Sunday, September 1, 2019

Hong Kong Protests 2019 Video Compilation

Hong Kong in 2019.  This year will forever be remembered, for the year that HK exploded into protests, week after week after week.  Stay tuned to this blog page for more videos, from the ground!

I must say whether you agree or disagree with the HK protestors, they started out very peacefully and showed great discipline in the early stages. In June 2019, protestors turned out in force, in a most disciplined manner.

But unfortunately, the situation quickly got out of hand.  Public opinion started to turn against the protestors when they decided to shut down Hong Kong International Airport, without warning, in early August.  Hundreds of flights were cancelled, and in this poignant video below, a Caucasian woman was begging the protestors to let her through to her aircraft gates.

This video shows you the scale of the protests at the Airport.  The protestors were very organized indeed.

And, as if disrupting Airport operations weren't sufficient, they also disrupted the Subway system, as seen in this video.  They wanted to choke the economy perhaps?

Normal day to day living was getting disrupted. In this case, protestors surrounded a black car and started to bash it.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Majulah Singapura by Ramli Sarip National Day 2019

National Day 2019 will now be forever remembered for the incredibly emotional and moving rendition of Majulah Singapura by Mr Ramli Sarip, widely known as the Papa of Malay Rock.

Watch, and watch again.  Majulah Singapura!

Here are other National Day 2019 Videos.

Mobile column, featuring Leopard 2SG Main Battle Tanks and much more!

Chinook Helicopter National Day Parade Singapore Flag Flypast and F15SG Vertical Climb!

Red Lions Landing

Majulah Singapura Finale and Fireworks!

NDP2019 Fun Pack Unveiling

Happy National Day Singapore!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Arriving in Guangzhou - Shamian Island, Baiyun Mountain, Up Down 9 Street and More

This trip was back in late 2017.  A short trip to Guangzhou, China.  We flew on SQ and stayed at the China Hotel (A Marriott Hotel).  It was a free and easy trip, with the objective to rest and relax.  Though we didn't see very much, it was still fun.

All Fours Movement
The first video here is something odd I witnessed at a park. Check out this new 'All Fours Movement' (coined by me). Elderly crawling up hill on all fours? This was at Yue Xiu Park, Guangzhou. Quite bizarre, but they seem to know what they were doing.

We flew to Guangzhou on Singapore Airlines. We arrived in Guangzhou in good time. When we were researching on where to stay, we decided that since this was a short getaway, and prices in China were still relatively inexpensive (compared to hotel prices in Singapore), we decided on a nice hotel chain, and landed on the Marriott - A China Hotel.

 This was a 5-star Marriott hotel, but it was one of the earliest (if not the earliest) 5-star hotel in Guangzhou. Hence the property was a bit old. Booking online, the rates for a Club Room was reasonable (about $210 SGD), so we decided to go with that. Further research revealed that we could take the Guangzhou Metro from the airport, all the way to the hotel. It looked very simple, and it turned out to be very easy indeed.

 Of course, if you have large luggage to lug around, then it would be harder. But since this was a short trip, our luggage was light and easy to push around. So after landing, we got a China SIM card near the baggage carousel, and then made our way to our hotel via the Metro. The video below shows you this experience, from collecting our luggage, to buying the SIM card, walking to the Metro station, buying a 3-day METRO ticket, and riding the Metro proper. It really was very easy indeed.

When we arrived at the Yue Xiu Park metro station, (where the Hotel was located), we decided to go grab a bite at the nearby McDonalds first. We were hungry. Here is the video of the snack we had at McDonalds. We shared a Spicy Chicken Fillet Burger.

Guangzhou Metro Map
Here is the Guangzhou Metro map. You can easily find this online. The airport station is on Line 3, at the North of the map, called Airport South. (or was it Airport North, either way one of the airport stations isn't opened yet). Taking Line 3 southwards, we changed trains at JianHeWangGang to get onto the Blue Line, towards Yue Xiu Park, for our hotel.

On our first day, after arriving and getting to the hotel, we set out using the MRT to get to Shamian Island.  To get there, we took the Metro to HuangSha station, which is on the western side of the map.  At the Huang Sha station, exit via Exit F, walk via an overpass to get to the island.  Here are two video clips on our experience.

Part 1 - Guangzhou China, Metro, Walk to Shamian Island

Part 2- Walking around Shamian Island, in Guangzhou.

Notice from the videos that the visitors were all locals.  Plenty of local folks out for a walk today.  We also spotted people taking wedding photographs on the island. 

