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Writings of the Lone Maltese Wanderer
20 most recent entries

Date:2007-02-28 04:22
Subject:Back to work after Chinese Spring Festival Holidays
Mood: blank

Xie Nian Kuai Le! Happy (Lunar) New Year!

I got back to work this past Monday and the fireworks were still being set off... gosh, I've never seen fireworks last so long... about 3-4 weeks of fireworks all day long...from 6:30 in the morning until sometimes late at night... EVEN IN THE FOG with a visibility of ten metres like it was yesterday! Who the heck will see the fireworks anyway in that fog??

During the Spring Festival I visited Long You Hot Springs in Chibi, located near Wuhan. I'll post some photos when I have time.

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Date:2007-02-19 11:54
Subject:'Lao wai's in China
Mood: relaxed

Zao shang hao (Good morning!)

I've been wanting to comment about the attention foreigners ('Lao wai') get here in China. Apparently, this attention is not only warranted in China, but also in other Asian countries such as Japan ('Gajin' - foreigner in Japanese).

There have been numerous occassions whereby locals would simply speak out to me in English. Actually, every time I'm in a public place, it seems like thousands of eyes are looking at me (the Chinese are actually very curious and gossipy!).

I can recall a few humouristic incidents. Two days ago I was walking in a park with a Chinese friend and this old man riding a bicycle said 'Hello' while riding. The funny part was that in order to say hello and discern his attention, the poor man nearly lost control of his bicycle - LOL!

Yesterday, I visited another park and a group of young locals blurted out 'Hello' and 'Happy New Year'. My response was warm and friendly, articulating the same in Chinese: 'Ni Hao' & 'Xin Nian Kuai Le'!

On another occassion, I was holding a young boy's hand (my friend's cousin) and this woman shouted out that we don't look alike! Things are a fair bit traditional in some cities; yet, each province, or rather, each city pertains unique differences, not just in financial terms, but also in the warmthness of the locals as well as in other ways, such as driving styles, littering and spitting, to mention but a few.

When I eat out, it is also common to see locals look at how 'Lao wai' people eat and use chopsticks, even though such usage has become second nature to me. Needless to say, after three days of eating with chopsticks my hand adapted to eating with chopsticks.

The first night I met my Singaporean boss I asked him why chopsticks are better than a fork and knife. A few days later, I had the answer through my own experience. It also makes you eat slower and is better for the digestive system.

When it comes to drinks, the traditional and ancient Chinese Wine (42% Alcohol!) tastes more like a strong spirit rather than the traditional red or white wine. In fact, I can only drink Chinese Wine shooter style (last night I think I drank around 10 or so and my chest was burning like a flame!) because it's so strong. To make matters worse, it is custom to say 'Gan Bei' (Cheers) and drink all you have in the cup! So, whenever someone says 'Gan Bei' to you, there is nothing you can do but drink! I think I did my good, fair share of drinking during the Chinese New Year holidays!

Over the next few days I will be travelling back to Ningbo and I won't have much time to update this space.

Bye for now.

'Xin Nian Kuai Le' ^^

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Date:2007-02-18 13:09
Subject:Chinese Food
Mood: giggly

The food... hmmm ... hmmm ... the first few days here in China I was eating just to fuel my body. It's been 3 weeks now and I think my body feels much better now. I feel I'm getting accustomed to the food, especially the rice- it tastes so good! European and American rice doesn't taste one bit as good as Asian rice.. no wonder I did not like rice back in Europe... in fact, I hardly ate rice back home, whilst here I want to eat it with every meal.

There is so much to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner... different varieties of noodles, different kinds of rice, different bread like dumplings and the like.

Hope I'm not getting you hungry :-P

One thing I can find much of are traditional Italian style Pizzas but, as they say, one can't have all the cake and eat it!

I really can't believe I'm in China, walking through quiet parks, passing by traditional Chinese houses and eating with chopsticks as if it was my nature to do so.

Happy Eating ^^!

