Sunday, November 30, 2014

River Safari [29/11]

My brother passed me a free entry ticket to River Safari that can be used during the month of November only. Using this as an opportunity, AJ and myself plan a visit to the River Safari on the 29th November.

We took a taxi from Balestier to Choa Chu Kang as the way is faster and more direct. We arrived in around 20mins and begin our journey to the River Safari.

Pass the gates, we were greeted by the river and the equatorial rainforests.

The River Safari are grouped into different river themes such as the Ganges, the Yangtze River, the Amazon and so on. And in each theme house the different aquatic creatures behind the glass.

We continue walking to an indoor enclose area and noticed this furry creature (Red Panda) walking around the branches. It can get really close to us (1-metre away) from the branches to the visitors below.

And here we have the two pandas. Here is the more outgoing panda (Kaikai).

And here is the more introvert panda (Jiajia).

It is coming close to lunch time. We decide to have lunch at the Mama Panda Kitchen.

We ordered wanton noodles bamboo rice and two panda buns.

From the cafe, there is quite a good view of the river that discharges out into the reservoir. There is also the bridge linking the other side of the river.

It's going to rain soon. And it did. It rained for the next 2 hours. We just sat at the entrance dimsum restaurant, while waiting the rain to go off.

As it started to rain, we explored the Amazon theme area, with the piranhas below.

At this place, there is a large aquatic showcase.

After the rain has slowed to a drizzle, we tried the $5, 10mins Amazon River Quest.

The front of the boat can get a bit wet as it plunge into the river beyond.

Here we have flamingos.

Next we went for the $5, 20mins River Safari cruise. It is a journey around the reservoir, where we can have good views of the animals living by the river in the zoo.

Here is the tour guide explaining to us the habitats living around. She went around letting us feel the texture of the tail of a giraffe.

The quiet boat ride.

With elephants up on the hill...

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Shanghai [20/10 - 05/11]

I'm returning back to Shanghai again. The evening sun greeted me as I journeyed from Pudong airport towards Shanghai city center. 

Over the course of the next 2 weeks, I will be staying at the Westin Bund. The hotel looks nice and spacious.

Here is the bathroom.

I rendezvous with my colleague for dinner at the hotel restaurant. We are having seafood buffet.

Teppanyaki dish prepared by the local staff.

As the hotel is a short distance walk from the Nanjing East Road. We visited the street to take a look at the hustle and bustle of city life.

On another day, we visited the Bund.

And took some photos of the great view across the river.

24th October 2014 (Friday)

One of my colleague would like to tailor-make suits. After asking around, we arrived at Lu Jia Bang Road textile market. There are lots of tailors here.

For dinner, we checked out the famous Xiao Long Bao shop at Yu Yuan.

25th October 2014 (Saturday)

I like to do supermarket shopping over the weekend. It is also the hairy crab season. Here are the actual prices of the crabs as sold in supermarket.

I visited my good friend DK's house over the weekend. His house has very good view of the city skyline.

He brought me to Renmin Garden where they have matchmaking activities going on every weekend. I blur out the photos deliberately below. Most of the people are parents who put their children profile for prospectors to look at.

Most of them are ladies. But there are also men.

One of my favorite restaurant in Shanghai this time round is Xi Bei below. It serves very affordable modern style spicy dining.

After dinner, we took a walk around the city area and came upon Jingan temple.

26th October 2014 (Sunday)

On Sunday, I brought my colleague to a western cuisine style hangout at Xintiandi.

Here is Xintiandi during the day.

In the evening, I catch up with my good friend DK again for steamboat dinner.

31st October (Friday)

This evening, I decided to have Japanese dinner.

2nd November 2014 (Sunday)

It is back to steamboat again this evening.

When I got back to my hotel, I am greeted by a Birthday cake from the hotel.

3rd November 2014 (Monday)

My boss bought for me birthday cake on Monday.

In the evening, we went for Xinjiang cuisine.

We visited to Han City along Nanjing East road. It sells a variety of goods and I'm fascinated by this USB drive below. Is there a 1TB flash memory the size of a thumb?

4th November 2014 (Tuesday)

It is the final night in Shanghai and I caught up with DK again for supper. This has to be one of the best barbeque I have tried so far. The mutton skewers are prepared by 2 girls from Xinjiang by the side of the road.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Putuoshan [01/11 - 02/11]

DK and myself booked a 2-day tour package to Putuoshan (普陀山) online (via ctrip) a week before. It cost 510RMB (S$110) which covers entrance tickets, transport and accommodation. If purchase separately, the transport cost is 138RMB x 2, fast craft cost is 22RMB x 2, entrance fee is 160RMB, which comes up to a total of 480RMB. The remaining costs go to the cost of guide and accommodation, which definitely cost more than the total price.

