Art, architecture, history, travel

Posts tagged “inflation

1986 So this is what happened 1/4

Español: escritor argentino jorge luis borges

Español: escritor argentino jorge luis borges (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Satellite image of the falls

Satellite image of the falls (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Katie and I decided to go to South

America. We had just bought our house on Berry Avenue in Cincinnati. It was 1986.

Katie’s dad Mr. Finn was scared he didn’t want us to go. He came over to the house to take us to the airport but really he wanted to talk us out of it. He couldn’t talk us out of it so he took us to the Cincinnati airport, which is in in Kentucky CVG.
Then we got on the plane and flew  to Buenos Aires in Argentina EZE. I’m sure we didn’t fly direct. Stopped in Brazil had a free coffee in the airport, Rio GIG I think. We had this big game with us called He-man space mountain it was for Fracisco Arrenetta. Katie carried that thing all over SA until we got  Peru. It was for the Arrenettas who lived in Peru. We left the airport on the bus and went to the hotel. It was beautiful. The highway was modern and just like any highway in the United States.
The hotel was great. It was a residence hotel on Maipu and it turned out Jorge Luis Borges, the famous blind Argentina poet lived there. Although he lived there we never met him. He died soon after that. I was a nice old style hotel with a beautiful lobby.
We had dinner one night at a wonderful restaurant called El Palacio de la Papa Frita, the french fry palace, with red wine a sparkling mineral water mixed together white table cloths and  a huge steak called baby beef. It was very crowded and busy but the waiters  did a great job. When we got to Peru, Pancho told us he had heard of it and had eaten there too. He even knew about the baby beef.
Florida avenue in the Retiro district beautiful pedestrian shopping street with lots of nice furniture and antique stores and  cafes and bars. Lavalle street and the plaza de Mayo are also main sights.We got a tour of the beautiful Teatro Colon Opera house by and opera student. Maybe not as well known as the one in Manaus in Brazil, but I’m sure the operas are better these days. The one in the Herzog movie Fitzcarraldo starring Klaus Kinski. We sort of did our own walking tour. The pink house or Casa Rosada, the white house of Argentina is pink. It felt very much like Europe especially Italy which I also like very much. Argentina is beautiful and the people are very sophisticated and fashion conscious.
My friend Beatriz, who worked for Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati had been helping us with our Spanish before we Left. She said now Ted just stop at any pub and ask for dos cervesas, por favor that means two beers please. Well the first time we tried it the waiter looked at me and replied dos cervesas o una grande, which means two or one big one? We couldn’t stop laughing. We hadn’t thought of that one. Beatriz would later return to to Peru and be elected Prime Minister the first female PM of any Latin American Country. That night we went to a fancy restaurant, nightclub, milonga and tango. Katie had been working hard so she had gotten a$100 bonus award. We tried to spend it all but it was impossible even with dinner, champagne, nightclub tango, milonga and taxi tour including la boca barrio. I think we spent about half or $54.Image In the 70’s Argentina had been known for wild inflation, death squads and the Dirty war when tens of thousands of people just disapeared.
I’ll never forget I was in Spain when the infamous Argentine dictator Juan Peron died. We saw it in all of the newspapers.
Then we took a plane to Iguazu falls IGR and back to Brazil and an over night stay in Paraguay, Ciudad del Este not Asunción the capital. I had to buy the plane tickets at the airport using my Spanish.  Bought them the day before and then came back just to be sure there was space. It is a very popular place I think it was a Tuesday It was a small plane with the old stairs no jet way and the cockpit door was open the whole flight. Many people had never flown before so they just got up and started talking to the pilot, pre 911 of course.
The Iguazu falls straddle the border of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. It’s a triple border. It is one of the most amazing places I have been in my life and I have been to some amazing places. Three times the volume of Niagara Falls. In Brazil they speak Portuguese of course and the Falls are know as the Cataratas de Iguacu.
From Puerto IguazuImagewe missed our bus to the falls. We should have just followed the crowd. You must see the falls from both the Argentine and Brazilian side. The views are quite different, although I now understand Brazil now charges Americans $150 for a
visa. Back then you could just cross back and forth across the border as many time as you wanted. The    view from Argentina is up close. The view from Brazil gives a better perspective of the immensity of the falls.
Misiones province We took a cab across the friendship bridge from Foz de Iguacu, Brazil to Puerto Presidente Stroessner now Ciudad del Este. Named for the cruel dictator who had ruled this land locked South American country with an iron fist since WWII(1954). Foz de Iguacu will play host to part of the ESPN Summer X Games in 2013.
ImageThat night we met a charming guy with Scotch whisky and a pick up date at a cool hotel with an outdoor restaurant and colored lights. It reminded me of Christmas even though it was August.
There was an outdoor  market and Katie bought a purse. Katie said, I never even knew Paraguay was a place and all of a sudden I was there. When we got back to Cincinnati Mr. Finn was sure I meant Uruguay but that was one place we hadn’t been, yet. I would love to take the hydrofoil from BA to Montevideo some day like in the movie Gilda with Rita Hayworth.

