Archive for August, 2009

31 Aug

Day 3: Guilin and Surrounds

In Blog,Uncategorized by Charlie Lawrence / August 31, 2009 / 0 Comments

What a city! A city the size of Adelaide. A city in which we stopped only 3 times in the traffic on the way to the hotel from the airport. A city that does not stop. The traffic doesn’t stop. The locals drive on the side of the road that they want, there are no traffic lights (or very few of them) no one gives way, no one looks before walking across a 5 lane main street and amazingly I saw one one injured, killed or abused! Road rage on Adelaide level simply does not exist here. It is a constant ballet of lawn mower engine powered rickshaws, double decker buses, pedal powered trikes, families on scooters, bikes and pedestrians without a care in the world. Amazing!

First stop Li River Cruise. We got onto a boat full of Chinese Tourists ready to travel down the river and lakes that surround Guilin City. Unbelievably the Chinese people are avid travelers within their own country and are equally delighted with the sights and sounds as we are. After motoring through the chain of lakes and manicured gardens we made our way back to the original mooring upon which we were set upon by several giggling school girls who had never seen westerners before. Very well dressed and polite they asked us, through our guide if they could have their picture taken with us. I only wished now, that we had out picture taken whilst they had theirs. In all it’s splendor, 2 x 6ft + fair haired, fair skinned westerners posing with two 5ft school girls from a far away province on a family holiday. Priceless. Surreal couldn’t cover the feeling of our first day in China.

After our cruise it was onto the Pearl Museum and Silk Factory for the obligatory tours of some of Gulins more famous exports. After an interesting guided tour of the silk worm and their skills – we were ushered into, yet again, another souvenir trap that seemed to extricate Yuan from the westerners pocket in a blink of an eye. Narrowly avoiding a Silk Quilt purchase I made my way to the tea canteen and delighted the locals with a 2 beer can purchase before 12 noon. Not in keeping with Eastern tradition, but necessary on holidays.

The Reed Flute caves were the largest caves I have encountered, lit as only the Chinese can – fluorescent white and blue lights, garish green signs giving rock formations such names as “Looking through window curtains at cloudy mountains”, “bumper harvest of vegetables”, “forest of stone”, “mushroom mountain”. The hour long tour culminating in a visit to several cave tortoises, the oldest being 1000 years old (true!!). He was positioned on a yellow silk throne, blinking myopically, waiting for visitors to wet a 5 Yuan note and adhere it to his granite like shell. At night he gets carried from his throne and placed back in the shallow pool – his home from the past eon.

Lunch was at the Super Guilin Restaurant. On first appearances a cheesy tourist trap but with authentic Guilin food and private rooms we were kings amongst men. Our first dish was Cave Fish (no doubt relieved from his subterranean dwellings during our previous tour). Now with the hero ingredient chosen, we were escorted to a private room, plied with local beer, and brought a sumptuous meal of whole baked fish, sizzling beef, Rice Hot Pot with spare ribs and a saucer of leafy greens. After eating it was back downstairs to inspect the pens for tonight’s banquet. Guinea Pigs? Rabbit? Chicken or Duck? Wild Pheasant, Snake? We selected mountain cobra and the pheasant from the collection of wire cages and boxes. The snake combined with the wings, head and feet of the pheasant were to be made into Dragon phoenix soup for our dinner. Once the serpent was swiftly dispatched by a pair of scissors we were on our way.

The afternoon was spent at Yaoshan Mountain – the tallest in Guillin at 909m. A chairlift ride up, some photos, and a toboggan ride down again – weeeeeeeee! Then an educational visit to the Guilin Government Tea Science and Rsearch Institute for compressed tea, oolong tea and green tea. Very informative 🙂

Cormorant fishing
Amongst the darkened concrete terraces and seedy stairways we accepted the invitation to view a cormorant fishing trip along the Li River. We hopped onto the ferry with 100 chinese tourists and cruised along side the men and their rafts. Within no time the sizable black birds, necks tied with packing twine had hopped into the water and were under the waves searching for their fishy quarry. Amazingly the water was very clear and with the help from the lanterns attached to the bow of the rafts we could see the cormorants at work. Darting amongst the river pebbles the first bird earned his keep. Back onto the raft the handler grabbed him by the neck flipped him upside and shook loose the fish from his tied throat. A couple quick commands and the bird was back in the water looking for more prey. At the day the birds are relieved from of their garrottes and fed a portion of their catch as a reward.

