Sunday, 5 September 2010

Shenyang

Shenyang City 沈阳市

Shenyang is the largest city in northeast China and is also the provincial capital of Liaoning province. The city is an industrial stronghold which includes many of the nation's key industrial giants such as Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC)沈飞集团, Brilliance China Automotive 华晨中国汽车 and Neusoft Corporation 东软集团. These were bolstered by the city's excellent air and land transport network.

It gained in stature when the first leader of the Manchu Qing dynasty, Nurhaci 努尔哈赤 established his imperial capital here in 1625. The name of the city was changed from its original name of Shenyang (which means north of the Shen River 沈河 that flows to the south of the city), to Shengjing 盛京. In addition, its other name Mukden was derived from the city's Manchu name of Mukdembi ("to rise"), and was also used interchangeably as well.

Following the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644, the Qing dynasty consolidated its power in Beijing and the city was renamed as Fengtian Perfecture 奉天府. It finally reverted to its original name of Shenyang after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1914.

The original inner city was only confined to a small square section of the current urban sprawl in the Shenhe district 沈河区. It is bounded by the Shuncheng roads 顺成路 as well as city gates at each of the four compass directions (courtesy of Google Maps).
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The main artery through the old city is known as Shenyang Road 沈阳路, and is also commonly referred to as Manzhou Street 满洲一条街 due to the distinct Manchu influence on the buildings that are preserved along this road.
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A Yutong CNG citybus was photographed working on service 215 along Shenyang Rd against a backdrop of classical Chinese shophouses. The bus was so new that it was pressed into service without a proper registration plate!
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Higer citybus belonging to Fengtian Bus working on service 296.
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Shenyang Rd is home to an eclectic mix of shops, tourist agencies as well as restaurants. We had lunch at one of the famed roast duck restaurants located along this street. The Yuanweizhai restaurant 原味斋吊炉烤鸭店 was formerly the Shenyang branch of the Jinyunlou 晋云楼 Peking duck restautrant in Beijing. It was renamed in 1953, and the shop's signature roast duck is prepared and eaten in a similar manner as the Peking duck.
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Manchurian cuisine has a heavy focus on dumplings, which are ideal in the harsh and long Siberian winters where it is easy to prepare, store and consume. Shenyang Bianjiachuanren Dumpling restaurant 沈阳边家传人饺子城 has been in existance for over 170 years.
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One of the 2 remaining stone city gates, the Hujinmen 抚近门, stands guard at the eastern end of Shenyang Road.
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Shenyang Imperial Palace 沈阳故宫

The palace was the official residence for the first 2 emperors of the Qing dynasty - Nurhaci 努尔哈赤 and Huang Taizhong 皇太宗. It was later used as a regional palace by later emperors and was further expanded to its current size by Emperor Qianlong 乾隆in 1780.
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Main courtyard of the imperial palace. The emperor would receive and confer with his court officials here every morning.
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The main hall in the palace, Chongzheng Hall 崇正殿. The Manchu script appears to the left of the chinese script instead of the right at the Imperial Palace in Beijing.
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The obligatory photo of the ornate 'dragon seat 龙椅' in Chongzheng Hall which is exclusively used by the emperor.
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The Fenghuang Tower 凤凰楼 behind Chongzheng Hall serves as the gateway to the private abodes of the emperor, empress and his many concubines.
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One of the 6 residences occupied by the emperor's concubines. Guanju Palace 关雎宫 was formerly used by Emperor Huang Taiji's concubine Hailanzhu 海兰珠 who was from the Ke'erqin 可尔沁 tribe in Mongolia.
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The spartan interior of the main sitting room in the palace hardly resembles the opulent furnishings which are often featured in period Chinese dramas!
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The stoves in the palace serves to heat up the water required for bathing and water contained in the large tubs also help to humidify the dry air which is prevalent in this region.
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Typical palace bedroom.
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The concubines' bedroom often has a baby rocker suspended from the ceiling for the newborn royal offspring.
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Back gardens of the palace grounds. The Shenyang Imperial Palace is approximately 1/12th the size of the Forbidden Palace in Beijing.
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The Dazheng Hall 大政殿 is an open courtyard where major celebrations are often held in the palace. The design of this octogonal shaped hall is partly influenced by the Mongolians, whom the ruling Manchurians have excellent relationships with.
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A close-up view of a dragon carving on the exterior of Dazheng Hall.
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Pavillions line both sides of the courtyard and are used by the commanders of the 8 different military divisions.
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A display of a typical armour worn by a foot soldier in the army and the ceremonial flags of the 8 divisions 正黄旗,镶黄旗,正红旗,镶红旗,正白旗,镶白旗,正蓝旗,镶蓝旗.
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Marshal Zhang's Residence 张氏帅府 / 大帅府

Zhang Zuolin 张作霖 was the warlord of Manchuria after the fall of the Qing dynasty in the early 20th century, having consolidated his power around his personal army that had seized control of Shenyang. He was eventually killed in 1928 when the Japanese sabotaged the train he was returning back to Shenyang on in the wake of his failed conquest of Beijing. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Zhang Xueliang 张学良.

