A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: marcofisher

Guanghzou ...some Canton & back to the Great White North

Up and at em ...buffet breakfast ok but not overly exciting > a mix of western and asian food items. Not surprisingly it is smoggy and warm around 25C, 5-7 C less than in Bali and it makes a big difference. Tried to send some e-mails....forgot that Google is an enemy of the state.....hence no G-mail, maps etc., while capitalism is flourishing here...it remains a controlled society....although this cop is more interested in his phone (hey I could get this guy into trouble haha)..

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Today will be a walking day firstly we will sort out the Pearl River Cruise location.....the hotel surprisingly does not seem to be able to reserve tickets for a cruise.....along the way we come across some bridal photo shoots ...

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....about 15 minutes from the hotel we find the booths selling and find that the night cruises start around 19:30, but tickets can only be obtained in the evening.

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Next up the Quinping Market, set in Canton’s oldest district, it is made up of some of the last pre-colonial buildings in the city. The aged apartments are several stories high, and the bottom floors are reserved for market stalls. There is a vast array of items for sale of a medicinal nature of which we can identify only a handful....

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...dried deer tendons...

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......various sea creatures..

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....various dried flowers (very aromatic)...

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...and some stuffed deer and a fawn ????

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... as well, we suspect you could probably find shark fins, rhino horns and other forbidden items.

We soon reach the Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street which features lots of stores selling largely fashion items with many stores fronted by young men and women loudly clapping and calling their promotional items for the day.....

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.....a stern manager exhorting the troops to sell more jewelry !!!! Speaking of stern the locals here generally look fairly sullen and a smile seldom is reciprocated......although we are often gawked at !!

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......looking at the size of the apartments surrounding this area we are again reminded of the immensity of this country....this will be repeated throughout our visit, think super sized everything ...to the good and the bad:

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Feeling slightly queasy I forgo the street food which looks really inviting, instead opting for some tea and a bun....

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...also some neat shops like the "Huang Shang Huang" formerly "Dongchang Dried Meat Shop," built in 1940. The dried meat products are naturally dried, and said to be fresh and tasty .........much sought after by the locals judging by the lineup:

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In the afternoon we came across a fashion district .....lots of unloading of bales of clothes in street front locations and in "department" type stores except these are filled with mini stalls selling various fashion items to clients on a wholesale basis, although you can also buy retail. One would have to spend several days here as there are numerous markets catering to men, women, children, accessories you get the picture....if you want fakes I think there are fake everything here (or at least knock-offs) clearly no one gives a damn about patents/copyrights etc. ....incredible hustle and bustle with much movement of goods in and out ....unfortunately trying to communicate about this was really impossible....

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You don't go hungry here as there is lots of street food....

....good looking potstickers:

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There was also a similar area nearby specializing in electronics.....hundreds of mini shops...if you know what you are doing we suspect you can find some fantastic deals.....but it is definitely a case of caveat emptor !!!

Took it easy for the balance of the afternoon, and as wedding party took over resto we were planning on going to, we exercised Plan B ...... 2nd choice was only ok.....

Looked at lights on the the Pearl River:

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.....and it is time to get some sleep.

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Today yours truly woke up feeling rather poorly (confirming yesterday's early warnings....) as a belly bug finally caught up with me....so with a long flight facing us the next day the objective was to get the situation under control sooner rather than later.....IMMODIUM > do not leave home without it ! So all in all a bit of a slow day and we scrapped the visit to the circus. Instead we are checking out the local areas and keeping close to "home":

Some pics of of local street scenes .....

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.....and a quick visit to the Cultural Park;

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Decided to rest in the afternoon ....pretty much out of gas...

By night time I felt good enough to have a light supper before we ventured out on the Pearl River Cruise....pleasant out and back cruise, they do lights very nicely here and the Canton Tower was an impressive sight..

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Light rain on the return to the hotel ...lights out..we will have a long day tomorrow.

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Had our breakfast....yours truly felt under control....metro back to the airport (piece of cake ...just read our instructions backwards) and then a mere 11 hour flight and we are in the Great White North...then a 45 minute ride on our Skytrain, pick up the car which Ella left at the Seabus terminal, 45 minute ferry ride, 1 hour drive and VOILA we are HOME......all is good.

