Posts Tagged With: culture

Shanghai Sillies: Pack & Go

When we first arrived in Shanghai, nearly 5 years ago, we would stop and stare gob-smacked at these men on bikes piled high with all kinds of materials from wood, to plastic containers to Styrofoam. Our guess is they recycle it. What do you think they could be using all that Styrofoam for? Still it quite a sight with the balancing act they must have to perform to get it from A to B.

I never managed to catch the tallest piles on film (or digital media for you <30’s) then they became quite rare. A local person told me the police had started to crack down on such packing. Slowly over the last few months they started to pop up again.

Wide load

Wide load

 

This poor fellow pulled over to the side of a busy road as a passer-by helped tuck something back into place. The pause gave me enough time to get the camera ready to snap a few pics.

 

On the Road Again

On the Road Again

 

Have you see anything silly lately?

Stay tuned…

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Categories: Chinese Adventures, strange adventures, Tourist in My Own Town, unique experiences | 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: , , , , , , , , , ,

Awe & Wonder: Preha Kahn

Our time in Cambodia was winding down and we had 1 last day of the 3 day ticket to the Angkor Wat site. After spending the morning at the floating village we decided to try to capture the sunset at Angkor Wat and see one last temple for the remaining part of the day. Our driver wanted to take us to the Lady Temple, but it was a bit far out. I read about Preha Kahn and decided that would be our last temple visit.

Leading up to the gate this bridge with the carved images guides your way.

Leading up to the gate this bridge with the carved images guides your way.

Preha Kahn is similar in design to Ta Prohm since it was built by the same ruler. One of the temples was built for his father, the other his mother. This temple had been used as a monastery and residence for the King over time. This temple promised fewer people, but the same enchanting trees and vines over walls. Unfortunately not all temples have been saved –yet. Preha Kahn lay mostly in ruin to a larger extent than the other temples we had seen. It was still something I wished to see and get more shots of the atmosphere that intrigued me. Seeing the temples almost brought me back in time as my eyes tried to soak it all in. The feeling of peace and freedom to explore the ruins where little was off limits was unlike any other travel experience where velvet ropes and guards hush you and hold you back.

Since our return I have read about tourists climbing to roof tops and exclaiming they are re-acting scenes from movies and video games which, is a little shocking. I guess some people take more liberties and blur the world of fantasy and reality more than most. As more tourists come so does the wear and tear on these ancient sites. Preservation is starting to become more important now than ever. Restoration is expensive and pain staking, so I assume that fewer liberties will be allowed and more restrictions will be the norm in the near future.

 

The wall to protect the inner temples inside the main gate. It was said the large moats surrounding the temple complexes held crocodiles to help protect!

The wall around the inner temples inside the main gate. It was said the large moats surrounding the many temple complexes held crocodiles to help protect!

Strolling up from the main road we followed a long sandy path where a child was drawing designs and pictures in the dirt as a tourist tried to question him and get him to pose with his works. More rubble lay about and statues were headless as well as some ancient gods had been chiseled out of the bas reliefs. These temples had been Hindu and Buddhist over time and when one took over the former gods had been erased in some instances. What struck us more was the crumbling walls toppled by giant trees and roots. Some of the trees had been partially chopped down, but the roots still head fast in ancient foundations. Each turn seemed to show us another tree, a larger one with a firm grasp trying hard to erase an ancient civilization.

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There is a delicate balance being played out between nature and man. Tourists come to see the lost cities smothered in trees with its mystique and atmosphere and nature fights to reclaim its land. On one side nature needs to be controlled so it doesn’t completely destroy the site, but without this unique phenomenon will the tourists keep coming?

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Light was fading fast, so we needed to cut our visit short, so we could race to Angkor Wat to try to view sunset. With time against us we went in the same gate we viewed sunrise and needed to race across the grounds to the opposite side if we wanted the temple silhouetted against the colourful sky. Crowds were exiting as the day was nearly done. With the sun to our back we paused to look around and see if the sky was starting to light up in brilliant colours only to realise a large cloud bank stretched across the horizon. As luck would have it we would also miss sunset. With disappointment I stopped to look around one last time and soak it all in. Part of travel is sometimes missed opportunities, but many more great adventures will outweigh the things left undone. Leaving a great destination with more to see and do is all the more reason to return.