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Our plane to Peru LIM had mechanical trouble and was delayed one full day. That’s the way they do it in SA no planes today, come back tomorrow. Lufthansa flew over the  Andes and with a stop in Santiago SCL those mountains are so high it seemed the plane had just enough altitude to make it over them.

Another day in London 1974

7/26 Friday London

Claude Monet

Tower Guard Beefeater

The tour today was one of the best we’ve had on the trip, despite the fact it was late. I slept so well last night I didn’t wake-up until 9:10 when I heard a lady yelling, “Has the tour been postponed? I thought, God I hope so. We have been having American style breakfasts here with bacon and eggs and corn flakes. We are staying in an apartment tower kind of thing with a common dinning area somewhere in London. Near the newly constructed BT Tower in the west end near Regent street.  I have been using the stairs instead of the elevator. I have developed a bad cough. Nolting told me to get something for it at the Chemist’s.

Our RAP is named Tobie he is a proper English gentleman with black hair and a beard. I’m still researching grocery stores. I went for a walk tonight with Shelley. We got lost on the way back and nice women helped us. When she was done she gave us a cheerio and walked away. Toby told us that phrase is not used much any more.

Proper Gentleman

Something new in Britain this year is currency reform. Great Britain now has a decimal system like the US with 100 pence to a pound. They no longer use the shilling, sixpence, farthing system with 240 farthing or 80 pence to a pound. The thing I don’t like about the pound is that it is worth about $1.60 so if something is 50p it’s almost a dollar. It would have been bad to miss this tour. I like the idea of not having to go back and forth for lunch all the time. We should have done that in some of the other cities. I really enjoyed many of the sites. I’m glad I got to see the Albert Memorial. accessed 2012 April 4. I’ve got to go back. I was sorry to hear that the Crystal Palace burned down in 1930, but Tobie(our RAP) said there’s a copy in Houston. I liked Westminster very much. O, Rare! Ben Johnson he’ll always have his name misspelled. Westminster is completely different from St. Peters. Westminster is gothic although some of the restorations are in other styles. Westminster has all kinds of famous people buried there. Mainly popes are buried in St. Peter’s. The popes are buried under the main storey in St. Peter’s; each tomb has a little chapel. Just below this window you find the grave of the Unknown Warrior which commemorates the many thousands killed in the 1914-18 war who have no grave. . In Westminster the people buried under the floor. People can walk over their graves, not so for the popes. Another difference: St. Peter’s is a Cathedral and Westminster is an Abbey. St Peter’s is under the authority of the Pope and the Catholic Church. Westminster is controlled by the Queen and is Anglican. The Popes are elected in the Sistine Chapel and the Kings are coronated in Westminster.

I’m glad it wasn’t crowded at Westminster. Chris a buxom, typically British lass and Toby’s girlfriend, said tours usually don’t see anything. We just happened to be there at noon so we got a special benediction.


Some of the most famous to lie here, include the poets John Dryden, Tennyson, Robert Browning and John Masefield. Many writers, including William Camden, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy are also buried here.

Charles Dickens’s grave attracts particular interest. As a writer who drew attention to the hardships born by the socially deprived and who advocated the abolition of the slave trade, he won enduring fame and gratitude and today, more than 110 years later, a wreath is still laid on his tomb on the anniversary of his death each year.