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Date:2007-02-17 13:08
Mood: embarrassed

KTV - Have you ever heard of it?

After two and a half weeks of being in the Middle Kingdom, I finally understood what all the KTV establishments were! Apparently, KTV (Karaoke in private rooms) is very popular in Asian countries, including China and the Korean Peninsulas to mention but a few.

So, there I was, singing Karaoke in a large private room with two Chinese girls that were not shy in the least bit! After a few beers I managed to sing a few English songs, even though the best English songs available were those by Backstreet Boys. Nevertheless, I managed to sing for the first time in over ten years :-O)!

Furthermore, I was really impressed with the common fact that locals eat in private rooms in most restaurants... i.e. you can opt to eat in a room for yourself or for a small group of people at no extra charge, requesting waiters using a remote controlled device as well as ensuring a high degree of privacy!

My first experience of this was in a Lebanese restaurant in Ningbo, with the restaurant's food being of high quality and prices comparatively low when compared to European restaurant prices!

Oh, by the way, I will remember my first Chinese New Year for something embarrassing that happened to me this morning :-0! Nevertheless...

Happy Chinese New Year ^^!

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Date:2007-02-16 12:44
Subject:Shopping in China
Mood: loved

Some regular viewers discerned an interest in reading some news from the People's Republic of China. Over the past few days I've experienced interesting culture differences between Western and Eastern civilisations. Sometimes, keeping an open mind, I tend to laugh rather than stare at the way things are done over here ;-)

A couple of days ago, I was shopping for a running jacket. I don't like mentioning brands but let's assume that there were a variety of brands with original brand clothing and attractive prices when compared to European sports brands prices.

The first thing to note is that there is a high probability that NO ONE WILL SPEAK ENGLISH, even in modern and large shopping centres. [Over in Ningbo, there was only one nineteen year old student working in Ningbo's largest shopping centre that could speak an acceptable level of English!]

No communication in English means that the Chinese will not even try to speak English due to the Asian culture of making a fool out of themselves. When I stayed in the Xinyu Business Hotel during my first week in Ningbo, no one in the hotel spoke any English at first. It was ONLY after three days that one of the shy receptionists uttered a 'no' after several times of saying the word "bushi" ('no' in Mandarin Chinese). Other than that, the other phrase that shop or business owners might articulate is: "Please have a seat" (with an INSISTING smile!).

Anyway, back to the Shopping... Most of the time I shop with a Chinese person, that ends up doing a lot of translation work for me...So, after selecting what I wanted to buy, it was time to pay. I was paying in Chinese CASH. I was first made to wait while the salesgirl wrote my receipt details. Then, I was sent to a counter with the receipt to pay, only to find no one at the counter. I was then taken to a counter 50 metres away and after carefully scrutinising my three one-hundred RMB notes, the cash person printed out the cash register's receipt, gave me back the remaining change and I was directed back to the store where my running jacket was waiting for me in a bag. I then had to hand over the original Tax Receipt and then I was given my running jacket and a piece of paper with Chinese characters.

All of this for paying in CASH. I was wondering what happens if one decides to pay by Credit Card (Oh, and by the way, forget about paying by cheque!).

Nevertheless, China is an eye-opening experience, that is strongly-recommended for those with Asian interests that wish to be pursued. A foreigner ('Lao Wai') is highly-respected here, the reason of which probably lies in history).

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Date:2007-02-13 18:29
Subject:Happy Chinese New Year
Mood: happy

Hope you are all well ^^

Just wishing you a nice Chinese New Year (17 February 2007) during China's Spring Festival.

It's holiday time here in China and the 1.4 billion people are starting to show!!!

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Date:2007-02-07 03:29
Subject:10 days in China
Mood: energetic

It's been 10 days since I am in China. I've been rather busy looking for an apartment and settling down. Last Saturday I travelled for over 11 hours to go to Shanghai Pudong airport and back to Ningbo to collect some extra luggage.

Meanwhile, I came across this photo from the net

"You never know! According to Zapatas, if you are a woman in Shanghai, you could be a hooker without knowing it. Ask their 'friendly security guards' to confirm any doubts. And no, this is not a joke!"

