Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Spent the morning finalising the hotels in Xian and Chengdu with my confirmed flight dates. The hotel in Xian - City Hotel, which I had a tentative reservations done apparently did not log my booking in their system and I had a hard time sorting out with the front desk staff over the phone. The hotel was undergoing partial refurbishment and single rooms were fully booked and my prior reservations was not registered in the system. Finally settled with the front desk staff after some haggling - that I will come in as planned on 28th Dec, hopefully at the time of check-in that single room would be available, if not then a double room or whatever is available. The combination of the hotel's location and room rates are hard to find even though there are hotels aplenty in Xian.

For Chengdu, the reservations was easily done online at the 7 Days Inn website. An almost immediate confirmation SMS was sent to my mobile line upon booking.

The big event in Beijing for this trip was the Great Wall trek on 27th Dec (Saturday). Hence for today I was taking it easy with visiting just the Temple of Heaven and then to the Olympic area for the Bird's Nest & the Water Cube - all easily accessible by subway. The weather was getting colder as I could feel the biting cold at my hands if I did not wear my gloves.

This wall works! It transmit sounds from one part to another part of the curved wall. I saw 2 persons trying it out each from a quite a distance from one another and they could speak and hear each other......quite amazing considering the many people shouting at the wall.

The voice of the person standing on the stone at the epi-centre was supposed to be the loudest and sharpest. Many people tried, I think the wrong way, by shouting at their loudest voice. If it works, a normal speaking voice will probably be more resonant. I did not try as there were too many people doing it.

The big disappointment was that I could not touch the actual turf of the Bird's Nest as the whole field was laid with artificial carpet grass, DAMN! DAMN!
In truth the stadium looks smaller than I imagined, watching the Olympics on TV.

I like the changing colours of the Water Cube by night only to find out at the last day (7 Jan) heading to and from the Beijing Airport that it looks even more amazing reflecting sunlight!

I needed my gloves on as it was biting cold, at least minus 4 to 6 degrees!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Piece 1:
Last evening (19 Jan 09) was reading this article http://www.urbanmonk.net/229/giving-what-you-dont-have/ afterwork at the nearby library when a Maris Stella P5 student came over noticing the M1 wireless modem which I was using to access the page. He had a similar modem and that started our little conversation. He was mentioning how one of his teacher scolded a fellow classmate who did not pass up his assignment and told the teacher that he got no time to do it. No wonder the teacher was furious! Anyhow I told him that teachers that took the time to scold students care enough about the students' well-being to do that, otherwise why would they bother. Perhaps he never saw it from that angle and who can blame him, he was only a Primary student. I would have reacted the same way as he did if I was at his age - looking at things only from the surface. But on hindsight, I had nothing but respect for quite a number of my teachers from Primary and Secondary schools. There is one Mr. Kewal who taught us A-Maths, who without fail, started his class with everyone standing straight while he inspect the classroom's cleanliness. He was very particular about his routine and we never understood why at that time. Only many years later did it dawned on me that his method was extremely effective to prep everyone to be attentive to what he was teaching in class. And he was also very particular about writing out the steps distinctly on the exercise book which also helped us in a big way in understanding the solution of each mathematical problem. step by step. His method was one of a kind and very effective, slow and steady with no rush. It was so slow that we only covered half of the syllabus to pass GCE 'O'.....we skipped the entire Applied Maths section which was harder to grasp anyway. His application was spot on, directing all our focus on what was achievable with almost absolute certainty. For that he left the most impression of all the teachers that I knew and its all good!

Piece 2:
About this article: http://www.urbanmonk.net/229/giving-what-you-dont-have/ .
It was about the higher enlightenment of giving - giving what you do not actually have and thereby gaining it in the whole process! This is deep! Almost an art!
In truth, I agreed with the article, that giving what you already have is easy enough and nearly effortless, it is only a matter of how much (or how little) you are willing to give. Giving because you want to (or try to) and not expecting anything in return - that is the essence of giving and sharing. Selfishness is a disease few could really get rid of in their lifetime, it's like a pain that never could go away.
I sure hope I can one day gain this deeper enlightenment but it is a case of easier said (or read) than done!

Piece 3:
Things happen without you knowing or least expecting it....you just simply do it!