Via Veneto
Rome, Italy

I didn’t get to see the jewels because of the bomb scare. It really messed things up. When we got to the gate guards wouldn’t let anyone out. I think it was just a scare, no real bomb. Someone said the bomb squad had been drilling, It was exciting, but I had to miss the jewels. The only things that didn’t mind staying at the tower during the scare were the ravens, because their wings are clipped. I’m having a good time here. We went to the Discotheque and I stayed late-then went gambling and won. It was so late there were no buses or tubes. We walked most of the way home.

Leaving Hong Kong 1979


Guangzhou (Photo credit: -Mare)

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, 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.

Wednesday Canton.

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.

Thursday Canton/Kwangzhou

Chinese commune

Maps of Guangdong Province, China

Maps of Guangdong Province, China (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

South China tiger

South China tiger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 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

Lin Biao

Friday Saturday/Sunday Hong Kong

We now have four days in Hong Kong. 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.

Tuesday Bangkok

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.

Wednesday Bangkok

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.

Friday Bangkok/Singapore

Well this was the last day in Bangkok. Spent the morning getting David to the Doctor again. He got some more pills.

Singapore Merlion

Chinatown, Singapore was an enclave for the ea...

Chinatown, Singapore was an enclave for the early Chinese immigrants in Singapore in the 19th and early 20th centuries. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 .

Saturday Singapore

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: , 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.

Thursday HKG/

Las Meninas 1974

European Journal Ted Gast 1974

In the summer of 1974 a group of 30 students and 3 chaperones from Ladue High School in St. Louis went on a five-week study abroad program in Europe, visiting Madrid, Rome, Florence, Vienna, Moscow, Leningrad (former USSR) and London. Here is the appendix to the journal I kept on that tour. I was 17. As I recall the cost for the five-week trip was $1200.


Las Meninas


Oil on canvas this is a really big painting. Baroque court painter to king Felipe IV, during his reign the Spanish Empire would reach its zenith in Europe, Asia and Latin America,  including Mexico. The painting tells an important story. It is the story of the court painter preparing to paint the young infanta with her maids in waiting.  You can see him and the canvas as well as all of the attendants and the girl’s parents in the background.

10’5″ x 9’1″

The Watergate crisis reached its peak as the Committee voted on July 27, 1974, to recommend three articles of impeachment: obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress. By early August 1974, it was evident that President Nixon did not have the support of Congress to continue in office. A delegation of senior Republicans went to the White House to inform the president that he would not survive a vote on impeachment in the House of Representatives, or a subsequent trial in the Senate.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is exiled from the Soviet Union.  His book The Gulag Archipelago can be seen in the windows of bookshops in  all of the capitals of Europe, except Russia.

Movies Popular in 1974

MacKenna’s Gold loser movie showing in Moscow at the time as a supposed blockbuster. Actually it was a cheap Western starring Gregory Peck and Julie Newmar and was the only American film to pass tough Soviet censorship. When I was 9 years old every boy I knew had a crush on Julie Newmar as Catwoman from the TV Show “Batman”.  Other popular movies of 1974 and The Towering Inferno, Chinatown, Murder on the Orient Express, and the Godfather Part II.  The James Bond movie of the year was The Man with the Golden Gun and Blazing Saddles was also a very Popular film. Young Frankenstein all the rage in Puerto del Sol in Madrid.

Julie Newmar



Detail Michelangelo

Deservedly one of the most famous places in the world, the Sistine Chapel is the site where the conclave for the election of the popes and other solemn pontifical ceremonies are held. Built to the design of Baccio Pontelli by Giovannino de Dolci between 1475 and 1481, the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who commissioned it. It is a large rectangle with a barrel-vaulted ceiling and it is divided into two unequal parts by a marble screen. The screen and the transenna were built by Mino da Fiesole and other artists.

The frescoes on the long walls illustrate parallel events in the Lives of Moses and Christ and constitute a complex of extraordinary interest executed between 1481 and 1483 by Perugino, Botticelli, Cosimo Rosselli and Domenico Ghirlandaio, with their respective groups of assistants, who included Pinturicchio, Piero di Cosimo and others; later Luca Signorelli also joined the group.

