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Jurong Diary & Blog

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May Archive

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Cool, Man

After a week of 25+°C temperatures (day and night), today was a mite chilly at 20°C.  Heavy rain showers fell throughout the day and the accompanying breeze made for the cooler temperature.

Neil went into Jurong with one of TJ's students as translator and got a new set of lenses for his spectacles.  A brief consultation with the autorefractor (machine that automatically determines the required correction lens) and then a manual check confirmed that the prescription that Neil brought with him from NZ was still appropriate.  After some discussion on the type of lens material, a price was agreed (<NZ$40 for the pair) and the shop manufactured the lenses on site (no pun intended).  Neil's old lenses had become very scratched so the new ones are a delight to look through.  The new lenses are a standard type rather than the "aspheric lenses" that they replaced since they are not available (in China) for Neil's coke bottle prescription. Neil will (hopefully) get used to them over the weekend before returning to the shop for some prescription sunglass lenses too.

When Neil took Gran to Shanghai, they walked through the "Spectacles Shopping Mall" on the way to the Shanghai Metro (Subway). There was an area of perhaps 50m x 40m filled with spectacle dispensing shops.  All had autorefractors and lens grinding/polishing machines and a large array of fashion and "fossil" frames. The lens tinting service was in a small corner where three guys crouched over half a dozen buckets of tinting solution and manually dipped the lens in to provide the requested tint. The prices quoted were rather attractive, as, of course, were the sales assistants, but it was all a little bewildering and Neil elected to use a more conventional shop in Jurong.  We had been told by one student that we should go to Danyang, a city about an hours bus ride East of Jurong, that is known for its spectacles and lenses industry and where prices are very low.  Compared to shopping locally, this seemed a lot of effort to save NZ$20.

We're on the countdown to our departure on 27th June.  Due to some oversights in planning our original flights we haven't been able to change our flight dates as we wanted to (mainly due to NZ school holidays).  It turned out to be cheaper to cancel the Shanghai - Hong Kong flight and then book another flight from Nanjing rather than change the dates of our originally booked flights. We've booked a short stopover in Hong Kong Disneyland and are making arrangements to sell or give away our acquired household goods.  Unfortunately we are selling our near new electric bicycle because of the (VERY) high costs of freighting it home.


"Its Hot, Damn Hot"

We'll vouch for Robin Williams' line from "Good Morning Vietnam". Our thermometers are showing 27°C and its after 10pm at night.  For the last few days it hasn't been too much hotter or cooler than this, unless the sun is shining: then it is "quite warm". Thankfully, our apartment has airconditioners/heatpumps. We mostly manage without cooling during the day but have had the bedroom aircon set to provide a little relief to help us sleep.

Our electric bike has also proved a blessing with this weather - it makes the trip to the supermarket much less arduous than it was last year when we always walked.

The heat has brought back some of the less welcome aspects of life here: mosquitoes and some "odours" associated with the waste water systems. Being a farming lad, Neil is fairly immune to the odours but we launch all out war on the mozzies!


Gran leaves for NZ

Today, Gran leaves China to return to the Kiwi winter. The 3 weeks that she has been here have passed very quickly as we have been very busy.

It would be possible to take the early bus to Shanghai and still make the 2:15pm flight but only if there were no delays along the way.  Neil met some people at the Bicycle Show who had spent many hours in traffic jams after accidents on the Huning Expressway. So, in order to make the flight, Neil and Gran are travelled to Shanghai yesterday afternoon and stayed the night. Last night they went and took another look at the night lights of the Bund from Pudong. Today they wandered around the Century Park before heading to the airport. The park is huge and was a good place to pass a couple of hours.

The check in process took an unusually long time due to computer and conveyor problems. When Gran was finally checked in Neil sprinted off to the Maglev in an attempt to catch the 2pm bus back to Jurong.  The Maglev departed at 1pm. At the Maglev terminus, Neil again ran to get the metro. Another metro interchange was required before he arrived at the Railway Station stop. By then, Neil was melting slightly and could only manage a jog to the bus station.  A quick glance at the large electronic sign outside showed that there were still tickets available to Jurong. As he handed over the ticket, the very helpful seller indicated that Neil would need to hurry upstairs to the gate if he were to make the bus.  After completing the formalities, Neil was on the bus at 1:55pm with 5 minutes to spare. Thank goodness for that.

