Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 8 – Yangshuo: Fuli, not a top spot…

Rosabelle woke up close to 9am whilst me, ever over-sensitive to sounds/noises, kept pushing away my murderous instincts to kill that darned bird downstairs and thus woke up early in the process… She kept sleeping on my pillow in the night and if not for having to sniffle (and sneezed mucous), she might have continued sleeping. Oh dear… might have been the rain from last night’s Liu Sanjie show. But it obviously did not dampen her spirits and harassing of dearest Simon as they waited outside the rooms for us to go down together.

Today, we were headed for another village, Fuli, with a history stretching back some 1300 years to the Tang dynasty. It sure looks like a town that time has forgotten… maybe it was the gloomy, wet weather (and I had to carry Rosabelle unless we went into shops), or maybe it was the soil/cement/bricks lying around the roads as they were rightly doing repair works to the roads and/or buildings, but the whole place looked rather depressing to me.
I know Mum didn’t really like the place, thinking the whole town rather decrepit, and the shops selling antiques/paintings/calligraphy were all old and having dusty wares. We didn’t see any fan painting in action, though it’s the number one fan painting town in China, and there was actually a temple of goddess Mazu, protector of the sea. However, this old lady was harassing my brother from the start and insisted we donate some money to their whatever elderly fund or something, which we of course rejected. So when we stepped into the temple, she basically shooed us out. Now, if she had waited for us to go into the temple before asking for admission fees, we would not have minded paying, but nope, old lady, you gotta learn some manners before people are willing to part with their moolah, no matter how little it is!

We then walked on where the guys (Boa, Simon, and my brother) went down the slopes to walk on a path as we waved to them from upstairs.
Rosabelle kept calling out to the water buffalos, willing them to answer her, perhaps…
My brother was really keen on a piece of calligraphy with the words山水, and ended up paying RMB1,800 for it – I don’t really know how to assess its worth but he thinks it’s quite a find. Simon and Rosabelle got to each choose a small painting to take away for free, so they got a panda and a cat respectively (but they are so dusty my mum ended up leaving it behind in the hotel room, and me, I have it stashed away in a corner of the cupboard at home). It’s really a small town so we headed back after seeing their ‘bus depot’ of sorts, with a canteen where loads of people were eating lunch, not us of course!
This is their school, and my brother reminded Simon how lucky he is to attend a clean, well-equipped school in Singapore.
After that, we headed back into town to have lunch at Le Votre close to 2pm. My brother was calling China Eastern to confirm their flights and apparently, only my parents and Simon are on the later flight whilst he and Boa are on the original morning flight. Obviously, that got him quite pissed and after quite a bit of scolding/complaining/hassling, they finally got back to him that evening and managed to get them on the same flight. Sheesh… luckily he confirmed in advance…

Next stop was Jianshan Temple, where our independent girl was adamant in making her way up the many flights of steps herself. Atta girl! In the main praying hall, there were lighted candles marking each donor’s token, and Rosabelle started her 祝你生日快乐spiel again, haha!
For kicks, my brother and Simon each 求签 and had their fortunes told by a monk. For Simon, he said that he’s a clever child, but too 好胜 and afraid to lose. He also said it’s best if he advanced his interests, and in future, work elsewhere from his birthplace where he will find many benefactors. He also said he must never injure/leave a scar on his forehead or he will have health problems (and that he could see he was a picky eater, haha).

As for my brother, he said my brother should be a manager (erm… does he look like a farmer?), and his matters of the marriage are most troubling for my parents. The monk advised he has to marry late, or he will have at least two marriages, and that our parents will have two operations, and for them to be very aware of dangers in the house and on the road. Luckily my mum has had a few operations already, so we’re safe, phew!

