Cheng Chin Yuen

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Mountain? What Mountain?


Out of nothing at all

Rock Pillar

sometimes we are clear and sometimes we are blur.

The Creeper


closing in

Eh, why you walk so fast?

What Huang Shan inspires.

What we dream for

In the Dungeon's toilet

The Flower Atop A Paintbrush

Sealed with a lock

Fingers too numb to feel

Rocky Mountain High

Why food is expensive

Big rock Small rock

I call this the Centurion Waits For His Valentine

Something called Porphyritic Granite

Karen is FIT

too bad no climbing

Nevermind the melon on the cabbages

Porter rear and front positions

Rest Stance

Dustbin in Disguise

9th Sept – Tong Li to Hang Zhou

It is a drizzly morning. I hop out of bed, take a couple of hundred photos of a relatively quiet, peaceful, wet and empty Tong Li and wake Karen up to catch the noon bus to Hang Zhou.

Our host is the local doctor so he gets a little jumpy when I put my guitar on my bed. Our room is spot-less and he advises us to run hot water down the tub to kill all the worms that live somewhere below or they will come crawling up when you bathe. Amazingly he has had one guy from Singapore at his place.

‘SINGAPORE! A VERY GOOD COUNTRY!’ he bellows (he only bellows).

I heard that a zillion times before.

Hang Zhou was cold and windy. We called the youth hostel, reserved two beds and found out how to get there.

‘Simple, take 155, drop at Wulin Square, take 12.’

The problem started when there was no 155. We got onto a bus that was headed for the train station east of the city centre, saw a number 12 go past, got off, caught the next one and found ourselves at the youth hostel 1 hour later. No problem. Hang Zhou is prosperous. It looks and feels more prosperous than Beijing or any other Chinese city we have been to.

The hostel here is the best we’ve been in. You enter your room by scanning a card and the lockers here are big enough for my guitar. Thoughtfully, there is a little shelf, reading light and power socket by each bed. The toilet doesn’t smell of the kitchen and vice-versa and the shower’s excellent. Two wonderful young collies and a white cat with three kittens seals the top spot. Of course there’s free WiFi, a small climbing wall and the West Lake or Xi(1) Hu(2) is just next door!

It was too dark to see Xi Hu but not windy enough to stop us from walking five or six blocks to Kui Yuan Restaurant to try two of their 43 noodle varieties. The 25 yuan fried eel and shrimp noodles I had was excellent! Karen’s shrimp noodles was only half as good.

On the way back, Karen went to buy a brush from Watsons while I waited over a cup of McDonald’s hot chocolate. One signboard here reads ‘Ni gou niu ma?’ or ‘Are you beef enough?’

I spent the night uploading the rest of the Beijing photographs.

10th Sept - Hang Zhou to Huang Shan

I wake up much earlier than usual and spend a long time watching the kittens and collies play in the courtyard. Mummy cat has eyes and kittens of different colours and the collies are chasing, biting and wrestling.

Xi Hu is a great place to be on a Sunday morning to watch old folks doing their stretches, practising tai-chi, playing chess, taking toddlers for a walk or catching up with friends. At one shelter were four musicians playing old Chinese hits to live crooning by a line-up of eager aunties. They take their singing very seriously and pump in a good dose of emotion and expression, oblivious to the gathering crowd. There never seems to be a shortage of singers waiting in line as the musicians flip their scores and tune their instruments. Each one, except for the percussionist has a small but effective amplifier attached to the belt. The show is real draw for the old and they sing along while the young try to understand what is being sung as it is often in dialect.

At 2 kilometres wide and a bit longer in length, the enormous lake is Hang Zhou’s main attraction. Lawns are kept immaculate by uniformed guards and a low rope barrier. Willow trees line the windy pavements here but there are few joggers. However, cycling is not permitted here given the human traffic. Soothing Chinese classical music is channelled throughout the park and we try to find the grey box amplifiers in the bushes. Little cosy enclaves of eateries and cafés have sprung up around the lake and Crystal Jade has a huge outlet here together with Starbucks and Hagen Das. It would be nice to spend the whole day here but we have one more mountain to climb.

don't play mind games with me

the power of music

Oldies by Oldies


remembering Prince

morning run

scoot and scamper

why two is better than one

that's a good one!

best friends


Hard to Concentrate

So puzzling this world I'm in


Brother of a different colour.

Why is mum white?

Hang Zhou International Youth Hostel, THE place to stay.

Friday, September 22, 2006

8th Sept – Su Zhou to Tong Li

As advised by our friend Li Rong, we chucked the very touristy Zhou Zhuang for touristy Tong Li, both China’s claim to being the Venice of the East. Tong Li is less than an hour away from Su Zhou and we being more accustomed to 5 hour rides, were quite shocked to get off the bus so soon especially at a dodgy bus station by a dusty main road without a river in sight.

One guy reassured us that we were indeed in Tong Li and the canals were here as well, just a short walk away.

Tong Li applies the one-ticket-for-almost-all-attractions tactic. Again you have to hand it to the Chinese. The one attraction that wasn’t included in the 80 yuan admission was The (irresistible) China Sex Museum! Much more of that in a bit.

