Monday, July 11, 2011

What to do with RMAF Nuri and MiG

Assalamualaikum w.b.t (Peace be upon you)

It's been a while fellas since last I write. Now back into business.

First of all, this will be my second article I write discussing about Malaysian armed forces. This entry is NOT a professional review regarding assets of Malaysian armed forces, as I am not a military analyst or whatsoever.

I got this whole idea to write this entry after I watched some action movies about special forces. This time I'm not going to write about Malaysian Special Forces (SF). This entry will concentrate about Malaysian "seasoned" assets and Malaysian film industry. Can't figure it out yet?

Aircraft Graveyard

Have you ever wondered where the used aircraft, ships or any military assets will be at after their retirement? In US, they have a vast area called the 'Aircraft Graveyard' or 'Aircraft Boneyard' . It's in a desert actually. They have plenty types of aircraft there, be it a passenger aircraft or military aircraft. Spaceship? I don't know. Damn, really wanna go there..... so badly!

In Malaysia, we don't that kind of aircraft graveyard. Not enough land unfortunately. If we do have enough land, we don't have that much of old aircraft to be R.I.P ed.

As far as I'm concerned, the only place I guess resembles closer to the aircraft graveyard is the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) 's museum in Kuala Lumpur. Never heard of it? I'm not so surprised. Aircraft on display are in a VERY BAD condition. Only the outer body of the aircraft are still intact. Some were put on the tarmac (big aircraft) and some inside the hangar (helicopters and some light aircraft).

I got some wild idea. But before that, let me ask you. When was the last time our country produced a war themed movie? As far as I could remember, the last was the Leftenan Adnan movie released in year 2000. The film made it to Box-Office chart if I'm not mistaken.

Remember this? 

Let's take a look at Malaysian made film nowadays. Too much of spook, superstitious, lovey-dovey themed film. Not to mention illegal racing, triads or gangsters style movie. (YAWN).......

What was my idea?

I'm just thinking, will it make any sense if the government and Ministry of Defence (MinDef) provide some real props for movie production. I mean, look at Hollywood. We could see they're using their sophisticated military assets in the screen. In Die Hard 4.0, Live Free or Die Hard, an F-35 was used in the film. In Black Hawk Down, a real Black Hawk Down helicopters along with it's original pilot were in the movie.

What I'm saying is, it's time for Malaysian film producers to get to a whole new level of making a big budget film. Nuri helicopter had been in service since the Emergency Era and still in active duty.

In terms of modern warfare, I guess Malaysia still lacks experiences in real battle. I mean, we didn't happily jump into other countries fight or civil war. In peacekeeping mission, Malaysia are well known for our active participation globally. Our forces have reached Congo, Bosnia, just to name some. Recent action, our SF, PASKAL draw attention from other countries for their success in an anti-piracy mission in Aden Sea. They successfully recaptured MT Bunga Laurel, a chemical tanker without any support from NATO forces. Without any casualties from the hostages, the pirates and the PASKAL. Read here.

To commemorate those event in a movie might be a military secret as it would have involved Malaysian SF's military tactics, weaponry, formation and stuffs like that.

Why don't we recreate scenes from our involvement in Bosnia or Congo. If the cost would be too much, we do have plenty of untold stories during the Emergency Era which saw the Nuri helicopter in action. 

Once guarding the Malaysia's airspace, MiG-29N Fulcrum has been in service for more than 15 years, since 1995. It's main role as an interceptor means they were once used to intercept any unknown aircraft intruding the country's airspace. Or simply for an acrobatic show?

RMAF MiG 29-N Fulcrum

For 15 years, the MiGs had undergone several upgrade for it's avionic systems, weaponry, etc. Malaysian government spent millions for the upgrading and maintenance costs. In 1995, immediately after the MiG purchase, one of our neighboring country reacted with the purchase of F-16 to counterbalance the air power in South East Asia region at that time. Plus, MiG 29 is proven to be one of the best MiG exported version outside Russia. 

Now, the main reason of this idea is, how to make good use of retired aircraft and other military assets. It's sad to see those assets scrapped for recycle or lie abandoned at museum without any proper care.

Government should upgrade the RMAF museum to attract more visitors. One good thing if you ever went there is, you may get inside an aircraft from the aircraft's rear ramp. Get a taste how it feels to sit on a military plane, where once served to carry paratroopers. Take a closer look and feel with your own hand the panels (broken) inside the cockpit. Stick your head out of the cockpit
and imagined yourself as the pilot.

Too bad the exhibits are in bad condition....

As an aerospace engineering student, we learned how the aircraft fly. The flight mechanism. Pull the stick, the elevator will raise upward and bring the flight upward. Push the right pedal, aircraft's rudder bent rightward and the aircraft will yaw to the right. At RMAF museum, you may jump inside a light aircraft where you can experiment with all the sticks and pedals inside the cockpit. Where else can you get such experience?

Take a closer look at jet engines on display. Learn the intake and exhaust of a jet engine, the cooling system. There's a blank bomb on display too. Shells only, for security and safety reason.

Told you. You can get into the cockpit and stick your head out....

Reverse engineering

Reverse engineering is the process of discovering the technological principles of a human (or non-human) made device, object or system through analysis of its structure, function and operation. It often involves taking something (e.g., a mechanical device, electronic component, biological, chemical or organic matter or software program) apart and analyzing its workings in detail to be used in maintenance, or to try to make a new device or program that does the same thing without using or simply duplicating (without understanding) the original.

Reverse engineering has its origins in the analysis of hardware for commercial or military advantage. The purpose is to deduce design decisions from end products with little or no additional knowledge about the procedures involved in the original production. The same techniques are subsequently being researched for application to legacy software systems, not for industrial or defence ends, but rather to replace incorrect, incomplete, or otherwise unavailable documentation.

Citation above was taken from wikipedia.

I haven't heard Malaysia practiced reverse engineering. Be it for military purpose or not, reverse engineering is slowly taking place in today's engineering world. In military world, Iran is known for conducting reverse engineering on it's F-14 fleet due to the US sanctions and restrictions on Iran. From upgrading to supplying spare parts for the F-14, they did it inside their country. 