Next came the weird part where the monk gave his name and asked my brother if he was sincere in making donations (from upwards of RMB3,800 and they accept cards, I’m not kidding, he actually said that). It was funny how he kept saying, ‘捐款都是志愿的,你有没有诚意捐款?有没有?有没有?', aiyo! Obviously we didn’t, and moved on… Mum said she was teaching Rosabelle to pray and she kowtowed and thumped her head quite a few times onto the floor cushion – how pious…

We then went back to the hotel room where she slept from 5:30pm for about 1.5 hours, woken up by my brother’s call as he excitedly told me he had his flight time changed successfully, sheesh! And so we had a late dinner at 9pm, again at Pure Lotus, our third time there…

When we were all done, just my mum and I brought Rosabelle and Simon out as Boa and my brother stayed on to finish their wine. Since Rosabelle was such a good girl, and did not ask once to buy anything from the stalls (unlike Simon, who gets attracted to the most tacky of knick-knacks, and has no idea how much they cost, i.e. the value of money), I decided to get a wired bicycle for her. It was RMB15 at first asking, so I asked for RMB20 for two, and the shop keeper immediately agreed, making me regret almost immediately as I really should have bargained harder. Anyway, it would go well with the small doll my brother got for her. I also bought some pens with clay dolls on top, and some local snacks for the Choons.

Isn’t she such a doll…
Next was sweet treats for the kids as I offered to buy ice cream for them. Rosabelle kept wanting to eat Simon’s strawberry-flavored one, and even reminded me not to drop the ice cream on my pants (as I did when I shared a cone from Ikea just a week back), heh!
As we were walking back, Rosabelle heard the music outside a bar and stood outside to dance when my brother came from the side and scopped her up, giving my mum the fright of her life as she thought a stranger had carried her up, haha!

All the walking around must have her tired, as in Mum’s hotel room, she spotted and grabbed the bread meant for breakfast on the table and finished up a whole slice. It was a late last night in Yangshuo as we went to bed close to 1am (and I had packed up as she played in Simon’s room).

Day 7 – Yangshuo: An unexpected Fool’s Garden

On this day, I woke up early because it was really noisy outside (darn the bird in the cage – if only I knew how to hit at it with a stone from my balcony…), and because I had a very strange nightmare. I dreamt that we were all escaping from a murderer who was slashing off people’s heads, and I had to pretend that I was dead by pulling a scarf around my neck. I must have literally held in my breath when I woke up to Rosabelle’s cry to nurse, phew! Must have been too much action over the past few days…

After that, our girl might actually have slept on for awhile more until there was a rude and urgent loud knocking on our door – I quickly sprang up from my sleep and ran to the door, only to see a chambermaid holding onto a bottle of mineral water. I told her I did not ask for it, and she went, very loudly, ‘不是你要的吗?'. Twice. I had to hold myself in from slamming the door, but the exchange of course woke Rosabelle up already – it was only 8:30am, that bitch. Turns out it was my brother who had asked for the water as those in his room were not replenished – he made sure the reception heard of it when the chambermaid kept insisting she did give him two new bottles of water. Tsk, tsk!

And so I gave Rosabelle breakfast as I quickly changed and packed for the day (and she kept to her good habit of pooing before we left the room!).

We then headed to Yuzi Paradise (literally means 'the stupid one'), situated in Yanshan and founded in 1998. The place was sponsored by a Taiwanese entrepreneur, Rhy-Chang Tsao and according to him, constructing the park was not to pursue profit, but to realize his own dream. Consequently, some people thought that because he was an entrepreneur his action was stupid, hence its name.