Swiss gaurd at Vatican

The barrel-vaulted ceiling is entirely covered by the famous frescoes which Michelangelo painted between 1508 and 1512 for Julius II. The original design was only to have represented the Apostles, but was modified at the artist’s insistence to encompass an enormously complex iconographic theme which may be synthesized as the representation of mankind waiting for the coming of the Messiah. More than twenty years later, Michelangelo was summoned back by Paul III (1534-49) to paint the Last Judgement on the wall behind the altar. He worked on it from 1536 to 1541.

Interior Dome of Saint Peters


I sent a package of stuff home today. I tried and tried to get the Putzfrau (maid) to understand that I wanted a box. I couldn’t think of the word in German. I finally learned the word I wanted was Schachtel.

html Diese Idee kennt Ihr vielleicht schon von Karton & Co. Kerstin (6) hat sie aus der Schule mitgebracht: hübsche, bunte Papierschachteln mit und ohne Deckel, die man für viele Kleinigkeiten oder zum Verschenken prima gebrauchen kann.


Ihr braucht pro Schachtel oder Deckel ein quadratisches Stückchen Papier, am schönsten bunt oder bemalt. Dazu Klebstoff und Schere.

FaltanleitungSchachtelAus dem Papierchen faltet Ihr die “Tafel Schokolade” (s. Grundtechniken). Jetzt nehmt Ihr die Schere und schneidet an zwei gegenüberliegenden Seiten die beiden äußeren Faltknicke bis zum ersten Querknick ein. (Auf der Zeichnung sind das die blauen Linien.) Jetzt könnt Ihr jeweils die beiden Quadrate neben den Einschnitten übereinanderschieben und festkleben. Wenn Ihr das an allen vier Ecken getan habt, ist eine Eurer Schachteln schon fertig.

Den Deckel macht Ihr genauso. Weil Papier ja nachgiebig ist, macht es nichts, daß Deckel und Dose gleich groß sind, man kann sie trotzdem übereinanderschieben, und sie halten auch sehr gut zu.

You may already be familiar with this idea from your school.

For each box or lid you will need a squared piece of paper, also scissors and glue… Brightly colored or painted paper works best. Fold as in the diagram.

Now take the scissors and cut two sides across from one another to the first mark (shown on the drawing as blue lines.) Fold the square-cut sides under each other and glue them. After you have done that to each of the four sides, your box is done.

The lid is made in the same way. Because paper is so pliable it doesn’t matter that the lid and the box are the same size. One will be able to stretch them over one another and they stay together very well. (trans by author TCG)


Visit Empress Sisi’s former summer residence. This baroque complex contains an enchanting park, the Palm House, the Gloriette and a zoo. Spend an entire day at Schönbrunn: visit the show rooms with a “Grand Tour with Audio Guide,” admire the splendid Bergl Rooms, and stroll through the “Labyrinth.”

Vienna Schoenbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn, the former summer residence of the imperial family, is considered one of the most beautiful baroque palaces in Europe. The Habsburgs resided here the better part of the year in numerous rooms for the large imperial family in addition to representational rooms. Emperor Franz Joseph, who later married the enchanting Sisi and reigned from 1848 to 1916, was born here in 1830. The monarch spent his last years entirely in the palace, which became the property of the new Republic of Austria only two years after his death. Today, the palace is part of UNESCO’s cultural heritage due to its historic importance, its unique grounds and Schönbrunn, the former summer residence of the imperial family, is considered one of the most beautiful its splendid furnishings

Soviet Union

Moscow Kremlin Czar Bell

Here is something I remember about Moscow. We arrived in Moscow by plane from Vienna via Domodedovo airport Аэропорт Москва-Домодедово (DME). Our Hotel was a Sputnik Hotel very drab and dreary. With a very interesting shower system. Basically you just shut the door and turned on the water, with a drain in the floor, the whole bathroom became the shower no such thing as a shower stall or bathtub, and better not take anything in there with you like a towel it would just get soaking wet. Typical of other cities in Europe the wash basin was in the room. Sputnik caters to students and Eastern Europeans so not a class of luxury? that most people remember with Intourist. This was the SU as it really was. I remember the breakfasts at the hotel large and lavish including lots of yogurt and fermented mare’s milk from central Asia. No I did not try it. I couldn’t get Roger to try it either. I met many East Germans Cuban and other Soviet allies including a man from Baghdad. I Soon realized he was closer to Baghdad than I was to St. Louis. He gave me a Post card which I still have. They were either working in Moscow or on vacation.

