Sunday, July 18, 2010

Scenes from Hanoi, Vietnam

This week I've been back in Hanoi for meetings. Thought I'd just post some random shots from this charming capital city of Vietnam. The photos have been taken over the space of many trips.

Mind you, June and July aren't the best months to visit Hanoi. The temperature can go up to 45 degrees C. Fortunately I have been going between one air-con building and another, so I haven't had to bear the full brunt of the heat.

On 10th Oct 2010, the city (Thang Long-Hanoi) will be celebrating its 1000th year history as the key capital. It was founded in 1010 as a city called Thang Long (Flying Dragon).  In fact, throughout its dramatic history, Hanoi has borne many names: Giao Chi (Remote Land), Tong Binh (Proper Home), An Nam (Pacified South), Dai La (Great Belt, as in the dyke surrounding the city), Dong Do and Dong Quan (both meaning Capital), Dong Kinh (Eastern Capital) - which the French priests later interpreted as Tongkin. The name Hanoi, or more strictly Ha Noi, only appeared after the Nguyen Dynasty attained power in 1802, shifted the capital to Hue and renamed the city in 1831. Ha Noi literally translates to City in the River, City Surrounded by Rivers, City in the Bend of the River, or more romantically City in the Embrace of the Rivers. Despite the name change, even well into the 20th century, people still like to call the city Thang Long.

Sunset scene on Hoan Kiem lake in the centre of Hanoi

The Opera House, Hanoi
Art in the streets of Hanoi

Want a "Mona Lisa" or "Sunflowers" painting in your living room? Want yourself standing next to the Mona Lisa? All can be done through the talents of these copy artists in the streets of Hanoi.

A candid shot into an alley way

Outside a souvenir shop near the Old Quarter of Hanoi.

Evening in the Old Quarters of Hanoi

The above photo by Jemima Yong ( really captures the community feeling among the residents of the Old Quarters. I'd encourage you to click to enlarge the picture and try to tell the story yourself. I am firmly of the opinion that in transitioning to "modern" city living, we have lost much of this community feeling.

A roadside fruit seller arranges her ware

The unique art form of Water Puppetry in Hanoi

Ok, more on Hanoi later. I now have a plane to catch ...

Monday, July 12, 2010

On Top of Singapore

Recently we decided to explore the newly opened Marina Bay Sands integrated resort (IR) facilities in Singapore. This was the second IR to open on the island state, the first one being the Resorts World Sentosa, which opened its doors on the Lunar New Year.

The MBS buildings are certainly impressive structures, and for the past year we had been observing the three towers growing higher and higher, and finally the horizontal boat-shaped structure was put on top. I have no doubt it was quite an engineering challenge.

Well, here are some photos from that day ...

The above was on Level 1 of the mall & casino building, where a canal had been constructed to give short rides to the visitors.

Next we bought tickets to take the elevator to the Sky Park, as they call it. It cost S$20 per adult, with discounts for children and senior citizens.

The picture above shows the two orbs making up the Esplanade theatres, while on the right, you can see the seating and performing areas that will be used for the annual National Day celebrations.

I must admit the view from the Sky Park was much better than from the Singapore Flyer, the big wheel that I visited about 1.5 years ago. You can get a sense of the relative size of the Flyer as compared to the MBS tower in the photo above.

This view above is overlooking Clifford Pier and the Financial district. The thingie around my neck is the audio guide they provide visitors with such that when you press the number corresponding to different view stations, you get a narrative of what you are viewing. Quite useful.

And this one shows the Marina Barrage in the background.

The other section which was interesting was the swimming pool.  As you can see, the pool goes almost to the edge of the building, and gives the impression that if one is not careful, it's a long drop down to earth. Looks scary but it doesn't seem to bother the swimmers and sunbathers.

Anyway, enjoy the scenery ...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

World Fairs and the Shanghai Expo 2010

Let's begin with a bit of history ... The names "World's Fair", "World Fair", "Universal Exposition", and "Expo" have all been used to refer to the various large public exhibitions held in different parts of the world. The first Expo was held in The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, United Kingdom in 1851 under the title "Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations".

Photo (1) : Crystal Palace, London in 1851

It was supposedly the brainchild of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, and was the first international exhibition of manufactured products. As such, it influenced the development of several aspects of society including art and design education, international trade and relations, and even tourism. It became the precedent for the many international exhibitions, later called "World's Fairs", which were subsequently held to the present day.

The second World's Fair, held in 1855, was in Paris. The third went back to London in 1862. Subsequently it was Paris (1867), Vienna (1873), Philadelphia (1876), Paris (1878), Sydney (1879), Melbourne (1880), etc. In 1970, it was held in Osaka, Japan. I remember because I was there as a child with my parents. The last few Expos have been held in Hannover, Germany (2000), Aichi, Japan (2005) and Zaragosa, Spain (2008).

Last month I had the opportunity to spend a day at the Shanghai Expo 2010. We got there just as it opened at 10am. Most of the expo is on the Pudong side, with a smaller section on the Puxi side (Pudong and Puxi represent respectively the areas to the east and west of the Huangpu, the river that cuts through Shanghai).

Photo (2) : Map of Shanghai Expo 2010

Overall a very impressive showcase, with throngs of people visiting.  I reckon this could become the most visited Expo ever! Here's a selection of photos from our day at the Expo ...
Photo (3) : At the China pavilion (I didn't go in as the queue was about 4 hours long)

Photo (4) : I love the architectural designs !

Photo (5) : At the Malaysian pavilion. Negara ku .......

Photo (6) : Some shots with the Malaysian dancers performing outside

Photo (7) : This is the Singapore pavilion, supposedly shaped like a music box

Photo (8a) : This realistic looking tree roots lie within the Cambodia pavilion.

Photo (8b) : The Kingdom of Cambodia pavilion

Photo (9) : G'day mate, here's the Aussie pavilion

Photo (10) : With colleagues in the Estonia pavilion

Photo (11) : In front of the Latvia pavilion

Photo (12) : UK Pavilion

Photo (13) : With a colleague outside the Cisco pavilion

Well, there are obviously many, many more pavilions and sights that I won't be able to show ... so if you do have a chance, go visit it yourself. The Shanghai Expo 2010 is open until the end of September 2010.