Fortunately for Malaysia we don't have that kind of sanction from any world major power either from US or Russia. Even so, don't forget that we still received a double standard service if we are to compare our assets and capability with one of our neighboring country. Their assets specs were tuned to match the US assets, if not better as they have Israel support on this matter. That's the reality.

I'm not asking Malaysia to join the weapon race to be the strongest or the largest military power in the region. We could spare a lot by producing our own spare parts but of course with permission. I know, many people would say Russia is the best to provide us the support and technology needed for us to stand on our own.

Why not? We have our own resources. We have the specialty and manpower. Seriously, career in aerospace or aeronautical engineering in Malaysia is still blurry. Graduates from overseas or local universities in aeronautical engineering always having difficulty in finding a suitable job which they can apply their knowledge in. Believe me, you wouldn't want to work in a camera or glass manufacturing factory when your cert clearly writes 'B.Eng Aeronautical Engineering'. It's a waste of 4 years of study if you can't apply what you've learned in university.

Understand the structure of an aircraft (RMAF museum, Kuala Lumpur)

In Malaysia, we have universities which offer degree in aeronautical engineering. Or, should I say the course is not popular that few students entered the course? I don't really know the situation in Malaysia but I bet, there are many students who graduated from the aeronautical course. Sadly, most of them don't fully utilize or apply what they've learned. As long as they have a job, it's OK.

"Apa susah! Go work with MAS or Air Asia lah"..... often we heard people saying that to unemployed aero student. Mind you, as far as I know, working with MAS or Air Asia is not about designing, production or anything to do with the aero engineering. They are more to maintenance. The same goes to RMAF. I once interviewed an officer working in RMAF base in Subang about his job. Overall, I can conclude that, most of the job you're doing is aircraft's maintenance. 

In terms of maintenance, Malaysia aims to be another MRO hub for the South East Asia region. A rival for Singapore. Read here.

I know it's a sensitive issue but it's a reality if I say lots of Malaysian always look down on Indonesia. 'Kampung' minded, illegal immigrants and other bad impression against them. Even so, did you know that Indonesia produce their own aircraft? It's OK even if it's a light aircraft, but hey... it flies. Never heard about N-219? Here's the detail from wiki. It's a new light aircraft made in Indonesia. Yep, the country which we thought full of kampung and low class minded person. Indonesia is the only country in South East Asia that produce its own aircraft.Read more here.

Not only aircraft, they even produce their own rockets and short range missiles for F-16 (joint production with China). Even US acknowledged the quality of the spare parts made in Indonesia. In Japan, they have license to manufacture F-2 (under Mitsubishi Heavy Industries), with 60% of the aircraft made in Japan. Google 'em for more info.

I'm not trying to be a pro-Indonesia or any political cum nationalist term you can find in dictionary. Stop saying we have stronger military or whatsoever. Be an adult lad.

I'm saying, Malaysia could do the same. We have vast resources. We have experts, engineers, technician, students. I'm proud Malaysia produces our own New Generation Patrol Vessel (NGPV), here in Malaysia. Why not the aircraft?

Don't be shame to practice reverse engineering. Some major power nowadays practiced reverse engineering. Few examples as below:

  • Jerry can: British and American forces noticed that the Germans had gasoline cans with an excellent design. They reverse-engineered copies of those cans. The cans were popularly known as "Jerry cans".
  • Tupolev Tu-4: Three American B-29 bombers on missions over Japan were forced to land in the USSR. The Soviets, who did not have a similar strategic bomber, decided to copy the B-29. Within a few years, they had developed the Tu-4, a near-perfect copy.
  • V2 Rocket: Technical documents for the V2 and related technologies were captured by the Western Allies at the end of the war. Soviet, and captured German engineers, had to reproduce technical documents and plans, working from captured hardware, in order to make their clone of the rocket, the R-1, which began the postwar Soviet rocket program that led to the R-7 and the beginning of the space race.
  • During the Second World War, British military intelligence at the Bletchley Park centre, studied captured German "Enigma" message encryption machines, their operation was then simulated on electro-mechanical devices called "Bombes", that tried all the possible scrambler settings of the "Enigma" machines, to help break the coded messages sent by the Germans.
See? Some technologies we enjoy today was a war technology captured during the WW2.

What benefits do we gain from the things mentioned above?

1.  Increase tourist spots in Kuala Lumpur (RMAF museum especially)

2. Increase understanding in flight mechanism, design etc (good reference for aeronautical engineering student, or even kids)

3. Save recycling costs of aircraft

4. Unique learning place (museum or theme park style)

 5. When the need arise, they could be refitted and called to an active duty. Support role maybe.

Ahhhhh....just another rambling from an aerospace engineering student. I strongly urge the government, invest more in local aerospace/ aeronautical engineering industry. It's worth the price. Should be no more fighter jet engine's 'sudden' disappear, no more scandal against the purchase of fighter jets (commission bla bla bla), no more "source code" problem, no more doubles standard issues from the Western countries. Hoping for a less air crash in country's future aviation history. We could save 'taxpayers' money a lot dude. 

Some would think it's easy to say than to realize it. Ask them again. Have we ever tried? Malaysia is still young in this industry. Well, I still believe we could be better in this industry. Not only stuck at the MRO level. One thing we Malaysian should learn from Japan and Indonesia. They believe in their own product and support them. That's what drives them forward.

