Leaving Hong Kong 1979
Tuesday cond’t from on to Beijing
The flight From Beijing took about three hours. We flew to Baiyun (White cloud) Intl Airport CAN, the old one which closed in 2004. A new airport with the same name opened further out in 2004. White cloud was the name of the hotel the last time we stayed in Canton, the same as the airport. We had to go back to Canton, something about leaving from the same port you entered.
Almost every city we visited on this trip now has a newer larger airport. We had a new guide this time-Miss Wu, a girl this time. She was very nice and more mature than the last two. Now we are staying at the Dong Fang Hotel (Tung Fang, 东方 明珠, Oriental Pearl) built in 1961 and popular with Chinese government officials and ministers with 700 rooms it is the largest hotel in Canton. The rooms and location is better but the service is bad. It takes forever to get dinner served. We are afraid to make negative comments for fear of having our journal confiscated.The size reminds me of the Rossiya in Moscow (see:Yes there is more)
After dinner I went for a short walk and then returned to the room. This is a subtropical climate, hot and humid. There are many three storey buildings here, many with porches.
Our second time in Canton/Kwangzhou 廣州; pinyin: Guǎngzhōu, Guangdong Province, South China. This morning we visited the deaf school. The school seemed to be trying to help the children but there really wasn’t much they could do. Treatments included medicine, laser, acupuncture and magnetic needles—which was nothing more than an old nail with magnets. We also saw acupuncture and children in learning situations as well as a musical and pantomime performance, all quite good,
After lunch I walked to the Sun Yat-Sen memorial with Jim and David. It was closed but we could see inside. The big event for the afternoon was the boat ride on the Pearl River. We went upstream awhile, and then came back down passing bridges, Shiamen Island (former foreign concession) and some ships in port. It is a huge river with a large delta
After dinner, Jim and I went to the People’s park to see the local entertainment. Something our guide told us about. She said she thought young people liked to go out in the evening. It was very thoughtful of her. It was very inexpensive. We went to hear local music from Kwangtung Province of which there was very little. There were some singers and dancers as well as two comical plays—one Chinese and another western farce (all in Chinese) the actors even had makeup to build up their noses.
For our last day in China we went to the Lukong People’s Commune 人民公社; pinyin: rénmín gōngshè; it was a great disappointment. They were definitely expecting visitors. They had air guns and souvenir shops and even water buffalo carts and bicycles ready for hire. Like the much touted Tachai (Dazhai) commune in Shansi in the North it would prove to be a complete economic failure and would in turn be abandoned. At this point, 1979 fully 70% of the Chinese population is rural, with deforestation then as now a big issue. China is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Despite its large size nearly half the country is under populated with great tracts of desert in the west largely uninhabited. After the obligatory political indoctrination seminar we got down to business. Chinese history is divided into two parts before liberation, 1949 were nothing good happened and now when everything is great and everyone is happy not to be exploited by foreigners anymore. I must add however that the Chinese did suffer greatly under the Japanese in WW II.
As for the rest the medical facilities looked poor, the crops were good the home we saw was definitely a set up. It’s a shame this was one of our final impressions of China. We also joined two other groups twice our size for the visit about 60 people. We have been spoiled with our little bread bus.
After lunch at the commune we went to the Canton zoo.-the best in Asia according to some and the largest in China. One in another of my long love affair with zoos. Saw the golden monkeys, south China tiger,white elephants, which actually look pink and the endangered brow-antlered deer. (See Nara, my blog Now let’s get to Japan.) and red and black Pandas of course (see Moscow and London blogs.) The red pandas looks like a large raccoon without stripes (also at Munich Zoo). The Amoy or Chinese tiger is now thought to be extinct in the wild one hasn’t been seen in the wild for 25 years and may be the ancestor of all tigers. South China tiger I’ve been searching the world for those beloved pandas.
It was a fine zoo, large with tropical plants growing all around, just like the Honolulu zoo in Hawaii. Where I also saw the Sumatran tigers on that trip too, thirty years later. Newer zoos have been built in Peking and Shanghai now and I’ve heard the Canton zoo is now a bit run down. That is a shame, I still have positive memories of this zoo.
We stopped at the monument of the 67 martyrs. Next we had a final tour of the city, starting with a visit to the friendship store, where I bought a cloisonné vase for my friend Rob and Mary who are getting married back in the States.
Next we stopped at the National Peasant Liberation Institute Guangdong Sight /Guangzhou/249.html date accessed 1/29/2009 for pictures then drove to the other side of the Pearl River-it was newer than our side but still B. L. (bad-looking) After dinner we went for a final walk through Canton for about forty-five minutes. Some people were still working even at nine in the evening, but many were relaxing in their homes. I was surprised by the number of televisions I saw, all black and white with roof aerials. The whole trip to China was well worth the money, energy and effort.