Shamian Island, previous known as Zhongliusha or Shicuizhou, is an elliptic sandbar in the Liwan District of Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province. The island's name literally means "sandy surface" in Chinese. Surrounded by water, it is just like a giant ship mooring alongside the wharf. Get further and one will find that the island is carefully planned. Three east-west avenues, Shamian Avenue, Shamian North Avenue and the South Avenue, and five north-south streets, Shamian Street 1 to the Street 5 divide the whole area into 12 parts, with various buildings, namely White Swan Hotel, Shamian Hotel, and Poland Consulate in Guangzhou, scattered around.

After roaming the island a bit, we headed off (using Bai Du maps) to walk around.  I think we made it all the way to the up-down 9 street - ShangXiaJiu street or 上下九步行街.   

Next Morning - Bai Yun Mountain
Next morning, where we had a full day, we decided that we should do the Bai Yun mountain as early as we could.  Bai Yun (White Cloud) mountain is actually just a hill.  Highest point is 382M.  After doing our research, we decided to try taking the public bus #24 from Yue Xiu Garden (which is near where we stayed) to the foot of the mountain.  It took a while for us to find the correct bus stop, but we found it. While waiting for the bus to arrive, I spotted this vehicle going past. Was it cleaning the road?  I wasn't sure.  The video was taken at the bus stop where we were waiting for #24.  In the distance, you can see the Marriott Hotel.

Taking the public bus
First bus was too full.  We managed to get on the second bus #24 that came along. Fare was 2RM per person and the driver doesn't give change.  Since I didn't have small notes, I used 10RM for the both of us. It was a fairly tight squeeze along the way, but the bus was air-conditioned and it was a fairly comfortable ride, even though we were standing.  When we reached the terminus station, we got off, followed the crowds to cross a road, and walked up to the ticketing area.  This video shows you snippets of the journey.  The ride from Yue Xiu Garden to the bus terminus was about 20 minutes.

Once we reached the cable car station, we got to the ticket line for cable car tickets.  Pleasantly surprised that the line wasn't too long.  After all, this was the Golden Week in China. We had done our travel research and decided that we should take the cable car up, and then look for the electric cart to take us up to the summit.  Buying the tickets was very straightforward.  I asked about the return ticket, and the counter staff said that return ticket could only be purchased up the mountain.  Ok, then.  We go up first.  The next video shows the cable car ride upwards. As there was already a small crowd, they squeezed 8 pax to a car.  The ride was fairly long.

Electric Cart
After we alighted from the cable car, we walked around a bit (this wasn't the summit yet) and found our way to the electric cart station.  You could walk to the summit from here, but it would be an uphill 2km walk.  I highly recommend taking the electric cart, at 10rmb per person.  You will see from the video that there were many people walking up, so the walk is do-able but I think quite tiring.

Even after we reach the Moxing Summit station (where we get off the electric cart), it was still a good 5 minutes uphill climb to the summit proper.  Therefore, unless you feel like walking many steps uphill, I would strongly recommend taking the cable car followed by the electric cart.

Finally, we were on the brink of reaching the summit.  

 To recap, first we took the public bus #24 (2rmb) from Yue Xiu garden to the mountain bus interchange.   Next, we bought the cable car tickets (25rmb) which brought us up to a large, busy area.  Then we found the electric cart station, and took the electric cart (10rmb) to the Moxing Summit.  The final leg, we have to walk.  But first, another 4rmb entrance fees.  And we are finally here!  (Prices correct as at Oct 2017)

This is probably the fastest way to get up.  I realised that while many locals took the cable car up, they didn't take the electric cart.  You could do that too, but check out my earlier video to get a sense of how far you would need to walk (uphill).  I think the 10rmb was well worth the money. 

Walking back to Cable Car Station
We spent around 30 minutes at the Mo Xing summit.  It was rather warm.  Soon, it was time to make our way back down.  Recall we took the electric cart here.  This time round, we decided to take a walk back to the cable car station.  Walking downslope wasn't difficult.  On the way, we saw many people walking up, including young and old. 

We had to buy tickets to do down via cable car, which we did.  The whole place was getting more crowded as we approached mid-day, with more and more local tourists coming up.  But we were done with the visit and on the way down.  The next video shows you the cable car ride down.  Check out the crowds at the base station! 

Taking Public Bus Back to Hotel
We decided to take the same public bus #24 to head back to where we started.   Here is the walk from the cable car station back to the bus station, and some snippets of the bus ride.  