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Date:2007-02-01 09:48
Subject:The Beauty of the Middle Kindgom

Last weekend I flew in to China (Malta/Larnaca/Dubai/Shanghai/Ningbo) in what was a rather long and delayed flight.

I'm currently in Ningbo, which is China's second largest sea port after Shanghai's sea port.

The country here is awesome; people should come and see and not judge prior to visiting the Middle Kingdom. Foreigners are treated well, even though most of the locals do not speak anything else except Mandarin Chinese, including at most hotels, such as the business hotel I'm staying in.

Getting accustomed to the food and eating with chopsticks is also another hurdle, but I'm soon getting there :)

Chinese Spring Festival is coming up in a couple of weeks and most trains and flights are already full. Life is good here in Ningbo, which has a population of approximately 4.6 Million inhabitants.

The difference between the various classes is easily discerned. Rich areas, expensive cars, drinks very pricey at the bars yet most wages are rather low considering these expensive perks.

The weather has been nice, as it has been in most of the Northern Hemisphere countries this Winter.

It is, however, important to understand the Chinese way of doing things, and I've recently learnt the real meaning of 'laziness'. Nevertheless, it's worth visiting.

I'll keep you posted ^_^

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Date:2007-01-27 11:06

It's that time of the year again, the Davos World Economic Forum, being held in Switzerland.

I just want to note a few of the main points that emerged from the meeting.

3 important Rs:
Relationships, and

An additional R stands for Responsibility (towards the environment and towards workers).

I'll leave it up to you to intertwine the above Rs in today's globalised world, especially with a booming Asian economy...

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Date:2007-01-26 15:04
Subject:Finally, some photos from Vienna ^_^

I was saying close to West Bahnhof Metro Station

The first site I visited was the Austrian Parliament

and then the fabulous Vienna Town Hall

The next day I went around other parts of the City, including the Residence of the King

On my final day, I visited Shoenbruenn Palace

and finished off my holiday visiting Schloess Belvedere

Vienna is awesome! I really liked it and is one of the few cities where I wouldn't mind living. However, accomodation is very expensive.

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Date:2007-01-26 14:42
Subject:... and some more photos from Prague

Hradeany Castle was one of my first visits... I spent over 6 hours visiting the 6 main historical sites and museums in there

The view down into Prague from Hradeany was really nice :)

Am I patient enough to make it into the Czech army? ;-)

That night I visited the old city with some friends

We took quite a few photos, with me using Korean Style :) Charles bridge shows through the darkness on the left side of the photo

The next day I went to Vsejhrad Castle, which enjoys some nice views of the city

especially from the Bastions :)

Prague was interesting. I finally got to visit it and follow one of my dreams. I recommend one to shop in the Czech Republic as things were significantly cheaper than in other parts of Europe :)

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Date:2007-01-17 17:50
Subject:Waking and Sleeping with my Laptop


Sorry I didn't upload any photos from Prague or Vienna yet... Since I've come back from Central Europe, I have been waking up and sleeping with my laptop.

I'm about to finish my second publication and it's taking me ages to conclude, especially the formatting part.

Hopefully, I should be done with it by Friday and I'll try and upload some photos by Monday latest before I'm off to new-new land :)

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Date:2007-01-09 17:06
Subject:Back to Malta

Arrived back to small Malta a couple of days ago, but I've been rather busy... should upload some photos later on this week.

Prague was interesting and good for shopping :-) whilst Vienna was AWESOME and expensive, but still nice :-)!

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Date:2007-01-01 19:23
Subject:The Long New Year's Eve Day
Mood: relaxed

New Year's Eve started off late afternoon for me, with a visit to the Molecule Man- an awesome sculpture that stands near the middle of the river Spree in Berlin.

This is the view from the other side of the river bank.

Then it was off to the Jewish Museum, which deals with the fleeing of the Jews since 1000AD, even more so during the time when the Third Reich wanted to be set up in the 1930s and 1940s.

