Beijing, Paris, London & New York

The Cities above are so placed in an alphabetical order

and not by any means on an arguably competitive basis

 

In hindsight, having travelled to Beijing, Paris, London & New York, the four major metropolitan cities in the world, I just can’t begin to take stock as to which city I like best. I guess each one has its own unique attractions to offer and likely too because of differing love & interests, each individual will have have a different opinion.

I asked my wife for her choice of the appealing attractions of each place and she indicated the following:

Beijing

Forbidden City

The magnificent Forbidden City is the largest & the best-preserved imperial palace complex in the world. It has 9,999 rooms during the flourishing period, just one room short of the number that ancient Chinese belief represents ‘Divine Perfection.’ It is surrounded by a moat six metres deep & a ten-feet high wall. For five centuries, this palace functioned as the administrative centre of the country.

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is one of the ‘Eight Wonders of the World’ and is enlisted in the World Heritage Directory. This immense wall was built to keep out invaders as well as to retain the inhabitants. It spans five provinces from Shanhaiguan Pass in the east to Jiayuguan Pass in the west, looking like a gigantic dragon across deserts, grasslands and mountains. In the downtown area of Beijing, it is possible to climb Badaling Great Wall.

Tiananmen Square

The solemn and respectful Tiananmen Square is the largest central city square in the world, which serves not only Beijing’s symbol but also the whole of China. This immense courtyard is surrounded by a variety of significant edifices such as the Tiananmen Tower, Great Hall of the People, Mao Zedong Memorial Hall, Monument to the People’s Heroes and National Museum of China.

Paris

Paris

Eiffel Tower

Probably the best known landmark in Europe, the Eiffel Tower is the symbol of Paris and one of the city’s must-see attractions. You can climb up the stairs or take the elevator after waiting in the (long) queue.

Louvre Museum

One of the not-to-miss sights in Paris is the Louvre Museum, possibly the most famous museum in the world with a fabulous collection. It is housed in the Louvre Palace, once home to France’s Royal Family.

Notre Dame Cathedral

The Notre Dame de Paris is one of the first Gothic Cathedrals ever built.

Construction started in 1163 and lasted for almost two decades. From the lookout at the north tower you have a great view over the city.

London

Big Ben

The Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster, known as the Big Ben, is one of London’s most famous landmarks. At the time the tower was built in 1858 its clock was the largest in the world.

Tower Bridge

London’s Tower Bridge is one of the most recognizable bridges in the world. Despite being disliked by many when it was built in 1894 the bridge soon became one of the London’s most famous landmarks.

Piccadilly Square

Piccadilly Circus is a busy square in the heart of London. It is famous for the fountain that was installed here at the end of the 19th century and for the neon advertising that turned the square into a miniature version of Times Square or Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

New York

Empire State Building

Tired of staring up at New York City skyscrapers? Check out the view of New York City from atop the Empire State Building. The Empire State Building is a classic New York City attraction, and offers visitors wonderful views of New York City and the surrounding area.

Statue of Liberty   The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States in honor of the friendship established during the French Revolution. The Statue of Liberty has become an American symbol of freedom and welcome to the immigrants who come to the USA looking for a better life. While the interior of the Statue of Liberty is closed for improvements, you can still visit Liberty Island and nearby Ellis Island.

Grand Central Terminal   Renovations since its opening in 1913 have turned Grand Central into more than just a hub for transportation — there are shops, dining and more available to visitors. Grand Central is both an essential transit hub and a beautiful example of Beaux-Arts architecture.

Cage Hongkees in Affluent Hong Kong

The tragedy of tens of thousands living in 6ft by 2ft rabbit hutches – in a city withmore Louis Vuitton shops than Paris

Hong Kong, one of the world’s richest cities, is abuzz with a luxury property boom that has seen homes exchanged for record sums. 

But the wealth of the city has a darker side, with tens of thousands priced out of housing altogether and forced to live in the most degrading conditions.

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These pictures by British photographer Brian Cassey capture the misery of people – some estimates put the figure as high as 100,000 – who are forced to live in cages measuring just 6ft by 2 1/2ft.

The city is one of the planet’s most densely packed metropolitan areas, with nearly 16,500 people living in every square mile of the territory. 

Unscrupulous landlords are charging around US$200 a month for each cage, which are packed 20 to a room, and up to three levels high. 