I should say something about the night soil collection. AS in England 150 years ago human feces is collected at night in the city and sold to farmers to use as fertilizer. Ghost Map http://www.theghostmap.com/ date accessed 2/3/2009 David has been getting sick here. After many years he lamented, Canton was not one of my favorite cities in ASIA or the World. History of Communist China
Friday Saturday/Sunday Hong Kong
We now have four days in Hong Kong. 香港 We’ve been staying up late enjoying the nightlife and movies on TV. It’s been hard to keep the journal up to date. Our group originally started as a tour for realtors from Canada but when they didn’t get enough people they opened it up to outsiders. I’ve never been on this kind of guided tour before. They actually pick up and deliver your luggage for you. Because our group is so small, 14 people plus guide and driver we have a small Toyota bus called the bread bus instead of the larger motor coach. It lets us get around better and faster. It is brand new.
Dr. Wilson and Eddie. Eddie is and East German communist. He hates everything about China because it reminds him of the old country (DDR). He is 44, the same age as our mother. After us they are the youngest people on this trip. When only double rooms are available David has been rooming with Dr. Wilson. Dr. Wilson is a Black cardiologist from San Francisco, also in his late forties. He is really funny. He had an interesting experience to tell about the Nightclubs in Hong Kong. Jim had an interesting experience at a bar as well. He has just turned 20. There are fourteen people in our group including us, plus Elaine the guide. We have gotten to know most of them. Besides Frankie and Pat, Judith and Gladys there is also Miss Gold Shoes from Buffalo a nice woman who was always willing to share her opinions on everything and really did wear gold shoes. She took a liking to us.
We had an interesting time in Hong Kong. We are still with our guided tour. This trip to Asia lasts about two months we have just finished the first leg in the PRC(People’s Republic of China 中華人民共和國; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó). Two tours of Hong Kong were included in our package from Thomas Cook’s. The first was a tour of Victoria Island including the Tiger Balm Gardens, Victoria Peak, Aberdeen as well as various beaches. It was at this time that we saw Prince Charles on his official state visit to the Far East, at least his car bearing the royal standard. (Tag this is the start of the big orient trip)
Saturday included a cruise in Hong Kong Harbour, which included sampans, junks, Navy boats, etc. Some people in Hong Kong live their whole lives on the water without ever going on dry land. This is considered an outrage by the communists. One night we returned to Victoria peak for the sunset. Jim and I ate in a Chinese restaurant, not hard to do here, and a man insisted on buying our dinner.
Spent a day shopping on Kowloon and even took in a topless bar. Kowloon had many things for sale from the PRC and many of the things we had been looking for. Gram and Boppie (my grandparents) had been to Hong Kong and for many years my grandfather had is shirts custom ordered from there including a safari suit. That was either 1975 or ’76. I remember talking to him about that trip shortly before he died (January, 2000), which included Bali and Kuala Lumpur. One of the most interesting things was a walk through the back streets of Victoria Island. There were many old Chinese shops; selling chops (seal stones), herbs, crickets, snakes and even birds in small cages to be released for good luck. Cameras and electronics are everywhere. You can truly find anything you want in this shoppers’ paradise. The shops are small but the owners are friendly and love to talk. David and Jim ordered handmade suits.
Our trip was organized through Thomas Cook in Toronto so sometimes where we go people think we are from Canada. In Shanghai we got a big lecture on Norman Bethune a communist doctor from Toronto and personal friend of Mao Tse Tung. My first thought of travel to Hong Kong came at a travel agent in Regensburg where I saw a big poster of HK. I’d never thought about it until I heard my friend Marylin from Lyon had friends in HK and was going to visit them.
Monday Hong Kong/Bangkok
Well, we are finally out on our own. As a final tribute to their incompetence Thomas Cook agreed to take us to the airport with the rest of the group at 11:45. What they didn’t tell us was that our flight left at 17:00 instead of 15:45 AS LISTED IN THE TICKET OR THAT WE COULDN’T EVEN CHECK OUR BAGS UNTILL THREE O’CLOCK—THEY WERE AWARE OF BOTH FACTS BEFORE WE LEFT THE HOTEL As a result Jim and I spent over five hours at the airport. At least David got to leave for a final fitting for his suit. I’m amazed by the computer network here, reservations we made in Chicago/St. Louis show up here in Hong Kong instantly. I know that’s something we take for granted now, with the internet, but back then it was gee whiz and a big deal. I began to think you know there just might be something to this computer thing. Back then computers were as large as rooms with dial-up modems and tape drives. Disc drives if you had one were as large as a washing machine had about 500k and expensive. Cell phones did not exist anywhere. Making a long distance phone call was an ordeal. We did not call home once in the entire two months we were gone, but we did write and send lots of post cards. No e-mail or internet cafes either. I got four letters from Katie on this trip HK, Singapore, Osaka and Honolulu.
