We arrived at Hangzhou the day before yesterday (Monday the 14th) after having flown from Wuhan (2 flights, plus some bus rides) and having got up at 5am! All pretty tiring, this being the 3rd domestic flight I’ve taken since arriving in China – no crashes so far, so it’s pretty positive *ugh*

Hangzhou is beautiful, it’s a very picturesque city surrounding a large lake with a number of man made islands in the middle – it’s definitely the most beautiful city I have visited since arriving in the mainland - it seems since about 1999 the entire city has been undergoing a massive rebuilding program to make it a prime destination for internal chinese tourists, it really is a great place.

Since arriving I have:

  • Popped into the tea village, the tea here in Guangzhou is apparently the best in china – it nice, but I don’t think I’ve developed my taste buds enough to pick it from some of other stuff I’ve had.  Grabbed a small tin of the “A grade” which I’ll attempt to get home through customs – or maybe I’ll mail it off from shanghai.  Apparently counterfeit tea is quite common round here as well – which is a funny idea
  • Attended a tragic “silk factory” tour, which included a very very bad fashion show, a brief look at the printing and unraveling machines they use on the silk worm cocoons and then another maze of a shop which forces you to pass every single item in the shop before exiting.  Another government run operation.
  • Been out to a pub that was laying down some old school Chinese hip hop, if you ever wondered what happened to all the old drum machines in the 80’s… well you probably haven’t, but they’ve been exported here… however it really does rock, in a sorta kriss kross kinda way. 5 Yuan beers were a pleasant bonus, and Tony (our Chinese guide) introduced us to a Chinese dice based drinking game which was pretty fun. After finishing up there we grabbed Tibetan kebabs (made by Tibetans!) from just outside, which were phenomenal. The food is all just so good here, especially if you like chili – which I do – though everything is dodgy (a word we’ve taught Tony) – really the only rules are don’t drink cold water, don’t eat anything uncooked/cold (and if it’s fruit, always peel it… ) – I’m enjoying it, but some of my fellow travelers have been a bit off colour since there arrival.
  • Visited the leaning temple/pagoda – what an amazing site, the 200 odd bronze statues depicting people who can never obtain the status of Buddah are fascinating – this is a huge spot for Chinese tourists, and there was soooo much incense being burnt by them, got some very cool pictures.  In fact all of china is full of Chinese tourists, seeing any other ethnicity is beyond rare. Chinese tour groups are easy to spot and provide wonderful entertainment, because they all get issued the same baseball cap and their leaders walk around with telescopic poles with a flag on top and are constantly yelling through a megaphone– it’s very funny to watch.
  • Visited the Luhe bell, which I got to strike 3 times.. strangely satisifying.
  • Been on a hour cruise around the lake in a boat… sun was shining, feet hanging over the side.. all very pleasant.  It looks deep, but apparently the maximum depth is only about 3 meters!

At any rate - today I did a walk around the lake by myself for a looksie, and too clear my head ;o) ..(no sun today, which is a bit of a shame) and then wandered through the botanical gardens.. pretty quiet, tomorrow we’re heading on our way to Ptuoshan (probably spelt that wrong) island, which is apparently quite stunning and after that we’re hitting shanghai – where me and a few fellow travelers including Geoff (another intrepid guide, who’s doing the annual safety review) are going to hit a hardcore Chinese disco :P

Traffic here is hilarious – you develop some really bad habits, basically there’s an order to things, based on size.. Trucks and busses can do anything it appears (run red lights for instance) – pedestrian crossings mean nothing – there are just horn noises all the time, as it’s used to warn people/cyclists of oncoming traffic… crossing the road is a true mission, especially at night, you see close shaves all the time. Oh, and road markings are merely a suggestion – a 2 lane road will often have 3 trucks or 4 cars abreast squeezing down it.   On the flip side, where there are lights they have a counter on them so you can see how long it will be till red goes green / green goes red - pretty cool.

At any rate, on the “me” side of things – I’m definitely forming a love/hate relationship with China, it’s such a huge and beautiful place – yet there is so much to drag you down as well, I’ve already been accosted by small children begging, the smog is so thick you think the clipping plane is wound down really low and I keep getting a sore throat every time we stay in a city for a couple of days…thank god for the amazing food and the good company to keep my spirits up.

Hope you guys are all doing well.