Make it simple. PROTON manufactured 100% national car in Malaysia, using Malaysian expertise and materials from Malaysia. Of course nothing's perfect. Later on Malaysian found some problem with the national car. Or maybe they think, PROTON could do better than this. BUT, instead of supporting the industry, they condemn it. Saying the design was copied from other foreign country. Rather than buying PROTON's car, better purchase well known brands like Honda or Toyota or whatsoever. Now, think like this. If Malaysians stop from buying the car, PROTON can not make any profits, which results in inadequate funding for research purpose. How can they meet the demand to make a better car? How can they learn from their errors?

p/s: As a Muslim, we believe 'ilmu' (knowledge) is Muslim's lost treasure. Wherever we can find it, go look for it and grab it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

2011 China Trip: Finale

Assalamualaikum w.b.t (Peace be upon you)

Day 14 (March 16, 2011)
A new experience, a total disaster

Uh-uh, it was a total disaster. We were short of money so we decided to take the cheapest ticket from Beijing to Shanghai. There is sleeper tickets which costs around 400 yuan. A journey to Shanghai from Beijing took around 15 hours. At first we thought a standing ticket is OK. Just wait for any seat to clear, then we can sit. We also thought, after 12 a.m where everybody would usually sleep, we could sneak through to sleeper compartment and just sleep at any vacant bed. Well, we thought wrong. We had to stand for almost 3 hours before we decided to sit and squat on the floor. How bout that. To make things worse, one of the train attendants come inside the packed noisy coach and started selling foods, while yelling at those sitting on the floor. Seriously, can't they read the situation? It's already packed with people. Why don't they just stop selling all those stuffs? Around past 12:00 o'clock, people started to sleep. Still, some people are awake. There's one guy who don't have any seat initially. He looks cocky to me, really. He then asked one girl sitting behind me to give him some small spaces to sit. The girl had no choice. After sitting for an hour and having some chat with other passengers, he started to drink beer. Not long later, he got drunk and threw up, causing mess inside the sardine-packed coach. Eventually, I was able to get some sleep. It was really really uncomfortable to have to sit on the floor. Not to mention a bad flu I had for the whole day. duh....A good experience though. The point we had learned is, don't save your money even it's for your own comfortable. If we had bought the sleeper ticket beforehand, we might not have to went into such difficulties.

The damned train... our biggest mistake

Had a bad flu since yesterday. What a day...

Hello Shanghai!

Arrived in Shanghai in noon and we headed straight to our accommodation, Koala Hotel. Refer the hostelworld website here for more information. We started our day visiting one of the skyscrapers in Shanghai, The Oriental Pearl Tower. Take metro line 2 and get off at the Liujiazui station. Walk outside and you should be able to see the Oriental Tower nearby. The ticket price is 150 yuan to cover all exhibitions inside. If you're on a tight schedule, you may choose to visit the observation dock only for 120 yuan. It's worthy to buy the full ticket as you can get a free roller coaster ride (indoor) after descending from the tower.

The Oriental Pearl

The next attraction is the Shanghai urban museum at the lower ground of the tower. After descending the tower, you can see the entrance right in front. Inside are dioramas of shanghai since the colonization era by British and France. All the props are very detail, even the face of the props looks real. Allocate at least 30 minutes there to enjoy the exhibitions. Inside you can see and feel what Shanghai was more than 100 years ago. How was the life in Shanghai hundreds of years ago, how the Opium War started, and most of Shanghai's history. Don't be surprised to see other visitors ignoring the 'DO NOT TOUCH' or 'DO NOT STEP INSIDE' warning signs....

On the night, we went for a night stroll at Shanghai's famous landmark, The Bund. The Bund (simplified Chinese: 外滩; traditional Chinese: 外灘; Mandarin pinyin: Wàitān) is an area of Huangpu District in central Shanghai, People's Republic of China. The area centres on a section of Zhongshan Road (East-1 Zhongshan Road) within the former Shanghai International Settlement, which runs along the western bank of the Huangpu River, facing Pudong, in the eastern part of Huangpu District. The Bund usually refers to the buildings and wharves on this section of the road, as well as some adjacent areas. It is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Shanghai. Building heights are restricted in this area.

Had this one of Shanghai's specialty, dumplings

The Bund stretches one mile along the bank of the Huangpu River. Traditionally, the Bund begins at Yan'an Road (formerly Edward VII Avenue) in the south and ends at Waibaidu Bridge (formerly Garden Bridge) in the north, which crosses Suzhou Creek. The Bund centres on a stretch of the Zhongshan Road, named after Sun Yat-sen. Zhongshan Road is a largely circular road which formed the traditional conceptual boundary of Shanghai city "proper". To the west of this stretch of the road stands some 52 buildings of various Western classical and modern styles which is the main feature of the Bund (see Architecture and buildings below). To the east of the road was formerly a stretch of parkland culminating at Huangpu Park. (This park is the site of the infamous sign reported to have proclaimed "no dogs or Chinese", although this exact wording never existed. Further information, including an image of the sign, can be found at the article on Huangpu Park.) This area is now much reduced due to the expansion of Zhongshan Road. Further east is a tall levee, constructed in the 1990s to ward off flood waters. The construction of this high wall has dramatically changed the appearance of the Bund.

The scenic spot from The Bund

Near the Nanjing Road intersection stands what is currently the only bronze statue along the Bund. It is a statue of Chen Yi, the first Communist mayor of Shanghai. At the northern end of The Bund, along the riverfront, is Huangpu Park, in which is situated the Monument to the People's Heroes - a tall, abstract concrete tower which is a memorial for the those who died during the revolutionary struggle of Shanghai dating back to the Opium Wars.

The Bund at night

Day 15 (March 17, 2011)

The last visit in Shanghai which conclude our trip in mainland China is the Yuyuan Garden. Take metro line 10 to a station called 'Yuyuan Garden'. The garden which exists from the Qing dynasty is a must go if you come to Shanghai. For food lovers and shopping enthusiasts, this is the place you shouldn't miss. On our way to Yuyuan Garden, we came across a food-stall selling Halal food. It's called Lamian Noodle or pulled noodle. It's a famous food in Guilin, China. We had a bowl of lamian noodle each and had our meal inside a food court just in front of the stall. We then bought another meal to satisfy our appetite. We bought a plate of dried beancurd (tofu) and fried crab. The fried crab was so crunchy, we ate all parts of the crab. yep, all of it.