Well, this 'stupid' man is probably laughing all the way to the bank now, as each adult entrance ticket costs RMB200, and it houses the most expensive boutique hotel in the area, HOMA. Here, you can appreciate various local and foreign sculptures of distinctive styles and is the only public project of culture and art in China. Maybe because of the high admission costs, but there were very little people around in the huge park, and we had fun looking at interesting-looking scupltures like these...
And even made ourselves at home as part of a whole dining area, haha...
I gave Rosabelle a whole apple to eat as we came down and she was holding onto and finishing it as we walked, but that obviously slowed her down so much I had to keep waiting for her as she took it at a leisurely pace...
We took turns rotating this huge piece of rock a full circle, and I can't really remember the name of the sculpture, but I'd like to aptly name it 石来运转, heh!
There were so many other interesting scupltures to look at, sometimes from afar as they were some distance away and I really couldn't be bothered to hurry Rosabelle over to just grab a shot...
I really love the serenity of the place; the lake is crystal clear and has a mirror reflection - it reminds me of the nice European towns/parks I've been to, maybe because it's clean and doesn't have droves of people...
Our girl was most cooperative in making funny faces for the camera as she stood in front of this Egyptian-themed scuplture.
Even the outer facade of the small museum and shop reminds me of the one we saw in Bern, and our girl was attracted to the small, porcelein pigs at the entrance...
I seriously felt this beat any other mountain/lake background in Guilin, haha!
Then my brother and Boa decided to walk onwards to explore other areas, so Mum and I got to this interesting mass of scupltures depicting alot of children and pets looking/reaching upwards, as Simon and Rosabelle also did their thing, complete with matching expressions; what a hoot!
Our girl decided she wanted to pose with almost every single Ge Ge and Jie Jie around...
We were basically walking around a lake with this lovely scenery...
And they had a wooden playground for Simon to do his monkeying around - even Rosabelle was very brave to venture up and down the steep slopes.
More beautiful scenery, not marred at all by strangers in your photos as there wasn't much people around in the first place.
We then came upon this small area of a cacti garden, where Simon decided to venture a little too far/fast on his own, then started shouting 'Po Po! Po Po!' in a panicky tone, thinking he'd lost us as he could not see us for the masses of cacti blocking his view, haha!
Rosabelle was happy to stand and pose with the thorny fauna...
Then we came to this area with colourful-looking pastel houses (not for stay, of course), and my mum asked Simon, ‘Which house would you choose?’ – before the older kid could answer, Rosabelle said, ‘I choose… green one!’, heh! I can just so imagine her in class next time, fighting to be teacher’s pet and raising her arm, clamouring to answer questions first!
Brother and Boa then met up with us – they’d gone to the hotel restaurant, wanting to have a rest and a drink, and the waitress stipulated that for non-staying guests, they need to spend a minimum of RMB500 PER person. Crazy! We saw this huge Mao jacket hanging on the cliff, and Rosabelle proceeded to exclaim, ‘叔叔的大衣服!'
We had made a full circle around the park, and by then proceeded to walk out, but they of course had to wait for the littlest one to catch up… you’re only as strong/fast as your weakest/slowest member, remember? Heh…
So my brother resorted to carrying her, as she cooperated, and even took a photo with Gu Gu.
We then headed back to Yangshuo, where I stopped on the way to withdraw more cash for my brother. He’d wanted to use his foreign bank card to withdraw RMB, so I figured he might as well save on the conversion/bank charges, then reimburse me in SGD (which I need) later. Since mine was a Beijing-issued bank card, there was an indication of RMB2.50 per RMB1,000 withdrawn – definitely much more worth it than for my brother to do so. When I came back, our girl was happily munching on a strawberry-flavored Pocky stick. Apparently, she bawled when I went down without her, so my mum consoled her, very quickly and successfully with the snack. She was asking for Pocky Pocky for days after! After that, we walked to Riverview Café near our hotel for lunch, as it literally has a river view just outside.
But the food was really indescribably bad – the spaghetti bolognaise was an orangey-pink (think artificial flavoring/coloring), the Chinese dishes were lousy, and Boa was so offended by the gunk they dared pass off as ‘pizza’ he did not go beyond two slices. Maybe the only thing edible was the free noodles they gave (as they’d run out of rice)… shudder! Thank goodness we were all quite hungry as it was already past 3pm, so we just managed to eat a little…

After that, we went back to the hotel where our girl slept close to 5pm for about 1.5 hours (so I managed to take a bath first), as I woke her up in time to catch the 6:30pm transport picking us up for the 7:45pm Liu Sanjie show that night! As it was going to be an outdoor show, I let Simon don my Adidas sports jacket, my scarf and my beanie, as he did not have other thick(er) clothing. Now, this was no normal show, this was my answer to missing the opening of Beijing Olympics 2008 live, as it’s also directed by the renowned Zhang Yimou.