Ghost Boat in front of the Bund

Panda and The Great Wall in Century Parlk


Adios Beijing

Since Monday, Gran and Neil have been on a "whirlwind" tour of Beijing.  It is said that "you haven't seen China unless you've seen the Great Wall". We thought it important that Gran would see China!

Neil and Gran arrived on Sunday evening and stayed at a centrally located budget hotel that is in the Hutongs (alleys). The Dong Si Wu Tiao Super 8 Hotel was comfortable, clean and had free broadband internet as well as RMB10 breakfasts. They arranged a tour to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall through the hotel.

On Monday they walked to Tiananmen Square and through the Forbidden City. Being white in Tiananmen square is like being a light on a warm summers night - all manner of life is attracted!  In Bejing the tourists are swamped with people selling souvenirs, Mao Watches, fake watches and designer bags, kites, water and icecreams. Neil further honed his bargaining skills as we bought some small kites, a tacky Mao wristwatch for TJ and the pièces de ré·sis·tance: a fake Beijing Olympics cap and sunhat. Isn't it great that the fake products are also ripping off the pride of the locals, not just the foreign IP holders?

After completing their walk around the Palace Museum (as it is also known) they took a stroll around the pleasant park directly across the road from the North gate.

On Tuesday they spent the day at the Summer Palace. It was great and much more peaceful than the Forbidden city owing to the large lake and extensive gardens and trees.  A highlight was catching a couple of performances at the main stage where Empress Dowager Cixi watched opera.

On Wednesday they went to the Mutianyu section of the Great wall, about 70km N of Beijing. They went on the tour in a mini-van with an English speaking guide and Heinz, a tourist from from Switzerland.As they left Beijing they passed the new Olympic buildings. On this tour there were 2 obligatory half hour tours of "factories and shops": one selling jade and the other cloisonne items. The cloisonne factory had a restaurant where they had lunch. In the morning they visited the Sacred Way, a paved road with monuments of animals, soldiers and officials that is part of the Ming Tombs area. In the afternoon they got to see the Wall for about 2 hours. There were not too many people there and the clear hot day made it a very pleasant experience. Neil particularly noted the "booming" sky and imagined how good it would be to glide above the Great Wall.

The Great Wall at Mutianyu - Clouds!

The Great Wall at Mutianyu

Neil & Gran had spent a whole day at each of the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City and had not seen all of these places have to offer.  For those with a limited time in Beijing there are single day tours to the Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City and Summer Palace (plus the obligatory factory shop visits).  Such a tour would only provide a glimpse of these places 

Neil can't speak a lot of Chinese, but he did come to the rescue of a group of Russian tourists in a restaurant. The waitress didn't understand what they wanted. As Neil had demonstrated a little Chinese when ordering earlier, she brought one of them over to Neil and asked him to translate "salt".  Thanks to his PalmOS GSL Xplore M70 PDA phone and the electronic dictionary Plecodict, Neil was able to help.  Regrettably, he wasn't so good at translating the rest of the menu so Gran could have exactly what she wanted!

They did manage to find a restaurant serving Peking Duck on the last night of their stay and enjoyed this tasty treat.


Tian'anmen Square

Summer Palace - Bronze Ox

Cool Gate - Summer Palace

Beijing Transport

Brick Grain Silos

Beijing Church


Zaijian Nanjing

We had been staying with a NZ family in the suburb of Dongshan. Sam enjoyed the company and access to English TV programmes. Neil didn't enjoy seeing the kiwis exit the Super 14 competition in the semi-final matches in South Africa.  At least that eliminates the need to find somewhere to watch it in Shanghai next week when he takes Gran back to the airport!