 

This is the fifth in a series of posts about our December trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia. If you would like to see more be sure to check out:

 

Stay tuned… with Chinese New Year holiday upon us we are heading to the Philippines for a few days of rest and relaxation. I apologise now if it takes me a little longer than usual to respond to comments.

Categories: 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: , , , , , , ,

Lady in the Moon

As a child we heard silly stories that the moon was made of cheese or there was a man in the moon. In China they have a legend about a lady in the moon.

The story is about the holiday that is held in September or October on a full moon. It is a time of celebration and the second most important holiday after Chinese New Year. Families get together and have a large meal together and it is a time to celebrate the harvest. Very similar ideas to our Thanksgiving holiday, one of the Chinese teachers told me. The legend is about a lady who had to live on the moon and her husband was still on earth. The story goes she flew to the moon and wasn’t able to return. The moon is bright is round on this day so her husband can see her from earth.

Mooncakes are one of the traditional foods eaten for the Moon Festival. Moon cakes are flakey pastry most commonly filled with bean paste or an egg, which symbolises the full moon. Occasionally there are other flavours. I have had lotus and pineapple, which were my favourite. I also tried the bean and a black sesame. However, my all time favourite mooncake is ice cream 🙂 This year I was given some ice cream mooncakes as a gift. Each one was  a different flavour… chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, raspberry, caramel… and the centre one was vanilla with a cheesecake like bit and an orange coloured sherbet in the centre, which I think was passionfruit.

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This relates to LavendarLadi’s suggestion on her recent post to talk about legends…

What legend or story can you share? Post your link below and over at the above link for Lavendar Ladi’s blog.

Stay tuned…

Categories: teaching overseas, Tourist in My Own Town, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tourist in My Own Town: YuYuan Garden

I came up with the idea to start posting on touristy things to see and do in my own adopted town and this is installment #2. Yesterday I went to YuYuan Garden on a quest to buy some gifts for people back home. The school year is winding down and we have 1 week left before I will be heading back to Canada for some much-needed R and R. The shopping trip was a great opportunity to snap some pictures of this busy market area.

main intersection around YuYuan Garden

main intersection around YuYuan Garden

YuYuan Garden is an actual garden, but I have yet to visit. Each time I have gone we have hit the shops and braved the crowds. After which has worn us out and we have headed back home. Yesterday was no exception as I carried my heavy purchases and was on sensory overload. After a few hours in the heat, pollution, bargaining, searching and walking it was time to head home. Shop til you drop certainly held true after this shopping trip.

I was in search of the Commodities Market adjacent to YuYuan Garden shopping area. The area is laden with a variety of shops selling cheap trinkets, souvenirs, colourful collectables, fake watches and bags, decorations for Christmas, Chinese New Year and Weddings, jewelery, leather goods and more. We strolled the long way round (accidentally) as we looked for our destination. As we went I snapped a few photos of the crowds and buildings with their old tiled and traditional curved rooves. Sometimes I took a turn down a street where boxes were being loaded, unloaded and unpacked. I felt this behind the scenes peek was forbidden tourist space, rather than public access, but no one took notice as they went about their daily chores. This is something we rarely glimpse at home since it is done all after hours, but here it was a job that needed to be done, so it was with no worry about the time, tourists or packing items strewn about and across pedestrian areas.

Once inside the Commodities Market we were greeted with 4 floors of chaos. The stalls were tightly packed together. Here the workers hardly took notice or called out to entice us inside. They went about napping, eating, chatting to each other or just watched us all pass by. If you took interest in their shop they would quickly come to help, but not always unless you asked questions. The less stressful approach to buying was much more welcoming than the constant “lady, lady Whatch you want?” or “Looky Looky”. However the sensory overload of colours and items crammed into every available space soon gave us the overwhelming feeling of where to begin. In some places it looked like a Dollar Store threw up! Imagine 4 floors of Dollar Store goods! After bargaining, walking away and getting called back I made my first purchase. After a  few more trinkets purchased I went back to the streets in search of the ‘real’ shops looking for something with more appeal and substance for gifts.

