I knew I had been to Japan, China, Thailand and Singapore but did not realize how long ago but funny just looking on the photographs and running into my old videos the memories are still vivid in my mind. I must say from the onset that this tour was more than twenty years ago thus realizing that places might have changed and or new points of interest might have emerged. This was one of my earlier tours with three other friends in a small group of about twelve. We started in Tokyo the weather was rainy so our visit to the tower was not picture perfect but it certainly gave us a great view across the city. It appears high buildings have not been favorable for me since during my visits to New York’s Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, Ontario’s CNN tower and Tokyo’s Tower, the visibility was not as good because of inclement weather. One of the drawbacks of being on a scheduled tour is, there is not much room for flexibility so you have to go with the flow. We did have one nice day that we were able to see the city a bit.
We passed by the Emperor’s home which was not visible from the street so basically what we saw was the entrance to the grounds. Something that struct me was that there was like a moat running alongside the property which seemed to be specifically for added security. Folks got out to take pictures of the entrance from a distance.
In general although a busy city I thought the place was clean and the buildings fairly well maintained. Another thing that struck me was how elaborate the breakfast was at our hotel. The menu included meals that I would normally have for lunch and or dinner that included rice, soup, tossed salad etc. in addition to normal breakfast stuff but certainly in abundance. It soon became clear that this is how breakfast is served throughout these Asian countries.
After a brief stay in Tokyo, too short to really explore, our next stop was Beijing. Another lovely hotel that was very deceiving from the outside but once you entered the lobby you realize this was a first class hotel. It was located on a busy street and traffic was quite heavy. Bicycles were a major means of transportation and at peak time there were four to five width of cyclist some with a passenger in tow. The cyclists were moving at a steady pace and appeared like a traffic jam based on how many of them and the steady flow. I am not saying bicycles are the only means of transportation as there are many cars and mini buses as well as regular buses.
Our first day tour took us to Tiananmen Square located in the centre of the city. This square has historical significance regarding the the protest in 1989 and resulted in a massacre referred to as the June 4th incident. There are a few buildings of importance such as the National Museum, the monument to the people’s heroes and Mao Zedong’s mausoleum. He was a revolutionist and was the person who founded the Republic of China. We noticed an extended queque, of mainly natives or maybe I should say of mainly Asian decent, who might have come from other parts of China and possibly other countries: they were all heading to Mao’s mausoleum.
Really have to share my personal experience: as I walked around the square I seemed to draw a lot of attention to the point they were pointing at me and even at my feet. This attention continued as we toured the Forbidden City where they were requesting to be pictured with me. Our guide could not explain the interest but we laughed at the idea if I was charging a dollar for each picture I would have fared well. The experience continued at the Long corridor and in Hong Kong. It was not until I met a Chinese vendor in Singapore who told me they associated my size with wealth. I imagine pictures of me are posted in many homes in China.
looking back on this picture I can understand why I became such an attraction makes me laugh at the idea. A major attraction and well visited is the Forbidden City which is one of the largest Imperial Palace still in existence and was built during the Ming Dynasty period. It consists of large courtyards and many buildings of amazing architecture. Inside the Harmony Pavilion the walls and roof had beautiful designs and decorations reflective of the Ming dynasty. Exploring the site you get a good idea of how lavish they lived and there were large cooking utensils on display. A visit gives you an idea of the lifestyle during that time period.
The Supreme Harmony Pavilion is the largest building and ten mythical structures are found at each angle of the building. This building indicates superiority of those who lived under this roof.
We were in for another experience in the evening when we went to the Opera. I remember having a chat on the flight with a lady from China and when I told her I would be going to the Opera her expression was not very encouraging. The performance was different but I enjoyed it after all that was the whole idea of experiencing their culture. The performance is more of a mime to the band rather than singing as would normally seen at an Opera performance. The costumes were quite intricate and gaudy.
I climbed the Great Wall of China but the wall covers a wide area that could not be done in one day but you are able to go up on different portions. I was happy that there were cable cars taking you up and down. After alighting the cable car one is able to climb further up, be prepared to climb steps but pathways were easy to walk. While up we encountered a family that had an elderly family member assisted by a cane was taking the trek: it struck me how significant the walls are to the people
To visit the Summer Palace we had to take a boat ride where we passed the seventeen-arch bridge connecting the eastern shore of Kunming Lake and the island Nanhu Island: with the highest arch in the center and sizes decreasing towards the ends. We were heading to The Long Corridor, a UNESCO site, that is located in a garden and boasts some beautiful paintings. Here again while taking a brief rest sitting an Asian lady ran up and sat down beside me while her friend took our photograph. When I asked her why she wanted a picture with me she said she simply wanted to. Needless to mention she did not ask my permission but I went along.
The Summer Palace is not just one building but has several bridges, gardens and palaces that covers 2.9 kilometers so the above pictures are all a part of the Summer Palace region.
We also visited the Ming Tomb.
Can’t remember what the celebration was but they were preparing with beautiful floral arrangements on the grounds.
Another experience we had was visiting a hospital. One of the members of our group got injured from a fall so we accompanied her and our guide to the emergency. We four nurses thought it was an opportunity to see their emergency room and operations. Surprise surprise foreigners were seen in a special area so we missed out: what was good though was how quickly she was seen and treated as the unit was not crowded. Well maybe next time.
We now headed to Bangkok where we visited the floating market, the Emerald Buddha Temple, a silk factory and a night at a typical Thailand house for dinner and show. To enter the temple your shoes must be removed and left at the entrance and no photographs allowed. The area was buzzing with crowd of visitors and vendors. At the typical Thailand house we had to remove our shoes also as guests sit on the floor with room to hang your feet and the meal served on a table just slightly elevated but relatively comfortable. At the market patrons can be in a canoe and be moving from vendor to vendor in the water. Some of the vendors came along side of the platform to accommodate patrons as well.
At the Thai house one can appreciate why shoes had to be off because though cushions were provided you were basically sitting on the ground and the servers stooped to serve the meals. Hopefully the picture will give you the idea though blurry.
We made a brief stop in Hong Kong another very busy city buzzing with natives and visitors.
Singapore is a place I would love to revisit because we only had a two night stay and having to get to the airport for our flight our time was not enough. Despite our short stay we got a tour around the city, visited the botanical garden, had a brief time for tea in China town and a boat ride around the quay. Walking out of our hotel there were a number of stores and strolling further down to the quay we enjoyed a refreshing coconut water. I noticed some kind of picnic tables and what appeared like closed kiosks and wandered for a moment how peculiar the placement. Well at night that area came alive with different food vendors, the aroma would knock you out as you approached the stalls ( I thought they were kiosks) but were like mini kitchens. It was a race for patrons by the competitive vendors.
Well after twenty years I think a return visit is in order.