Statue of Zhang Xueliang 张学良(少帅). He was instrumental in forcing the Nationalists to work together with the Communists against the invading Japanese forces during World War II. As a result, he was placed under house arrest by Chiang Kai Shek in Taiwan and later emigrated to Honolulu, Hawaii where he passed away at the ripe old age of 100.
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Children's rollerblading class in progress outside the gates of the mansion.
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Vegetable & fruits stall on wheels. It is a wonder how these sellers manage to peddle their wares with ease along busy streets and sidewalks without spilling or damaging any of their wares!
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The front courtyard of the residence features traditional Chinese architecture.
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Living room used by Zhang Zuolin for receiving guests.
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Stately European chateau style mansion served as the main residence for the illustrious warlord.
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Sitting room in the main mansion
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Dining area
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In addition to the main mansion, Zhang Zuolin built several smaller mansions for each of his 5 concubines.
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The well kept oriental garden featured marble carvings and traditional chinese pavillions.
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Shenyang Financial Museum 沈阳金融博物馆

The Shenyang financial museum is the only of its kind in the country and showcases the evolvement of the Chinese Renminbi over the years to its current recogniseable form today.

Banking hall in the early 20th century. Zhang Zuolin was credited into transforming the otherwise barren frontier provinces into one of the most properous regions in the country. After inheriting a financially weak provincial government in 1917, Zhang Zuolin appointed Wang Yongjiang to oversee the financial reforms, and a new currency known as the Fengtian dollar was introduced as a result.

The Manchurian economy eventually collapsed in 1928 due to severe devaluation of the currency as excessive paper notes were printed to sustain Zhang Zuolin's personal army without being backed by sufficient silver reserves.
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Realistic wax figurines in period costumes helped to recreate the bustling banking scene which was present at the height of the Manchurian economy in the early 1920s.
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Old credit notes and banking documents were also displayed in the hall.
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Bank tellers hard at work at the counters. Banking was a tedious and labourious process before the introduction of computerised banking systems.
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A gold plated God of Fortune 财神爷 in the museum. Judging from the huge amounts of pledges in the donation box, it seemed that the God of Fortune must be smiling on the museum operator instead of the devotees!
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Zhong Jie Shopping Street 中街购物街

Zhong Jie (or Middle Street) is one of the major shopping districts in Shenyang, and mainly features branded western apparel stores and restaurants such as Louis Vuitton and Pizza Hut.
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Taiyuan Jie Shopping Street 太原街购物街 (Heping district 和平区)

Taiyuan St is located besides Traders Hotel near the Shenyang Railway Station and features a huge underground shopping mall. It is also surrounded by a wide range of departmental stores such as Parksons.
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A nicely lit building along Zhongshan Rd 中山路 with a neon China Unicom advertisement.
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A slice of Singapore in a foreign land. Kangfu Degao Bus Company 康富得高巴士(Comfort Delgro Bus in Chinese) is owned by Singapore based ComfortDelgro Group which is also the parent company of SBS Transit. One of the company's many Yaxing citybuses was photographed picking up passengers in front of Parksons Departmental Store towards Dongta Airport during the morning peak hour on service 225.
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In addition, the company also operates a number of tri-axle Huanghai DD6141S04 buses which are deployed on service 207 during peak hours. These 14m long buses (which are 2m longer than the standard 12m length) feature a third exit after the rear axles to speed up the alighting of passengers.
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Bus stop pole listing the services which call at the Taiyuan St bus stop along Zhonghua Rd. The design of the bus stop plate bears a marked resemblance to those of New World First Bus in Hong Kong.
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This double deck bus manufactured by Yaxing is definitely one of the better looking Chinese double decks with smooth body curves and extensive window glazing. AC5710 was spotted working service 206 which links Shenyang Railway Station with the Shenyang Chemistry Institute.
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In response to increased awareness on environmental pollution in China, many Chinese bus manufacturers had rolled out a series of environmentally friendly citybuses. This BJ6112C8MT8 citybus produced by Beijing based Foton Group complies with the stringent Euro V emission regulations. Service 221 provides an essential link between the main railway station and the northern railway station in the city.
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Previous Post: Jilin & Changchun

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Jilin & Changchun

Jilin City 吉林市

Jilin City is the second largest city in Jilin province, and was the provincial capital before it was shifted to Changchun in favour of better traffic connections. This city is also unique as it is the only major city in China to share the same name as the province where it is located in.