The van went around to pick up two other groups of guests first, and very soon, we got hastily herded down to assemble in front of the waiting area. My goodness – this is really what you call人山人海, as there were throngs of people, and I told the driver off for walking so far ahead and not looking back to wait for us, the group with the young and elderly. Our tickets cost RMB220 (face value of RMB238) as we bought them through the hotel. Brother had wanted a better category with face value of RMB320 but as we booked only in the morning, they had all sold out. There’s even a special VIP area with RMB680 seats! But no matter what, we all had to queue to get in… and they handed out free disposable raincoats…
It was quite a distance to walk in and finally we went in and found our seats – Simon had a portable wooden chair he could squeeze into in front of us (think his ticket was at half price), and of course Rosabelle had no seats. It wasn’t long before the rain came down and we had to start putting on our rain jackets – Rosabelle and I had waterproof down jackets so we just made do with that. See my brother’s ugly face as he tried to look as horrendous as possible (not too hard for him, actually…).
It was full-house that night as we saw a sea of raincoats and some umbrellas (they had to keep the umbrellas once the performance started, though), since it’s an open-air performance. Apparently, there are 2,500 seats in the house.
And then it started (and I obviously could not take good-enough pictures with my snap and shoot)… the 600 participants in the show are all local, mostly from Zhuang and Yao background. Liu Sanjie is a legend that originated from the Zhuang minority people, the largest minority group in China. The story is about a legend of a woman called Liu Sanjie, which means "third sister", about this lady who had a beautiful voice at very young age – it’s such a famous story that in 1960 a movie was released and they were selling the CDs/DVDs all over Yangshuo and outside the amphitheatre.

The story in the movie as in the legend and the movie is about a local gangster who falls in love with Liu Sanjie and wishes to make her his concubine. The boyfriend and his friends in the village free her and the couple then escape, turning themselves into a pair of larks.

There were some points where I was awed by the magnitude of it all, but Rosabelle had her own ideas as she saw the men holding flaming torches, and she burst out into 祝你生日快乐... haha, so cute!
At the end, as they were dancing on a crescent moon and disappeared from sight after, she even asked me about the 叔叔that摔倒, heh… As for Simon? He was sitting on my brother’s lap, and fell asleep maybe like 10 minutes into the 70-minute show, haha!
I was so proud of my baby girl for lasting the full performance, not fussing, and not afraid of the dark or the rains. Well, I had to let her have a cookie as it was quite late and she seemed to be hungry, heh! As we were leaving, she stepped on the seats and saw my mum in the way, so she said, ‘Excuse me, Po Po’, much to my mum’s amusement.
We then found our way back to the driver and his van, that brought us back in the rains to our hotel. After a quick discussion, we decided to head to Cloud 9 restaurant, which was the same way we came in, but quite a long way down the road (if we’d known, we should have gotten the driver to stop us there). It was a normal Chinese meal, nothing superb about this highly-acclaimed restaurant, but it was supper for us as we ate close to 10pm, heh! I think our girl was hungry as she was eating every morsel in her bowl, and not rejecting when I asked her whether she wanted more.

It was really quite a night for us as by the time we headed back to the hotel and into bed, it was already 12:30am, phew!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Here’s looking at you, babe…

Enjoy the whole set of Weikaqi photos! I’m going to the store to get them done up into a nice photo book, heh!