Thanks for tuning in and btw the next trip is is in the incubation stage ........ for now fall garden clean-up, X-mass preparations and catch-up on all the trumpeting.

Posted by marcofisher 14:56 Comments (3)

Sanur to Guanghzou......an overnight flight

Well we have reached the last day of our Bali adventure as we will be flying at one in the morning to Guanghzou, China, where we will spend 3 nights before continuing on to Vancouver. Pretty slack day in Sanur taking a walk along the promenade which we enjoyed quite a bit........

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...... just relaxing around the pool....

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....even having lunch poolside and simply waiting for time to pass at the hotel:

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...... the scribe did make an honest effort to catch up on the blog:

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At 20:30 our driver arrives on schedule and within half an hour we are at the airport ...this is a really nice facility and the duty free section compares with any major city in the world.....our flight is at 1:00 and all goes smoothly albeit slowly, until we reach check-in. Our plan is to stay in Guanghzou for 72 hours the maximum time allowed for a transit visa (without applying/paying a full fledged visa). The problem the check-in staff have is in defining when the 72 hours starts.....let's just say we pressed our case strongly....and the check-in girl found the pertinent paragraph on her I-phone ...however,"senior" sign-off was still needed and after about 1 hour and the combined brain trust of what seemed like the entire staff, as well as several calls to the "big boss", we were finally issued our boarding passes.........WHEW !!!

More drama at the gate with some confusion as to which gate was the right one but the airline finally got it's act together and everyone boarded about 45 minutes late for the 5 hour flight. We bid adieu to this land of a thousand smiles, which could be a real paradise if not for some 3rd world warts, and wing our way to China, where our flight lands at 6:45, in a soupy smog .....

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.....as we enter the Immigration queue the fun starts again.......we are sent to a holding area where we sit in a crowd of two, then told to complete a formal application for the 72 hour transit visa (we had checked with the consulate, airline etc. in Canada and they had made no mention of this procedure...so live and learn BUT trust no one. !!) ...anyways 45 minutes later, with several official stamps and signatures our passports are stamped and we are in !! BTW all the "officials" are police and if ever you wanted a definition of stony faced, these dudes and dudettes would fit the bill....sorry did not have the cojones to take a pic of them!!

The airport is modern, airy, clean and well organized > similar to the ones we saw in our trip to China two years ago.

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Having decided to take the Metro to our hotel and following our pre printed instructions.......we find it quite straightforward, once we master the ticket issuing machine.

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The Metro is integrated into the airport's design providing for a seamless efficient transportation system. The subway cars and stations are modern, spotless, station information presented digitally and verbally in both Chinese and English...yes Quebec having bilingual signs is not demeaning to your culture. Oh yes, and inexpensive....our 45 minute trip with 3 transfers cost 16 Yuan or 3 Cad for us both and if we bought a 3 day pass it would have been even less....... I guess this government spent their money wisely !!!

.....exiting the Metro we walk for about 10 minutes before reaching the Guangdong Victory Hotel, situated on Shamian Island.

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Shamian Island, literally a sandbar island, in Chinese, was granted as a concession to France and the United Kingdom by the Qing government in the 19th century. It is now a gazetted historical area containing many colonial style buildings, hotels, restos etc. and is a favorite destination for many locals to enjoy strolls, endless photo opps as well as being a favorite locale for wedding photos.

After checking in the first order of business was to fill up on some Dim Sum.........having become used to the ease of operating in English in Bali (the government there has made a huge commitment to teach English in support of the tourist industry) we were quickly brought short as the level of English capability in the hospitality industry is modest in the extreme. We can only guess as to why but it may be that "we foreigners" don't warrant the effort, given that this city attracts relatively few tourists.

Then a bit of a rest, a bit of sightseeing around the island....

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......and an early dinner >>> the selection of fish, crustaceans, mollusks and other > all live is pretty impressive:

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..........we opt to retire ....all nighters on the plane are not very conducive to touristing !!

Posted by marcofisher 19:18 Comments (2)

Sanur........one last temple and dance

We have three nights in Sanur staying at the Parigata Resort and Spa. Pretty decent digs with a great pool and a beach club.....actually just loungers on the beach. Day one just chilling and gathering up a few souvenirs. Not really much very interesting to report today.

