25 July 2010: Singapore-Pudong In-flight Experience

Since started the habit of posting on my travelogue at Changi Airport, without fail, I would stand before one of those internet kiosks blogging about the pre-boarding experience. Indeed, I was one of those behind the kiosks this morning but this time, was busily typing, trying to clear some work and did not even login to blog about the pre-departure experience - so rush that I would hardly operate in my right frame of mind.

Same as previous, started to recall what items that I forgot to bring along... still thinking... and noticed something! Oops! The pair of spectacles I have! That's the older pair of spectacles! Then to my horror! I forget to activate the "Out of Office" message! Hahah... noticed that only after receiving the autoreply from CCH's email!!! What else... I wonder...

This is the most ill-prepared trip... started packing that night before, and stretched all the way to the morning. Was working through mid-night to get the slides out... then the printing took ages to be done... and a number of things were outstanding... ah! I was banging hard that I have easy access of the internet, etc while in Suzhou, which I have some doubt...

Boarded the plane with an empty stomach! No breakfast... no time at all... count myself lucky when I managed to squeeze some time to bathe before leaving home! That was at 6am! Ah! It was almost just 2 hours before flight departure!

This was the breakfast cum lunch ... well, it's also the first time I have to pull the sleeve of the air stewardess to say, "I would like to have my food served now". That's really something unexpected of an airline like SIA! Hey, it's going to make it to the headlines "Get Starved in SIA"!!!

While trying to catch some lost sleep... it was kind of difficult! "Thanks" to the fellow who sat beside me! Someone heading home... who didn't know what's meant by personal space! oh! and that awful smell that lingered shortly after the plane took off... I'm quite sure it's from someone who sat near me! sigh... what lousy luck for the day!

When in the half sleep half awake (半梦半醒之间) mode, "watched" 2 movies... yes! It's watching only, without putting on the headset to listen. Thanks to the subtitles. Both are Chinese movies... one was a 'crazy' comical one 家有喜事, which is merely for laugh and relaxation. The other one 盖世神偷, initially thought it's some sort of secret society or detective-related movie. However, it turned out to be a heart warming movie - when I started to enjoy the mature and fantastic acts of Simon Yam (任达华) and Sarah Wu (吴君如) - as a middle-age old couple they portrayed... applause!

Oh! Also discovered something! There's this Singapore Sling chocolate available in the SIA flight. Bought 1 box (very expensive $25 for 6 pieces) for cousin Amy :)

25 July 2010: Arrival @ Pudong International Airport

Arrived at Shanghai Pudong International Airport at around 1.30 pm; the immigration clearance is considered fast I think. Gathered our luggage and met up with the driver who came to pick us up. Knowing that it would take at least 2 hours to reach Suzhou, we decided to have lunch at the airport. Well, guess what, went to one restaurant and we were told that it would take 30 min to serve! Hahah... useful information to ensure the potential customer could make informed decision, I guess. So considerate!

We landed up with another shop... guess what? It's the familiar...

and we landed up with the ramen, that took not more than 15 min to arrive. However, it took almost 15 min for the waitress to come back with the 'change' after we paid! So, eventful!

25 July 2010: Checking in to Hotel Pan Pacific

We checked in to Pan Pacific, a 5-star hotel, that looked grand and luxurious too! Hahaha... I guess it really matters who the organiser of the event was... it determined how 'high class' the location/ venue is too!

Learnt that there are more than 500 rooms here, and the hotel is built to take into consideration the blending in to one of the gardens where we could find one of the ancient gate. It was emphasized that it's the ONLY ancient gate that goes with the moot.
The 'great city wall' made up the facade of the hotel...

The cars would drive up to the 3rd floor where the Hotel Reception/ Lobby was...

The entrance to the dining area - which was from the ground floor

View of the Courtyard area from the corridor towards the room

Looks very 'holiday chalet' like?

Well, the hotel received an award being one of the best holiday resorts in the world!

Was greeted by the fruits of the day!

hahaha... I've not eaten banana for many many months!

Nice, comfortable & spacious room

Afternote: Guess who was the guest who cut the ribbon in its opening ceremony? One of them is SM Lee!

25 July 2010: Visit of the Suzhou Industrial Park

Thanks to Glory, my fellow ADE classmate who drove us around to the self-contained and self-maintained Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park, where the Singapore government left a significant footprint in the country's industrial development plans more than 10 years ago.