The Pulled Noodle, one of Guilin's specialty (Halal)
Stuffed beancurd. In Malaysia, we called it Tauhu Sumbat
Crunchy crab

We realized we spent too much time eating. It's time to hunt for souvenirs. Sadly, most of the stuffs sold at the bazaar are children oriented toys. We went back to our hostel empty handed but, with full stomach. We went to the Shanghai Railway Station and came across a shop selling Halal foods. Alhamdulillah, looking for Halal foods in China had been quite easy for us. We grabbed our chance and stock up with cups of instant noodles (we've been longing to try it since we came to China, a must try!!).

Halal shop at Shanghai Train Station (NOT Shanghai South Train Station). Carefully remember and recognize the two kanji (Chinese characters). If you face any problem looking for the Halal food, just write the word and show it to the shop assistant.

Important tips: Remember. If you take trains from any parts of mainland China to Hongkong (in our case from Shanghai), please make sure you go through customs and immigration procedure before boarding. The gate usually differs from other usual gate. If you're at loss, just head to the information center.

That's it from mainland China, see you next time. (Things went on so fast.........)

Day 16 (March 18, 2011)
Back to modern world

Hello Hong Kong!
Arrived in Hong Kong from Shanghai at noon. Our ride, train no. T99 had been a pleasant one. First thing first. We settled down at Asoka guesthouse, near to the East Tsim Sha Tsui metro station. The place were crowded with people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, you could sometimes wonder, are you really in Hongkong?? Since the place we stayed at cater a lot of Indian and Pakistani, most of the food sold there originated from those countries as well.


We started our night by visiting the Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Center. Kowloon Masjid and Islamic Centre or Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Centre (traditional Chinese: 九龍清真寺暨伊斯蘭中心) is one of the four principal mosques in Hong Kong. Located at the corner of Nathan Road and Haiphong Road next to Kowloon Park, the Mosque is currently the largest Islamic house of worship in the city. The Mosque holds prayers daily and is capable of accommodating up to approximately 2000 people.

The building (Mosque), designed by architect I.M. Kadri, represents the unique identity of Muslim community in Hong Kong. Decorated and elaborated, the traditional Muslim architecture of the Mosque distinguished itself from the rational and modern architecture of the nearby commercial buildings. The most prominent features of the building are the four 11m high minarets which mark the corners of the upper terrace and the extensive use of white marble on both paving and the facade. In addition to three prayer halls and a community hall, there is a medical clinic and a library. The main prayer hall on the first floor can accommodate 1,000 people. A smaller, women's prayer hall is on the upper floor and is surrounded by a terrace. This upper hall is surmounted by a dome 5m in diameter and 9m in height.

The Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Center (main prayer hall)

Next, we headed to bay area, the same area with the Avenue of Stars to watch the Symphony of Lights show. Hong Kong's version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Avenue of Stars celebrates icons of Hong Kong cinema from the past century. The seaside promenade offers fantastic views, day and night, of Victoria Harbour and its iconic skyline. This is the place to have your picture taken by a professional photographer who is experienced in night photography. The Avenue can be reached from the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station or the Star Ferry. From our hotel, it's a 5 minutes walk through underpass.
The iconic hongkong red Junk with the background of Hongkong's skyscrapers.

Spectators watching the Symphony of Lights show (raining and foggy)

The Avenue of the Stars is also a great place to see A Symphony of Lights, a spectacular light and laser show synchronized to music and staged every night at 8:00PM. This is the world's "Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show" as recognised by the Guinness World Records. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the light show is in English. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday it is in Mandarin. On Sunday it is in Cantonese. While at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, spectators can tune their radios to FM103.4 MHz for English narration, FM106.8 MHz for Cantonese or FM107.9 for Mandarin. The same soundtrack can be accessed via mobile phones at 35665665 for the English version where normal telephone rates apply. However, whilst the show is not such a big deal, during festival times the light show is supplemented by fireworks that are worth seeing.  

Day 17 (March 19, 2011)
Hong Kong Disneyland

A cloudy day since morning. The weather forecast said there's gonna be 60% chance of rain today. Still we decided to go no matter what.

Hong Kong Disneyland. nuff said.

Day 18 (March 20, 2011)
Hong Kong Island one day excursion.

We started our excursion by visiting the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Center. Next to the building is the Golden Bauhinia. The Golden Bauhinia Square (traditional Chinese: 金紫荊廣場) is an open area in Wan Chai North, Hong Kong. The square was named after the giant statue of a golden Bauhinia blakeana at the centre of the area, situated outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, where the ceremonies for the handover of Hong Kong and the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was held in July 1997. A flag-raising ceremony is held every day at 8:00am. It is considered a tourist attraction.

The sculpture, a gilded flower bauhinia, is 6 meters high. The major part is composed of a bauhinia on a base of red granite pillar on a pyramid. The sculpture is deemed an important symbol for the Hong Kong people after reunification. On the second day of Chinese New Year and National Day of the People's Republic of China, the square is lighted up by a firework show.

The Golden Bauhinia with the background the Hong Kong Convention Center

The next destination, a ride to The Peak along with visit to Madame Tussauds Museum. Victoria Peak (traditional Chinese: 太平山, or previously- 扯旗山) is a mountain in Hong Kong. It is also known as Mount Austin, and locally as The Peak. The mountain is located in the western half of Hong Kong Island. With an altitude of 552 m (1,811 ft), it is the highest mountain on the island proper, but not in the entirety of Hong Kong, an honour which belongs to Tai Mo Shan. The actual summit of Victoria Peak is occupied by a radio telecommunications facility and is closed to the public. However, the surrounding area of public parks and high-value residential land is the area that is normally meant by the name The Peak. It is a major tourist attraction which offers views over central Hong Kong, Victoria Harbour, and the surrounding islands.

The tram to The Peak. Enjoy the scenery as it ascends to The Peak
The place where dreams come true.... only in Madame Tussauds Museum 
(not only Disneyland OK)

Before descends down back to the city, go take a look or grab some souvenirs from nearby shops inside the building where you got off earlier. No bargaining allowed.