I have been wanting to visit Putuoshan since 2006. But it was quite a long distance from Wuxi, where I was based back then. 

From Shanghai, it is just 4-hours journey away. Back in 2007, there was no direct link between Shanghai and Ningbo. With the completion of the direct link a few years back, the journey is reduced by an hour.

We rendezvous at Renmin Square at 7.30am. This is the bus we were supposed to board.

The bus was fully packed. As we went around in search of breakfast, we were one of the last few to board the bus, and have to occupy the back seats.

After arrival, we were greeted by the local guide. This single guide need to manage 70 tourists. It is indeed a super budget tour package.

The first activity for the day is lunch at the ferry terminal area. It cost 35 RMB per person and the coupon was sold while we were on the bus. It feels like military style where we bring metal trays along the counter and select 3 dishes and a soup. After lunch, we realized there is quite a wide selection of food places we can go for around the ferry terminal. There are also many shops that sell local produces (but they ain't that good).

The building leading to the ferry terminal looks like Potala Palace of Tibet (as seen in the photo below).

And we proceed to board the ferry. The ferry runs regularly. And there are lots of people taking it over the weekend.

It is just a short 10min ride away and we arrived at the main entrance of Mt Putuo.

Mt Putuo is one of the 4 Buddhist mountain in China. I have visited Mt Jiuhua in 2007 (documented in my blog), which is dedicated to Dizhan Pusha, the bodhisattva of Great Vow. Mt Putuo is dedicated to the bodhisattva of Great Compassion, Guanyin. I believe most people are familiar with Guanyin. As Mt Putuo is an island located off the Yangtze River, it has a Buddhist Kingdom of the Sea name as seen below.

We took an internal shuttle bus to our first stop, which is also pretty close to our accommodation. After listening to the introduction by our tour guide, we decided not to follow her. Her explanation has some mystical and folklore to the sights, which is not what we wanted to hear. As  practicing Buddhists, we seek the truth of practicing the Dharma in our life, and not deluding us further. So we parted ways from the tour guide and proceed directly to check in.

Our accommodation is very simple. A simple 2-bed single room next to each other with an attached shower facility.

We begin our climb up a hill. First stop is Guanyin Cave.

Many devotees are armed with incense. Each temple they visit, they will light the incense and pray for good fortune.

There is a temple building next to the cave.

We continue on our journey. Halfway through the mountain trek, we came upon this splendid view of the island. We can see our accommodation from here (notice the lower right hand side).

We proceeded to the next temple along the way, Enlightenment Vihara (圆通禅林).

A close-up look at the temple.

There is a Japanese bronze style temple at a long flight of stairs next to the main temple building.

The next sight is the Thousand-year Camphor. This place has less people and it's more peaceful.

We arrived at one of the 3 main temple in Mt Putuo, the Puji temple (普济寺). There is a large lake in front of the temple grounds.

Here is the main temple building. The main hall has a very majestic Buddha representation in it which is very impressive.

There is a lotus pond next to the lake in front of the temple. The lotus are not blooming at this time.

There is a quiet and new temple in the area.

It has very unique-looking guardian protectors.

Next to the main bus terminal at Puji temple is the beach.

This rock formation is called Shishi rock (师石). It is said the teacher will sit on the rock and give instructions to the students.

Surprisingly, there is a pathway that links directly to Nanhai Guanyin (南海观音). We walked along the path and arrived at Nanhai Guanyin in 15mins. It was around 6pm in the evening and the site only stop selling tickets at 6.30pm. So we can still make a final run for it.

This is the largest Guanyin statue on the island.

From another perspective as the sun is setting.

We completed our visit and made our way back to our accommodation, while intending to find dinner places around. I read online that Mt Putuo is famous for seafood and it is true. It is such a big contrast, with people visiting temples and making offerings during the day. At night, they feast upon seafood. There is this area a short 5-mins walk from the ferry terminal (to the left after exit), which has lots of restaurants. We ordered a few simple dishes of vegetables.

The next day, we decided to take the cable car up. It is a mistake. We spent 1 hour 30mins just to queue before taking the cable car. 

Here is our group photo.

There are lots of shops along the way leading to the main temple. At the top is Huiji temple (慧济禅寺). It is the second of the 3 main Buddhist temple in Mt. Putuo.

We made our way down and came upon pilgrims doing the 3 steps one bow up the temple steps.

At the base of the hill is Fayu temple (法雨寺). There is a bridge leading to the temple gates.

And here is the main temple building.

Take a look at the huge crowd of devotees.

As we walk further in, the temple architecture changes slightly.

Devotees making prayers to the Jade Buddha.

Lunch time is coming and one of the monks knock on the wooden fish to signal the time.

Our brunch at Mt. Putuo(around the vicinity of the ferry terminal), a simple vegetarian fare.