Ah! Of course the sense of pride when we entered the park... it's like another big town... everything's huge. Perhaps that's what typical Chinese like to do... and of course, China could afford the space! There's a lake, where some landmarks that resembles those in Singapore were there - which includes the "Esplanade"-like mall, but it's replaced by the "bird-nest" design. Maybe the Chinese could associate better to bird nest than durian! Hahaha! There's also the "Moonlight Harbour", which resembles that of Clark Quay.

We had a good dinner at one of the restaurants - 老北门. Pretty interesting food - started off with Duck Tongue (yak, yak by imagination... ok, it didn't taste bad... a bit 'crispy' hahah... But I won't want to try again). There's also frog meat! haha... but cooked with, or I should say, were immersed in black pepper chilli oil! Eeeeee..... hahaha.... The Chinese seem to be quite 'extra' for some dishes.

26 July 2010: A "Free" Day

Well, in the original programme, the plan was to visit the Shanghai Expo. However, after the 2h journey from Pudong Airport to the hotel; we both agreed that it's not worth the attempt, also taking into consideration the crowd and queue in the expo! No thanks! Not under the hot sun.

Started the day with breakfast. Indeed, the breakfast served in the hotel was pretty good. Breakfast was done by 9.15 am and discussion took about 2 hours to complete before headed for lunch.

Well, we found this place at the 2nd floor... not too busy or 'exposed' to the crowd to work on the presentation :)

Haha... looks like feeding time came so fast in China! We went to nearby restaurant that looked decent... of course, had higher expectation since it came with 10% service charges... However, it's not worth the value - with average food (that came with lots of oil), the bo-cap waitress. Oh yes... her face was so dark and stood right behind us after handing the menu. Aiyoh! Think we local? No wait time... can't help... it re-affirms the service level and attitude of the locals... of course, minus that of international hotel! It was a marked difference!

That evening, I was spared from the dinner! Thanks to CCH, giving me a choice! Thought of dining at the breakfast areas - the food looked delicious... one draw was the raw stuff! But I didn't go... after thinking twice, I decided to ask for in-room dining. Not much choice though it looked as if there were... Asked for something pretty 'safe' - Hainanese Chicken Rice (RMB98) and Seasonal Vegetables (RMB39). So, the comfort creature had her 1st in-room dining experience!

Nice presentation... but the rice was not as fine as what we had in Singapore, the chicken was not the tender part (or was it a matter of preparation method? or it has been 'localised'? I wonder). Oh! See the layer of stuff on the surface of soup? That tells how oily it was... By the way, it's tou-gay soup...

27 July 2010: Presentations

The morning was filled with 3 presentations - one by Mr Chua, another by Mr Su Dajun... and one more, by Dr Yu Shengquan.

The presentation by Dr Yu was in-particular interesting... haha... perhaps that's also because of the way he delivered. So much energy and passion in the subject he spoke about... which was very refreshing... Haha... maybe because I hardly have a chance to interact with the Chinese academics except those from LSL, who were pretty different (probably the LSL researchers have been 'localised' already? Hm... I wonder). Of course, this was only the first impression. But I think we have much to derive from him... his ideas seem to be pretty different from the local principals and he seemed to have lots of experiences in testing out 1-to-1 learning, with much success.

27 July 2010: Meals of the Day

Lunch was at the breakfast area! Ah! So, that's the meal that I was eyeing for, the evening before! Ha! It cost nearly 200 RMB. Pretty good... Had a satisfying dessert round... while there seem to have raw stuff, actually not that much after all... Wait a minute, they served the same thing for lunch and dinner? Hm... Maybe count myself lucky to have it as lunch?

Nice to have the company of Mdm Ge (the Vice Principal of a school in Shenzhen) and also Asleum (hahah... surprise! surprise!). Anyway, it seems like he would be attending almost every event that Apple organises... Hm... has he been converted? or it's just an opportunity? haha... U know, I know...

In the evening...
I had my very first experience of attending a "Chinese" dinner. Hahah... according to CCH, the degree of the Chinese culture I experienced in the night was to a large extent, "diluted" in the night's setting! However, one thing that never disappear was the toasting! (haha... I just wonder if I spelt the word correctly). The Chinese simply love to go around toasting to each other, in particular to the important people in the dinner... in particular, my table where the Deputy Director was... and the 4 Principals spare no effort toasting and talking... sharing jokes(?) etc... surprisingly, saw one even poured the red wine into the DD's glass and got him drink! Oh no! Drinking his 'saliva'? Yak, disgusting!