The rest of the time in Guangzhou, we were exploring, either on foot or via the metro.  Here are some more video footage.  Somehow, we found ourselves walking through some backstreet alleys of Guangzhou.  We had veered off the main road.  However, we were not lost, simply following Baidu maps.

QingPing Market
Also walked through a bit of Qingping market. Famous place for all types of medicines and dried goods.

QR Code Bus Station
Walked past a bus station. First time I saw such large QR codes printed on the wall.  Later, I realised that their people were buying bus tickets to various destinations using their mobile phone.

Li Wang Plaza Guangzhou
We found our way to Li Wan Plaza Guangzhou, which was a wholesale center.  This place was huge!  All the shops were opened, but we hardly saw any customers.  Later on I figured that they were all wholesalers and traders, taking much of their orders over the phone, or internet. 

Dian Du De
And we had some food at this place called Dian Du De.  This place was super crowded!  We had read about it online and came to check it out. Full of locals.  We ordered, and had way too much to eat!  The portions were extremely huge (we didn't know).  

Thanks very much for following my blog!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Terracotta Warriors in Cling Wrap - I Kid you Not! - Taking Public Bus to see the Terracotta Army

We were in Xi'An, China!  Today, we visited the Terracotta Warriors Museum.  This was on our 'bucket list' coming to Xi'An, so we were definitely excited.   After all, this is arguably the most important reason why tourists visit Xi'An in the first place!

Feeling adventurous, we decided to take the public bus.  After researching on the Internet, we realised that it wasn't difficult.   You just need to find your way to Xi'An Main railway station (not to be confused with Xi'An North High Speed Rail station).  Unfortunately, there wasn't any metro stop near the main railway station, so we took a taxi from our hotel (Sheraton Xi'An North).  The ride didn't take too long, about 15 minutes.

After alighting at the taxi stand, it was a short walk across a public square to a bus bay, where there were many tourist buses waiting.  There were several companies, but they bring you to the same destination, i.e. Terracotta Army Museum, albeit some have slightly different stops.  The bus fare was 7RMB or 8RMB per adult each way (7 or 8 depending on the company you take).  You can pay the bus conductor in cash.

The ride took about an hour.  Once you get off at the bus terminus, it was quite easy to find your way to the visitor entrance (just follow the signs). Buy your tickets and get yourself in!

The video below shows you from the time we arrived at Xi'An Main railway station.   We got on a bus (it was blue in colour) and made our way to the Terracotta Army museum. En-route, we did stop at another tourist site, but that's for another blog post.

The Terracotta Museum itself was huge.  Apparently, the crowds can get overwhelming (just look at the size of the entrance, and the barricades).  Fortunately, it wasn't that crowded when we were there. We got our tickets easily (very short queue) and made our way in.

Pit 1 is the most famous pit.  Take all your pictures there!

Some photographs to follow.  After buying our tickets, this was the main entrance.  Quite intimidating isn't it!

A photo of my ticket.  We paid in cash.

From the main entrance, you still had to walk about 1KM to get to the main museum proper.  There was some electric cart buggy you could ride (for a fee of course), but I think the ride wasn't worth it.  The ground was very flat and it was an easy walk.  The vast majority walked.

Inside the main Terracotta museum grounds, there are essentially 3 pits that you must visit.  You can find all the detailed descriptions of these pits when you google, so I won't repeat them here.

As many of the reviewers have noted, Pit 1 is the most awesome and most famous.  This is what it looks like.   The scale is mind-boggling. Terracotta Army Pit 1 is an east-west rectangular pit, measuring 230 meters (252 yards) long, 62 meters (68 yards) wide and 4.5 to 6.5 meters (15 to 21 feet) deep.  It is said to contain 6,000 warriors and horses.

Another view of Pit 1.

Yet another angle. You can see the soldiers all lined up. Obviously, when they uncovered this gigantic pit in 1976, it wasn't so neat.  Hey, after being buried for 2,000 years, it ain't going to be so neat.

Take all your photos here, because Pit 2 and Pit 3 have far fewer warriors.  Here is Pit 2 - also very large, but they are still excavating.