The lower cages are more expensive because you can almost stand inside them, but the conditions are no less squalid. 

All this in a city with more Louis Vuitton shops than Paris.

Tai Lun Po, 79, has lived in the cage he is sitting in for an extraordinary 30 years

Eight-year-old Lee Ka Ying lives in a 6ft square ‘cubicle cage home’ with her mother

Yan Chi Keung eats takeaway outside his wire cage home – there are no cooking facilities

Tai Lun Po walks to the bathroom which he shares with the other residents

Occupants must share toilets and washing facilities, which are rudimentary. Many of the apartments have no kitchens, forcing their impoverished residents to spend there meagre incomes on takeaway food

The cage homes have been a running scandal in Hong Kong’s housing market for decades, yet rather than disappear, they are on the rise.

As the world economic crisis has lashed the city a former British territory whose economy is focused on financial services, more have been forced to turn to them for a place to stay.

The alternative is life on the streets 

A building in Mongkok that houses cage people, sometimes squeezed twenty to a room

One cage dweller, Cheung, who lives in Sham Shui Po, told the Asia Times Online he endures appallingly cramped and fetid conditions.

‘The temperature inside the cages can be two to three degrees higher than what they are outside,’ he said.

‘It’s really uncomfortable, and sometimes I cannot sleep until after 5 in the morning.’

Cockroaches, wall lizards, lice and rats are common. ‘Sometimes I am worried if lizards or cockroaches will crawl into my ears at night,’ said Cheung.

Cage Occupants must share toilets and washing facilities, which are rudimentary. Many of the apartments have no kitchens, forcing their impoverished residents to spend there meagre incomes on takeaway food.  The cage homes have been a running scandal in Hong Kong’s housing market for decades, yet rather than disappear, they are on the rise. As the world economic crisis has lashed the city a former British territory whose economy is focused on financial services, more have been forced to turn to them for a place to stay. The alternative is life on the streets.
 

Dine High Up In The Sky!

Short of romantic ideas?

Been dating & dinning out in the usual haunts?

Looking for something romantic, unusual & adventurous? 

 Get dressed and take your date out for a very special dinner that won’t ever be forgotten.

 

This dinner, however, is not for the faint-hearted!

Dinner In The Sky is a Belgian based novelty restaurant which used a crane to hoist its diners, table, and its staff and waitresses 150 feet into the air.

With your feet kind of dangling in the air!

Forbes magazine called it one of the world’s ten most unusual restaurants. Dinner in the Sky has mobile services available in 15 nations, and has operated in various cities including Paris and Las Vegas.

Musicians in a separate platform

 

Will your stomach & heart take it?

All photos: Splash/All Over Press

Mona Lisa – The Lady With That Mystic Smile

By Paul Chong Thursday, 3 December 2009

Mona Lisa at the Lourve, Paris

Much has been written about this famous painting. Nat “King” Cole sang & endeared her to the hearts of music lovers. It’s that mystic smile of Mona Lisa that captured the hearts & imagination of art & music lovers alike. She’s so famous almost every country wants to lay hands on her. But they all look at her with different perspectives . . . and look at the ways she appears & displays herself according to the customs & traditions of the various countries!

According to Wikipedia, “Mona Lisa (also known as La Gioconda or La Joconde) is a 16th century portrait painted in oil on a poplar panel by Leonardo da Vinci during the Italian Renaissance. The work is owned by the Government of France and is on the wall in the Louvre in Paris, France with the title Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo. It is perhaps the most famous and iconic painting in the world.”

As portrayed below, different people look at Mona Lisa differently. When I first saw it way back in 1959 at the Lourve in Paris, I was told that her eyes would follow me with that matching mystic smile as I moved around to fathom her enigmatic look. Now, what happen when we move her across the world . . . ?

In Morocco
in London
in Tehran
In India
In Palestine
in Egypt
In Dubai
In Kuwait
In Syria
In Afghanistan

Which do you like best? As for me, Mona Lisa in Paris is still the best!

Dawn Princess Cruise

Dawn Princess cruise ship, berthed at Port Cha...
Image via Wikipedia

Dawn Princess Cruise

Sydney-New Zealand

(5 – 18 December 2008)

(By Paul Chong)

Dawn princess berthed at Port Chalmers, Dundedin, New Zealand

Dawn-PrincessThe magnificent Dawn Princess


Cruising down the river

On a Sunday afternoon

With the one you love

The birds above

Waiting for the moon

The old accordion playing

A sentimental tune

Cruising down the river

On a Sunday afternoon.”