Just some unique design of one of Hongkong's skyscrapers
Trams in Hongkong
Perfect spot to enjoy the view of Hongkong (Overlooking the sea)
Avenue of Stars

Look for your favourite hongkong celebrities. (I chose jackie Chan and Stephen Chow)
Proud to see successful Malaysian actress's star, Datuk Michelle Yeoh 

A visit in Hongkong would not complete without going to the night market. Personally this is the perfect place to look for your souvenirs or any antiques lookalike. Just like in mainland, bargain for your price. Start with 25% off first. Look for the quality first before setting up your price. Don't expect genuine goods too much. As you approach the end of the market, you can see lots of stalls with covers. Let me get this straight, they sold 'adult items', openly. Wonder whether their regulations allows such trade.....Things that shocked me so much, some of the shop attendants were women. The most unacceptable thing was, it was an old women... (loooooong sigh!!!)

A lot of night markets available in Hong Kong. We chose the Temple Street night market (flea market). Take the metro and get off at Yau Ma Tei station. As soon as you exit from the station, look for the sign leading to the market (look upside). The place always crowded so just look where most of the crowds (foreigners especially) heading to.

The place is sometimes known as Men's Street as it is very popular for men's fashion. The market starts at 2 p.m. in the afternoon, but is lively at dusk daily. Traffic is closed on the street at that time, and visitors swarm into the street. There are more than a hundred stalls with colourful lights in the market. There are carts bulging with goods from clothing to mobile phones and watches. Stalls have items mainly for men, jeans, t-shirts, pants, lighters, shoes, condoms and men's accessories. Cheap merchandise is common in the night market. Cheap second hand goods such as cassettes, video tapes, old newspapers, antiques are also sold there. Like in other night markets in South East Asia, prices can always be negotiated by bargaining.

If one has to buy merchandise in Temple Street, one has to hunt for shops hidden in streets behind the stalls rather than looking in the stall themselves. This is one of the uniqueness of Temple Street Night Market.

TheTemple Street flea cum night market

The adult shop. We overheard a conversation between a white couple with a local women. The white women said: "...... They never learn from the internet..."

Final Day (March 21, 2011)

It's been a long trip. The longest in a single country. 18 days together in foreign country taught us a lot of priceless knowledges and skills as a human basically. Living in a modern Japan, everything is easy. The service, the people, the system, everything in Japan. Backpacking to China really taught me to be independent. My two friends currently studying in India who joined the trip taught me to be heartless and merciless while bargaining in China. As long as they don't get the lowest price, they won't buy. In the other hand, I prefer a win-win situation while bargaining, enough reason to make me bug out when they were bargaining...

That was my first oversea backpacking trip in group. Before, I prefer backpacking alone, worrying other people may not able to pick up my pace of backpacking. Instead, I found it really helpful when moving in group. Everything were divided into three. Foods, travel expenses etc. If you fall sick, there's always someone who will look for you. Luckily those two are medical students. Still the flu got me in Beijing........

Traveling in group wasn't always pleasant. Of course there were some arguments.... still, they taught me how to tolerate with other people's attitude etc. Careless is inexcusable when backpacking, especially in a foreign country where you don't quite understand what they're talking about. The incident where I misplace the train ticket (from Guangzhou to Guilin) really gives a deep impact to me. Never again... 

Well, looking forward for the next backpacking. 

Farewell friends!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

2011 China Trip: Part 2

Assalamualaikum w.b.t (Peace be upon you)

Day 7 (March 9, 2011)
Last day in Guilin & a quick peek into Xi'an

We spent our last day in Guilin at the Seven Star Park. A large park on the East side of the city and about 15-20 minutes walk from the main pedestrian area in the centre of town. Has a small zoo area on the East side farthest from the entrance with the main attraction being the giant pandas and the red pandas, additional fee to enter the zoo of ¥32, the staff host a small show with monkeys, bear, tigers and lion at scheduled hours. ¥35. It's raining that day. Strolling around the par, we found the place as a typical Chinese Park. The only attraction we found interesting in the park is the Camel Hill. The name was derived from it's shape which resembles half upper part body of a camel. Complete with the camel's head and hump on the back, the area made a great background for your photos.

The Camel Hill. The head and the hump looks real...

On our way out, we found another interesting place, the Maping Mosque. The mosque was situated near the park's exit. Unless you can read or recognize the kanji, it's quite impossible to know it's a mosque. Took a quick peek inside the mosque. Unfortunately the door to the main prayer hall was locked at that time, so we just enjoy it from outside.

Maping Mosque, Guilin. Another discovery of mosque in China.

Journey to Xi'an from Guilin, we opted to take the flight. We can still opt for the train but we will lost almost a day inside the train. Wada Hostel can arrange a taxi ride from the hostel directly to the airport which costs around 80 yuan. You can arrange when to depart for the airport but it's best to get there at least 2 hours before your flight departure.  

Day 8 (March, 10 2011)
A day in the ancient capital of China

Our day began with a trip to the world famous Eight Wonder Of the World, the Terracotta Army Museum. Getting there is easy. Wherever you are in Xi'an, just head to the Xi'an train station. When you arrived at the station, just walk east (assuming you're facing the station as North). From there you'll find a lot of minibuses. A lot of buses go to the Terracotta Army. Even if you don't know where to head to, there's always touts roaming around the area carrying pamphlets and posters showing images of the Terracotta Army. We followed what was recommended by the Lonely Planet. Take bus 306 as their last stop will be the Terracotta Army. The fare is 7 yuan, one way. The journey took around 40 minutes so get up early.

This is the bus, as suggested by Lonely Planet.

One of the Ancient Wonders Of the World, the Terracotta Army.

This mighty army of terracotta warriors and horses, found in three vaults, is perhaps the most popular tourist attraction of Shaanxi and one of the most popular in all of China. An in-site museum has been built over these pits, covering a floorspace of 20,000 square meters and displaying 8,000 life-like terracotta warriors, 100 or so chariots, and 30,000 weapons. The assemblage has been billed by the tourist industry as the Eighth Wonder of the World and a world cultural heritage site by UNESCO in 1987. Entrance fee is ¥110, half-price for students. Before we enter the entrance, a woman approached us from a nearby booth and asked whether we need a guided tour or not. At first we agreed but after buying the tickets, we thought maybe it's OK to explore the place ourselves. It costs 150 yuan for three person. We then decided to cancel the deal made before but she replied she just cannot return back to the booth empty handed, without money. We even argued, we haven't even use her service yet ........  