And pit 3 - which is supposedly a command pit.   Pit 3 is the smallest, by far. Built in the shape of the Chinese character “凹”, the Terracotta Army Pit 3 measures 17.6 meters (19.2 yards) long from east to west, 21.4 meters (23.4 yards) wide from north to south and 4.8 meters (15.7 feet) deep. It can be divided into three parts: chariot and horse chamber, northern wing room, and southern wing room. It is thought that the northern wing room was used to pray for victory and the southern one for collecting military tactics. A total of 68 lifelike terracotta warriors were excavated from this pit, 42 from the southern wing room and 22 from the northern one. Sadly, many of them are missing their heads. The archaeologists also found a lot of well-preserved bronze weaponry, as well as gold, stone and bronze decorations, inside Pit 3. A distinctive chariot equipped with four horses was discovered inside the chamber of the pit.

It doesn't really take that long to do the Terracotta Warriors museum.  If you want to speed things up a bit, you could hire a driver, or get a taxi, instead of the public bus.  Obviously that would cost you more.

Thanks for reading my blog!

Other Xi'An Links:

1) Mt Hua Shan - Up the West Peak
2) Longmen Grottos - from Xi'An to Luoyang Longmen
3) Sheraton Xi'An North Hotel - Club Room and Executive Lounge
4) China Eastern Airlines Business Class Singapore to Shanghai to Xi'An Adventure!
5) China Eastern Airlines Business Class Shanghai to Singapore Flight Review

Monday, June 10, 2019

Mount Hua, Hua Shan, West Peak and South Peak from Xi'An

We were in Xi'An, China!  Today, we decided to make a day trip to visit Mount Hua, or the famous HuaShan.  Mount Hua (simplified Chinese: 华山) is a mountain located about 120 kilometres (75 mi) east of Xi'an. It is the western mountain of the Five Great Mountains of China, and has a long history of religious significance. The mountain is classified as five main peaks, of which the highest is the South Peak at 2,154.9 metres (7,070 ft).

Before this trip, we read a lot (and I mean a lot) about Hua Shan, from various bloggers and I tried to watch all the youtube videos on Hua Shan that I could find.  We were supposed to be a on a leisurely trip so we were looking for the least effort way to get up the mountain.  From our research, it was evident that there were numerous approaches.  The hardest way is to hike up the mountain (takes 5 hours if you are fit). Apparently this was a common route up by many locals, and even some overseas visitors (and bloggers). I have no doubt that the sense of achievement would be greater if you hiked up the mountain, but we weren't up for such a strenuous activity. 

This Trail Map of Mt Huashan gives you a good idea of the timings required to get from peak to peak.  Take note the following:

1. Famous plank walk (or plank road) is between South and East Peak.  We didn't go there, but many people do. (many Youtube Videos too)

2. There are 2 cable cars - to the North Peak and to the West Peak.  For both cable cars, you will need to take an internal shuttle after you enter the park at the Tourist Service Center (or Visitor Center).

3.  All reviews say that the walk from North Peak, to Middle Peak, is extremely strenuous as you are going uphill.  Think of it as a 1-hour uphill climb.  From what I have read, the steps are well cut, so safety shouldn't be too much of an issue.  You just need to be physically fit.

Our Final Route
4. For us, the least physical effort route would be to go up and down West Peak cable car.  Once we reached the West Peak cable car station at the mountain top, we first walked to the West Peak summit (it was still a 20 minute climb as you can see in my video and pictures below).

5. And then from the West peak summit, we headed to the South Peak summit. Take note, West to South is uphill.  As the infographic correctly highlighted, it takes about half hour. Steps were well cut, so you don't have to worry about falling off the mountain.

6.  After we viewed the South Peak, we headed back to the West Peak (downhill), and then took the cable car back down.  We then had to take the internal blue shuttle bus back to the visitor center, and then a taxi to the HuaShan High Speed Rail (30RMB), and finally HS rail back to Xi'An North.

Our Trip Begins! Public Transport to Mt Hua
We went by ourselves, by public transport. It was an interesting journey, with many transfers. Sequence as follows:

1. Take the Xi'An Metro from our Hotel (Sheraton Xi'An North) to Xi'An North High Speed Rail Station
2. Buy High Speed Rail ticket, take the High Speed Train to HuaShan north Station (120km)
3. From station, took a taxi to visitor center. Along the way, taxi driver brought us to a tour agent to buy our tickets, as the price was the same, and we would be able to skip the queues at the visitor center.
4. Arrive at visitor center, entered the gates, take the blue bus to West Peak Cable Car base station.
5. Arrive at West Peak base station - it was a very long uphill walk (many stairs) to the cable car proper! We took the chair lift to go up.
6. Then we finally get onto the West Peak Cable Car, which brings us to the West Peak.
7. From here, it is on foot - we only visited West and South peaks.  We only spent about 2 hours on the mountain top.