. . .well that is all behind us now. We’re on our way to Bangkok, flying over Vietnam and Laos on the way over the South China Sea and to the south of Hainan Island. It is very warm in Bangkok. Immigration was no problem, except we had to state our address in Bangkok, although we had never been here before. Thais refer to their capital as Krung Thep City of Angels or Los Angeles. Many people in the countryside have never heard the word Bangkok, if you mention it they don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s an exonym.
Thailand is a Buddhist country. It is ruled by a king. The current King Rama IX is still King and is the world’s longest monarch, reigning monarch since 1946. The local currency is the baht (BHT one baht is worth about five cents. You can buy a lot with 5 baht (25c), Thailand has its own language and its own alphabet (Khmer) equally indecipherable. (Thai: อักษรไทย, àksŏn thai)
We left the airport and made the 25 kilometer journey into town by bus. For 2 baht (10c) a piece; despite numerous offers from taxi drivers to take us for only 150 baht ($7.50). We are truly on our own now. I think you’re getting an idea what kind of trip this is going to be from now on. Ten dollars is a lot of money and $100.00 is really a lot of money as I recall the remaining five weeks of the trip were done for between $1000 and $2000.
Finding a place to stay was not so easy. Katie and I had this same trouble when we got to Egypt on our honeymoon. Words of advice for world travelers always have a place to stay on the first night in a new city before you get there. After discovering that the youth hostel was closed and not finding much help from a local Thai or the two Mormon missionaries, who befriended us; we found a place to stay for 250 baht ($12.00). The only catch was the three of us had to share two beds and we were way out of town—thanks to the Mormons. Bangkok is a really big city. At least the place was air-conditioned and I got a good night sleep. I distinctly remember the hostel was outside, screened in and had lizards. We followed those Mormons to the southeast suburbs looking for a room on what turned out to be a goose chase. It turned out they didn’t know anymore about the city than we did. It was very frustrating, at least they meant well.
David and Jim have not been feeling well, Lately and this morning David felt particularly bad so he called the US embassy to find a good hospital so off we were—luggage and all in a taxi To Bangkok General Hospital. The bill was quite reasonable—less than $10 a piece including drugs and without health insurance. I think it all started when we were still in China.
Afterwards we decided on a hotel—the Viengtai—we have a triple room with three beds, bath and toilet for $15 a day with breakfast included. Now $45 per night after 30 years, still a very good deal.
After lunch at the local Moslem restaurant—in the company of two local girls, but without David and Jim, it was finally time for some real sightseeing. As David was too ill Jim and I set in search of the National Museum-within walking distance of the hotel It was really an interesting place. Thailand has a tropical climate. It is the Monsoon season in Thailand. That means it rains everyday in the afternoon. We met some law students from The Law School in Bangkok. They offered to give us a tour of the City. We did not go with them, I think it was a scam.
David is still sick but Jim and I took the water market trip this morning. As the trip started at seven , we were up by six. The hotel breakfast included fresh pineapple-btw. There are many interesting tropical fruits here and I intend to try them all. I think my favorite so far is the star fruit, so-called because it produces a five-pointed star when cut in cross-section. We are about 15 degrees north of the equator, my first time in the tropics. Daylight is split about 12 hours each year round with dawn at about 6:30.
The tour was billed as a real tour of the water market, not just something for tourists. Although overpriced at $1 per head it was still quite enjoyable. The boat held about 15 people max (ten joined us). First we whizzed along the Chao Phraya river Chao Phraya (Thai: แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา), passing various temples along the way. The market itself was not all that much—just a few people in boats selling fruit—but it was the real thing and not just stage for tourists—besides we had 45 minutes of scenery on the way there. Next we went to a farm—which belonged to our guide—he raised coconut, lemons, and mangos. It looked more like a tropical forest than a farm. The return voyage also lasted about 45 minutes but was more interesting as we actually rode through the narrow canals. It’s one of my best memories.
After returning to the hotel by bus, David joined us for lunch at a local place—23 BHT ($7.15) for the three of us including drinks. They have an interesting way of serving soft drinks here, in a plastic bag with shaved ice. They keep the bottle for the deposit.