On the night, we took spent our last night in Xi'an at the night market just next to the drum tower. All kind of souvenirs from fake jades and terracotta warrior's to green tea, calligraphy, and other small stuffs for girls. Prices ranging from 2 yuan up to hundreds yuan are normal. As long as they don't display the 'Please don't bargain here' sign at their stall, bargain hard. If you refer to the Lonely Planet, most of them will suggest you to bargain hard with the traders. Go for half the price they said and if they don't agree with that, just walk away. Mostly they will call you again and ask you to name your price. But remember, the purpose of bargaining is to achieve the win-win situation. Just bear in mind, there are some local products and souvenirs which are handmade. Give your price as long as the product worth the price. Well, you can see lots of stalls selling the famous terracotta warriors in various products and types. Since they can be found at most of the shops, assume them as a mass product souvenirs and of course, all are fake.

We got ourselves some wall scrolls, keychains, terracotta warriors scaled statue (which is mass produced I think) and other significant stuffs.

One of the Xian's delicacies.....

You can't say you've been to China without tasting their unique foods all over the country. I could say, every districts, provincial and regions have different types of foods. Foods in Xi'an is not a problem especially for Muslim. Since Xi'an holds a large community of Muslim in China, it means getting Halal foods is not a problem. Either you recognize the food stalls by the hawkers clothing itself, or they hung signboards with Halal written on it. If you know those kanji (Chinese characters), be it Chinese or Japanese, you may find most of Muslim food shops display the word 'Muslim'.

Rare dishes: Sweet Sour Carp

Day 9 (March 11, 2011)
To Beijing

Xian Great Mosque and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda

This is our last day in Xi'an and it's Friday. We get a chance to perform the Jumaat (Friday congregation) along with other local Muslims. Well, the format is quite different but still the same. Maybe because of their pronunciation problems I hardly can catch any Quran verses the Imam read during the prayer. The congregation began at about 1330hrs and ended around 1420hrs. I had a mixed feeling when I was about to leave the Great Mosque. That's one of the earliest mosque in China, since the Tang Dynasty.

The Great Mosque in Xian is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved Islamic mosques in China and its location is northwest of the Drum Tower (Gu Lou) on Huajue Lane. According to historical records engraved on a stone tablet inside, this mosque was built in 742 during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). This was a result of Islam being introduced into Northwest China by Arab merchants and travelers from Persia and Afghanistan during the mid-7th century when some of them settled down in China and married women of Han Nationality. Their descendants became Muslim of today. The Muslim played an important role in the unifications of China during the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. Hence, other mosques were also built to honor them. In Xian, it is really well worth a trip to see the Great Mosque, not only for its centuries-old history but also for its particular design of mixed architecture - traditional Muslim and Chinese styles.

In front of the Xian Great Mosque

Occupying an area of over 12,000 square meters, the Great Mosque is divided into four courtyards, 250 meters long and 47 meters wide with a well-arranged layout. Landscaped with gardens, the further one strolls into its interior, the more serene one feels. The first courtyard contains an elaborate wooden arch nine meters high covered with glazed tiles that dates back to the 17th century. In the center of the second courtyard, a stone arch stands with two steles on both sides. On one stele is the script of a famous calligrapher named Mi Fu of the Song Dynasty; the other is from Dong Qichang, a calligrapher of the Ming Dynasty. Their calligraphy because of such elegant yet powerful characters is considered to be a great treasure in the art of handwriting.

Pavilion at the mosque's courtyard

At the entrance to the third courtyard is a hall that contains many steles from ancient times. As visitors enter this courtyard, they will see the Xingxin Tower, a place where Muslims come to attend prayer services. A 'Phoenix' placed in the fourth courtyard, the principal pavilion of this great mosque complex, contains the Prayer Hall, the surrounding walls of which are covered with colored designs. This Hall can easily hold 1,000 people at a time and according to traditional custom, prayer services are held five times everyday respectively at dawn, noon, afternoon, dusk and night. Mosques in China, this Great Mosque is the only one open to visitors from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Non-Muslims, however, are not admitted to the main prayer hall or during times of prayer.
The Big Wild Goose Pagoda

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda

Remember the Cantonese drama, The Journey To the West? yep, I guess most of us watched that around 10 years ago. The story is about an epic happened in Tang Dynasty when a Buddhist monk, Xuan Zang was sent west (India) to learn about Buddhism and translated them and preached Buddhism in China. His Journey took 17 years both ways and he spent the same amount of time translating those scriptures and sutras.

Next, we went to one of the Xi'an's iconic landmark the Drum Tower. It is located near the Muslim Bazaar, you can see it from there. There's a double entry ticket for the Drum Tower and it's sister tower, the Bell Tower. Te double entry ticket cost 40 yuan (30 yuan for student). We climbed the tower and encircled the tower around and inside. Lucky, there was a drum performance when we arrived. Good timing. Inside the tower, there's a drum exhibition. Next, to get the bird's eyeview of the Xi'an city, head upstairs (different entrance). The view of the city itself was breathtaking. The weather was perfect. You can even see the city's gate on a clear day.

The Drum Tower, from Muslim Quarters bazaar area

Next, we headed to the last attraction of the city, the Bell Tower. Situated at the city central area, the tower stands majestically with it's typical Chinese architectural. Getting there from the Drum Tower is easy. Just get underground in the subway, and look for the sign 'Entrance to the Bell Tower'. You can't enter the tower by crossing the road. It's too dangerous after all. It's quite hard for us to leave Xi'an. We love the food, the people, the attractions, everything.

The Bell Tower, taken from the Drum Tower

Day 10 (March 12, 2011)
Hey, it's Beijing

My first impression: Dusty and hazy.

Any guidebook will warn the same: air quality in Beijing is worst during winter. Be extra careful with your health and drink lot of mineral water.