Once the head has been removed from the snake, it is bled into a tea cup mixed with a pure spirit and presented to the diner.

In this case the diner being me – chickened out and gave the concoction to our hapless guide, Steve to drink.

31 Aug

Day 2: Hong Kong

In Blog,Uncategorized by Charlie Lawrence / August 31, 2009 / 0 Comments

Today we venture into Hong Kong City and Kowloon. To give us an excuse the explore the city i have chosen 2 stores that I need to visit before we hit the Chinese mainland tomorrow. The stores are Lomography (lo-fi toy camera boutique) and Tin Cheung (hi-rent Canon retail experience). With pre-programmed iPhone maps we were on our way.

Keeping pace with Tory’s power strides around, in-between and amongst the generally height challenged locals we made our way to the first stop: Lomography. As we walked the cities streets a whole new world opened up to us. Past street vendors, fruit stands,live fish markets and men building skyscrapers with bamboo scaffolding, this city of Hong Kong seemed eons away from the sleepy burbs of Adelaide.

In no time we had made the 1.8km walk from central station to the Lomography Store. But it was closed. It seems that stores in HK don’t open until 11.00. Luckily there was a 7-11 across the road. We purchased some water and an Icey cold beer and sat in the manicured gardens across the way. After slaking our thirst and watching Tai Chi enthusiasts (from now on I refer to them as ninjas) we decided to explore through Bird Nest Street and Herbal Medicine Alley.

On our way to said alleys – we happened upon the a large centre that offered live fish markets and and other delicacies – or from what I could assume given the smell. My mandarin is a little rusty. Once we were inside you would’ve thought it was the set for Tarantinos new ‘Hostel’ offering. But it wasn’t. It was animals of every shape, breed and flavour being diced up into every imaginable serve, cut or purpose. The stand out was a shaved goat that had been essentially drawn and quartered but complete with head, eyes and beard that followed my gaze is a slipped past. On the way out a wire cage of croaking toads caught my camera’s attention – who knows what fate awaits them.

Leaving the markets we made our way to the above mentioned alleys. Piled in boxes, crates and clear tubes was an array of every kinds on mushroom, herb or dried animal once could imagine. Whilst Tory documented our find I went on my way to find the hero shot and there it was. A tomato box of of neatly stacked, tied and skewered flying lizards. Complete with their original metallic colored scales and piercing eyes – I couldn’t quite think how you would prepare them – it was possible they were an asian form or medicinal jerky, but didn’t try.

Next stop, Kowloon. Our Kowlooon journey across the water was required as I desperately needed a CF card and battery grip for my new rig. Once purchased I asked the camera guy if he knew a place that sold cold beer. He looked at his watch and so did I in unison. And explained that it was far too early. Funny, my watch said 1.10pm – far too late I thought for the first ale of the day. Picking that I was Australian he pointed me to a promenade at the end of the street. Once arrived – I understood his directions and wry smile. It was Australia street, selling cold beers, steak and pizza by the tray full. We pulled up stumps and enjoyed several rounds and some tasty pizza (by asian standards) and left after an hour of air-conditioned comfort.

After a short train journey we arrived at Tung Chung Station I had the taste for more cold beverages. Tory had the taste for more (or some) shopping as I had out-shopped her at this stage. I left Tory to her devices and in 5mins was enjoying a $7 bucket of Hoegarrten at the Novotel Front Bar. Within an hour and with 2 hrs to spare Tory joined me and enjoyed our last moments in HK with a round of berry Daiquiris.