They had her don a wintry-looking set at first, complete with scarf and beanie that she was surprisingly cooperative in putting on…
She wasn’t laughing/smiling too much, so in came the donkey, literally, as she rode on it…
Then she decided the beanie was too much, and refused to put anything, not even hair clips/a hairband on her hair. She is pictured here trying to catch fake apples that the assistant was trying to throw at her.
I wasn’t sure whether I wanted this shot as it isn’t the most flattering for her, but they convinced me it’s oh-so-cute and impossible to mimick/fake, so here goes nothing!
And there she got it – her apple…
Her next get-up was very CNY, and looks very nice and sweet, albeit slightly too big, as she played peekaboo with the assistant.
Then she got all posey and cheeky, heh!
And when I was changing her into the next outfit, they caught a shot of her in her erhem, ‘Sunday best’… Wayne does not think she should be taking such photos at 2 years old, but it was an impromptu shot, and it turned out well, heh! Daddy’s starting to get all protective about our little girl eh…
The next ‘costume’ was rather punk-rock, haha…
And she was happily playing with bubbles and the toys laid around…
The last costume was hard to select as most of the clothes were either too big or too small, so I picked this, which was still too big on her – so Korean drama looking, huh? Haha! She wasn’t the most cooperative after so many costume changes and such a long time, so we didn’t get many good shots, but it was enough fun to see her all dressed up!

Posh playdate

Yesterday, Wayne drove us to Upper East Side at Lido for a playdate with the twins, Sandrine and Natalie. We had to make one round as the car could not enter the grounds, and as their Mum Claire had emailed me, it was really much nearer to stop next to Beanstalk sports field and walk in. I really loved the landscaping and amount of greenery in the grounds, and it’s a very exclusive and high-class area, so when we stepped into their 280 sq. m house, it was really all so nice!

I had Rosabelle wish the twins Merry Christmas as she handed them their present of a Christmas book I got for them, and let her loose into the huge play area in the living room.
Claire had invited two other families along, but it was an awkward 30 minutes for me as I wondered whether anybody else was going to come along! That’s the girls – that’s Sandrine on the left, and her meimei Natalie, on the right, and they are 16 months old. They were very sweet, clambering onto me as I read to them, until jealous Rosabelle sat on Natalie, haha…
Sandrine is developmentally faster than Natalie in the motor aspects – she can toddle on really well whilst Natalie shuffles along on her knees. The former saw Rosabelle’s water bottle with a straw and was hooked on it, loving to drink from it. Claire said just a few months ago, she didn’t know how to use a straw so I guess babies learn fast! Claire also gave them all some crackers bought from the US and Rosabelle was really sweet, sharing her portion with the younger girls and even feeding them.

Claire’s originally from Malaysia, husband’s from HK, but she’s been living in the States, and was in HK and Shanghai before this. She has an Ayi, driver, and even a part-time cook in Beijing, so it must be pretty comfortable for them. As we were playing, she was on the phone with her husband asking him to buy sweet corn and Japanese sweet potato from Macau, where he was flying home from that night. Heh! She also gets a lot of things from the States and admitted she was busy Internet shopping for the girls’ clothes and toys so that her husband could bring it back from the US, hoho…

Then the other folks came – Michelle and Jin, her 16-month-old son, and Lane with her 3-year-old son Michael, and two-year-old daughter Claire. That’s Jin (I didn’t have the chance to snap Michael and Claire..).
For us adults, Claire (the adult) had lovely kueh lapis and pandan cake that her sister brought from Singapore (she even offered us home-made latte, yums!) – Rosabelle was intent on eating the adult snacks and feasted on some cake as well… as you can see, I stripped her down as the house was very warm...
Claire does not allow her girls to eat any cakes/sweets, and she looked quite irritated when unknowing Lane offered Natalie some, haha! I can remember the stage where I used to also be very offended if well-meaning folks give Rosabelle such sweet treats.

The kids had fun playing with each other, and also riding/pushing along in this Little Tikes car, that Rosabelle attempted to pull Jin out of, making the poor boy cry.
By this time, it was already close to 12pm and past Jin’s and Claire’s bed-times, so they were all preparing to go. I sure wasn’t going to stay uninvited for lunch, so we all left at the same time. Lane had nicely prepared two wall calendars to give to Claire and myself, but after holding it for some time (it was too big to fit into my bag), I decided it was too troublesome to lug it around (and I wasn’t likely to use it…), so I left it on the benches as we were walking out. Rosabelle was helping me carry it earlier and gave up, handing it back to me as she claimed it was hurting her hand, haha!