Like many other cities in the northeastern China, Jilin receives its bulk of tourists in winter. Many flock to the banks of Songhua River which encircles the city to gawk at one of China's four natural wonders, where magnificent rime ice (树挂) are formed on the trees. This phenomenon occurs as the warm water vapour from the river cystallises upon rapid cooling. The stretch of Songhua River does not freeze over in winter as the water is heated by an upstream hydroelectric plant. In fact, many locals believe in the thereupatic effects of winter swimming in the river at sub zero temperatures!

Beishan Park 北山公园

Jilin is ringed by several foothills of the Changbai mountain range, with Beishan lying to the west of the city instead of the north as its name suggests! This hill is also the most famous of the hills as it was reportedly visited by Emperor Kangxi during his reign.

Main entrance gate to the park. This park is popular in winter among many skiiers.
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A busy railway level crossing operated by the Shenyang Railway Bureau is located within the park compounds, and it is not uncommon to see many tourists taking a sudden interest in trains! A Dongfeng 4 freight locomotive is shown here approaching the manned crossing - the green locomotives are mainly used for hauling freight while those in orange are used for passenger services.
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'Nine Dragon Gate 九龙门' which is intricately carved out of bronze.
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This hill is also known as Nine Dragon Mountain 九龙山 due to its auspicious landform according to popular feng shui and religious beliefs.
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The lakes in the park are filled with lotus during the summer season. In winter, visitors to the park would be treated to a view of ice-rimmed trees around the lake instead.
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The 30m long Lanpei bridge 揽辔桥(揽辔 translates to halter a horse in English) spans across a 15.7m deep cut in the hill, and was named as so to commemorate Emperor Kangxi's horseback visit. This bridge was constructed in 1932 and was named by the last emperor of the Qing dynasty, Emperor Puyi.
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View of Jilin city from the top of the bridge.
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The top of the hill plays host to an eclectic mix of Buddhist, Taoists and Confucian temples.
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Century Square 世纪广场

Century Square is an open recreational plaza located on the south bank of the Songhua River. The key attraction at this open space is the Jilin Meteorite Museum 吉林陨石博物馆(RMB80, ~S$16.40) which houses the world's largest recovered meteorite fragment that weighs a hefty 1.77 tonnes.

On 18 March 1976, a well published meteorite fall showered over 500 square kilometeres in Jilin with meteorite fragments of varying sizes, and the force from the impact created craters of up to a depth of 6 metres. A large statue of Mao Zedong is also constructed in front of the museum, as it is widely believed that the freak astrological event is in some way linked to his death later that year in September.
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Most public buses in China are often plastered with repetitive advertisements, which makes it a challenge to actually spot a bus which wears the company's corporate livery. 吉B25184 working service 61 was photographed with a retro looking maroon and white themed corporate livery. This bus is also part of a joint venture deal with an American bus and coach manufacturer called Flxible.
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吉B40221 is a longer wheelbase version of the previous bus and thus has the exit repositioned to after the rear wheel to improve passenger flow throughout the bus. This arrangement is also aided by the front mounted engine.
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Changchun City 长春市

The bustling capital of Jilin province was once the capital of the state of Manchukuo during the Japanese occupation. Most of the original Japanese buildings had been preserved to serve as a poignant reminder of the occupation. The map below shows the location of the places of interests in Changchun which are featured in this post (credits to Google Maps).

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Eight Branches of Manchukuo 伪满洲国八大部

Many of the original structures which had served as Japanese ministries during the occupation had since been converted into public hospitals and schools.

461 Hospital was the former site of the Japanese Justice Ministry.
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This grand compound was once the Japanese State Council building. A statue of Dr Norman Bethune is placed in the courtyard to honour the renowned Canadian doctor who served in the wartime medical units during the second Sino-Japanese war and later founded the Norman Bethune Medical School, which was the predecessor of the current Jilin University.
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Commemorative plaque at the entrance to the compound. The Chinese do not recognise the legitimacy of the Manchukuo government which was formed by the Japanese during their occupation, thus an additional word 伪 is added in front to indicate that it is 'fake'.
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Japanese Defence Ministry building situated across the former State Council. It had now been converted into an affiliated teaching hospital for the Jilin University medical school.
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Cultural Square 文化广场

The second largest of its kind after Tian'anmen in Beijing, this open plaza is located across a road from the former Japanese Defence Ministry and State Council. It was originally demarcated by the Japanese to be the site of an Imperial courtyard.

