I am not afriad of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today~William Allen White

Archive for the ‘architecture’ Category

My visit to Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh is not the capital of Vietnam, but the economic artery of the country.  It was an eye opener to me when I visit Vietnam, there are definitely a lot of madness, chaos, and craziness with the city, which I believe are evidence and signs that it is continually developing.  I actually had a lot of difficulties crossing the streets because first of all, there are hardly any traffic lights, and at the tourist areas where there are traffic lights, motorcycles really don’t give a crap.  Second, there are so many motorcycles on the road, it makes one’s head spin!  If you want to cross the street, you basically need to pretend the hundreds of motobikes coming at you don’t exist, or else you would literally be standing and waiting for something that will never happen–> all the motorbikes to pass.  Anyway, by the third day of the trip, I pretty much can cross any streets without my legs shaking, pumping heartbeats, and bewilderment in my eyes at what I am about to do.  In fact, when returning to Singapore, the way I decided to cross the streets bewilder other rule abiding Singaporeans.

While I feel very blessed to have grown up in developed Canada and lived in modern cities of Hong Kong and Singapore, the travelling I am doing continually open my eyes to so many amazing and crazy things that go on in the world.  In Vietnam, a family of four could all be seated on a motorbike while the mother carry a baby on her lap.  In the West, we freak out over car seats and baby proofing everything; but the babies in Vietnam grown up just fine without ever hearing about car seats or strollers.  In fact, if you have a stroller, that might be a dangerous hazard itself, I don’t know how you can possibly cross the streets.

Below, I share some pictures I took of this chaotic city that has taught me to cross the streets anywhere in the world.  Believe me when I say if you can cross the streets in Ho Chi Minh, you can cross the streets anywhere else in the world.

i realize my whole entry is pretty much about motorbikes, so I must show you what I am talking about

this is near Chinatown, close to the hotel we were staying at and close to where we sat at some plastic table with stools with a local friend sipping strong coffee with sweet milk

the saigon river is a strip of restaurants on boats and they will take you down the saigon river for a 45 min ride. It's very touristy, though the strip look nice on the outside, there really isn't much of a view to speak off across the saigon river and the food (western) isn't cool, I love local food way more!

the oldest pagoda in ho chi minh

the war remnants museum is really worth a visit to see what kind of war and pain the country has suffered

cool huh? a giant plate of donuts on top of the man's head

Old Hong Kong…Real Hong Kong?

I have previously blogged about the income gap between the rich and the poor in “the one million three hundred thousand others”

(https://btlau.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/the-one-hundred-thirty-thousand-others/) and I want to do a follow-up today with a number of pictures taken in Wong Tai Sin.

Tourists will know of Wong Tai Sin as a tourist destination of Wong Tai Sin temple,but this area is also the district to a lot of impoverished HK citizens who are living on welfare and living in government subsidized housing.  En route to showing my sister Wong Tai Sin temple during her visit to HK, I was able to capture some old residential estates that illustrate how the mainstay/grassroot part of society live.

Sleepers at the airport

It was so cool spotting these sleepers at the airport, what a treat for the tired travellers or those waiting for a flight transfer.  However, there are not that many around, so it is really a matter of luck to be able to crawl onto one of these sleepers.  Also, you need to learn to ignore the stares and envious glances of other passengers walking by.

The beauty that is Venetian Macau

The inside of Venetian Macau gives off a grand and majestic Victorian feel with grand paintings and picturesque architecture and design of the various shops, exhibition halls, and casino layout.   I went to the Venetian just to look at gorgeous architectural designs and the attention to details displayed at its construction, I gambled a little bit at the MGM grand instead, more slot machines for me to play with.

the grand hallway from the lobby to the casino

from the top looking down to the casino

each ride is accompanied with live singing

looking at Venetian Macau from the outside

Macau is the Vegas strip of Asia, but the Venetian definitely looks different from many of the other casinos dotting Macau.  Majority of casinos/hotels are focused on building horizontally skyward, but the Venetian hotel looks like a little European kingdom on its own in Taipa.  I really like the variety of colors used for the Venetian, this little European style villa casino is most certainly a landmark in Macau and a popular backdrop for would-be brides for their wedding pictures.

 

when i look out my window

On a clear and bright day, it is such a treat looking out at the expansive view from my apartment’s window, it is so mesmerizing and astounding that there are an endless amount of high rises and sky scrapers all over Hong Kong!  It would be fun to contrast the difference of the view between a clear and bright day as opposed to a foggy and muggy day when pollution skyrocket and factories from China blow particles and dusts over.  When that happens, the city is wrapped in a shroud of haze, there is nothing mystical and enchanting about it, it would usually feel moist and damp outside and I am not a fan!

Pretty damn hazy huh?  Nevertheless, on a normal day, I love staring out the window, especially since rumor has it that if you keep staring at views and buildings that are really far, it is very good for your vision and you as less prone to farsightedness.

the open staidum where many concerts and sporting events such as rugby 7 is held, I can actually see the crowds and hear what is happening at the stadium; unfortunately, I cannot see the performances, boo. Oh yea, once I think there was a Chinese opera rehersal going on and it was the 1st time in my life I got woken up to communist music, and I was truly puzzled

this is a soccer/football field depending on if you're American or British; anyway, it's just across the street from the Hong Kong Football club, and I often see many teams practicing from my window

i do believe that the day I am bored with this view, I am bored with Hong Kong

It was actually kind of weird because on the sunny and bright day I was taking pictures, I notice birds flying in the sky; on the muggy day, there was a butterfly resting on my window, and I love the close proximity it allows me when I take pictures of it.  Thanks to the butterfly, I left my apartment in a good mood.