West to South peak was an uphill walk.  So walking back from South to West was downhill.  We headed back to the cable car station and went down to the West Peak base station. Then you need to take the blue bus back to the visitor center.  From there, we took a taxi to the Hua Shan north High Speed Rail, got our tickets, and took the High Speed rail back to Xi'An North, and then the Xi'An metro back to our hotel!  Mission accomplished!

High Speed Rail to Hua Shan North
I made four videos to give you a snippet of the entire experience.   In this first video, we take the High Speed Rail from Xi'An North, to Hua Shan north.  Then, we take a taxi to buy tickets and then the blue bus to the West Peak Base station.  (#1 to #4 in the list above)

Chair Lift (and roller coaster ride back down)
In this second video, it shows you the chair lift.  It was 30RMB per person, each way.  A bit steep for such a short ride but it was well worth it because we didn't want to tire ourselves out even before we got to the mountain top!  In the video, you can see how many steps you need to climb.

Cable Car Ride up to the West Peak
In this third video, it shows you the cable car ride (almost the full ride) up to the West Peak station.  It was scary! But the views were breathtaking.  Check out the hole in the mountain as the cable car approached the West Peak.  Yes, they had to blow a hole in the mountain in order to build this cable car station.

Our Destination - Hua Shan West and South Peaks!
In this fourth and final video, I show you the West Peak and South Peaks.  Gives you a good idea of the walking (and stair climbing) that you would need to do, when you go up the mountain.  It was crowded, but some told us that the day we were there was already considered not crowded at all!  We believed them because we didn't have wait much at all for the cable car.  On some days, people wait up to 2 hours to get on the cable car.  Scary.

Thanks for watching my videos!  Below are some pictures too.

After arriving at Hua Shan north, we took a taxi, to a travel agent to buy our tickets and then to the visitor center.  The journey by taxi took about 15 minutes.  I think it is worth it to take the taxi (even though there is supposedly a free tourist bus from the Hua Shan North High Speed Rail), as it would easily save you 30 minutes of commute.  The fare wasn't expensive, 20 RMB.  If you buy tickets from the travel agent (that the taxi driver will bring you to, if you wish, but it helps to speak the local language), he earns a commission and will only charge you 10RMB.  The tickets from the travel agent are genuine - they work.  The price is the same as you would get at the visitor center.

Large scale, this place.  Walk towards the mountain!  The highest peak is the West Peak, though I cannot tell which peaks were in front of us.

We entered via the 'Tour Group' entrance, as we bought our tickets from a tour agent.  No problems at all.  After that, we took the blue bus, which brought us to this place.

You would think that you had reached the cable car station.  Not yet!  There were many more steps to climb.  We were greeted by this beautiful archway.  Look beyond, at all the steps leading upwards!

So, we decided to take the chair lift to save us some walking.  Very few people took this chairlift, because it wasn't cheap.  30RMB per person, one way.

Now, even after the chairlift, you had to walk up this steep flight of stairs, in order to finally reach the West Peak cable car station!

Fortunately for us, the line for the cable car was very short.  We hardly had to wait.  The cable car ride was rather long (20 minutes) and the views were simply spectacular.

We reached the station, which was literally carved out of the side of the mountain.  Look at the barricades, to cope with the crowds.

We were at the West Peak! You can't get lost up here.  Many people.  Well sign-posted.

People buy locks and ribbons.  Quite a sight.

To get up the West Peak summit, this was the most challenging part.  Ladder-like steps cut into the road.  You need to use your hands to pull yourself up the chains.

From West Peak, we headed to the South Peak.  It was uphill.  South Peak was the highest peak.

It was like a party, climbing up to the South Peak.  It was crowded, it was noisy.  Some even turned up in party clothes.  Check out my video to see the crowds, which were supposedly quite thin on the day we went up!

The South peak was even more crowded than the West Peak.  There were even Chinese tourists having a huge quarrel.  Thankfully they didn't start finding.  Only raised their voices (very loud). 

The din aside, the views were gorgeous.  Here is a view of the West Peak, from the South Peak.  

After we reached the South Peak, we headed back to the cable car station.  Essentially you back-track, downhill - the cable car station is very near the West Peak.  Another view of the West Peak Cable Car Station.  Cool stuff.  There is a photo booth there and they take a professional photograph of your group.  You can choose to purchase the photo when you arrive at the bottom.  We decided to buy our photo, as it looked pretty good. 