Afterward David returned to the hotel—Jim and I set out for a self guided temple tour. Our first stop was Wat Pho—the temple of the reclining Buddha. I had expected as small statue—actually the thing was huge.
Next we visited the royal palace and National Museum, which was also quite interesting. There we saw, the throne room and several of the official buildings as well as the temple of the emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaeo) as well as a model of Angor Wat in Cambodia. The emerald Buddha was a disappointment as it was small and far away a top a high altar. The whole palace grounds were fascinating however. Next we walked to the Wat Srakret—a good walk from the palace—but worth it. We passed through some rundown neighborhoods on the way as well as some sort of fortification and some other temples as well and also the Democracy monument. Some of the canals we passed were filthy and really smelled.
Anyway the trip was worth it as the temple affords a beautiful view of the city. Afterwards we met David for dinner. We actually ate at a decent place for once. Then we came home. I did laundry and took a shower, wrote in my journal and went to bed.
Thursday Bangkok/Ayutthaya Bang Pa In
Had a papaya for breakfast.—it was good. Today Jim and I ventured from the city to the former capital of Ayutthaya (Thai: อาณาจักรอยุธยา,). We saw many ruined temples and Buddhas from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries in Thai, Cambodian, and Burmese styles. We saw two huge reclining Buddhas and the largest bronze Buddha in Thailand. We toured the town by Salmer—the three wheeled pickup truck/taxi. It cost $6.00 for two hours—we saw much more than we could have seen ourselves. Buddha not sleeping, Buddha DEAD!
After lunch we went to Bang Pa In Thai: พระราชวังบางปะอิน—to see the former summer palace. It was very interesting. It was basically Thai with some European characteristics, including a temple in a pseudo gothic style. After returning to Bangkok the whole adventure cost less the ten dollars for both of us. Another organized AUS tour cost twelve dollars per person. After eating dinner we tried to find a doctor for David. Another evening without much excitement.
Well this was the last day in Bangkok. Spent the morning getting David to the Doctor again. He got some more pills.
Left for the airport at 11:45. Flew south over the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea. Got to Singapore about 17:30 (18:00 local time) Singapore has one of those fractional time zones. Took a taxi to the hotel for S$44 Singapore dollars that’s $7.00 per person. After we got settled Jim and I went for a walk along the Elizabeth walk and had dinner. We had noodles (low mein) and Tiger beer—a local brand it was good, but served in 12 oz. bottles like beer at home. Saw the Merlion-the symbol of the city.
Singapore is an independent Asian micro state it is entirely one island. Located at the very tip of the Malaysian (Malay) peninsula. Chinese is spoken here as are Tamil, Malay and English. It was a British colony until1963- 1965. Independent of Malaysia 1965. It was occupied by Japan in the Second World War. First PM Lee Kuan Yew 1959-1990. The local currency is the Singapore dollar. You may have heard about the strict laws here against littering and public indecency .
After breakfast we changed from the hotel (the New Seventh Storey) Hotel to a hostel ($6.50 per night for the three of us). The door on the hostel is flimsy plywood so we had to use our padlock for the first time. (JAG) Geographically located at latitude (1.2992 degrees) 1° 17′ 57″ North of the Equator and longitude (103.857 degrees) 103° 51′ 25″ East of the Prime Meridian on the Map of Singapore or JB. Ah!! So close. That’s about 85 miles north of the equator. Los Alvarez Mexico is the closest antipode. Singapore has an equatorial climate that means there is one season all year round.
Afterwards we rode on the double Decker bus to Prince Edward Road , which was the end of the line. Just a small road dead ending into. . .East End Parkway. Named for Prince Edward the King who abdicated his throne, the Duke of Windsor, not the son of Queen Charlotte father of Queen Victoria PEI in Canada. There is also a Prince Edward Road in Hong Kong. We walked back up Shenton Way Chinese: 珊顿道, which is one of the main drags—stopped in a store that catered to Russian tourists.
Ate lunch at an interesting Market. It was an old pavilion with many food stalls serving many different cuisines. I had tofu and potatoes Indian style. food court date accessed 2/3/2009
Next we walked through Chinatown to Sri Mariammen temple the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore. This is the first Hindu temple I have ever seen. Also saw a baby getting his first haircut. He was screaming his head off. Singapore has its modern parts, but many parts retain their old character.
Next we walked along the river to the Merlion and Elizabeth Walk—saw the Supreme Court building of Singapore, city hall, and Victoria Hall, as well as a cricket match. .Padang 政府大厦大草Next stop-the Raffles Hotel-for a Singapore sling at the long bar, yes it really was invented here. It was good-it had a gin taste I had expected it to be sweet, but it wasn’t.