One of the highlights of our stay was catching a snake that had set up home on the bedhead of Sam's bed.  Jane initially thought that Sam had brought a toy snake: until it moved!  Without telling Sam, Peter & Neil went snake hunting with a broom and shopping bag.  The 2ft long snake wasn't that keen on being removed from his warm, dry home but finally succumbed to a determined onslaught.  See Sam's blog for a picture.  So, that brings the bedroom intruder tally to 400,352 mosquitoes, 2 lizards, a dozen big bugs and 1 snake! 

For lunch we went to a small restaurant with our U.S. friends. Guotias, pan fried dumplings, were served and were very tasty.  This restaurant is in a group of older single storey buildings that are scheduled to be demolished in September as a part of the urban development that is a feature of Nanjing, and many other cities in China.

After that, Neil & Gran went to the airport for their flight to Beijing while Sam and TJ returned home to Jurong.


Nanjing Ming Tombs

Today, Sam and TJ went to the Sun Palace swimming complex in the centre of Nanjing.  Being a mild day, it was fairly deserted and they had no queues as they took advantage of the several hydroslides and the wave pool.  Neil and Gran went to the nearby Ming Tombs on Purple Mountain. However, before we started these endeavours we bought lunch at the Skyways Bakery and Delicatessen. Sam loves their bread roll sandwich  meals.  The rest of us are very keen on them too.

The Ming Tombs area was very peaceful. It must be an amazing sight when the blossom is out in spring and with all the autumn colours. 

At the top of the area is a large man-made lake that is a popular swimming place. Originally a water reservoir, it looks quite deep. There are many warning signs instructing people not to swim there because it may be dangerous. In true Chinese style nobody takes a scrap of notice and they go swimming anyway!

No Swimming - Yeah Right!
Blossom at Ming Tombs

Ming Tombs Gate


China Bicycle Show

For the past 4 days, Neil has attended the China Bicycle show in Shanghai. As it was the end of the May Day Holiday week, buses were still all full and the cities were very busy. As well as visiting many stands and test riding some bikes at the show, he visited a manufacturer of electric scooters. Electric bicycles are big business in China and are beginning to catch on in other countries. As well as electric bicycles there were conventional bicycles, parts, accessories plus a small collection of street wise vendors selling battery powered Radio Controlled Helicopters and toys.

Neil came home through Nanjing to collect some essential supplies: Anchor Cheese. He took a new fast train from Shanghai to Nanjing: the 300km journey was over in 2 hours.  The passenger seating is similar to a commercial airline and the facilities are very good. Stepping out of the airconditioned peace of the train into the furnace that was Nanjing was a shock.

Meanwhile, TJ, Gran and Sam relaxed with life as we know it in Jurong. Small town China is not usually on the tourists itinerary and so Gran was privileged to see day to day life in Jurong and visit the vegetable market and supermarkets.



On the 1st of May we shifted from the modest JJ Inn to the Holiday Inn Jasmine Suzhou near the Shi Lu shopping and night market area. They had some Holiday Week specials that made the "high life" affordable. Neil & Gran checked out the "Humble Administrators Garden" while TJ & Sam relaxed.

In the evening we went to the Night Markets and looked at the fountains and pretty lights.  Gran and TJ went silk shopping.

Yesterday, after checking out of the hotel we arrived at the packed railway bus station and found there were no tickets to Jurong available that day.  So, we bought tickets for the following day and investigated the possibility of getting train tickets to Nanjing instead. The train ticket office was just as full of people (absolutely chocker) and we abandoned that idea.  After an hour wait at the taxi queue where security guards were preventing any queue jumping and pushing in, we returned to the Holiday Inn and were fortunate to get a room for the night. This was a good lesson in how busy Golden Week travel is. The bonus was that we had an extra day in Suzhou and filled it with a little shopping for silk clothes and souvenirs.

Today, finally, we got back to Jurong on the afternoon bus.  

Holiday Season at the Bus Station

Humble Administrator's Garden

Humble Administrator's Garden

Suzhou Night Scene
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