Thanks for reading!!

Other Xi'An Links Below

1) Mt Hua Shan - Up the West Peak
2) Longmen Grottos - from Xi'An to Luoyang Longmen
3) Sheraton Xi'An North Hotel - Club Room and Executive Lounge
4) China Eastern Airlines Business Class Singapore to Shanghai to Xi'An Adventure!
5) China Eastern Airlines Business Class Shanghai to Singapore Flight Review
6) Terracotta Warrior Museum - Go by Public Transport!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Longmen Grottos - From Xi'An to Luoyang Longmen to see the Buddhas Carved into Rock - UNESCO World Heritage Site

We were in Xi'An, China!  We stayed at the Sheraton Xi'An North hotel - a wonderful stay.  Today, we would be visiting the Longmen Grottoes.  Longmen what?  The Chinese name is 龙门石窟 Lóngmén Shíkū  , or literally Dragon Gate Caves, or Grottos. (So nothing to do with Longman Jeans)

In 2000 the site was inscribed upon the UNESCO World Heritage List as “an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity,” for its perfection of an art form, and for its encapsulation of the cultural sophistication of Tang China

Now, getting to this UNESCO World Heritage site would be interesting.  It was located near the city of Luoyang. The distance between Xi'An and Luoyang was 380km (236 miles).  This distance was farther than Singapore to Kuala Lumpur (which is about 350km).

How to get there?  High Speed Rail of course!  The journey time would take us about 1.5 hours.  To achieve this, the train would have to achieve an average speed of 253km/h. Not bad at all!  This would be our first time on board a China High Speed Rail train.  Excited!

I made 2 videos to remember this experience.  Here they are, followed by some pictures.

In this first video, we make our way from Sheraton Xi'An North, via Xi'An Metro, to the Xi'An High Speed Rail station. After getting our tickets, we got into this huge station (the largest in Northwest China). As we had a bit of time, and also because our train ride was 1.5 hours long, we decided to get some food to eat on the train.  I got a KFC burger - easy to eat!  The train ride was very smooth and punctual.  In the video, I also show you the toilet in the train.  It was clean.

In this second video, I immediately show you the highlight (the most famous cave) of Longmen Grottoes - this huge rock carving of a giant Buddha and many other figures.  You can find a full description of what this place is about on this Wikipedia entry.  We don't believe in Buddha, but we were here to admire the rock carvings!  Overall, it was quite a sight  Pity, however, this place has been badly destroyed and mutilated over the years.  We were told during the Cultural Revolution, the damage was super extensive.  So we saw many empty caves, headless statues etc.  We didn't spend too long here, but managed to see the most famous cave which is at the start of my video below.

As promised, some pictures.  Xi'An North High Speed Rail Station was huge, the largest station in Northwest China.

2nd class cabin, it is in a 2-3 configuration. Comfortable, and trains were punctual.  The seats weren't very wide, but the incline was very good! Can easily take a nap.

Toilets were clean.  This one was a squat toilet.  My video shows you more of the train toilet. (yes, I went to do a toilet inspection.)

We brought our own food and water to eat and drink on board.  Doing so allowed us to head to the tourist site immediately once the train arrived at Luoyang Longmen.  Didn't want to waste any time finding food.

From the High Speed Rail station, we took a taxi to the Visitor Center.  At the Visitor Center, we bought our tickets to enter the site.  There was an optional electric cart.  Having read earlier reviews, we took the cart as well.  It wasn't expensive, and the ride was rather long.  Saved us plenty of walking.  You can see snippets of this ride in the second video.

After we reached the main site, there was naturally plenty of walking and stair climbing to do.  Didn't want to tire ourselves so early!  These are the steps with the wooden/golden handrails that would bring us to the most famous cave.  This is featured in my second video.
Unfortunately, the Longmen Grottos haven't been well preserved.  Plenty of damage.  Oh well.

This angle shows you the steps to climb up, to see the various 'holes'.  Frankly, more holes than statues now.

This shows you the interior of one the larger caves.  I'm sure when it was first carved, it would been quite splendid as a piece of art. But, the wear and tear is really quite bad.  Still, you can make out the statues.

Overall, it was an interesting visit, and only made possible by the very impressive and reliable China High Speed Rail system.  So the lesson for me, for this field trip, was not so much this UNESCO world heritage site, but more of just how well connected Chinese cities are now with their High Speed Rail system!

Thanks for reading my blog.