A pair of sandstone statues are located at each end of the plaza to symbolise motherly love and abundance in harvest.
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The majestic former New Palace of the Emperor of Manchukuo 新帝宫 sits at the northern end of the square. It had since been converted into the Jilin University Geology Museum 吉林大学地质博物院.
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Jingyuetan National Forest Park 镜月潭国家森林公园

Jingyuetan is the largest man-made forest park in Asia, and is widely used as a skiing ground in winter. Visitors have the option to toboggan down a track through the forests in summer.
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The park consists of several man-made lakes amidst lush greenery. It is a popular hangout in summer for locals as they experience summer for only a very short period of time each year. Unfortunately, the significance seems to have been lost on Singaporeans as we are surrounded with abundant trees and grass throughout the year.
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Newly wed couples patiently wait for their turn to have their photos taken against the lake and verdant hills.
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Xiang Ri Tun Restaurant 向日屯饭店

Xiang Ri Tun Restaurant is a themed restaurant in central Changchun where the owner had decorated the premises with old chinese communist memorabilia from the revolution.

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Upon entering the restaurant, diners are greeted with a view of the communal kitchen. The cuisine in the northeastern provinces are strongly influenced by the cuisine in Shandong as many of the Han Chinese migrated from the province at the turn of the 20th century. As such, the food tends to be very salty and sour since braised sauce is used liberally for a large number of dishes.
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Old public telephone from the 1950s. It is still functional and is used by the waiters to convey orders to the kitchen.
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The second level of the restaurant houses the dining area where it is further divided into individual themed rooms.
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Authentic wooden furniture is used for the dining tables and chairs. This particular room is used to display old porcelain vases in glassed rosewoord cabinets. To further enhance the ambience, old newspapers from the bygone era are used as wallpaper.
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A closer look at one of the newspaper articles. This particular article was published on 19 May 1962 and commented on the guidance of Chairman Mao with respect to the arts and literature.
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Sheng Yuan Tang 生源堂

Jilin province is renowned for its vast natural trove of traditional Chinese medicinal herbs which grow on the alpine slopes of the Changbaishan mountain range in the province. Due to its geographical importance, Changchun acts as a central clearing house for a wide variety of medicinal herbs as they are inspected for quality by the authorities before they are packaged and distributed to other parts of the country. The main herb traded in this city is the Korean red ginseng, which is more commonly known by its chinese name 高丽红参.

Shen Yuan Tang is one of the oldest medicinal halls in Changchun city and is often held in similar regard to the famed Bao Shu Tang which is based in Beijing. As with other similar shops which mainly cater to the tourist crowd in China, one is recommended to negotiate for a significant discount on the price(which is usually in the range of 25-50%)before committing on large purchases.
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Nanhu Garden Area 南湖公园区域

Nanhu Garden is one of the largest recreational parks in the city centre and is situated in the upscale Nanguan district 南关区.

Lotus pond with a traditional Chinese arch bridge in the background.
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An old steam locomotive is also exhibited in the park, and has a special significance as it is among the first Chinese locomotives that had been built at the FAW Automotive works in Changchun.
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Yan'An Street 延安街 during morning rush hour. The city prides itself on its extensive landscaping efforts, and has a policy of planting a row of trees for every 2 lanes of carriageway whenever possible.
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吉AA0239 was spotted working on service 13 opposite the Changchun University of Technology 长春科技大学. This Huanghai front engined bus had been decorated with probably an overzealous quantity of banners and messages. The large oval badge at the front testifies to the quality and reliability of this particular bus service.
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An old FAW 一汽 bus photographed on service 239 at the Nanhu Plaza roundabout with a crudely fashioned replacement radiator grille. Service 239 links the colossal FAW Automobile manufacturing plant 一轿基地 in the west of the city to a cryptically named "Public Transport General Hospital 公交医院", which is an irony as the bulk of the buses deployed on this route seem to be more in a need of urgent attention than its passengers! In additional to heavy vehicles (marketed as FAW and Dong Feng), China's first automobile company also assembles cars of various German marques such as Audi, Volkswagon, BMW and Mercedes Benz for the domestic market.
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While undoubtedbly cranky, unbearably hot in summer and grossly overcrowded during the peak hours, the public buses provide an economical and efficient means of transport with a flat fare of only RMB1 (~S$0.21) for most of the services.
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A local market located in one of the backlanes of the district. Black fungus 黑木耳 (foreground) is a local specialty and it is widely used in Chinese cuisine.
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Changbaishan Hotel 长白山酒店 is a 4 star establishment located besides Nanhu Garden, and is managed by the HNA Hainan Airlines Group. It is also the designated hotel 国宾馆 by the Chinese government for local and visiting dignitaries.
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Immaculate hotel lobby
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Ceremonial artillery cannons. However, they are more likely to be used purely props during celebrations and welcoming ceremonies instead.
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An interesting tree root sculpture in the hotel compound which resembles a mutant ginseng root.
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