In the morning after an ok buffet breakfast we make a snap decision to hire a car/driver to visit a few beaches and a sea temple as well as to take in a Kecak Dance Performance.

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Our new driver called Made (as the previous one) albeit less personality and more aggressive than the Balinese we have encountered to date. In any event we arrive at Dreamland Beach.....this is a truly weird place .... a long entrance drive bordered by half finished projects providing for a Soviet era feel ending in a parking lot. There we were required to take a shuttle to reach the "beach" which required walking a gauntlet of shopkeepers in a rather disheveled building. The beach was ok but the context was really not......it is a hotspot for surfers but with a dangerous rip tide for swimmers !!

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After a record short visit we are off to Padang Padang, another beach with access through a cleft in the cliffs:

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.....fishers and "beach bum" monkeys:

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This is much nicer beach and there is infrastructure (albeit focused on surfers primarily) nearby similar to the locales we have visited elsewhere. There are a number of beaches here which cater to surfers as the "breaks" are considered world class....Uluwatu our next destination another storied surf break in addition to the temple. Pura Uluwatu built in the 11 th century and another of the important sea temples, here our guide takes charge moving us through the crowds and pointing out good vantage points for pics. Another badass monkey area .....and Made is ever vigilant...ahead of us a woman has her glasses stolen from her face but a quick thinking guide effects an "exchange" 1 packet of peanuts for 1 pair of glasses.....

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The temple itself is modest but the site is truly magnificent as you can see for yourselves.....

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....the amphitheater towards the the top left of the next pic:

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Next he ushered us to the ticket office and made sure we had decent seats for the Kecak dance performance which starts at 18:00, against the setting sun. The male 'chorus" slips into a trance like state chanting "chak-a-chak-chak"immitating monkeys and other sounds as the performers re-enact the Hindu epic Ramayana, the familiar love story and Prince Rama and his Princess Sita:

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A less spectacular performance than the Legong Dance we saw in Ubud, as the Legong had a gamelan band as support, whereas the Kecak relies on the chanting of an all male chorus. Nevertheless, with that setting it was a very pleasant event to witness. An hour of traffic filled mayhem and we are safely back at Parigata.

Posted by marcofisher 16:24 Comments (1)

Ubud to Sanur.........palaces and temples

Nice bright morning and Chef prepares a hearty meal (rice gruel with vegetables nuts and beans) for our days travails:

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A heartfelt goodbye to the owners and staff and it is time to move on...

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Made is there as usual perfectly punctual and we are off. Although not planned he asks if we are interested in looking at some wood carvings along the way, and of course we are easly sucked in.

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Inasmuch as our Balinese souvenirs at home were from my trip to Bali, we decide it would be fun to get something nice to remember our trip by...lots of back and forth and we walk out the proud owners of a Ganesh carving, nicely bundled for its long journey home.

Back on task we are bound for Pura Taman Ayun which was built in 1634 A.D. during the reign of the first king of Mengwi and survived until 1893 A.D. when the Mengwi 's were taken over by nearby kingdoms. This is another rather large temple but we cannot enter the inner sanctum, only being able to view over the short wall which surrounds it. This temple has quite a few meru (multi-tiered shrines):

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After about an hour we called it a day (blazing hot) and were happy for the a/c in the car.....next stop Pura Tanah Lot about an hour away. This iconic temple is Bali's most popular attracting over 3 million visitors per year (as a comparison Lourdes attracts 6 million). As often is the case there was a gauntlet of vendors but with the heat they were rather docile......visitors here are from everywhere ...

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The most famous views are at sunset but this also means the crowds become overwhelming. While a spendid sight ....roughly 30% of the stonework has been reconstructed, as it was crumbling. We had a nice visit and the crowds were modest given it being low season. For the Balinese this is one of the most important temples. There are 3 sea temples that form a chain in South Western Bali > the idea being that one can see from one to the next. The temple can accessed at low tide, but only Balinese can actually enter it.....given the tide we had to content ourselves with views from the cliffside.

