Wednesday, April 29, 2009

S America - Falklands & Uruguay

Fiona and Walter continued their South America trip with port calls at the Falkland Islands and Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Below is what they have experienced. To read about the first part of their trip, please click here.
Stanley in the Falkland Islands, to us who have lived under the British rule, is an interesting port of call. Their red letter boxes and the public telephone stands remind us of what Hong Kong had when we were young. The island has sharp thin spike like rocks on land with moss like vegetation and short thorny vegetation. The local tourist bus driver refers the unique looking rocks to be rocks from the moon. The 2,500 people living on the island own about 600,000 sheep. The fruits and vegetables are all expensive imports. All the shops, churches, government offices, monuments and restaurants are not surprisingly located in the road along the shore. We passed by the war memorial monument honouring the military service who gave their lives during the war with Argentina some twenty years ago. On one of the plagues displaying the deceased servicemen were names of 6 Chinese from Hong Kong who were employed by the British to work on board the warship which sank off the coast when it was attacked by the Argentineans. The Falkland Islands being some 300 odd miles out in the sea off the continent are homes of penguins, dolphins, killer whales with black back and white belly, sea birds and marine life. It is very quiet until a cruise ship arrives. Not only the people on the island welcome visitors but also the dolphins along the coast are excited, popping up from the water around the catamaran with tourists on board.

The cruise ship called at Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. The old city is within walking distance from the pier. It was Saturday afternoon and the historic downtown area was quiet. "Tourist Police" patrol in the main square with the monument of the country's hero which brought the Uruguay independence. Uruguay people, mainly of Spanish or Italian origin, are fond of antiques. There are hawkers selling antiques and among these antiques are silverware, silver cutlery, pistols, guns, ammunitions and equipments for cleaning and maintaining the firearms like what you see in the American cowboy movies made when we were in BHJS. Uruguay people keep antique cars and vans and use them if the engine runs. Montevideo does not appear to be as rich as the parts of Chile and Argentina which we saw in this trip. A lot of the historical houses need maintenance. Leather jackets and other leather goods are of top quality and pretty stylish. They cost a fraction of those better ones made in Europe. They are cheaper and better than those made in China.
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Merry Get Together

We had a great time chatting with visiting classmates Victor Chan (Lao Wai) and wife Lisa from Sydney and Wong Ping Lam from Vancouver over dinner at the Maxim Palace Restaurant in Shatin New Town Plaza on 28 April 2009. They shared with us their fond memories of the good old BHJS days and interestig life experiences in Hong Kong and overseas since graduation. It is always nice to reconnect with friends of old and we were already talking about a dinner with Helen Lai when she returns for a visit in May.

Photo courtesy Victor Chan.

Monday, April 27, 2009

S America - Chile

I have asked Fiona to share with us the delights of the trip she made recently with her husband Walter to South America . She has graciously sent us an excellent article with some impressive photos capturing the highlights of their visit to this great continent . Here is Part 1 of her article. I enjoy reading it very much and I am sure you'll like it too.

This was the first visit to South America made by me and my husband. Our first stop was Chile. At Santiago airport, we could tell Chile has good relationship with which countries just by looking at the airport entry taxes chart posted high up showing the respective amounts to be paid by Americans, Australians, European community passport holders and Canadians ranging from US$30 per head to US$132 per head though no visa is required for citizens of those countries to visit into Chile. There is no charge for Chinese. Chile produces large quantity of seaweed which is sold to China and Japan. China is an important buyer of Chilean crude oil. Inside the Chilean fjords, there are a lot of salmon farms in the quiet waters. No wonder Chile does not seem to be too hard hit by the economic turmoil.
Chilean people are friendly and seem to be pretty down to earth. I spent 4 days in total in Santiago going around the city on our own in taxis and underground trains, strolling down main roads and side streets on foot and yet I did not see any European cars made by BMW, Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, Volvo, or Japanese cars like Lexus, Accura, and Infiniti. The Chilean people use their own domestic small and mid-size sedans. The underground trains are not air-conditioned and windows are left half open. The military police with armoured vehicles station in the historical and shopping downtown districts. On weekdays during lunch hour, lots of neatly dressed men either in suits or smart casual wear gether around the main historical square downtown to play chess. The city government labourers arrange chess tables and chairs for people to play under a huge gazebo in the historical square downtown and when all the tables are occupied, they push more tables and chairs out and put them in the shade under the palm trees. I estimate there were no less than one hundred people involved in chess in the square. It was quite a unique sight. Strange enough I found only one old lady chess player. The cruise along the channels along the southern Chilean coast and Strait of Megellan and the Beagle channel between Chile and Argentina was very pleasant. This part of South America is scarcely populated. The landscape still is natural, an undisturbed art of the creator of the Earth. The Andes with snow capped mountains run down to the coast to meet the water. The ship cruised along the mouths of many fjords. Though the hills along the fjords are not as high as those along the Yangtze three gorges, the scenery gave me tranquility and a very comfortable feeling. Sailing close to the glaciers which run to the sea is the highlight. But of the 6 glaciers we passed by, only one remains to end at the coast and the rest has retreated a little distance up the valley.
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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter

Wishing you a Happy Easter with a refreshed outlook on life!