After a rather original New Year's Eve dinner and the admiration of thousands of amateur fireworks, I decided to experience the so-called largest New Year's Eve Party in Europe. The atmosphere was great; yet, the rain sent many home early, including myself.

Well, I'm leaving Berlin Tuesday morning in my pursuit of discovering another two European cities and I don't think I'll be updating this journal much until next week. Just as Richard Quest in CNN Business Traveller articulates, 'That's it for today, wherever YOUR business may take you, until next time, Goodbye!'

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Date:2007-01-01 03:28
Subject:Happy New Year 2007
Mood: tired

Happy New Year 2007 from Berlin, Germany!

I recommend that you experience New Year's Eve celebrations here in Berlin... the fireworks are awesome and they start several days in advance...

Loads of children, mostly Turkish burn their fireworks like madmen... and it's dangerous too!

Well, the rain spoilt the fun at 02:00 and many that attended Europe's largest New Year's Eve party at Brandenburg Gate headed home early :-/ and I had just arrived there at 01:30, only to head back to my laptop an hour later due to the rain.

Well, soon off to sleep.

Wish you luck for 2007! :)

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Date:2006-12-30 18:09
Subject:Scheiss Wetter hier in Berlin
Mood: sick

Weather was quite warm this morning until it started raining endlessly in the afternoon... I hardly did much today... I went window shopping and shopping in the afternoon followed by some ice-skating but I didn't feel so good :-( so I cut the ice-skating short.

To make matters worse, my throat feels itchy and I feel a bit sick.

And it should be raining endlessly for the next 36 hours even though the temperature is slightly warmer (which may be the cause of the rain). I envy Malta's 17 degrees sunny weather :-)!

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Date:2006-12-29 23:05
Subject:Deutsches Historisches Museum

I spent most of the afternoon discovering the German History Museum

There were a few horses to watch out for ;-)

Interesting Armourary

A painting I'm familiar with :) Raphael's Pope Leo X & Cardinals Giulio de` Medici and Luigi de` Rossi

I was a little disappointed that the only Malta-related item I saw in the Museum was the Maltese Cross in a Medieval Painting (There was not even any mention of Malta with respect to World War II)

It's soon over. 5 hours passed and I'm still in there!

Fernando Alonso near ran over my head once I was out of the Museum ;-)

There was so much to see at the German History Museum... too much to read at once... All my mental energy was sapped. It's worth the visit!

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Date:2006-12-28 23:32
Subject:Checkpoint Charlie & more of the Berlin Wall
Mood: lazy

Arriving at Checkpoint Charlie

And it's snowing ^_^!


Remembering the Berlin Wall & its consequences (and my feet!)

I had to leave my landmark in the snow at Friedrichstrasse of course!!

After visiting the Checkpoint Charlie House Museum I experienced more of the Berlin Wall that's still standing on parts of Friedrichstrasse (notice one of the holes that were dug out in the wall where East Germans fled from during the collapse of the GDR in 1989)

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Date:2006-12-27 19:22
Subject:Discovering Berlin Wall
Mood: tired

Today's itinerary started off at the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery

About 1Km of the actual Berlin Wall is still up at the East Side Gallery next to the Spree River

Then it was off to the Berlin Wall Documentation Centre

The view down from the Berlin Wall Documentation Centre (parts of the Wall are still standing and there's a cemetary in the background just after the Wall)

Berlin's Dome (It's getting colder and darker... The temperature was around 2 degrees all day!)

Chancellor's Residence (quite a house I must say!)

At the Holocaust Memorial Site in Berlin

Visiting Potsdamer Platz

Some other Berlin Wall remains at Potsdamer Platz

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Date:2006-12-26 17:48
Subject:Sightseeing at Berlin Mitte & Charlottenburg

Reichstag in Background near the Spree River

Russian Invasion into Berlin

In front of Charlottenburg Castle

Another photo in front of Charlottenburg Schloss (gosh I was getting cold there!)

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