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Life is sometimes curious....the following pic is of a lady draped with a python (two hawkers were carrying this creature and offering to put it on you for a price........whatever turns your crank:

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We followed the cliffside trail which afforded some nice views and even a few surfers doing their thing:

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Then back to the car and a longish drive with brutal traffic as we skirted Seminyak and Kuta on our way to Sanur. Settled up with Made...poor guy had to drive back to Ubud to pick up his family then drive to Amed ......pray into the night then drive back to Ubud...but no complaining, just a big smile. We were happy to check-in and hit the pool!

Posted by marcofisher 01:35 Comments (0)

Ubud ..........countryside and ricefields

Today following breakfast we got a lift "downtown" for a day of shopping, last minute sight seeing (in Ubud) and banking. Day to day shopping is a bit different here as it is mostly a cash society....credit cards generally used only at some hotels (often with a 3% surcharge, in addition to the other fees incurred) and fixed price shops. So it is a case of constantly counting and carrying fairly large chunks of cash....ATM's sometimes run out of money especially in the smaller towns. As we have exhausted our USD cash hoard, we get to play the ATM game....often you have to do several transactions as extraction limits are generally quite low....such are the travails of us tourist folk.

Time for a hydration break and a quick check on the news.......

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We run into Made (our driver when we were last in Ubud) and make arrangements for him to drive us to Sanur and alsoto Pesantian Villa later that day. A bit of run around day which we closed off with cocktails (twofer special > 2 mojitos = 7Cad) and a nice dinner at the Bollero Restaurant;

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....call Made who was enroute to Ubud with a fare, and rendezvous outside the resto and presto back the villa......done and done!!

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On our last day in the "boonies", following breakfast we set of on a walk and immediately enjoyed a nice view of Mt. Agung:

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....and on to the nearby village of Pejeng:

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Here we found more references to swastika (previously we have seen swastikas on temple doors, names of places etc.)....

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Later we learn that this symbol represents a symbol denoting auspiciousnes common in Hinduism dating back millenia .

....... we continue down the road (lots of hellos along tthe way) as we run into the locals going about their daily activities .....

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.....high school kids already in school, with their scooters neatly stowed in this pretty decent garage:

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....roadside produce store (sometimes you also see a truck laden with produce or other household items doing a "run" through these villlages)

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.......a local lava stone cutting operation.......stone mostly used for temple/shrine construction:

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....interestingly, we come across rice farmers who had drained some fields, puting in markers for rows to be "sowed" ...

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.....and then the seedlings are planted .....talk about hard work (a kilo of rice costs about 1 Cad here..... no wonder you don't see many young people so employed):

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......what it looks like when complete and later harvested and air dried:

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......lastly a farmer burning rice stalks from a harvested field before it is plowed with a hand held tractor:

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Last but not least we passed the ponds that held that evenings supper of fresh water fish....

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Back to the Villa for lunch, Chef prepared a lovely salad with chicken/pork satays which had been marinated overnight.......another super meal....this private chef stuff can grow on you!! Then time for some R&R:

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..... before long it is time for Round 2 of the ricefield exploration, this time one of the staff is taking us for a walk on the wild side.......through their neighbours' fields ....about as close to a non tourist walk as possible: Our "guide" pointed out plants, trees, herbs etc. often stopping to pull up examples and have us feel/smell them (lemon grass, water spinach, lime leaves, beans...way cool.

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we saw this neat spider, rather huge and he told us about eating spiders and dragonflies > lightly roasted as appies. Unfortunately, none were available for our consumption...

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As well, he explained a bit about the Subak water management system prevalent throughout Bali which is guided by religious values combining significant engineering feats with social structures. The point of the exercise is to ensure a fair, reliable and equitable distribution of this key resource.

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We then stopped into a communal cow raising operation where Annie made friends with one of the inhabitants....

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As it was closing in on late afternoon, it was quitting time for the farmers, several of whom we came across bathing in the "canals" or washing their clothes and in some cases kids.....no pics as we did not think it was appropriate to pry that deeply.

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A really good day topped with the chef preparing a traditional specialty fresh water fish (gourami > common to Asia ) dish with vegetables all in a Bumbu Bali influenced sauce........listening to ciccadas and then geckos as night fell...

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The supermoon was a bit of a bust as the clouds rolled in....

Posted by marcofisher 18:04 Comments (1)

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