Wednesday, 24 December 2008

2009 Calendar

Perhaps its due to the current economic downtown that I notice it is not easy to obtain desktop calendars from companies this year. Therefore, I decided to attempt to create my own desktop calendar instead. Microsoft Powerpoint 2007 makes creating such projects relatively easy, especially with the powerful table auto-formatting options, thus the hardest part was deciding which photo I should use for each month!

Aviation Theme
I decided to use the most memorable photograph which was taken in the particular month in 2008, with the exception of November where I did not shoot much due to exams.

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Singapore Buses Theme
I thought it would be natural to continue on to produce a version using photos of Singapore buses as well, since I'm love photographing both aircraft and buses!

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PDF versions of both calenders (formatted as A4 portrait size) are available upon request =)

Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year to everyone!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Highlights of 3K576

Date: Thursday, 04 Dec 08
Sector: Macau International Airport (MFM)-> Singapore Changi International (SIN)
Aircraft: 9V-JSA, Airbus A320-232
Seat: 3F
Departure Gate: 5
Scheduled Departure Time: 2030 LT
Actual Departure Time: 2043 LT
Scheduled Arrival Time: 0015 LT
Actual Arrival Time: 0029 LT
Arrival Gate: Gate C20

Having obtained the complimentary bus ticket from the reception earlier in the morning, we started our trip to the airport at 1615hrs. We had been told to expect a wait of 30-45 minutes as there is only one bus which is plying the free shuttle to the airport from Grand Emperor Hotel, which is located just next to our hotel. After a brief twenty minutes wait and an uneventful fifteen minutes ride to Taipa Island where the airport is located, we were dropped off at the shuttle bus stand located next to the arrival hall. Following which, we settled in for a long wait as the check-in counters would only open two hours before the scheduled departure time.

Macau International Airport has a rather conventional design and comprises of three levels, with the third level housing a large but empty food court. Unfortunately, the food court is the only place where food is available in the airport and hence charges a very high premium (about MOP10-15 above city prices). Thus, we were thankful that we had settled on an early dinner in the city before heading to the airport.

Macau International Airport Departures Drop Off
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Hotel Shuttle Bus Drop off point located besides the terminal building. A pair of EVA Air MD-90 and a Transasia A321 could be seen on the aircraft parking apron.
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Departure Hall
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Check-In counters
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Flight Information is shown simultaneously on three separate screens in English, Portuguese and Chinese.
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View of the departure hall after clearing immigration and common security check
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Macau International only has 4 aerobridge gates, gate 3-6. This means that other flights from gate 1,2 and gate 7 have to accessed by a shuttle bus as the aircraft is parked away from the terminal.
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Was very pleased to be able to photograph Air Asia's Best Low Cost Airline special livery, 9M-AHO which was operating the flight to Kuala Lumpur.
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My third flight onboard 9V-JSA, seen here shortly after a late arrival from Singapore.
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New look for Jetstar's inflight magazine, boarding pass and luggage tag.
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PDF version with additional details of this trip report is available on request :)

Zhuhai Buses

Getting Around in Zhuhai
There are two public bus companies in Zhuhai and both operate services to Gongbei where the main checkpoint to Macau is located. Most of the services which serve Gongbei will pass through Chang Sheng Lu (昌盛路) and call at the underground bus stop which is located under Zhuhai Port Plaza. The service will then make a U-turn into You Yi Lu (友谊路) which parallels with the Gongbei customs complex. The buses will follow with a right turn onto the main road, Yingbin Nan Lu (迎宾南路) where most of the major shopping centres are located before continuing on their respective routes.

Most of the routes are one man operation where the fare is slotted into a fare box except for route 207 to Zhuhai Sanzao Airport where certain buses have a conductor on board as an additional service.

Zhuhai Public Bus Company 广东珠海市公共汽车公司
Zhuhai Public Bus Company is the main public bus company in Zhuhai and is readily identified by its plain yellow livery.