Arrived in Beiing in the morning and being picked up by one of our friends who is studying in Beijing. Ahhhh...... it feels great once we arrived there. It's the capital of the most populated country in the world, and we were inside that capital. It's totally different in Beijing compared to other places we've been before. It's crowded, crampy and noisy. We then headed to their hostel where we will be staying for the next 3 nights. We then had our lunch at a restaurant nearby, which is famous among the university student.
That's it for the day.

Day 11 (March 13, 2011)
The Great Wall of China

We started our day early to go to one of the Ancient Wonders of the World, The Great Wall of China. Then some unexpected problems occurred so we had to take the 13:00 p.m train to Badaling, one of the section of the Great Wall. It costs 14 yuan for one way trip. Take a good pair of shoes and sufficient clothes if you go in winter or spring as it could be windy up there. We only covered maybe half of the accessible route and get down after about an hour of hiking. Indeed it was tiring enough even for half of the route.

The bullet train that took us to the Great Wall. One way journey costs 14 yuan. Board the train from the Beijing South Station.

Some introduction and information about Badaling section of Great Wall. The Badaling Great Wall, constructed in 1502 (during the Ming Dynasty), once served as a crucial military fortification, and is now the most impressive and representative section of the striking Great Wall. It is located in Yanqing County, about 70 kilometers (43.4 miles) from the downtown area of Beijing. Twisting and turning at an altitude of 1,000 meters (3,281 feet), the Badaling Great Wall appears exceptionally lofty on the undulating mountains. It is an architectural marvel that has been praised by many leaders, from China and around the world. Both Richard Nixon and Margaret Thatcher visited this section of the wall, and in 1987 it was placed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO, a list reserved for destinations considered to have outstanding universal value. As Badaling was once an important military strategy point, here the wall is comparatively high and firm. It has a length of 3,741 meters (2.3 miles) and it is equipped with dense watchtowers. The wall is about 8.5 meters (27.9 feet) high and slopes inward as it rises in height. The wall is 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) wide at its base, and its rim spans about 5.7 meters (18.7 feet) across. The wall's exterior is composed of large granite slabs that surround layers of loess and gravel. Its coping is made of large bricks that provide a smooth walkway, wide enough for ten people to easily walk side by side. A parapet on the coping once provided a defense barrier against assailants.

part of The Great Wall (Badaling Section)

Crenellated battlements decorate the parapet's exterior. In the battlement, there are square holes, from which soldiers had an outlook and shot at the enemy. Two-storey castles lie approximately every 400 meters (about 1,312 feet) on the wall. The castle's second floor gave soldiers an additional advantage over attackers; the arched cavity below was used to store artillery and also doubled as a simple dormitory for the watchmen. A number of high beacon towers were built so that when the enemies invaded, signals could be sent out to call for reinforcement.

On our way back, you can opt to take either train direct back to Beijing or you can take a private rent car. To save budget, we asked the driver to take us not  all the way back to Beijing, but to the nearest Metro station. Believe me, you save a lot, but make sure you cut the deal with the driver first. In our case, our driver took us to somewhere we don't even know (we were lost). Around half an hour later we arrived at the nearest Metro station. Refer to the latest Beijing metro map and look for the Nanshao station at Changping Line.

On the night we went to one of the Beijing's modern landmark, the Beijing National Stadium, famously known as the Bird's Nest, thanks to it's design. The air quality in Beijing is quite low and very dusty. Use the flash from your camera and you can see small particles, clearly dust, interrupts the images.

Olympic Stadium - The Bird's Nest at night

Day 12 (March 14, 2011)
The Forbidden City

Just for today, the three of us will be a temporary emperor of China. Start the tour early if you want to watch the flag raising ceremony at the Tiananmen square, though we don't know when is the exact time of the ceremony. Upon arriving at the Tiananmen Square, you will be awed by it's huge wall and the gate. Even it was low season, still there are many tourists flocking to the place, you'll even wonder, is today a holiday for China?. We started our journey in the Forbidden city by following the Meridian Line. A Meridian Line is a line drawn straight from the emperor's throne straight to the outside wall of the Forbidden City.

On October 1, 1949, chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed on Tian'anmen Rostrum the founding of the People's Republic of China. Since then Tian'anmen has been the symbol of New Chine\a. Chairman Mao's portrait is hung above the central entrance, flanked by two slogans:" Long Live the Great Unity of the Peoples of the World". Today, the splendour of Tian'anmen attracts million of visitors from all over the world. The Rostrum on its top was opened in 1988 to the public for the first time in its history. It offers a panoramic view of the Square and the city proper.

Some information about the Forbidden City:

The Meridian Gate

The Forbidden City, also named the Palace Museum, shares the honor of being one of five world-famous palaces with the Palace of Versailles in France, Buckingham Palace in England, the White House in the U.S. and the Kremlin in Russia. The palace, the most magnificent and splendid palace complex in China, was listed as a World Cultural Heritage Building in 1987. It was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the construction of this group of buildings took fourteen years from 1406 to 1420. In the Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it was the imperial palace where twenty-four emperors ascended the throne and exercised their strong power to the nation. The incomparable palace occupies an area of 720,000 square meters (177.9 acres) and has approximately 8,700 rooms. A high red wall with a total length of 3,400 meters (3,718 yards) encases the palace. There are four gates in each side, with Meridian Gate (Wu Men) as the main entrance. Four exquisite watchtowers sit at the corners of the wall. With roofs covered with golden glazed tile, red painted walls and grey-white bases, the rectangular palace appears extremely luxurious and grand. Spectacular halls in it are neatly arranged in bilateral symmetry along a central axis that conforms to the axis of Beijing City.

Decorations on top of every roof top inside the Forbidden Palace. It was created to show the might of the emperor as all those small 'army' always stands guard to protect the emperor and the Forbidden City.

One of the Royal Throne inside the complex. Another thrones in another halls were used for different purposes and functions.

Another throne

Again.......... another throne....