I will now relate my trip to the Moscow Zoo. The Moscow Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the world; it is the oldest in Russia. I went to the Zoo in search of the Pandas. Richard Nixon had recently returned from China with two Pandas for the National Zoo in Washington so Pandas were a big deal. I had heard about the Pandas at the Moscow Zoo and I wanted to find them the bad news was everyone else was doing other things, so I had to go by myself. I was just 17 at the time so this was a big deal.  I even had to get special permission. I got detailed instructions and memorized the subway line in cyrillic. I even found my way back. I wouldn’t be so lucky in Leningrad.

Three years later in Belgrade as Ted D. and I had to get to the Bulgarian Embassy in a hurry.  Ted was worried because he couldn’t read any of the street signs.  I said don’t worry I can read cyrillic.

Anyway I soon got to the zoo and found many animals including tigers, monkeys and fish, but I soon found out that Chi-Chi the panda had died in 1969. I found an interesting was of communicating I drew a caricature of a panda in my notebook and showed it to a man with a little boy on his shoulders.  He drew a line across his neck made a clicking sound and said Morte!–DEAD. It was much more difficult getting information back then before the internet, especially about a closed society like the Soviet Union. There were almost no tour books and even a simple map was hard to come by.Getting our visas was also an ordeal, we filled out all our forms in triplicate and sent them in and just hoped everything was alright and that they came back before we had to leave. Susie had problems because she had relatives in the Soviet Union and she wanted to visit them in Leningrad.  She did get to have lunch with her Aunt and cousin at the hotel Astoria and it all turned out alright.

I also remember a night-time boat cruise on the Moscow River I had a nice discussion with a man from Poland, also an Eastern bloc country. This was a formative moment in my love of languages as I realized that each country had its own language.  This man spoke several languages himself including Polish, Russian, German and English.

and an Opera Boris Gudinov at the modern Palace of Congresses in the Kremlin. We visited the Hotel Rossiya downtown the largest in the world at that time, it has since been torn down. We were looking for something to eat the best we could do was some cold salami and cheese with rolls. The restaurant situation in Moscow was definitely for people in the know. We were not in the know.

I first saw the Mona Lisa at the Pushkin art Museum in Moscow. The Pushkin is the grand Art Museum of Moscow. It has copies of many of the famous works of art of the world such as Michelangelo’s David. I had the feeling that the Soviet’s were trying to pass off these copies as the original. The Mona Lisa was on special tour from the Louvre in Paris. It was on a special world tour which included New York and Tokyo. It was one of the few times the Mona Lisa has ever left Paris.

The VDNKh is the Exhibition of economic achievements it is a large fair ground in Moscow. It still exists today. We spent a morning here visiting the various exhibits on agriculture and such things. We were constantly being extolled on the great achievements of the USSR and other propaganda. I remember a huge golden fountain depicting the 15 republics in the Soviet Union. We had a wonderful guide during our stay named Alla. I corresponded with here for many years even into college. She eventually married a Englishman named Tony and moved to London. I never heard from her again. She was very interested in American literature such as Mark Twain and Edie sent her many paperback books.

The Tsar Bell and Tsar Cannon

Czar Cannon Just outside Cathedral Square, you find the stunning cannon. The Czar Cannon, built in 1586. It’s considered the largest cannon in the world, sixteen feet long, weighing 85,000 pounds. It was Czar Fyodor I, Ivan the Terrible’s son, who commissioned master craftsman Andrei Chekov to cast the giant bronze weapon to better protect the Kremlin.

Czar Bell At the foot of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, rests a monument to the grand days of the Romanov Dynasty. The Czar’s Bell. It was Czarina Anna I, who commissioned the bell in 1734, a fulfillment of the dream of her grandfather, Czar Alexei. The huge bronze bell was to be the biggest and clearest sounding bell in the world. Unfortunately, before the bell was raised, it cracked in a fire in 1737. Two hundred tons of silence are all that remain.

Tsar Cannon Kremlin


Andrei Rublev Trinity Icon

Mind you, there was one place in Moscow where you could always find something worth buying. The "beryozka", the "silver birch" store. It was such a beautiful name, but what a shameful shop.
Stocked to the hilt with the kind of Western goods ordinary Soviet stores could only dream of, it was designed for foreigners with dollars and deutschmarks, as well as members of the communist elite.