- Alex

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Asia 2005 - Yhangzi / 3 gorges

Hi guys, sorry about the lack of updates.. I've been on the road a lot since my last update and haven't been able to post an entry about the time I've spent over the last few days (or even shower... eww)

At some point I'll back track and say a little about Guilin and the outlying areas (where I was before now) - but for now I'm just going to talk about the 3 gorges where I've spent the last 3 days.

We arrived at the boat after a 2 hour bus ride from Guangzhou and a look at the 3 gorges damn project (which is an impressive structure, which once complete in 2009 will generate enough electricity for about 120 million people) to freezing cold weather and a quickly setting sun - at which point we climbed aboard the Chinese cruise ship that intrepid had arranged.. this is the kinda ship you might take your mistress away to if you wanted a "dirty" weekend in China..  It's a tub made of very rusty plate steel, 3 decks, water that was generally always near freezing, spittoons in all the hallways that defy description and in my "first class" cabin I shared with a fellow traveller there was stained sheets and the most foul smell... it was pretty funny :P - I was really greatfull to have brought my own sheet and pillowcase!

So we set off, and went through a couple of locks in the dark - only about 30 odd metres each.. the boat is chaotic, as it's not designed for western tourists but the Chinese tourists.  All well 'n good, the temperature seemed to keep dropping all night.

So we wake on the second day to see snow falling all over the first of the 3 gorges - the scenery is breath taking, apparently this is the first time anyone has seen it snow here - so it felt pretty special (though bloody cold, I've never heard Desmond (the english guy I share a room with) say "Jesus Wept!" so many times... very funny.. I hope the pictures I took convey just how amazing it looked.

The proposed height marks for the water (about 175 metres above sea level) on the hillsides everywhere just makes you realise how much housing and farm land will disappear when the project comes on line - nothing in China is a on a small scale (accept for farming, but that must eventually change with the shift of the population towards the cities) and this project is a wonderful example of the chinese people exerting there will against nature (the projects main motivation is to stop the devastating 10 year floods which cost billions in damages in lost lives). They're all very proud.

We ended getting on the turps and having a bit of a card playing and drinking sessions that night, and I had my first experience with Chinese spirits... god almighty they're awful, the one I had was "like" vodka, but made from sorgam and around 45% alcohol.. when drunken with "future cola" the coke equivalent in china, that's miles cheaper, it was a lethal combination...

And so I awoke today feel surprisingly good for all my drinking, the boat steemed back down the gorges and we've arrived back on land - tonight we're staying put then early tomorrow we begin to move towards the coast again, with the destination (eventually) being shanghai... it should be all fun, though I'm feeling pretty whacked.

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Asia 2005 - Day 1 & 2 - New Zealand to Hongkong

Well, it's been a trip of firsts... first flight on a jet propelled aircraft, first time in a foreign country (3 in fact, Brisbane, Bangkok and finally Hongkong), first time that I've really felt alone, first time I've stopped thinking about either coding or work in general for more then 24 hours, first time with what I assume is jet lag... the list goes on and on.

Basically to surmise whats happened to me so far, in chronological order:

  1. Flew out of NZ, couple of hours to land in Brisbane, much thanks to my parents and especially my fathers blind optomism to get me through what now seems like a cake walk, I'm not saying he necessarily helped as such - but he somehow encourages me through some kind of strange reverse psychology. Heh, that sounds harsh but it's supposed to be a complement.
  2. Flew from Brisbane to Bangkok - delayed by half an hour or so because there were issues.. with something? Baggage related from what little I was told.  Brisbane is a nice airport.. quite nice.
  3. Landed in Bangkok early in the morning - the flight seemed to drag on, the airport was like a village of the living dead - quite confusing, met a fellow confused traveller (Louise, on a flight to Taipei from brisbane, on business) and we muddled through it, ended up getting some Baht and watching the planes landing and taking off through the haze awaiting my transfer flight. (around 5am Bangkok time)
  4. Got on my flight for Hongkong, landed at Hongkong international airport on Lantau island.
  5. Wandered my way through Honkong airport, it's way cool - huuuuuge!... the flight path when landing comes in over the water (they even have the end of the runway marked with bouys etc.) - It's very impressive.
  6. Grabbed the A35 bus from the airport to Mui Wo Bay / Silvermine beach, to where I'm staying (Silvermine Bay Beach hotel - 2.5 stars, oh la la!).
  7. Felt like shit (I'd been without real sleep for over 36 hours) - so after getting to my hotel at 4pm Hongkong time on saturday I pretty much collapsed into bed, and then struggled to sleep.  Alas I woke at 2am in the morning, but I tried to coerce myself to sleep through till 7am hongkong time, in some vein attempt to "fix" the reasonably minute 5 hour time dilation.
  8. Woke up, had breakfast in the hotel, took the fairy to Kowloon.
  9. Went shopping, then visited the Kowloon park.
  10. Returned to Mui Wo (Lantau Island).
  11. Went out for a few Beers at the China Bear bar, then popped into the bayview seafood "cooked food" restaurant.
  12. Popped back to my room, then headed down to type up this entry...