After two gardens, one on land and one on an island (which we had to get to on a free boat-ride) we called it quits with the freebies. All the gardens were begining to look alike. Same formulae, one pond, rockeries, carps, 1 yuan fish food packets, a pavilion here, a concrete boat there, some greens, some restored dwellings and Walla! Su Zhou Garden! At least this boat-ride was a little longer than the one in the Coiled Gate Garden but we had to pay for the buggy transfer to the pier! The island garden was quite ultimate too. You have the mandatory pond with two towers with signs saying ‘Please Go Upstairs!’ so that you can pay 10 yuan to ram a bell for divine protection and luck! I did take a belated (and therefore good) dump in the temple toilet though. We were done with the entire island in 15 minutes.

The signs here were hilarious and amusing too. All rubbish ‘bins’ suddenly became ‘receptacles’ and ‘recyclable’ became ‘reconerable’, a word that doesn’t exist outside China. Chinese trying to catch up on some stunning vocab! I have included a photo of the rules and regulations at the island below. Go tickle yourself!

I figured we better get down to the main business of aimless wandering especially along the numerous canals that dissected the small quaint town into five of six main islands. Despite the tourist shops, there are a good many old houses, stone bridges, narrow cobbled streets, cute animals and pleasant old folks here to delight ourselves in. Dozens of tea-houses line the canals offering 20 yuan Oo-long tea as you watch the boats and people go by. There seem to be only two kinds of boats, the tourist boat, usually operated by a lady rowing a single large oar which functioned as the rudder and the garbage boat, with two men on it, one to row while the other nets the trash and chuck it in the main compartment. The water is greenish but colour does not stop these folks from washing their clothes, dishes and food by the many steps that lead down to the canals. At least the canals do not smell.

Ok, back to the AAAA attraction – The China Sex Museum. It got off to a good start. You enter the first courtyard and see a big smiley goblin statue pointing the way with his OHMYGOD!! penis. A rusty chain goes all over him except his big brother. The witty caption below goes ‘Bang(3) Bu(4) Liao(3)’ or ‘cannot be resisted/suppressed’. Next to Mr Big is a small rather subdued marble Kuan Yin.

We follow the pointer into a bigger courtyard with more sex-themed sculptures but none as good or as big as the first. We did spot one interesting bug though. See photo.

The showrooms displayed sex-related artefacts showing how ancient men worshipped the phallus and virgina through their craft. So there were lots of penis-shaped rocks or stones with a distinct cleft in them.

The benefits of the dildo was described on one board.
1) For the wives of seamen to tahan while hubby is away.
2) To enable eunuchs to enjoy what they have lost. As close as it gets
3) Even the Emperor needs a little help to satisfy the demands of his
harem! (my favourite)

Since there was no sex-education back then, young couples needed a little visual instruction. These came in gadgets call ‘trunk bottoms’ which are small ornate containers (some fruit or vegetable-shaped) hiding figurines in copulation. They are discreetly placed at the bottom of the daughter’s trunk when she packs up and moves in with her hubby! More high-class versions include cups and bowls with decent characters on the outside behaving indecently on the inside. Some serving trays at brothels have porn carved into the base or in a secret compartment to arouse the patrons. One prostitute has her sexual forte carved onto her ring. There is also a whole collection of porn. Not your Playboy magazines but a set of about 40 A5 sized tiles showing couples, trios and even man-animal combinations in the various positions of fore-play and copulation. There was one terrible scene with a water-buffalo and a rooster pecking at his other name.

Lesbian and gay relationships were touched on vaguely since these are very sensitive topics in China. Lesbianism has been around for a long time and ancient painting showed women in pairs keeping each other happy. One favourite tool among the lesbians is the double-ended dildo. Gay behaviour too has its history when men went to war and needed to satiate their sexual desire. Hardly any women at the frontline and spears, arrows or The Judge’s Pen weren’t fun at all.

More modern is the OSIM massage chair equivalent of a sex aid. This highly adjustable hot seat has extensions to hook an arm here and a leg there to help a couple get down to business in their top ten positions. There’s even a rocking chair function for the lazy!

Nuns and monks and sex are not mutually exclusive entities. Ancient paintings do show them in action and in combination. One nun has a wooden pillow with a highly polished wooden dildo in its chamber of secrets! It’s not just the Vatican that is facing these problems mind you! Underaged sex wasn’t that much of an issue then, the Emperor’s concubines looked 14ish.

Part of the museum highlights the subjugation of women. This included prostitution, sexual abuse and feet-binding. Licentious women were stripped and saddled on the most uncomfortable saddle in the world (use your sick imagination) to have their privates ruptured by the rodeo ride. Husbands would go mad if their wife did not bleed on their wedding night. No excuse if you were the Ming champion hurdler. Selected concubines were given the seal of approval…stamped on their buttocks. Feet bones were crushed and binded. Besides the dainty teetering, feet-binding is believed to strengthen the vaginal and inner thigh muscles to enhance the women’s ability to give pleasure. The end result is pain, two human walking aides and size 1.5 shoes.

Another section dealt with women and war. Some went in as spies, while others were the Chinese version of Troy. There were four beauties who had such an impact. I can only remember one Yang Gui Fei. According to the info-board, all died young.

Unlike the one in Paris where photography and video is highly encouraged (Hey it is in France after all), the Chinese version is doesn’t allow such private publicity but they aren’t that good in enforcing the ban. There is a watchful girl in each showroom but she is too busy watching out for the drones of evening mozzies.

Besides the canal scenes, this museum is the best thing Tong Li has to offer.

Old and Young in Tong Li


slave to the grind

Canal Clutter

smelly tou fu

heave and hoe

sure to dry