There were guards on the door to keep ordinary Muscovites out. Tinted windows concealed the Aladdin’s cave of French cheese and Swiss chocolate, video recorders and fur coats. And all that was just 15 years ago.

Moscow State Tretyakov Gallery of Art

We went to the unveiling of the Khrushchev grave and tombstone in Moscow. We were among the first groups to see it. He had recently been rehabilitated and his body moved from Mongolia where he died in disgrace.

Our group would also be honored by a special party at the Lenin Library.


1974 Ernst Neizvestny creates tombstone for Nikita Khrushchev at Novodevechiy Monastery in Moscow, the 970-meter decorative relief for Institute of Electronics and Technology in Moscow, and a sculptural monument “Wings” for Institute of Light Alloys in Moscow. Takes part in “Progressive Currents” exhibition at Bochum Museum in West Germany. Great Crucifixion acquired by Vatican Museum permanent collection.

Novodiechy Cemetary

Peter the Great Confronts his Son

Russian Orthodox Church

Canonizes Last Tsar

On the eve of the Orthodox Feast, the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Russian Orthodox Church officially decided to canonize Tsar Nicholas II, his wife the Tsarina Alexandra and their five Royal Imperial children, the young Grand Duchess’ Olga, Marie, Tatiana, Anastasia and the young Prince the Tsarevitch Alexei. This debate began over 80 years ago, after the family’s brutal execution at the hands of the Bolsheviks.

Nicholas II and his family
Th last Czar of Russia

A little over two years ago, on July 17, 1998, Friday, Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and three of their five children were finally buried in the Tsar’s Tomb at Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg.

The vote, taken by the Council of Bishops during their recent meeting, for canonization was unanimous. Most of the 853 individuals the Council has canonized in the past century have been martyrs who died at the hands of the Soviets.

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Alexy II, and roughly 150 bishops debated, once and for all, the issue of the Tsar’s spiritual life and qualifications for sainthood. Supporters of this action have long insisted that the Tsar was anointed by God and was incapable of stopping the communist takeover of Russia. Those who have opposed the Tsar’s canonization insist that he was weak, aloof and unconcerned about the suffering of his people.://


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

b. 1696 Venice, d. 1770 Madrid I saw this painting at the royal palace in Madrid and fell in love with Tiepolo immediately. Below see his crucifixion from the St. Louis art museum. It has recently been removed from public view.

Painter; Draftsman


Born into a wealthy and noble family in Venice, Giambattista Tiepolo was recognized by contemporaries throughout Europe as the greatest painter of large-scale decorative frescoes in the 1700s. He was admired for having brought fresco painting to new heights of technical virtuosity, illumination, and dramatic effect. Tiepolo possessed an imagination characterized by one of his contemporaries as “all spirit and fire.”

A gifted storyteller, Tiepolo painted walls and ceilings with large, expansive scenes of intoxicating enchantment. In breath-taking visions of mythology and religion, the gods and saints inhabit light-filled skies. His ability to assimilate his predecessor and compatriot Paolo Veronese’s use of color was so profound that his contemporaries named him Veronese redivio (a new Veronese).

Tiepollo Crucifiction Saint Louis Art Museum


Tiepolo’s commissions came from the old-established families of Italy, religious orders, and the royal houses of Spain, Germany, Sweden, and Russia. His frescoes adorn palaces, churches, and villas, and his artistic legacy consists of some eight hundred paintings, 2,400 drawings, two sets of etchings, and acres of fresco. When Tiepolo died at the age of seventy-four, a Venetian diarist noted the “bitter loss” of “the most famous Venetian painter, truly the most renowned…well known in Europe and the most highly praised in his native land.”;jsessionid=16f06j5jjb65e?dsid=2222&dekey=Giovanni+Battista+Tiepolo&sbid=lc04a&linktext=Tiepolo


When we reached London we finally found out what was happening to President Nixon, no word of his troubles reached us while in Russia all word of his troubles had been blocked out the 11 days we were in the Soviet Union. He would resign in shame the day after I got back.