My first night in Hongkong was umm... interesting, I dont think there was any way for me to prepare myself... I was really tired, and after fighting with the inane "exact change" systems to catch buses in the area, and seeing things which were so wholely different to anything I've experienced ever before I pretty much just shutdown/brokedown, I wandered around Mui Wo, took in the fishing port, dirty high rises, dodgy dogs everywhere (dum dum dum... rabies, why oh why didn't I get jabbed??), stray cats... I didn't really know what to do... And even after getting into my hotel, watching the T.V and seeing all the adverts for "bird flu education" .. I was scarred, in a strange strange place and exhausted.

After some sleep it was better, I took advantage of my "free breakfast" in the hotel, everything is too sweet... the milk seems somehow wrong (or in fact they have no milk, just sweetened condensed milk come cream, or something very similar) -  so I've taken to drinking black tea/coffee.

I wandered around Mui Wo for a couple of hours, took a few photos - caught a few glimpses of the Mui Wo carnival which was being held today, the open butcheries in markets are interesting - I like watching the "art" of boneing out a beast...

Caught the 10:40am "fast" ferry to Kowloon ($31HK), and began navigating the downtown region - mmm... huge buildings, you can end up wandering around in circles and not realise it... I had a mission, that of buying a winter jacket.


[I must take a brief pause] - The hotel entertainment consists of a chinese guy doing covers of Tom Jones, CCR and Elivs... it's hilarious :) ... just help yourself to my lips.. to my arms... mumble mumble mumble..

This hotel can seem like a bit of a dive, unless you truely "take advantage" of what it has to offer I must say :P


At any rate, I found a jacket... oh wait, but before that I was looking for Nathan road, yes.. the golden mile as it were... but somehow it eluded me... from canton road I had to use the subway tunnel to get to it - yet when I popped out on the otherside I was equidistant from it, but on the other side, and with the same signs saying "no access to Nathan Rd. - use subway" - none the less I saw the funny side :)

ahem.. so yes ... I bought it (the jacket) from some dodgy sideroad near a really clapped out looking guest house surrounded by indians... decided it was too big and heavy to carry around (you have to be careful trying things on I discovered, as soon as it's slung over your shoulders they've chopped the tag off and you've pretty much bought it (looks like I'll need to get more hard assed) - ditched it on a street corner and bought another jacket which I liked (from Nathan Rd. this time) - once I got onto it - which was a bit lighter, each one cost about $18NZ, so the loss was small, I'm still contemplating ditching some stuff out of my pack at any rate, I didn't realise how heavy it was with the day pack till I picked it up from the baggage reclaim in Hongkong.... aieee.. my spine - the first jacket I bought was a bulky gore-tex "Northlands" timberlands garment.. I wouldn't be surprised if it cost about $100 to $200 NZ at least back home...

After I bought the jacket I headed to Kowloon park, not intentionally, but just by luck.  It was interesting - there's a bit of a bird enclosure, some fish in a pond, and lots of hill sides covered with artifical sandstone (almost every hillside/bank is registered with an official number and little green plaque in hongkong), and of course people... everywhere there are people - I must say I'm very glad to be staying on Lantau Island, the number of people is reasonably low here (total Island population is apparently around 35,000)... it makes "easing" yourself into China a little bit easier for a hick like myself, Just staring at one of those 60 floor sky scrapers and contemplating all the seperate entities inside makes my brain hurt...