The older Changjiang/Zhujiang buses had been gradually replaced with newer buses. Svc 30 is one of the very few remaining services that continue to operate these older buses. C05617 is photographed working route 30 with the impressive China Customs complex in the background.
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C06699 carries a government message to encourage residents to be gracious.
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Newer Chinese built buses such as this Denwey are used on many services.
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Xinhe Bus Company 信禾公共汽车
Xinhe Bus Company is the second public bus operator in Zhuhai and operates a fleet of updated Chinese buses in white and green livery. Their drivers wear a long sleeve shirt with a tie as their uniform!

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Kee Kwan Sightseeing Bus
Kee Kwan Motor holds the license granted by the Zhuhai government to operate tourist sightseeing routes and had until recently, deployed double deck buses on the routes. However due to huge losses they had downgraded to normal single decks.

C5072 is photographed operating the route from Gongbei customs to Hengchun customs. With such a dismal frequency and obscure route its hard to even get tourists' attention!
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Long Distance Buses
As a special economic zone, Zhuhai has a very good long distance bus network to destinations within Guangdong and neighboring provinces such as Zhejiang and Fujian. Most of the long distance bus services terminate at a brand new bus terminal located along You Yi Lu (友谊路) which is just opposite the Gongbei Port. Schedules, fares and vacancies as well as further connections are displayed on wall to floor LED boards. Xinhe Bus Company also maintains their own open-air facility which is located to the east of the Gongbei Customs Complex.

The Zhuhai-Guangzhou is very competitive and thus one can expect new Chinese license built European vehicles on this route. It costs about RMB90 for the 2.5hr journey.
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Long distance sleeper coach departures to other provinces are also frequent.
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As Zhuhai-Sanzao airport is mainly a domestic airport, there exists a substantial demand for passengers who wish to travel to Guangzhou Baiyun airport which is about 2.5hrs away by bus. The ticketing office is located inside Zhuhai Port Plaza.
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As it is not possible to include most of the photos in this page, do take a look at this link where more Zhuhai bus photos taken during my trip could be found Zhuhai Buses - Picasa Album

Next and Final Post: Highlights of 3K576

Macau Buses

Getting Around in Macau
Macau is very compact in size (about the size of Woodlands New Town) and thus it is very easy to get around the territory. Most of the historical place of interests are clustered in Macau peninsula and is easily explored by foot. Macau is broadly divided into four regions:- Macau Peninsula, Taipa, Coloane and Hac Sa Beach. The public bus fares are flat fares and are charged based on the coverage of the route.

Public Buses
The bus fare is prominently displayed above the fare box and the coins are dropped in. It costs MOP3.30 for services which ply within Macau Peninsula only, and MOP4.20 for services which also cover Taipa as it is an outlying island. MOP and HKD coins are used interchangeably on a 1:1 exchange rate. However, it is very hard to obtain small change and so a typical visitor often pays more than he should as he have to round up.

The triangular machine next to the fare box is the equivalent of Singapore's ez-link contactless system, known as Macau Pass. Similar to our ez-link, a single beep is heard for adult cards and double beeps for concession. However, only Macau residents can buy the Macau Pass as resident fare concessions are credited into their account.
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A new bus shelter with the services stickered on the outside, seperated by dashes. The bus stop name appears inside the bus shelter and a board shows the route details of the routes. The Transmac sign on the right says 'Large Bus Turning Area. Please Do Not Park' in Chinese. There are many of these signs around Macau.
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Bus Stand along the main street 新马路, or San Ma Lou as it is commonly known in Cantonese. Virtually nobody refers to it by its Portuguese name. The current location and direction is indicated by a round sticker on the route diagram.

Most Macau residents and bus drivers only know the name of the road and landmarks in Cantonese, so its better to actually point out on the map for enquiries rather than attempt to pronounce the road name in Portuguese, English or even Chinese! Macau bus routes are confusing as the route of the inbound and outbound sectors can (and often) differ by quite a bit.
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Macau-HK Ferry Terminal Bus Terminal. A typical bus terminal in Macau looks more like an extended bus stop with small containers serving as timekeeping offices. However, the public bus terminal at Barrier Gate is located underground. It may be possible to obtain change from the timekeeper on duty. Tramsmac service 32 is a very useful service as it connects Ferry Terminal with Senado Square and Macau Tower.
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There are two public bus operators in Macau, Transmac(新福利) and TCM (澳巴).