Also saw an interesting protest of Cypriots on the way to our Hotel in London. The problem still exists to this day July 2008.


China’s panda ambassadors

By Kate McGeown

BBC News

World leaders might once have felt slighted if they returned from China without at least one panda.

During the Cold War the animals were given as goodwill gestures, to such an extent that the term “panda diplomacy” was coined to describe the exchange of these furry ambassadors.

Taiwan is the latest potential recipient, after China offered to send two giant pandas to the island to mark a ground-breaking visit to Beijing by Taiwan’s opposition leader Lien Chan.

But for the Chinese, the giant panda is the ultimate gift.

“The panda is China’s key cultural icon,” said Phil Dean at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

“It’s a symbol of friendship and peace. It’s cute and cuddly, and sends all the right messages of goodwill,” he said.

Pandering to demand

Panda diplomacy began in earnest in the 1960s and 70s. One of the most famous examples was Chairman Mao’s gift of Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling to US President Richard Nixon in 1972.

Two years later, UK Prime Minister Edward Heath returned from China with two additions for London Zoo, Ching-Ching and Chia-Chia. Some pandas proved less diplomatic than their donors had originally intended. Ming-Ming, a female panda sent to mate with London Zoo’s resident male Bao Bao, was recalled to China in disgrace after the two fought each other and failed to produce any cubs. But despite their occasional refusal to comply with official demands, Chinese pandas have proved important political tools.

In 1964, British diplomats were so concerned about the diplomatic ramifications of sending a panda named Chi-Chi from London to Moscow that one foreign office mandarin was quoted as saying: “It may have important results in exacerbating the Sino-Soviet dispute. I can see no political objection, but you may wish to warn the Secretary of State.”

Panda fever

Eventually, so many pandas were leaving China that conservationists began to complain about the exodus.

Giant pandas are an endangered species, threatened by continued loss of habitat and a very low birth-rate, especially in captivity.

Only 1,600 are believed to survive in the wild, 1,000 of which are in the Chinese province of Sichuan.

Nowadays almost all pandas exported abroad are on loan rather than donated – and often their rates are pricey.

When Washington was given Tian Tian and Mei Xiang in 2000, as replacements for its original pandas, they were on a 10 year loan and private donors paid $18m for the privilege, according to the Washington Post.

But the US was lucky – in recent years few pandas have been sent outside China, especially if they are not required for research purposes.

Of course, in China’s eyes, donating pandas to Taiwan does not amount to sending them abroad at all.

China sees Taiwan as part of its territory, though Taiwan’s government does not agree.

According to Phil Dean, the panda offer may work in China’s favour.

Taiwan does not have any pandas of its own, and Mr Dean predicted that their addition to the island might cause “panda fever” to set in, as excited Taiwanese flock to see the animals.

He drew similarities with the intense American interest in Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling when Richard Nixon brought them back to Washington in 1972.

Pro-independence groups on the island, he warned, would be less keen on the plan.

“It will increase Taiwan’s cultural links with China. It’s a way for Beijing to say it cares about the people of Taiwan, and at the same time remind them that they are also Chinese,” he said.

The pandas themselves are unlikely to be aware of the political fanfare surrounding their visit. Pawns in a political game, they will be merely swapping one zoo for another.

The Lindley Players present Billy

A Musical based on ‘Billy Liar’ by Keith Waterhouse and Willie Hall. Book by  Dick Clement and Ian La Francis, Music by John Barry, Lyrics by Don Black. This amateur production is presented by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Ltd

This riotous musical comedy, based on Keith Waterhouse’s all-time classic play ‘Billy Liar’, is bound to have you splitting your sides with laughter and tapping your toes to its tunes this summer.

Set against the grim background of 1960s Yorkshire life, it tells of the dreams and lies of Billy as he seeks to escape his humdrum job, his overbearing family and his two fiancées in the search for the bright lights of London in the believe that some of us ‘belong to the stars’

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/05/03 13:24:35 GMT


BILLY (Sony Music)

Like My Sister Eileen and Auntie Mame, Billy Liar is one of those properties that has succeeded in multiple incarnations. The story of a young undertaker’s assistant who escapes his dreary Yorkshire existence through elaborate daydreams, Billy Liar was first a 1959 novel by Keith Waterhouse. The following year, it became a well-received West End play by Waterhouse and Willis Hall, originally starring Albert Finney, who was succeeded by Tom Courtenay.