Though it was nice weather of about 7 degrees, it was quite a distance to go for lunch, and Rosabelle was already walking quite abit by dawdling around the apartment grounds, so we just took a taxi and headed to Annie’s, where the waitress offered to let Rosabelle make her own small pizza for free. So cute! They came with a small ball of dough and flour on a plate, a small cup of tomato sauce, and a serving of cheese. She did not flatten the dough much, preferring to scoop the sauce onto it, and just putting about 4 strips of cheese… and ta-dah!
Here she is, enjoying her creation after they took it out of the oven. So nice, huh! She ate quite well during lunch, having lentil soup, fettucine with fish (that she wasted one bowl of as she accidentally dropped the bowl onto her lap – luckily it wasn’t too hot…), and loads of bread and tomato that she strangely liked to dip into the soup to drink together…

She was most well-behaved, sitting there by herself as I asked a waiter to watch over her eating her blueberries when I went to the washroom, heh! After lunch, we headed to Comptoirs de France to get some breads and went to a boutique next door for some shopping before heading home.

Today, at Kindermusik, she was hugging kids till they cried, oh dear! She wasn’t as participative today, maybe because there was a couple with their daughter, newbies; and she as distracted and more focused on looking at the man than doing her own thing, haha! We stayed on for lunch with Priscilla and Rei, together with Yuliya, and Rosabelle very nicely shared her box of strawberries with Rei – so sweet! However, they have revamped the menu and deleted a lot of things, so all of us were devastated that they no longer have waffles with ice cream on the menu – boo hoo!

The girls stayed on to play awhile more, and of course Rei had to leave earlier to go back for her nap, as our girl was intent on maximizing her Familier entrance fees. One older girl (maybe around 5?) was sitting in a circle of cushions and when Rosabelle wanted to shift the cushions to go inside, she refused to let our girl in. I watched from a distance to observe – our girl struck the girl on the shoulder and went ‘eeeeeee!’, wanting to push her away, not the least afraid of the girl who was dangerously holding onto a big water bottle and could just strike her anytime! So I quickly went over before either of them did any damage to each other, and asked her to say ‘Excuse me’, and the girl let her in. I then made her say sorry and give the girl a hug as she had hurt her. The girl then moved away and I told Rosabelle she has now made a friend instead of an enemy. Hope she uses the civilized way to settle any disputes henceforth or our feisty chili padi would get hit by older kids!

Some older kids were painting and using the brushes with a palette, as well as washing their brushes in a glass bottle, so she actually took a glass bottle and wanted to fill it up with water, saying she also wanted to paint, and asked for ‘像姐姐那样的flower (palette) and bottle’, heh! As she had a relatively early lunch, I let her have a yogurt ice-cream, so that took her away from the painting, and of course I finished it up quickly so she would not eat too much sweets. When I offered her water after, she was most disappointed and asked, ‘Ice cream呢?’, then started making sad, whimpering noises, acting pitiful, haha!

By this time, it was already past 2pm, and I really wanted to go to Weikaqi to collect the photos, so when she refused to budge from the paint table, I had to carry her, screaming, away and out of the room, onto the bench outside to wear her shoes. She was crying and screaming very loudly, making all the assistants very afraid and trying to pacify her. I just ignored her protests and proceeded to dress her up, and she did stop after some time, the naughty girl…

We then went to collect the finished 2011 calendar from the shoot, and it felt really cold with strong winds all round (it’s like minus 5 today?) I’d brought a 128mb thumb drive, thinking it would be enough for the 29 photos, but each was about 6.5mb, so luckily I had a 8gb card in my camera that they could save into. They gave me a DVD, but since our home laptop has no DVD drive, it made sense for them to give me a copy on a thumb drive too.

As we were waiting, our girl occupied herself with the brochures, drinking water, and riding their toy car. As we were leaving, she asked, ‘阿姨,拿这个可不可以?', holding out the brochure. So polite! Then as the lady put her toy car back, she said, ‘阿姨放错了,得排队', indicating an empty space in between – she had taken the car from there and wanted to put it back in the exact same spot. OCD at work here, I tell you!