At the entranceDSC03955e to this small compound of tiny living quarters I came across these ladies with a baby and small child. They called to the passing tourists to ask about watches and bags, as they unfolded a small laminated card to show you all the big name brands they had available. The baby sat quietly as it was bounced around when the lady would quickly pass her off to other arms to grab the next person within ear shot. The baby wasn’t wearing diapers, but split pants (slit from front to back) and no diaper. When the crowd thinned they held the baby over the sidewalk to take a pee.  I wish I got a shot of that! NOT! As I said in my previous post, who am I to judge their customs and traditions? They feel it is healthier for a baby not to be covered – no diaper rash!

Before delving deeper and deeper and getting lost I found purchases for everyone I needed to buy for and decided to head back to the metro. My bags were getting heavy and the heat was sapping all my energy so it was a good time to head back.

YuYuan Garden certainly has it charm. Wandering the little streets, market stalls and shops is a fun way to spend the day. If you are not as interested in shopping it is a great place to people watch. Tourists from around the world gather here as well as locals running with bags of wares as they deliver to the many places. Rest assured you will see something interesting that you would never imagine or have the opportunity to see at home. Take Metro Line 10 to YuYuan Garden and take exit #1. From the exit  follow the crowds right or left and you will enter the many little streets to let you explore.

If you want to be a Tourist in Your Own Town then:

  • Include “Tourist in Your Own Town” in the title and tags so others and I can find you
  • Write a post and comment about it below
  • Be sure to leave a link to your site and link it back here to CTB 😀 so we can all read about your neck of the woods

Stay tuned…

Categories: Chinese Adventures, everyday occurances, post a week, Tourist in My Own Town, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

World Through My Eyes: Weekly Photo Challenge

My whole blog is about the world and how I (we) see things as we live away from home. Here in Shanghai, China and as we tour around Asia I (we) show you what we see. I bring my thoughts, ideas, observations and pictures to a different way of life. All this is through my (our) eyes and how we interpret what we see. I try to see the good and humour in things and this blog has helped me not only stay in touch with home and give them updates, but keep me sane! Life here away from all that is familiar can sometimes be tough as we fight through language and cultural barriers or different rules and regulations. We must keep an open mind and remember we are only visitors here; our way is not necessarily the right way. Life here has brought to us many challenges and adventures.

As I learn and grow as a photographer I look for interesting shots and things to capture forever, frozen in time. These are the things I want to share with you all and remember as unique and special about our time here. This photo shows so many things as I saw them through my own eyes….

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It was taken yesterday around Yu Yuan Gardens which has numerous shops, stalls and markets to buy everything from fake bags and watches to pearl and jade jewelery, or souvenirs of many kinds. This photo not only shows the traffic, people and shops, but also the old and new buildings. In the back ground you can see the newest addition to the skyline (soon to be Shanghai Tower), which will be the tallest building once complete. The skyline is not clear and you may strain to see the buildings, which is due to the higher level of pollution that has plagued the city the last few months. This past winter was the worst on record (since we arrived) and we had some extreme days. Things improved for a short time, but the last weeks have been bad again. We have had a few indoor recess times with the higher levels of pollution. When levels are over 200 we stay inside.

All these things I see through my eyes on a daily basis…. or strain to see on ‘red level days’. 😉 because the skyline is blurred and fuzzy with pollution. The old and new always amaze and interest  me. The city that has grown and developed, so fast it has widened the gap between cultures and those with designer flash and those that want to (or have to) hold onto old world charms coexist in one big city.

How do you see the world? Comment below or if you have a WP account post your own here.

What do you see through my eyes photo?

Stay tuned…

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Culture, everyday occurances, Photography, post a week, teaching overseas, Tourist in My Own Town, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

What is it? Luo Han Guo

The Chinese are known for their traditional medicines and natural remedies. Sometimes we are lucky or brave enough to try them. In January right around parent teacher interviews I had a case of laryngitis brought on from a combination of a sinus infection, dry air from the heating, pollution and not drinking enough water. After a few days rest and antibiotics I started to get better, but my voice was not coming back. I have some lovely parents and they brought me throat lozenges from many places around the world. They lovingly gave them to me to try. They helped my throat feel better, but my voice was still scratchy. One parent suggested I try this tea and promised to send it the next day. Instead she ran off to the shops and returned with the product straight away.