China Eastern Airlines Business Class Xi'An to Shanghai to Singapore Review 

China Eastern Airlines Business Class Singapore to Xi'An Adventure! 

Sheraton Xi'An North Club Room and Club Lounge!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

China Eastern Airlines Business Class Xi'An to Shanghai to Singapore Flight Review

We fly China Eastern Airlines Business class, back to Singapore from Xi'An, after a wonderful holiday in Xi'An! 

Our fight plan was as follows:

MU 5010 - dep Xian 0850, arr Shanghai 1125
MU 565 - dep Shanghai 1435, arr Shanghai 2010

As our flight departed Xian somewhat early that morning, we decided to stay at the Regal Airport Hotel for one night, so that our departure could be smooth and easy.   Our flight home would be much smoother than our exciting adventure some days earlier on getting to Xian!

Xian Xianyang Airport Terminal 3 had a dedicated check-in area for China Eastern, which was very near the security clearance.  After checking in (our luggage would be checked through to Singapore), clearing security was quite quick (there were priority lines for Premium Pax) and we quickly found our way to the China Eastern Lounge.  Just follow the signs, not difficult.  The entrance to the lounge looked like this.  I read online that China Eastern operated another lounge at the other end of the concourse.  But this lounge was very near our gates, so made a lot more sense to wait here, at the V1 lounge.

Busy Lounge
Inside the lounge, we found it quite busy indeed.  I made a video of the lounge, and you can see the crowds at the dining area.  There was a decent selection of food, and China Eastern served their signature beef noodles in this lounge too.   Indeed, the Chinese love their noodles, no doubt about that.

Nice Blue Seats
Here are some photos of the lounge.  Nice blue seats.  They looked traditional, but they were pretty comfortable.  You could actually snooze on them (we did for a while) by lounging forward.  The seats gave good support to the next! There were charging points on the floor, in between the seats, making it convenient to charge our devices.  Of course, I had to use my universal plug. You can watch my video at 5:54 to see the charging points.

Rather Sunny!
At times, it felt rather warm, because the morning sun was pouring in.  Yes, this lounge gets the morning sun.

First Class Ticket?
Was a bit tickled when I saw my boarding passes (Red) which stated First Class.  No, we didn't buy First class tickets, ours was Business class fare.  However, it seems that within China, they seem to mix Business and First.  Maybe the concept is like in the USA, where they call domestic business as First Class.  Anyway, it didn't matter, as long as we got our seats!

Our flight was delayed by almost an hour, due to late arrival of aircraft from Moscow.  Apparently MU5010 is a service from Shanghai to Moscow, via Xi'An.  So the plane came in from Moscow.  Didn't bother us too much since we had sufficient layover time at Shanghai as buffer, and waiting in the lounge was comfortable (we found a spot which didn't have the morning sun).  We could wait until the boarding announcements were made before heading to the gate.

MU 5010 Xi'an to Shanghai
Again, we had to take a bus from our gate to the airplane.  Truly, a bus airline!  We got up the mini-bus for Premium Pax, and the ride was about 5 minutes to the aircraft.  I made this video of our flight experience from Xi'An to Shanghai, on board the China Eastern Airbus A330-300 series aircraft.

This Airbus was also retrofitted with their latest cabin product, which looked very similar to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that we flew on from Singapore to Shanghai.  Some pictures of the cabin (in a 1-2-1 configuration) below.

Notice the slightly staggered layout of the window seats - alternate between true window seat and nearer the aisle seat.

A 1-2-1 formation.  Very spacious, private feel.  Overall, a very solid hard product.

The IFE screens were fairly big.  Good enough for me to watch a movie.

When we flew from Shanghai to Xi'An a few days back on a late flight (dep 2130hrs), the catering was extremely underwhelming - 2 tarts and 5 slices of fruit!  So, I was curious, this time what would we get for a morning flight?  A slice of bread and a drink perhaps?  LOL!

Asian or Western style breakfast?
Fortunately, China Eastern did better than that.  We had a choice of Asian or Western style breakfast.  I chose Asian, not knowing what it entailed. But at least we were decent a decent breakfast (local Xi'An style), which I quite enjoyed.  Bear in mind this is a 1hr 50min flight, so my expectations weren't sky high.  Here is breakfast I enjoyed.  Do watch my video if you want more details of the food, as I examine the food tray more closely.

The flight path from Xi'An to Shanghai wasn't straight.  Wonder why.  Maybe to avoid weather, or traffic congestion, or military airspace.  Well, as long as our pilot got us to our destination safely, I can't complain.

