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Snapshots Exploring Southeast Asia’s tunnels and skyscrapers

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Posted: Saturday, August 21, 2010 12:00 am

Who Lap and Yee Wong, of Lodi.

The Trip: A 16-day cruise to Southeast Asia.The Diamond Princess set sail from Laem Chabang, Bangkok.

Singapore flourishes as an East and West trading center. Hop aboard a river cruise and ride past many ultra-modern skyscrapers lining the Marina Bay waterfront. Amongst it all, the Sky Park at Marina Bay Sand is set atop three 55-story hotel towers, 650 feet into the sky. It has three standard-sized outdoor pools with a capacity for 3,900 replete with a 360-degree view of Singapore day and night. The guided tour of Chinatown Heritage Center in the three restored house reigns over our surprises. Look beyond the pictures and exhibits; it puts up a wealth of memories and untold stories of how Singapore’s new immigrants, from the late ’40s to the early ’70s, had settled in this area after their perilous journey from afar. Walk through the corridors to experience what it was like to live in the cramped quarters and small kitchen. Imagine the hardships they faced and the tough lives they had to lead. Each level takes us to different time in the history and promotes awareness and understanding of the ethnic Chinese culture and tradition.

Vietnam is a strategic site and flash point for world history. The city of Vung Tao lends an insight into the history of Lang Ca Ong Whale Temple and Nirvana Buddhist Temple. Visit the Villa Branche Museum, built by the French, which served as a summer retreat for Emperor Bao Dai. Today, it is a vacation home for Vietnam heads of state. Take in Nha Trang’s scenic highlights — from the Buddhist shrine at Cham Tower’s and White Long Son Pagoda to the Hon Chong Promontory.

Hong Kong’s name alone conjures up images of mystery and excitement. Feel awestruck by an endless array of retail outlets crammed with everything imaginable. Linger over the only double-decker trams in the world still in operation. And ablaze with the city’s skyscrapers that come to life nightly with a choreographed “Symphony of Light” show across Victoria Harbor.

Taipei is the heart of all the action in Taiwan. Without any doubt, the Taipei 101 is the first and only super tall building in the world that is built at a highly-active earthquake zone. Take a peek at the 1653 Lungshan Temple, dedicated to the goddess of Mercy. As told, the skillful craftsmen were invited from China to construct this magnificent temple with exquisite wood carving. A constant round of delights await the 1987 Chiang Kai Shek’s Memorial Hall rises 230 feet above the ground and is built with a white marble wall. The hall has two levels: The ground floor is a Mecca for displaying relics of 11 categories while the Main Hall dominates with a large bronze statue.

Located at the southernmost area of Japan, Okinawa consists of groups of 57 islands tied together by sea. Okinawa has the longest life spans in the world. All their diet, lifestyle, genetics and positive outlook play a roll. Take a glance into the past and hike down into the 1,480-foot tunnel to see the commanding officer’s room, medical room, power room, staff rooms. In a cruel twist of fate, the Battle of Okinawa began on April Fool’s Day, 1945. The war lasted only 90 days, but the loss of lives, ships and aircrafts exceeded any other battle in the Pacific. The Himeyuri Peace Museum honors the 240 female students and teachers who died serving in the Okinawa Army Hospital.

Shanghai, China’s biggest port s affluent with opportunity and adventure for those 19 million residences. Shooting up 1, 536 feet into the sky, the 1994 Shanghai Oriental Pearl TV Tower is the third tallest in the world. In the Main Hall is a huge Shanghai Contemporary Historical Museum. Mixing more than 1,000 waxworks into vivid scenes of everyday life with the help of voice, optical, electrical and other modern methods, it unrolls the urban development history of Shanghai before the eyes of tourists. Just amazing! Strolling along the Bund, once the heart of European capitalism in China, this waterfront promenade is lined with graceful 19th century buildings, as well as skyscrapers. Surrender to the overwhelming urge to see the Shanghai Yu Garden of which is a  prized classical Chinese gardening and architecture under state preservation. It was finished in 1577 by a government officer, Pan Yunduan, of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The garden is strewn by luxuriant trees, pavilions, rocks, halls, ponds, rockeries, bridges, towering artificial mountains and cloisters, all have unique characteristics as a pleasing gift to his parents. Exuberant and scenic, the garden has been hailed as a photographic jewel that excites one’s imagination.

Readers who submit snapshots published in the Lodi Living section receive a free Lodi News-Sentinel tote bag. Entries should include a quick description of your vacation, a snapshot, your name, address and phone number. Snapshots run in the order they are received.

Snapshots may be dropped off at the Lodi News-Sentinel during regular business hours or sent to Lodi Living, Snapshots, 125 N. Church St., Lodi, CA 95240.

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