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Opening the fruit which was wrapped in a styrofoam mesh, like the expensive fruit at the grocery store, I was surprised to find a hollow sounding greenish brown fruit. The only way to open it was to bang it with something hard and it cracked like an eggshell. Inside a hollow centre held some seed looking things in the shape of corn kernels, but larger. The instructions said to place a small bit in boiling water and drink. It is supposed to sooth the throat. I was willing to try anything as long as it didn’t taste or smell bad. Neither… it was actually quite sweet with an indescribable flavour. Almost immediately my throat felt better and my voice started to return. It is like a miracle cure! I had tried the honey and lemon, numerous kinds of cough candy, gargles and other natural remedies, but nothing ever worked so well and so fast. For someone who has lost her voice a lot this was a true gem!

 

So what is this miracle? Well it is called Luo Han Guo (pronounced Lou hang gwah). It is native to China and parts of Thailand. I have learned it is a sweet fruit and it spoils quickly, so it is usually dried. It is used mainly in teas and some companies and traditional medicines use it as a sweetener. If you would like to read more than check out this article I found here. It starts out very medical/scientific, but skip past that for more details.

I left one of these at my brother’s when I was home last and he thought it was a ball and threw it in the kid’s toy box! They are light and hollow feeling, but what they hold inside is very interesting and some say funny looking. I have had some odd looks to “What is that???”, but hey sometimes nature knows best.

This week I have been suffering from another sinus cold and sore throat and I have found not only Luo Han Guo fruit, but medicine in a more concentrated form. They work wonders. I was feeling better, but it has settled back in, (the pollution is bad and seems to trigger this) so off I go to cuddle on the sofa to watch some TV and drink my funny looking tea.

So what is your home remedy or must have when you are sick? Share below in the comment section.

Stay tuned…. or check out my previous posts this weekend. I did 2 photo challenges on Peaceful (Peaceful and Peaceful #2) and another on Fleeting.

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Culture, post a week, strange adventures, teaching overseas | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Signs: Weekly Photo Challenge

Signs point us in the right direction. When a road sign doesn’t point us where to go in life we look for signs all around us to help us make big decisions and choices. Word press has set the theme SIGNS this week and I have posted on funny signs around my neighbourhood last year. If you want to see them click here.

For signDSC03768s on this week’s post I have a few photos of the real estate signs. A group of people will stand at intersections and bridges with signs advertising apartments and houses for rent. If you walk past, or stop in the car they will come over and give you flyers and print outs of information. They are out rain or shine…

 

They are on phones and chatting to each other, but quickly come to attention soon as someone passes by. They generally leave us alone since they figure we have limited Chinese. It is so different from real estate back home.

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Real Estate offices rarely have people inside them as they all congregate outside trying to catch the passing foot traffic. In these shots you can see a few other road signs in the background too.

 

Speaking of road signs I thought I should capture a few typical road signs. Stop signs are the same colour and shape… but can you spot the difference? 😉

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Another typical sign is an emergency 911 style sign, but I have only seen them around schools. 110 is the emergency number here. Luckily it is also in English I would miss the meaning altogether.

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What kinds of signs are in your neighbourhood? Tell us about them in the comment box below, or head over to Word Press to find out how to post your own examples!

 

Check our my post on the cost of Shanghai (just hit older post at the bottom of this one) that I did earlier this week… and stay tuned for more next week as I get back to report cards.

Categories: Chinese Adventures, post a week, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Travel Theme: Dancing

Ailsa over at where’s my backpack has asked us to post some photos on dancing. I immediately thought about Cuba. The passion and love for dance is a cultural thing which is awesome to witness and join in on. My best memory was when we went to Cuba and during dinner the band struck up some music and suddenly the staff walked away from their duties and started to dance. It quickly became a dance party (after the shock of some dinners) with most tourists and the staff laughing, cheering and dancing all together. As quickly as it all started they returned to work. I don’t have any photos of this fun phenomenon, but here are a few others from Cuba.

Cuba -Day show put on by the resort staff.

Cuba -Day show put on by the resort staff.

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Tropicana – Havana, Cuba

What better example of Cuban dance and love of music than the infamous Tropicana in Havana?

Don’t forget to check out Ailsa’s page to see more examples or take part in the challenges. Everyone is welcome 🙂

Stay tuned…. next week there will be more.

 

Categories: Culture, Photography, post a week, travel, unique experiences, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,