Last Sunday (18 Jan 09), I surprised even myself clocking in at 11:44.50 for my regular weekly 2.4km run. I stagnated at between 12 mins to 12 mins 30 secs for the longest time and went barely under 12 mins only once since I started to pick up running again. This timing was better than any I had run during reservist training for the past 13 or 15 years! The thing was that I ran at a fairly consistent pace for the six rounds around the track this time and felt relaxed enough at the end of the run. Hope I could sustain this!

Piece 4: Pièce de résistance!
My blog posts got LINKED!

I got a little mention in this post titled "Etc :: After Stars / Second to Bee-Gees" by Mr. Etc. - Ben The MAN! on 15 Jan 09.
3 of my posts were linked:

Add to that, some really really nice words from Ben and humbled by being called a "prince"!
I am a BIG BIG fan (not the electric kind!) - that is the honest truth! And also Ben and I shared some common experiences in the developing process of the local indie music scene renaissance from back in the late 80's right through the 90's. I lost track of it all after the 90's and "came back from the dead" (figuratively speaking) with Electrico's We Satellites mini-tour, Baybeats 2008 and re-ignited by Etc's 30th Nov 2008 gig at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre. The passion is back!

Piece 5:
Finally...at last! K my first ever song at a Karaoke!

I finally caved in, the bathroom singer sang his first song at a Karaoke on 6 Jan 2009 in Xian's Partyworld! No thanks to...(you know who YOU are!!).
Having resisted doing it all my life, I really don't know what came over me! I was not drunk nor alcohol-intoxicated at that time! Don't really know what happen, that person must have some kind of Divine power perhaps? Or maybe because it was during the afternoon and there was, for once zero alcohol in the KTV room?

After flipping back and forth, settled on IF (by Bread) as that first song! Reason? The songwords of course, also it was in a low enough key for me to "disgrace" myself and torture the rest of the company.
"If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can't I paint you...."
A reflection on the despair I have had, maybe?

If a picture paints a thousand words
Then why can't I paint you?
The words will never show
the you I've come to know.
If a face could launch a thousand ships
Then where am I to go?
There's no one home but you,
You're all that's left me too.
And when my love for life is running dry.
You come and pour yourself on me.

If a man could be two places at one time, I'd be with you.
Tomorrow and today, beside you all the way.
If the world should stop revolving spinning slowly down to die,
I'd spend the end with you.
And when the world was through,
Then one by one the stars would all go out
Then you and I would simply fly away

Also, belted out "Yesterday Once More" as a duet with an angel - unbelievable! I consider that as our Special song now! The next time we get to K, that will be the opening number...definitely!
I had better start practising now......................just in case!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


25 Dec 2008 (PM)

After freshening up with a warm bath under running hot shower, sent out the relevant messages to people about my inland flights schedule. Basically informing them the dates I would be in the respective places.
A quick check with the hotel staff about what could be done for the rest of the day, I hopped out to find my way to Houhai, cutting through Smokers' Alley. Houhai lake was completey frozen! You could skate on the lake itself! I think the temperature was below zero degrees but it felt like it was warmer.

The Drum Tower (enroute to Houhai)
The plan was like this: Houhai-Forbidden City-Tiananmen-Wangfujing, however when I got to the Forbidden City it was like 45 mins before closing! But since I was already there so just soak up whatever that could be covered in that 45 mins. Eventually it was like an hour 15 mins or so in total, I was the last few to leave the place before the gates were shut.
The best place in the Forbidden City I think was 坤宁宫, the place where the Empress lived. It was also THE place with the most tourists/visitors peeping behind glass display windows that it was impossible to pose for any photos other to zap the insides of the place.

If you don't look upwards, one might miss the riches above!

Such intricate carvings!
Another fab ceiling shot!

The flag lowering ceremony in front of Tiananmen:

The long stretch of street food in Wangfujing, some stuff were simply YUKS! No way am I taking in stuff such as scorpions, starfish and other creepy crawlies! Makes my hair stands on ends but quite an experience actually watching others savouring them.
There was another street food cluster the start of the shopping area, so many foods you will be spoilt for choices to snack on. Watching people eating them sort of makes you also want to try each and every delicacies there is on display, but of course that is impossible unless you want to skip proper dinner (and maybe breakfast the next day too!) altogether!

Ended the day with a re-visit to check out the night scenes of Houhai and the fabled bar streets. The area was full of drinking places, pubs, live music etc. and business must surely be tough because of all that is happening around the world's financial crisis. Not as crowded as I expect and there were many touts chasing after customers. It is OK if you do it around where your place of business was but to do it half way around the lake? That sure tells you alot about how competitive or badly the business has been affected.