Next Stop China Mainland (Guilin)
A 1hr flight from HK to Guilin seemed easy enough. But the 1.5hrs of customs, bus transfers, customs, baggage checks and swine flu paperwork got our nerves to say the least. It was now 9.30pm and we were finally on our way from Guilin airport to the city. After an hour of some of the worst roads imaginable we arrived at Eva Inn on the banks of the Li River.

31 Aug

Day 1: Arrived in Hong Kong

In Blog,Uncategorized by Charlie Lawrence / August 31, 2009 / 0 Comments

We are here! Arriving at the city that truly doesn’t sleep – the heat and humidity was instantaneous and ever present on our first adventure. Once through customs, our journey began. With a cursory nod from the taxi service counter attendant – we mistakingly venture on a 5km walk around the airport trying to find our transport to our hotel which was only 3km away. After an hour of searching we found ourselves back at the original counter and realizing the original nod (translated to English) meant stay here and wait for car. Covered in sweat and the patina of international air travel we were on our way.

Arriving at the Novotel Airport we were greeted with a 4 star experience that wasn’t expected. The Novotel, a newly built 23 story luxury hotel awaited in all it’s over the top Asian glory. And attached to it was the largest outlet / shopping mall experience I’ve seen. In it’s 4 level resplendent glory the underground mall wound itself to the Tung Chung Metro line that would deliver us to the city in the morning.

After some great bargain hunting from Columbina, Lafuma, DKNY and KingKow we made our way back to the hotel for dinner and drinks. Dinner was great but let me add here that I had the best Mango Daiquiri ever made – cold, icy and what seemed like a 3 mango punch and the equivalent amount of rum made the start of the trip promising in the very least.

22 Aug

Sydders and Pales

In Blog,Uncategorized by Charlie Lawrence / August 22, 2009 / 0 Comments

Ok we’ve landed in sunny Sydney and apart from a security check on my passport whilst on the plane I’m all good. With only 16 mins to go before we board I thought it apt to enjoy my last Coopers Pale. This in preperation for the next 8 hrs of luke warm chunga (insert Desperado movie quote relating to flat warm beer).
Tory could type some words of wisdom here but alas she was lured away by the sparkle of the Clarins counter.

Until next time,

— Post From My iPhone

22 Aug

First visit to China

In Blog,Uncategorized by Charlie Lawrence / August 22, 2009 / 0 Comments

Ive just finished a plate of curry from Taste of Nepal, drinking an imported beer and watching the Ashes final test. It is a typically chilly winters night in Adelaide and my thoughts are already wandering abroad. Im trying to imagine the blast of superheated humidity that engulfes as I step off the plane – but cannot. It’s one of those things that instantly takes your breathe away and resets your senses, telling you that your’e not in Kansas anymore (albeit sleepy Adelaide).

Im thinking of the images that I will capture, dreaming of the perfect shot that eludes me everytime. Maybe a shot that comes 3/4 close will do. The search for the shot that will define my trip and try wainfully to encapsulate 13 days of travel into one 5200×3000 pixel frame. But a difference on this trip, may not the pixels, but the emulsion that secures the gold. For my first stop will be the Lomography store on Hong Kong Island to purchase the finest piece of plastic lens goodness that $120AUD can buy. So it may well be, that my hero shot, could be lurking in a black plastic cylinder, traveling across the pacific ready to be bathed by the crew at Duck Pond.

One can never know and that is part of the thrill of travelling abroad. Bags packed, gear checked thrice over and a taste for adventure that is nipping at my heels.

Oh and did I mention this is a holiday – I sometimes forget! Traveling with me this time around isnt a client, not a smoking sound recordist and a not hyperactive cameraman. This time Im traveling with my sweetheart Tory. Tory who can understand most languages in a annoyingly confident fashion but has failed to master Mandarin. So with that being said future blog posts with feature Chinese Steve – our trusty English speaking photography guide. And I can only imagine the future posts concerning this possible piece of hilarity.

Until then, talk soon.