Not sure how many can remember the old pop song “Cruising Down The River” of the early 50s. This hit tune crops to my mind when talking of cruise. My mind conjures also the romantic cruise on the Seine in Paris, which provides one of the most relaxing & expedient ways to view the sights of Paris in all their grandeur in the glass-covered decks of the Bateaux-Mouches. The European Rivers such as Rhine, Danube are also worth noting.

I guess the TV series of “Love Boat” promoted the greatest thrill & advertisement re cruises on the high seas, with romance filling the air. After a couple of traumatic experiences of rough crossings in the English Channel, I was going to give cruising an entire miss until persuaded to try the Star Cruise on the Virgo from Singapore to Phuket in Thailand, with a stopover in Langkawi Island, Malaysia. No more sea-sickness was encountered then, and the four-day cruise was very delightful indeed.

SANY1297Monica – Our main waitress

A Princess cruise holiday is a dream holiday. You are pampered & given royalty treatment from room services to dinning in style. Some people do plan their dreams & romances by going on cruises. Some are habitually living on these love boats. Because of time & space, there is little to distinguish dream from reality. They say that dreams do come true, but then dreams fade and whatever reality there is remains only in your memory. Just when you are having such a good time, the end comes sooner than desired. Then you wonder was it all a dream? If you are young or young at heart, modern cruises are really adventurous, romantic & escaping into the world of fantasy, similar to the popular TV series “Love Boat”.

In planning for a perfect holiday, there are no shortage of exotic places to lure you. Travel brochures are full of glorifying descriptions of holiday escapes – compelling destinations like the new artificial Beach Resort in Japan, the new “Skywalk” at the Grand Canyon, play a game of tennis atop the the ultra modern 6-Star Dubai hotel, or the “themepark” at Las Vegas with all its thrills & spills. Or come 2010, the Resort World of Sentosa, Singapore will provide a kind of new excitement & experience.Whatever you are after, they range from the boring normal escorted tours to the extreme adventurous.

S001smOur cruise itinerary

To me, to really enjoy yourself, you must have the luxury of time & leisure. Tight schedules & rush always spoil many a holiday for most people. For this reason, the fully escorted land tours are out, where you are trying to cover sight-seeing & shopping all within a limited time scale. I guess I’ll be tired out each day and at the end of it all finished up with nothing but glimpses of the tour.

SANY1538Casual Self-Service (24-Hour) – The Horizon Court

Cruising is increasingly popular. There were over 2,000 passengers. It affords escapism, high sea adventures, thrills & spills, the luxury of time & leisure, aboard ship galore of activities & first class entertainment. You can have breakfast, lunch & dinner – all served with the finesse of well-attired waiters & waitresses. Be served as lady & lord in fine dining, lunch & breakfast too.

But if you are one of those who care more for your extra snooze, just stay in bed & have the meals delivered to your stateroom, or you can have access to the convenience of 24-hour food service at the Horizon Court. Here there is no shortage of choice & variety, also fruits & other desserts. If you love eating, you can eat as much as you want – you just help yourself.


SANY0042 Dawn Princess docked in Auckland Harbour, within walking distance to the City centre.

There is however one down side to cruises. The land content tours or shore excursions are not inclusive, even shutter buses from the docks to the city centres are charged. Usually the ship will dock in the morning & sail away again by six in the evening. Too rush for a satisfying sight-seeing & you are confronted with a variety of tours & pretty pricey too.

No holiday can be perfect or completely satisfying. I guess the important thing is that you’ll be able to say “Been there, done that.” It will be an experience well worth savoured.

The sheer pleasure of seeing the magnificent fjords of New Zealand in all their awesome wonder alone makes the cruise worthwhile. Though when sailing through the fjords region that day it was raining & cloudy, we get to see hundreds & thousands more cascading waters down their edges. Herein below are some beautiful photos by Google:

Cruise on the Fjord
Doubtful Sound Fjord
Cascading Waters
Milford Sound Fjord
Milford Sound

Paul Chong

Sunday, 11 January 2009.