Guess I'm the 'odd' one out which since the beginning of the dinner, I was already speaking in English! Ah! Good that they assume I couldn't speak Mandarin! hahahaha....

27 July 2010: Visit to Panmen Scenery Area 盘门景区

This is one of the highly recommended area to visit - Panmen 盘门, which has the well preserved historical gate... unique in the sense that it was the only one with a moot built around it! We were so lucky, to live so near to the historical site!

It was a last minute decision to go as the discussion session ended early (4.30 pm). So, decided to roam out of the hotel to take a look. Was told that the entrance/exit to the hotel will close at 5.15 pm... well, didn't really stop to enjoy the scenary or the look of stuff... very quickly zoom to the targeted landmarks and clicked!

There sat the pavilion, in front of it was a big pond, littered with colourful lanterns (I guess it's the preparation of the Mid-Autumn Festival)

Fish jumping out of the water to blend in with the lotus?

Here stood two pieces of ancient pillars (rocks?) that dated back to the Song dynasty (if I recall correctly).

A tiny "river" that runs in front of a row of old houses... Venice in Suzhou?

Here's the grand fortress... the city gate that overlooks the old town

28 July 2010: Departing Suzhou

Didn't have good sleep for the night before - Was dead tired and zoom to the bed at around 9 pm. Then awoke at around 11 pm... sat before the computer... and chatted with OCY (and be the first to wish her Happy Birthday via the chat). Then zoom back to bed again at around 1 am... and up again at around 4.30 am...

The first task of the day was to start packing!!!
Going to check-out in the morning at around 9 am to catch a flight to Hongkong at noon...
Oh... another tiring day because of the travel... hm...
We had lunch at the airport. OK, went to the 上海人家 which we didn't go when arrived. This is the only meal that we cleared everything on the table. The taste of the food not bad, well, it still retain that degree of oiliness.
There was nothing much to shop about at Pudong airport (after the immigration point). Well, it didn't mean there's much to shop about before going through that point! Anyway, bought a T-shirt and a few pieces of handkerchieves.

28 July 2010: Pudong-Hongkong In-flight Experience

It's the first time traveling on DragonAir. Of course, there was a difference! It terms of... many many things (hahah... from the comfort creature's perspective).

The flight is considered pretty short, around 2 hours; and lunch was served! Haha... we had 2 lunches for this day!

The meal was reasonable. However, it was unknown to all of us that the meal was supposed to keep us 'full' till evening... despite the fact that the flight should arrive at around 4 pm!

Well, the plane went for another round (in the air) as it could not land at the airport (due to bad weather). That clocked for about 30 extra minutes in the air.

Indeed, over time, I was quite used to turbulence that the airplane would experience, so it was not scary. But what made up the new experience was the plane was flying in the cloud!!! It was not visible to us what's beyond the layer of cloud that it was travelling through... That was really scary (although we knew that there's technology to detect nearby objects around!). What added to the anxiety was really the lightning that we saw from the windows! Yes, yes, yes!!! The lightnings before our eyes, near the wings, etc.. OK, I must admit, I was quite scared then!

The flight safely landed at 4.30 pm. But it couldn't get a slot to park (that was what the pilot announced; which later Adrian said it was due to the lightning warning... sigh....). OK, nature won the game!

I guess the entire airport was quite chaotic - outgoing flights were either postponed or cancelled; incoming flights were either asked to stay in the air or got re-directed. Only knew that another flight from Pudong was re-directed to Macau instead. Wow! Count ourselves lucky! Really!

We stayed inside the flight for 2 hours, that's where I caught up with some reading (sigh... my first reading for the assignment only started in that morning and the deadline's next day 5 pm!).

Immigration clearance was pretty fast. However, the luggage collection area was very crowded. Several flights shared a belt; and the luggage did not came out in order of arrival! So, another 1-hour wait before the luggage re-appeared! Phew!

28 July 2010: Checking in to Crowne Plaza Hotel @ Causeway Bay

At last, arrived at the hotel. It was sooooo comfortable! And it's the first time I checked in such a huge and nice hotel room in Hongkong (apart from the one at Disneyland, which was nice, but not as spacious!). 2 sides of the room were full-length glass! Similarly the bathroom!!! hahaha.... that reminded me of the 'openness' of the bath areas in Japan... er... of course, something was done to the glass that enabled us to see the night view without exposing our existence! hahahaha.... Think about it, it was pretty funny :)

The very spacious & comfortable bed...