Story continues below

In between the TV series and the sequel book, Billy Liar became Billy, an elaborate West End musical that opened at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (where The Producers is now playing) on May 1, 1974. (This is not to be confused with the Broadway musical Billy, based on Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, which ran one performance in 1969.) Ian La Fresnais and Dick Clement based their libretto for Billy on the Waterhouse-Hall play.

The lyrics were by Don Black (Bombay Dreams, Dracula, Aspects of Love, Song and Dance, Sunset Boulevard), the music by John Barry, who had already composed the scores for the London musical Passion Flower Hotel and the American road-closer Lolita, My Love. Barry was the winner of several Oscars for his work in films; he and Black had collaborated on the Academy Award-winning song “Born Free” and on the title song for Thunderball, one of several James Bond films Barry scored. In 1982, Barry and Black would reunite to write the score for one more musical, Broadway’s The Little Prince and the Aviator, which closed in previews.

Billy was a brassy, Broadway-style musical, and it took advantage of the services of top-notch American choreographer Onna White. But its trump card was its star, Michael Crawford, who had done the film versions of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Hello, Dolly! but was making his musical stage debut. At the time of Billy, Crawford was a household name owing to his role on a recent BBC TV comedy series, “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.”

Following the opening night of Billy, The Daily Mail wrote, “There is no magic quite like being right there when a star is born,” and that was typical of the raves Crawford received. But his vehicle was equally acclaimed: The Daily Express called Billy “the most successful British musical since Oliver!,” while The Sunday People called it “the brightest British musical for years…it’s going to hoist brilliant Michael Crawford into the ranks of the superstars.”

The success of Billy was a striking achievement for the time. While Andrew Lloyd Webber was already on the scene with Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph…, those were new-style, through-sung pieces. Most conventional British musicals of the time were short-lived, sometimes charming mediocrities, and Billy was the rare home-grown show to win strong acclaim.

Some felt that Billy Liar had found its happiest form as a musical, and that’s because Billy’s active fantasy life, which revolves around his own private kingdom called Ambrosia, was embodied in dream sequences that became production numbers, not unlike the way protagonists’ dreams were embodied in the musicals Lady in the Dark or The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. In the number “Aren’t You Billy Fisher?,” Billy was transformed into a Fred Astaire-style song-and-dance star from Hollywood. Later, Billy dreams he’s a pop teen idol as he leads the number “The Lady from L.A.”

Notable among the featured players was a young actress with a big voice who had already toiled in the London productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, and Grease. Playing one of the women to whom Billy is engaged, the hard-boiled Rita, was Elaine Paige, who would get her big break four years later with Evita.

Billy played 904 performances, a very healthy run considering the vast size of the theatre. In 1976, the musical Billy had its German-language premiere at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien. In 1991, a major stage revival starring Jonathon Morris (El Gallo in the film of The Fantasticks) was advertised but fell apart prior to rehearsal.

CBS’s London cast recording of Billy was briefly available on a Sony West End CD that quickly disappeared. With Crawford back on the London musical stage in The Woman in White, Billy is now back on CD, this time on the Sony Music label.

Circle Triangle square after Kandinsky by Ted Gast

Loaves and Fishes Original Artwork by Ted Gast

The best number is Crawford’s first solo, the song of a dreamer, “Some of Us Belong to the Stars.” There’s a strong duet for two of Billy’s girlfriends, a soprano (Gay Soper) and a belter (Paige), both awaiting the man they believe to be their fiance. It’s called “Any Minute Now,” and it allows Paige to display the enormous voice that would soon make her a star.

Paige is also heard in the pretty title trio, which adds another of Billy’s ladies to the mix. A production number, “Happy to Be Themselves,” has Billy’s friend explaining to the hero that some folk are content with their commonplace existence. When Billy thinks he may be able to escape his drab surroundings, he has the bright “Is This Where I Wake Up?”

Listeners will note that Crawford was still singing in the light, small, pleasant voice he used before pumping it up for Phantom. Billy doesn’t possess one of the better London scores, and probably falls into the mediocre-but-pleasant category. But as Crawford’s first musical, it’s worth hearing.