Transmac
The oldest type in Transmac's fleet currently are the Mitsubishi Fuso. It is seen working route 5 approaching Barra Terminal. Service 5 is a useful service to connect Barra (A-Ma temple), Senado Square and Barrier Gate.
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Most of the services which serve Macau Peninsula call at a large bus stop located opposite Grand Lisboa. MK-45-86 is a Dennis Dart SLF with MCV bodywork. It is interesting to note that these buses were assembled by Soon Chow in Singapore before they were shipped to Macau.
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Batman Credit Card anyone?
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Interior of the Dennis Dart SLF. The seat covers are printed on with Transmac logo.
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K82 picking up passengers along Rua Do Cunha, a major single lane street at Taipa Village
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In order to ply the narrow backlanes of Macau, Mitsubishi Rosa are deployed in large quantities on routes throughout Macau. To aid passenger flow, they have 2 doors. MJ-70-19 is seen climbing up a steep lane near the Protestant Cemetery.
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Standard 2+1 interior arrangement for the Mitsubishi Rosa. The single seat after the rear door is sideways facing.
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TCM
Easily identified by the bright orange and white livery, TCM operates a large fleet of predominantly Japanese buses. MG-71-33 is photographed picking up passengers at the Grand Lisboa 'Bus Hub' with the distinction lotus shaped Grand Lisboa in the background. Services are split into each of the 4 stops here based on their final destination. The entire area is brightly lit by white flourescent lamps.
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TCM uses Japanese buses complete with original Japanese bodywork, hence the characteristic ultra-wide sliding rear door on this Hino Rainbow body. Service 12 connects Macau-HK Ferry Terminal to the residential estate of Iao Hon in north Macau.
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Similar to Transmac, TCM uses a number of midibuses to work routes with exceptionally tight lanes, such as this Hino Liesse. TCM Service 18 comes highly recommended as a sightseeing service as it plies the charming backlanes of Senado Square and Barra, and ends its route at Barrier Gate.
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Free Hotel/Casino Shuttle Bus
Most of the major hotels with attached casinos offer free shuttle services. The usual destinations are Macau-HK Ferry Terminal, Pak-on (Taipa) Ferry Terminal, Barrier Gate and Airport. Frequency of these shuttles range between 5mins for the busier routes to 30mins for the less busy ones. These shuttle services normally have a minimum age limit of 18 (minimum age to enter casino).

For Grand Emperor it is necessary to obtain a bus ticket on the day itself from a reception counter in the casino, while those under the Stanley Ho group such as Grand Lisboa, one has to gamble at the table/slot machines to obtain a bus ticket. This bus ticket hassle is only required for trips departing from the hotel. No bus tickets needed both ways for Venetian, Sands, Wynn and MGM shuttles (coincidence that they are owned by American companies?).

Barrier Gate main shuttle bus terminal. This gives an indication of the scale of operation of these free shuttles in Macau. The larger hotel/casinos have another more convenient pick up point right outside the immigration complex and the buses used are different from those here as they are required to have 2 plates, ie Macau and Chinese. The 2 pick up points are about 5mins walk away and one has to cross a pedestrian overhead bridge.
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A shuttle bus operating for Venetian leaving the Hotel West Lobby where the main shuttle bus terminal for Venetian is located. These spiffy MAN coaches used for the shuttles are very smooth and have changing mood lighting onboard too!
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One of my most commonly used (read: taken advantage of) hotel shuttle during my short stay in Macau as the hotel is located just besides mine.
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As it is not possible to include most of the photos in this page, do take a look at this link where more Macau bus photos taken during my trip could be accessed Macau Buses - Picasa Album

Next Post: Zhuhai

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Zhuhai

Zhuhai is a Special Economic Zone located next to Macau, and is similar to what Shenzhen is to Hong Kong. In general, it is actually better to shop and eat in Zhuhai than Macau as it very much cheaper and often with greater variety as well! It is no wonder that I observed many Macau residents crossing into Zhuhai for their grocery shopping (sounds like Singaporeans going to JB?)