The palace has two primary parts: the Outer Court and the Inner Court. Some halls are converted into art galleries to exhibit paintings, clocks, bronze wares, pottery and other invaluable treasures. It is said that there are over 1,000,000 articles in this museum that account for one-sixth of such national treasures. Tourists can enter into the palace from the Wu Men (Meridian Gate) or the Shenwu Men (Gate of Divine Might). It is impossible for visitors to see every corner of the palace in a single day (This is true).

The Large Stone Carving

The Stone Carving. The largest of its kind in the palace is 16.75 meters long, 3.07 meters wide, and 1.7 meters thick, and weighs more than 200 tons, hence the name: Large Stone Carving. It was carved out of a huge natural stone in the early Ming Dynasty, when the three main halls were constructed. In year 1761 (the 26th year of the Qianlong reign period of the Qing Dynasty), the old patterns on the stone were all hewn away, and new patterns were carved. With beautiful interlocking lotus patterns all around, the huge stone carving has curling waves at the bottom and nine dragon amidst clouds in the middle, as the dragon is an imperial symbol. The stone was quarried from Dashiwo in Fongshan, the western suburbs of Beijing. It was transported to the Palace Museum (Forbidden City) by sprinkling water on the road in winter to make an iced road. Then it was pulled along the iced road.

One of the dragon at The Nine Dragons Screen in front of the Palace of Tranquil Longevity. Notice the lower body parts of this white dragon? Legend has it that during the construction of the palace, one of the artisan in charged of this dragon accidentally broke the piece, supposedly the lower body parts we can see today. During that time, every artisan's work had some kind of seal, as a prove of their best craftsmanship. Afraid of being punished with severe punishment, he quietly carved the missing part using a wood. As we can see it today, the missing part still exists today and it's quite difficult to see the different without listening to the explanation provided by the audio guide (can be rented at the palace's entrance).

Notice: To enter the palace, you need to buy another ticket which is available at any entrance gate.

Go read the rest from wikipedia. It's the same.

p/s: I wonder if there are any thieves (of course in the ancient times) dare to enter this complex. It's so damn huge, any thief would think many times before decided to sneak in.

Day 13 (March 15, 2011)
Last Day in Beijing

The last day in Beijing. Our last main destination was the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace is a complex with a lake, temples and palaces inside the area. We had only half day to cover the Summer Palace and the complex was really really huge, yet breathtaking scenery await visitors. A little information about the Summer Palace Complex.

The Summer Palace (Yiheyuan), located in the northwestern outskirts of Beijing, is the largest and most famous imperial garden in China. The palace features hundreds of architecturally distinct buildings, halls, pavilions, pagodas, bridges and corridors dispersed among magnificent and elegant gardens. It has an area of 290 hectares (717 acres), three quarters of which is water. The palace has three unique areas: Court Area, Longevity Hill Area and Kunming Lake Area. The garden was originally named the Garden of Clear Ripples (Qingyi). It was a summer resort for the emperors in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). In 1860, the garden was burnt down by the Anglo-French Allied Forces. In 1866, Empress Dowager Cixi rebuilt the garden using embezzled funds from the imperial navy and named it the Summer Palace (Yiheyuan). In 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion, the Eight-Power Allied Force ransacked the palace. After another reconstruction in 1903, the garden was restored to its original beauty and magnificence. As the grandest garden in China, it was added to the World Culture Heritage list in 1998.

The 17 Arches bridge, the Summer Palace Complex

The Marble Boat (Chinese: 石舫; pinyin: Shí Fǎng), also known as the Boat of Purity and Ease (Qing Yan Fǎng) is a lakeside pavilion on the grounds of the Summer Palace in Beijing, China. It was first erected in 1755 during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. The original pavilion was made from a base of large stone blocks which supported a wooden superstructure done in a traditional Chinese design. In 1860, during the Second Opium War, the pavilion was destroyed[1] by Anglo-French forces. It was restored in 1893 on order of the Empress Dowager Cixi. In this restoration, a new two-story superstructure was designed which incorporated elements of European architecture. Like its predecessor, the new superstructure is made out of wood but it was painted to imitate marble. On each "deck", there is a large mirror to reflect the waters of the lake and give an impression of total immersion in the aquatic environment. Imitation paddlewheels on each side of the pavilion makes it look like a paddle steamer. The pavilion has a sophisticated drainage system which channels rain water through four hollow pillars. The water is finally released into the lake through the mouths of four dragonheads.

The Marble Boat.

The boat design of the pavilion may relate to a quote attributed to Wei Zheng, a chancellor of the Tang Dynasty renown for his honest advice. He is said to have told the emperor "the waters that float the boat can also swallow it", implying that the people can support the emperor but can also topple him. With this in mind, Emperor Qianlong might have chosen to construct the Marble Boat on a solid stone base to indicate that the Qing Dynasty was not to be overthrown. The Marble Boat is often seen as an ironic commentary on the fact that the money used to restore the Summer Palace largely came from funds originally earmarked for building up a new imperial navy. The controller of the Admiralty, the 1st Prince Chun, owed much of his social standing as well as his appointment to the Empress Dowager, who had adopted his oldest son to become the Guangxu Emperor. Because of this, he probably saw no other choice than to condone the embezzlement. The pavilion is 36 meters long. It stands on the northwestern shore of Kunming Lake, near the western end of the Long Corridor.

Last destination in Beijing, a must go, the Wangfujing Snack Market. Headed there by metro. A dazzling array of snacks from all corners of China can be found here. The majority of diners here are foreign, and the cost is not low. However, for a comfortable and relaxing meal, Xin Dong An Restaurant comes highly recommended. Location: south of Haoyou Department Store, Wangfujing Business Street, Dongcheng District.

Look for this archway for entrance to the market.

Took a stroll in the market to see those explicit strange foods. From fried scorpion to starfishes and seahorses, some of it would give you goosebumps, just by looking at them.

Some of the so-called snacks:

Crocodile and snake nuggets
Sea urchins(??)
One of Beijing's sweets, Bin Tang Hulu

That's all from Beijing. The next destination, the second largest city in China, Shanghai.

To be continued......