Weather was bright and sunny as we approached Shanghai Pudong.  Managed to get a very nice view of Shanghai Hongqiao Airport from the air.  There was an aircraft landing on the runway too. Cool!

Arrival into Shanghai Pudong
Landing was smooth. Recall, when we arrived in Shanghai en-route to Xi'An, we had assumed that our onward flight was on track. This time round, I immediately turned on my flight app which could show me the arrivals/departures at the airport. Yes, our onward flight was on schedule.  Of course, don't just trust the app, check the departure boards in the airport itself.  It looked ok.  Phew!

So we made our way past security and immigration, to the departure area for international flights at Shanghai Pudong, and took the escalator up to the China Eastern Lounge.  This was supposedly China Eastern's flagship lounge.  It was rather crowded when we got there, as it was lunch hour, but we could still find a nice table for the two of us on the first level.

Food - I had 2 servings of this Nasi Goreng style rice with fish, and I couldn't resist trying that bun.

The second floor of the lounge was a lot more quiet, with many seats and very few passengers.  Head up here if you want a quite place to nap or chill. Of course, don't forget to set your alarm for your boarding time!

Another angle of the second floor.  Yes, the boarding announcements were made, but they weren't that loud.  You could miss them if you are not careful.

Boarding Time
It was time for us to board the aircraft (we waited till the boarding announcement), and we headed off to our gate.  Our aircraft was boarding from Gate 212, which was a bus boarding gate.  When we reached the gate, they had already started general boarding.  It didn't look like there was a line for priority passengers!

Well, we just followed the other business class passengers who went to the front of the line, showed the staff our tickets, and they let us through.  We headed to the mini-van for premium passengers and enjoyed our final ride on this same type of mini-bus.  We have had so many bus rides on this trip that I've lost count!

The aircraft that would be flying us to Singapore was a rather new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  Every passenger, premium or not, had to use the same staircase up to the airplane.  I took this photo to show my parents.  The steps were steep.  Given their age, I had advised them not to take China Eastern.  Not sure if my mother can make her way up and down such steps.

Another look at the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  Pretty neat!  We weren't in any rush to board, so we let the other passengers board first.  The weather was great, and I took many photos of the plane.  See the front gear - serial number of this plane was B-209N.  She was delivered to Shanghai Pudong on 31st March 2019.  Very new!

Flight Review - Shanghai to Singapore on the China Eastern Dreamliner in Business Class
Here is the flight review video on this Shanghai to Singapore leg.

The cabin was beautiful.  Very classy.  For this flight, I was seated in 8L, which was a window seat. (as in right next to the window)

The welcome drink was champagne, orange juice, or water. I chose the champagne. This time round, the menus were placed at our seats. I took a glance through, and from the applicable menu for our flight. China Eastern has the habit of printing a single menu that can last them for many, many months. If you watch 3:30 of my video you will see that the menu is colour coded - Red for Odd month 1st to 15th, Orange for Odd month 16th to 31st, Blue for Even month 1st to 15th and Green for even month 16th to 31st.

I guess this system saves them printing costs. For my dinner, I chose the 3 cup chicken with rice. The cabin crew asked whether I would like dinner to be served immediately upon takeoff, or later. As our takeoff time was about 2:30pm (i.e. too early for dinner), I asked to be served later. The crew said the service would be at 5:30pm, as landing was slightly past 7pm. I said ok. After the flight took off, cabin lights were dimmed, and most passengers were watching movies or took an afternoon map. The crew came around with drinks service, and I got some white wine to go with the mixed nuts that they gave out. It was good. The seat could be converted into a flat bed easily (push button) and I took a short nap. For some reason, I woke up automatically, just before dinner time. Perhaps I was getting hungry! Dinner was served. It wasn't like gourmet food, but the taste suited me just fine.

My tray table was ready for dinner service.  They gave me the red wine first.

My 3-cup chicken with rice meal.  The taste wasn't bad at all!

Well, that pretty much wraps up my Trip Report, Xi'An to Shanghai to Singapore on China Eastern Business class.  This was our first time on China Eastern, and putting aside the slight trauma we had with delays and cancelled flights on Singapore to Xi'An leg, it was a great experience for the price we had paid! 

Would we fly with China Eastern again?  Yes!  But we would also know that their flights may be delayed/cancelled etc, so we would be mentally prepared for it all. 

Thanks for reading and watching my videos!