Wednesday, 30 July 2008

The Wrong Hotel, Giant Crustaceans, etc

Asked by a friend if I had a busy day, I replied: Yes.

I woke at 5am, deposited my less frequently used posessions at the hotel storage room, checked out (including some time wasted arguing the unusually excessive room rate - yeah the company pays, but what's good for the goose is good for the gander, right? Besides, a bit of early morning argument is good for the soul), flight to Bangkok, breakfast, flight to Singapore, contend with grumpy airport types, taxi, factory, set up machine, out to dinner at "Singapore's largest seafood restaurant"* with industry people, go to hotel, find it's the wrong hotel (Sorry Sir, you need the Other Holiday Inn), wait 10 minutes for taxi during Singapore's taxi happy hour, taxi to correct hotel, check in, then out to catch up with boss who's also here by chance).
Somewhere in there I also realised I lost an hour going forward one time zone, d'oh.

*The Ah Yat Seafood Restaurant. Their live catch section was impressive, they even had New Zealand lobster ($179/kilo, anyone?) and huge mutant crabs.

I asked my boss earlier if he was going to join us for dinner - he replied with this text message, which I found amusing: "I hate going to seafood places here, they love feeding you poisonous shite and you can't escape". I liked it anyway, particularly the aquarium bit.

Lest There Be Any Confusion

I encountered a rather inexplicable sight the other day. A great lumbering beast, of epic proportions - like none I'd ever seen before (or so I thought!) - plodding down the highway as cars and trucks flew by. As I drew nearer, my imagination struggling to identify it, running through all the possible creatures it could be, I spotted a small red sign posted to its rear. It was....

An elephant!

Thanks for the heads up, guys... Pure legend.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Chiang Mai

Home away from home again... The hotel breakfast got boring several months ago, but I still like the view from my room on the 22nd floor:

Over to the right you can see the base of Doi Suthep, and the airport is somewhere in the middle of the picture a few clicks away. At night I can see planes coming in to land.

I took this shot from the top of the building (I snuck out the fire escape) at dusk. The small light on the side of the mountain is the Wat - a large, and locally famous, Buddhist temple.

Look up 18°47'1.58"N, 98°59'56.63"E in Google Earth/maps to see where I'm writing this from.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

China Haze-O-Meter, Thursday July 24

Today's Haze-O-Meter report is from a special guest location! I overnighted at Shanghai Pudong airport - that way I only had to get up at 5am for my 8am flight back to Thailand.

I took this shot from my hotel window at 5.43 this morning looking west toward terminal 2, about 1km away, just visible in the top left corner.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

China Haze-O-Meter, Wednesday July 23

Well well, what's this then? Skyscrapers in the distance? Should be a good day!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

China Haze-O-Meter, Tuesday, July 22

A small town in the indistrial backwaters of the east-coast mainland China megalopolis, about an hour south of Shanghai.

Low: 27C
Humidity: 84%
Dewpoint: 24C
Windspeed: 3km/h, SE

And so on.

The best way I've found to determine whether to stay inside or not is to gauge how far I can see into the distance from my apartment balcony in the morning.

I can't see the skyscrapers behind the white apartment blocks in the distance, so I think I'll stay inside today.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Shopping Shenannigans

Our little town's western culinary delights are are limited to KFC (kendegi) and Macca's (maidanglau - can I get a hanbaobao?), both of which are getting dull.

Flatmates and I headed for RT-Mart, the local supermarket, in search of western produce (hah! How naive). We'd just come from work and had our bags with, so held them low and went in with a crowd so the pesky security girls at the door wouldn't force us to leave them at the information counter for the staff to rummage through.

Made it, whew. Shopping trolley. Traffic jam up ahead, quick - swing it 180. Too late, gridlock. Wait for the old lady up ahead to finish picking out suitable chicken feet. Ok, moving again - slowly - RT Mart is THE place to be on a Monday night.

Live turtles in the fish section caught my eye - only 40RMB per kg! I'm pretty sure they were meant for eating (along with the bullfrogs) but I'm never quite certain.

Sometimes I make the mistake of engaging the staff for help with only my limited mandarin - where to find niche products like milk and cornflakes, for example. The problem is I know just enough to ask, but too little to understand the response (this is the fundamental flaw behind the concept of travel phrasebooks too - don't get suckered!). Invariably there's a word or five I don't understand in the answer. Now here's the thing. When it emerges I don't understand? The kindly soul jots it all down in Chinese for me, neglecting to consider that if I can't speak the language, I probably have little hope of reading it.

I dropped into the convenciance store on the way home to pick up some Red Bull (it doesn't taste like Red Bull, and comes in a strange can, but hey). Next to the cashier was a stand dedicated entirely to prophylactics - some 49 varieties - quite a few for a convenience store in conservative lands.

A combo pack of Trojans will set you back a meagre 38 RMB (about $9). Hehe, Trojan...

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

So Long, Sucky Weather! Part Deux

I made it, hooray! I've never had my carry-on bags checked before, but I hold no delusions the airlines will eventually get around to enforcing the weight and number restrictions (1 piece, 7kg + laptop/camera/handbag etc). Walking past the scales on my way to the departure gate always dredges up recollections of a particularly unlucky soul denied entry to an Air NZ flight because his carry-on suitcase was too big (he might have just left it there, or had to pay more - I don't know). That's usually about the point my palms get sweaty and palpitations arrive (or perhaps it's because I'm dragging twice my bodyweight in luggage onto the plane).

Why do I take so much luggage? Well, for starters, it's actually not much of a challenge to use up the 20kg checked allowance. M plastic suitcase alone weighs at least 5kgs. It's also wiser to take more than you need than too little if going for more than a couple of weeks. I never know how long I'll be away (6 months, 1 week last time) so plan for a month or two at least. That means camera+lenses, tripod, laptop, DVDs, books, and other stuff I don't want to buy all come for the ride.

So anyway, the title. Yup, this is what Shanghai looked like when I arrived.

At least it was warmer than Auckland. In fairness though, it was a sunny day for Shangers. It was snowing when I was here in February.

Those disappearing vertical features turned out to be part of a rather spectacular suspension bridge (spectacular from from my 10mm super wide angle lens at least).

Righto, the tin can awaits again. At least this time I can rest easy, my carry-on is well within spec (can't push my luck!).