Little Houses with Character

I love the unique little houses along the Shek O village, they are brightly painted, colourful, and full of character, a rare sight in a city filled with skyscrapers and high rises.  Shek O village is steeped in Hong Kong history; it has been around for over 100 years since 1891.  Don’t be fooled by how they may look on the outside, because all of them have an expansive sea view worth millions of dollars!

the sea view in every house's backyard

 

Pawn shops: oldest form of financial institutions

Each morning, it takes me about 3 minutes to walk from where the bus drop me off to my office, and I realize that during this short stroll, there are 3 pawn shops on the same street!  The word “pawn” actually comes from the latin word “pignus”, meaning to pledge. 

It's easy to spot pawn shops with its green, yellow and red color scheme

I have learned that in HK, the symbol of a pawn shop is created with a winged bat holding a coin, with the winged bat symbolising Fortune and the coin benefits.

The heavily barred countertop and counter being set extremely high is supposed to provide security to pawn shop workers;there is also a screen shielding the customers from people walking past as a form of security and privacy against the "loss of face" for pawning goods.

Don’t be fooled by the antiquated look of the shop and think the trade is passed down for generations, many of them have sprung up over the years and operate as a chain.  While the pawn shops may look antique, this is certainly a professional trade using high-end security systems and top-notch computer systems.   In fact, many of the pawn shops operate as a 1 stop service with a second-hand watch and jewellery store next door selling pawned off goods.

 

This pawn shop has opened for less than 2 months in a prime location in Causeway Bay, offering 1 stop service of pawning goods and selling pawned goods at shop next door

The impossible flight of stairs

 I have decided to move the warehouse arm of the operation to Yau Tong Industrial district, which is very close to the office, about 15 minutes and 5 MTR stops from office to warehouse. What I really like about the warehouse is that from the MTR platform, I could see the building I am supposed to walk to, which amounts to approximately 5 minutes of brisk walking. Another thing I like about the warehouse location is that it’s just a few buildings down from the fire station; it seems like a very safe location for people and products alike. I also like looking into the fire station every time I walk pass, to see if any firemen are training in their uniforms.

view of warehouse from mtr station

view of mtr station from warehouse

Unfortunately, these happy feelings fade when I have to walk from the warehouse to the MTR station. I have come to realize that the longer I stay at the warehouse, the lower my energy level beomes. This is especially true if I help move cartons and products around the warehouse and work up a sweat. By the time I leave the warehouse, I would be feeling quite exhausted, and the walk to the MTR station would take a little while longer. Why I say bad infrastructure planning? Because in order to get up to the MTR platform, you would have to walk up a giant flight of stairs separated into 5 flights of 13 steps each. This is an incline climb to the top, which I believe is very tiring for everyone that needs to climb this flight of stairs to leave the industrial district!

a preview of the flight of steps

I don’t understand why they haven’t install a set of escalators instead, clearly that solves the problem for tiring souls from the industrial district and all the uncles and aunties over 40s that need to climb that flight of stairs every time they need to take public transportation! There is an elevator that lead up to the platform, so the first time I saw the sign and the arrow pointing to the elevator, I thought it’s just a few steps away, and OMG, was I ever wrong! The elevator is all the way on the other side of the platform, and it took a good 10 minutes to walk to! This is really horrible planning, why can’t there be 2 elevators on both sides of the platforms?

There was this auntie in her fifties heaving and puffing up the 5 flights of steps, and by the 3rd flight, she had to rest, and there I was with my colleague ready to climb those steps. So sad, by the time I finished two flights, I was so tired, I have to rest like the auntie, which I think is very embarrassing and not cool! But my colleague is trailing way behind me and could hardly walk up the first flight before huffing and puffing. Believe me, I usually climb up all 5 flights in one go without resting (when I don’t have to heave cartons and just direct), though I would usually feel the burn on my thighs by the 4th flight.

5 flights of 13 steps each = 65 steps (very exhausting when temp is over 30 and you'v been lifting cartons that are 8.8kg each!!)

In general, people would be tired after climbing the 5 flights of stairs, and would usually be breathing a bit heavier and wiping sweat off their faces; so what really irked me about this whole infrastructure planning is that once you reach the platform, you would see this sitting/resting area that you could rest your poor limbs on, but you cannot! Why you couldn’t is because the government has decided to place giant statues of people sitting and wiping their faces with handkerchief and eating snacks! You too, would see the annoying irony in this situation!!?!?!!

you could understand why this piece of art irks me right?

Should an Islamic mosque be opened near Ground Zero?

 I actually feel very sorry for Muslims who are being stereotyped and ostracized because of their faith and religion, they have nothing to do with the attacks on the World Trade Towers in New York or all the terrorist attacks that are happening around the world. While I acknowledge these extremists are most certainly carrying out attacks and hiding behind a mask of faith and religion and that these attacks have nothing to do with the millions of Muslims across the world, it certainly is doing the religion no favor.

 While many people in the West are raised to have an open-mind and be tolerant of differences, let’s face it; racism exists, discrimination is everywhere—it’s only a matter of if it’s inertly or overtly displayed. For me, the reason I say “no” actually have nothing to do with the fact that it’s near Ground Zero, I say “no” because racism and discrimination exist and by opening a mosque so close to Ground Zero, it’s offering a channel for others to incorrectly direct their anger and raw emotions.

Why do you want to be a target? It will guarantee to happen, so why would the mosque let its disciples face overt acts of racism everyday? This actually leads me to comment on the French and their ban on women completely covering their face. I would make one statement: If I see a person walking down the street completely covered from head-to-toe, I would be scared; because all of us are born to be scared of the unknown. The emotion I feel—being scared, has nothing to do with the fact you’re Muslim, or you’re from the Middle East, I am scared because there is a person standing in front of me all covered up while I am all exposed, and the unknown frightens me.

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