’t understand why they were saying it, or laughed that we were eating tacos instead of the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy. 😦  Some hotels and fancier restaurants offered Christmas dinner at a large and hefty price. I think we had better luck with cheap beer and tacos then dry expensive turkey.

The weather has been unseasonably cool and most days it has been at least comfortable. One day since we arrived (on Sunday) was hot, but lacking the dreaded humidity, so in the shade it is comfortable.

I apologize for the missing photos, for now you must use your imagination. The internet is too slow to upload

Christmas tree with snow and all ;)

Christmas tree with snow and all 😉

photos, so I will add photos once we get a faster internet connection, which may be once we get back to Shanghai. Bite my tongue… I always complain about poor internet in Shanghai. Who thought there would be something slower? Now we are back in Shanghai I have been able to add the pictures. Did they live up to your imagination?

This is what Christmas looked like in Siem Reap, Cambodia for us this year. How did you celebrate?

Stay tuned…

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