I wandered the multi-story shopping complex that runs paralell with canton road, ended up having jappanese for a lunch - sat next to a large girl who didn't like to smile much, who was sailing on the QE2 which was docked outside, she was from Perth... I think it's the first time I've eaten flying fish, to be honest it wasn't that great - the hilight of the meal was the barley tea, which had a distinctive "charred" flavour to it which I've never tasted in New Zealand restaurant equivalents... mmmmmm... The fact that wherever you order your meal from in the food court, you pay for it at a single cashier is an interestring twist I wasn't expecting, I'm not sure what the cost/benefit equation is, but no doubt the Chinese have it all in hand.

After my lunch I wandered around, found fortress electronics, got myself a Belkin ipod <-> Camera kit (which seems a bit flakey?) for transferring images from my camera to my ipod.  And after that I wandered aimlessly, got suckered by what I suspect is a "monestary" scam for $100HK (~$19NZ), got the ferry back to Mui Wo and went back to my room.

After a shower I headed out to the "China Bear" cafe & bar, I was feeling oddly social? Though I didn't find anything there (seems to be a bar for expat brits who love talking football & the hong kong 7's, Not my scene) - downed a few Boddingtons, and then thought "what the bugger am I doing" and swapped to Tsingtao Beer.

I was a feeling a tad liquored, so I meandered down to the very dodgy looking "cooked food" restaurant, which boasted an "english menu", got a "Crab & ginger" meal and proceeded to make a fool of myself for my chinese audience ;o) just imagine me eating crab with a nut cracker and chop sticks ;o) - it tasted bloody good, the ginger was really strong and sooo tastey - the chinese tea was nice as well... mmmm... and the view looking out at hongkong island is lovely.  I'm starting to relax and feel like I'm actually on holiday now.


Out of my head... day and night... ... mumble... I love you baby... and if it's quite alright.. I lurve you bay-beh!...


I've met 5 people so far since I started my trip, none of them my own age though... all around the 30 to 50 age range, I think it's just the way I carry myself, I must attract them.. much like I do when I'm in Auckland?  So far we've had Louise from Aussie, The chick from the QE2, "Michelle" a french man on a world tour I met on the return cruise from Kowloon to Lantau Island, "Joss" an interesting mooning 48 year old from Holland and "Joseph Smith" a stonemason from Montanna who has heart problems and is chasing tail everywhere in a sort of benny hill fashion.

3 things struck me while wandering about...

  1. The interest that falangong "attrocity" displays attract, I couldn't gauge wether people were unhappy or dismissive of what they said - people in hongkong certainly dont seem afraid of the chinese government, maybe?
  2. The red fire ant warnings - I didn't realise they were that much of a public nuisance.
  3. The number of woman wearing breathing masks - why aren't men as concerned about Bird Flu / SARS (Which is what I assume they're wearing them for?)??

I didn't have a clue what I was doing here 24 hours a go, now I understand... I'm having a bloody good time.

hmmm... I've missed lots out... It's amazing what you can fit into 48 hours... but I don't have the energy to document it all.

Take care one 'n all - will keep you posted, tomorrow I go to meet up with my Intrepid Journey group for my 28 day tour of mailand China - woot :)

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The mixed bag of Immortel

I watched Immortel/Immortal last night http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0314063/?which
was pretty cool, though the character animation is frustrating -
it features a mix of character animation, CGI of a reasonable
rate (the scenery is generally of?a very high quality) and a very
mixed bag of character animation, ranging from models which
wouldn't look out of place in final fantasy, and others which are
like watching re-runs of reboot...

I would suggest watching, but depending on your capacity for
being anal you may either enjoy it or just be left wanting,
personally I liked it and found the story fun.. though I've
always liked european science fiction.


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In the beginning...

Evening.   Name is Alex Henderson, .Net developer based in Auckland, New Zealand.

In this blog you can expect to find:

  • Information regarding .Net and software development in general.
  • Information about my own personal software projects.
  • Probably a little bit of social commentary, to avoid this blog being too dry ;o)
  • Travel plans, as I get organised for my first holiday overseas.

As a little background, I'm currently just finishing up my last month of work at the North Shore City Council (http://www.northshorecity.govt.nz) where I've spent the last couple of years as a contractor and full time developer, working on a couple of systems there... you might even hear a little about some of experiences I've had with these, as and when I feel like it...
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