A travel and photography blog by Loke Chee Meng
About the title shot :
In the autumn of 2009, I found Little Bugsie, of all places, on a toilet sink in the Days Landscape Hotel located at the foot of Changbaishan, Jilin, China. I invited Bugsie into the room. I gave it the 'red carpet' welcome and took the shot above with a Panasonic DMC-LX3.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Travel tip #4 - Get your mapping right!

We live in a small country.  We have our unique perspective with regards to spatial dimensions.  If you live in Ang Mo Kio and work in Shenton Way, you say your place of work is very far away from home.  If you work in SGX Centre (in Shenton Way) you would only go to Lau Pa Sat for lunch because any other place further than that is too far.  That is what we mean by far and near.

Now apply this perspective when travelling overseas, the likelihood is that you are going to get into trouble.

I had my first taste of perspective disorientation when I first visited China some 25 years ago.  I was staying at the Shangri-La Hotel Beijing located at the Haidian district in Beijing.  Over the weekend of my stay, I decided to visit the Beihai Park, 'near' the Forbidden City.  I looked up the tourist map and decided to take a slow leisurely walk there as the route looked pretty straightforward.  You go straight along Zhizhuyuan Road, then continue on Xizhimen Road and Pinganli Road; somewhat like walking from Orchard Hotel to Botanic Garden.  I was right in one aspect.  The journey did turn out to be a slow walk.  After two hours, I was still on the road. For sure I did not lose my way except that the road just never seemed to end!  I had to make a decision; to push on or turn back.  I decided to push on because turning back meant that I had to walk another two hours and yet not reach the Beihai Park.  Perseverance paid off.  Eventually I reached the Beihai Park after almost 3 hours of walking.  25 years after that 'epic journey', I measured that distance between Shangri-La Hotel and Beihai Park on a scaled map; it is some 10 km as the crow flies.

After reaching Beihai Park, I was too tired to explore the park. I have little recollection of the park then except that I saw someone fell into the lake and I had a bottle of 'Micky' Cola. It was so delightful though it tasted like cough mixture.  Today, we drink the real stuff; those days there were only imitations.  (I have subsequently revisited Beihai Park two more times over the years.)  Before you think that I must be darn stupid not to take a taxi, you must understand that during those days, Beijing was very different from what it is now.  There were no taxis plying the road.  As a matter of fact, there were very few cars on the road.  Visitors did not use Renminbi but Foreign Exchange Certificate (FEC), something that a lot of Chinese today don't know what it was.

The moral of the story is; be careful with tourist maps especially if they are not drawn to scale.  Find out the actual distance and don't made assumptions based purely on what we see.  Remember that our perspective is distinctively Singaporean.

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