The work table is similar to the one at Oriental Marina! Oh yes, I spent most of my indoor time in front of the desk (short of sleeping 'on' it) Stationery set at the work table.

Did not go out for breakfast... The outmost important thing was to get the stuff out to review the next day! Oh yes... also those readings to complete and the report that yet started.

"Reported" to Annie before the meal arrived... Hahaha... before she started to comb me down physically or virtually, hahahaha... that's how humorous my cousins were :)
My Dine-In dinner - Beef Horfun... Hey, pretty nice :) served at my desk...

29 July 2010: The Event

There were 2 parts to the first day of the event.

Met several new faces, on top of the familiar ones :)
It was a pleasant meet-up with Regina, since we parted in March (after the ADE workshop), also Kathleen, whom we met in April, too. Ah, of course the Apple folks - some whom I'm more familiar with than others :) Ah, also discovered some interesting characteristics amongst the folks too... hahah...

The morning was basically keynote addresses - one by Kathleen Ferenz and another by Jimmy Lee. [See separate link on what's covered in the 2 keynotes].

Generally, it's quite refreshing to listen to a keynote in Cantonese - it's the first time for me, basically... But it didn't sound awkward or funny... I guess it's probably because of my familiarity with the language so I felt the closeness, as well as the way it's spoken, so colloquial and easy to understand.

Our session was in the afternoon, which we were basically quite relief that we were able to deliver in English :) I guess our session aroused interest of the leaders because many people (including ourselves) were looking at formulas for successful 1-to-1 ICT-enabled implementation. There are many examples out there our Asia countries (in particular US), where research on this was carried out. I guess, nothing beat hearing from someone closer, in the Asian context, of its successful implementation. Certainly, participants from the Education Bureau were keen to find out the "how"...

29 July: My day, My time

This Thursday was one of the toughest days I had in the recent years. I guess probably I was trying to juggle so many things! Not just the work (which included a couple "uncalled for" emails), but also those of my own... and at the same time, have to fight with the fatigue...

Again, didn't join the crowd for dinner. Instead walked out to get my dinner (roasted chashao and roasted duck, I guess) and a soup... and more importantly, breakfast for the next day, which I already anticipated no time to go down to buy and eat.

Indeed, I was quite fearful of the next day to come... how would I get through the day with that yet-begin assignment? I didn't care... but hope to bed to sleep... nevermind that I caught only that one hour of sleep... it's still better than nothing!

30 July 2010: Day 2... a challenging one...

The day started with our keynote address... everything went on very smoothly for our session... Oh yes, I was amazed that I did it well (without uttering the wrong thing).

The 2nd part of the morning was on Challenge Based Learning, where both Mr Chua and me facilitated the discussion of 2 groups (which we put together as one). And, Mr Chua led the whole discussions - so systematically... haha... impressive, for someone who was only informed what to do in the morning, as well as the context & content :)

There's hardly time any time I could steal to finish the last paragraph of the my assignment in the morning. Similarly for the afternoon, until, at one point, I found a very good excuse to move from the first row to the last row of seats! I needed power supply for my computer! There, for 2 hours, I was frantically finishing the assignment before clicking on the SEND button at 5.30 pm! Phew! Immediately, one load off my shoulder!

The rest of the evening was with the aunt and cousins! Nice bunch of humorous people. Though we rarely met (think the last time was 4 years ago), we enjoyed the closelessness :)
While awaiting for the family at the Shatin 沙田新城市中心, I revisited the Snoopy Park. It was a nice one :)

I was glad I survived Friday! An extremely stressful one for me!

31 July 2010: Breakfast

I think it's the first time I feel I enjoyed this trip - haha... probably because everything's done!? in particular, handed in my assignment (though I knew it must be quite badly done...). Caught a good 6 hours of sleep... so luxurious... but have to wake up early because I was too tired and did not pack my luggage the night before!

8.30 am, we met to go for breakfast. It's the very first meal that I enjoyed wholeheartedly... hahaha... well, the dimsum at Jade Garden (翠园) was good; but more importantly, I think the mood plays a big part in that... The 菠萝包looked pretty different from the one we normally have... I liked the 柴鱼花生粥too. Very tasty.