Afterwards Jim and I went to the movies to see Foul Play with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase. Jim has always been a clothes horse and a movie buff( I just talked to JAG and even after 30 years he remembers that film when we saw it where we were and who was in it. (Gram and Boppie saw it too but not in Singapore). It was very funny. Had dinner–satay the squared meat specialty, grilled and served on wooden skewers. Before going to bed we went to Albert Street. As they say you haven’t been to Singapore until you’ve been to Albert Street. Whips and birds and cats.
Today we went to Sentosa-Singapore’s island retreat. An island with an island, how quaint. Went swimming and got some sun. Took the cable car back across the straight to Mount Faber, Singapore highest point at a lofty 500 feet. Walked down the mount to an urban renewal housing complex at S$ 1000K better than Pruitt Igoe in St. Louis.
Went by the main fire station-an interesting building. Saw the Armenian Church (the first in Singapore) as well as the American embassy.
Went to Clifford Pier for a sunset cruise after eating dinner-only to find there were none on Sunday. Merlion and Elizabeth Walk again, with a stop for a fresh pineapple drink. Talked to some locals about life in Singapore.
Monday Jahore Bahru/Kotta Tinggi
After changing money at the bank we headed for the waterfalls of Kota Tinggi in Malaysia. Connected to Singapore by a causeway, this involved a bus ride of about two hours with two changes including one in Johor Bahru Majlis Bandaraya Johor Bahru (جوهر بهرو ), just across the causeway from Singapore. The waterfall itself was nothing spectacular, but it was nice, as was the ride up and we did get to see some of Malaysia. We passed many rubber trees on the way up and also saw a tin mine. It makes a nice day trip from either KL (Kuala Lumpur) or Singapore. Seven Up Company has lots of developers in Malaysia. I would learn that when I started working for them when I got back. I had a TA from Malaysia when I was in graduate school in Cincinnati. I Remember this was quiet a contention between the three of us.
We met some interesting people today including two tourists from Germany, a Dutch family staying at our hostel and the man at the bus station and a guy on the bus. In general people are very friendly and interested in their visitors.
I walked up to the government building in Jahore Bahru before returning. We got back about eight. Ate dinner at the stalls on Albert street and looked at some of the shops. I understand now Albert street is rundown and nothing like it was then.
Today we played tourist. We started at the Tiger Balm Gardens, just like the one in Hong Kong, but much larger. Had a nice talk with a man from Holland. Next we saw the instant Asia show, a series of dances put on for the tourists, including a snake charming ac in which members of the audience were allowed to be photographed with the snake. This was the funny part. Australian tourists they were closer to home than we were and they liked their Foster’s.
After a good lunch at the coffee shop we went to the Jahor sic (Jurong) Bird Park.
Saw many types of birds, including many birds of the ASEAN countries. Also saw the 10 meter (33 feet) waterfall, the largest manmade one in the world. Afterwards we went back to Orchard Road. Home of TANGS AND TAKASHIMAYA for some shopping. I bought a book on culture shock and looked at cameras.
In the 1970s, pioneering landmarks like C. K. Tangs, Plaza Singapura and the Mandarin Hotel came up and led the way for entertainment complexes. Brick by brick, and block by block, towers of glass and steel lined what used to be mud-tracks to make Orchard Road the premier shopping belt today. visit singapore date accessed 2/3/2009.
Ate at the mall again. Met Jim and Dave at the pier for the sunset cruise at Clifford pier. It gave us the night view of the island. It would have been better at sunset. There is very little twilight here. The day and night are almost equal year round. When it gets dark it gets dark right away. This is our last evening in Singapore.
Wednesday Singapore/Hong Kong
Today is the fourth of July, Independence Day back home. Today is the day we left Singapore for Seoul. There are no direct flights we have to stop in Hong Kong and Taipei. Before going to the airport we went to the Sultan masjid and walked around Arab Street. Not my first mosque. I’ve seen plenty of them in Istanbul and Morocco.
We arrived in HK about eight thirty in the evening. Where we stayed at the YMCA. Picked up Jim’s pants and David’s suit. This is our fourth time in HK. It was not a very exciting Fourth of July.
- Hong Kong 香港 – Asia Made Easy (spendrianna.wordpress.com)
- Changi – Singapore, Singapore (travelpod.com)
- A love letter to the temples in Bangkok (happycamperproject.com)
- Echo from Canton – 呼应的广州 (lotuslearn.wordpress.com)