The Barrier Gate, or Portas Do Cerco, is located to the north of Macau Peninsula, and is the main crossing into Zhuhai. The other crossing is known as Heng Qin Checkpoint (横琴) and is located at the Cotai reclamation project to the south. The original Barrier Gate had been preserved at the original location (insert) in front of the new ultra modern immigration complex.
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It takes approximately one hour to cross the border to exit at Gongbei Customs in Zhuhai, with most of the time spent queuing. However, it is very easy for Singaporeans as we do need additional visas for entry into China.
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View towards the north from the Gongbei Port Complex at Yingbin Nan Lu (迎宾南路). Many of the large shopping centres are located along this road.
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The huge courtyard in front of the Gongbei Port Complex actually houses a huge two-storey underground shopping complex called Zhuhai Port Plaza (珠海口岸购物广场) beneath it. It is large enough to easily spend a whole day browsing through the numerous shops. For ease of navigation, the complex is further divided into several zones based on the type of merchandise with a number of clearly marked exits. A public bus stop is also located under this shopping centre.
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One of the exits from Zhuhai Port Plaza leads to the main multi-storey Zhuhai wet market where the usual fresh produce could be found. Exploring further is Lianhua Lu (莲花路), a lovely pedestrian only shopping street filled with numerous clothing and food outlets.
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Food!
Some random snapshots of what I had ordered in Zhuhai. Photos below taken with Nokia E66.

Xiaolongbao (小龙包), steamed buns filled with steamed juicy pork. One basket like this only costs RMB5 (approx S$1.05)!
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Duck Rice with vegetables. RMB11 (approx S$2.15). The same meal with a slightly better presentation would cost at least twice in Macau.
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Honey Chicken set dinner ordered at a cafeteria inside Gongbei Port Plaza. Includes a bowl of lotus root soup, vegetables, Honey Chicken and Rice for only RMB16 (~S$3.20)
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Next Post: Zhuhai Buses

Integrated Resorts...Almost!

With the recent Integrated Resorts hype in Singapore, it was nice to check out the equivalent of such developments in Macau. These huge developments combine casino, shopping, entertainment and convention facilities so that there would be something that appealed to every visitor.

Macau Fishermen's Wharf
Macau Fishermen's Wharf is a combination of several themed zones with replicas of the world's famous street scenes. It is open 24hrs and its usefulness is limited to a very beautiful shortcut from Kun Iam statue to the Macau-HK Ferry Terminal.

Entering from the entrance nearest to the Macau-HK Ferry Terminal, one is greeted with a replica of a Tang Dynasty fort. The willow trees do provide a rather nice atmosphere in the evening though.
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Moving on, a replica of the Potala Palace in Lhasa Tibet serves as a theatre.
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The central zone of Fishermen's Wharf is a modelled after ancient Rome with ruins and even a scaled down version of a Gladiator theatre. However, it seemed that no performances had been held for quite a period of time

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Aladdin Store
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The next section features sections of street scene across Europe and America. I personally love the contrast of the British cottages with the modern Sands casino in the background.
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Havana Street Scene
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Typical narrow Dutch houses
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The Port Alegre section comprises of a section of Portuguese colonial buildings and houses a number of Japanese restaurants and cafes.
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The Rocks Hotel
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Babylon Casino
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Venetian Macau
Venetian Macau is located at the Cotai Strip, which is a stretch of reclaimed land between Taipa and Coloane Island. The Legends Casino which is located in the Venetian is one of the largest in Macau offer almost any card or jackpot game imaginable.

The massive shopping complex located above the casino is inspired by Venice's waterways, squares and bridges. The ceiling above is being projected to give the impression of a real sky complete with clouds, and changes from dawn to dusk!
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St Mark's Square
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Living statues stage regular performances, much to the amusement of many shoppers.
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Shoppers could also take a short cruise on board a gondola. The gondola is actually rowed and steered by a gondolier, who would also entertain the shoppers with classic Italian songs while rowing.
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Much effort had been put into the building facades and railings to create as authentic an experience as possible.
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Next Post: Macau Buses