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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know a lot of Hong Kongers travel, and there should be a lot of good photos floating around among from our SSC forumers' travels. I'm going to take the first step in creating a consolidated thread of my travels for this year. Hope everyone will want to do the same. :)

Toronto
I was in town in May and wandered around downtown to see what changes have occurred since my last visit some 3 years ago.

1. Condos ... lots of new condos ...









5. Soon this will be a vibrant, living neighbourhood. But I couldn't locate a supermarket or convenience store throughout my walk. Wonder where people get their food ... would they drive somewhere?











10. I believe this is the Port Authority. Toronto is a fairly small port city on the Great Lakes. Given this fact, they seem to be on the headlines quite a lot for a whole assortment of things.



11. These aren't on the new changes list.











16. The weather was quite good and the temperature was very comfortable for a long afternoon walk. May is usually a good time to visit Toronto. At night it dipped to a cool freezing mark for a few days. I remember leaving Hong Kong at about 26C ... quite balmy.









20. High tea at the Royal York, anyone?







23. Air Canada Centre is no longer visible from most of York Street. This was perhaps my biggest surprise. I thought the hangar was there, but now a few giant buildings stand in the way.



24. I really wonder how this capacity dump in new condo units would affect the real estate market, especially now with the economic slump. I recall Toronto's real estate was quite cheap by international standards already.







27. No CN Tower this time ... I've been up this thing several times before.





29. If I took the same picture a few years ago, the view would probably be almost the same. This is fairly deceiving.

























41. Cityplace ... this I knew about as it has been a work in progress for a long time already. Slowly but surely, the site is being filled up with glassy condos. I'll show more in part 2.








 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Toronto
45. I also ventured around the financial district to look for changes ...





47. As usual, this place is absolutely deserted on the weekend except a few boarders.







50. I was browsing One King West's website and noticed the prices are quite cheap for a downtown location. The lowest rate available was only $149/night.







53. This is one of the biggest changes in the downtown core. Bay Adelaide Centre was an abandoned site with an ugly elevator core for many many years as Toronto wondered if it will ever need a new commercial skyscraper in the city centre again. Now it's almost done ... I think the delay is well over a decade isn't it?







56. Meanwhile, another skyscraper tries to edge in nearby.







59. Now this is a treat - the Fishbowl buses are still running.









63. I remember one winter day, I passed by this intersection to get to my lunch engagement and the temperature was -19C.









67. I used to hold a few Canadian bank accounts. However, Canada's banks are not so international, so in the end the number wiggled down to a bare minimum to keep some spare change in case I'm in town. Today, HSBC and Citibank are my preferred choices.













73. Baking in the sun on a cool spring day.















80. So they still haven't gotten the uniform newspaper boxes out everywhere?

























92. Toronto's version of the Flatiron building.



93. Where are we off to next?


 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Helsinki Surprise #1
My trip to Finland was extremely random and not originally on my plan. I had a week in Europe as a transit point between Canada and Hong Kong, and was searching for a cost-effective side trip. I didn't want to stay in ultra-expensive London for too long. If I had to pay a fortune a day, I might as well see a new place.

While I searched for cheap hotels, I realized one of the hotel loyalty programs had a special. Looking through what was available in Europe, the only larger cities featured were Porto and Helsinki. Having been to Lisbon last year, I chose Helsinki.

1. Finnair has a significant network to Asia. But I flew in with easyJet from London.



2. The Central Railway Station is quite clean and tidy. The architectural style is quite interesting. It's not totally Art Deco, but something of a hybrid?

















10. Rautatientori is a huge square next to the railway station. But I think it's too big and not intimate enough with its surroundings. Hence, it doesn't seem too busy in there.



11. Europe has some really modern trams.















18. I ventured north and headed across Kaisaniemi Park looking for the lake.









22. These trains look a bit aged though ...





24. Here's the lake. A number of boats were parked onshore along the waterfront. It seemed quite serene.

















32. Don't look back.



33. I knew there must be some nostalgic old trams. Come to think of it, I don't think I actually rode on one of these whilst in Helsinki. I walked everywhere, and the hotel was right in the heart of town.













39. Here's another big square. Again, it seems deserted. Being blocked from the buildings by streets on three sides really kills the street life.













45. Helsinki is surrounded by plenty of water. Water has a wonderful calming effect, and makes cityscapes ever more pretty.







48. I try to visit at least one touristy local market in every city I visit. Hakaniemi Market was tidy and organized, and had plenty of one of my favourite foods - smoked salmon.





















With some mental sustenance from all that looking, in the next part, I will take you around the city centre a bit more.

I've uploaded most of my Helsinki photos on my website : http://www.globalphotos.org/helsinki.htm
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Can't be jealous anymore...

You had a week free between Canada and HK... and ended up finding yourself in Finland.
That's soooooo random. lol
I was originally planning to fly from HKG-YYZ directly or through YVR. But since airfares sank this year, it was only slightly more expensive to do a routing through Europe. Having been to London every year for the past few years (Yes, Rach, I think I meet you guys in London more than in HK), I thought of going to another country to see something new since I have to pay for food and sightseeing anyway.

I had some hotel points to use and the only options where I could get 3 nights free were Porto and Helsinki. I went to Lisbon last year already, so I chose Helsinki. Luckily easyJet flew there. :)

So that's how many random Helsinki trip came about. There's Tallinn as well. I've posted that set to my website and will make available here after my Helsinki series. :)

yeh hkskyline has a habit of travelling everywhere (i think i've met him at least annually outside HK) and then saying he hasn't got the holidays LOL!
Well, my last set of holidays for this year will be spent with you guys in Europe soon! :)

I'm looking for a travel buddy for Shanghai over the October long weekend. Any takers?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Helsinki #2
58. I leave Hakaniemi Market and head towards the lake.







61. Round buildings are quite fascinating. Here's a big one with a few other shapes and a lot of bricks!





63. Next to it is a more modern version.







66. A serene home by the park and the water.

















74. I notice a lot of this bedrock-like material on the surface around the city. Looks like an interesting geological profile.



75. Some interesting buildings line the streets north of Senate Square. The architecture seems to differ quite wildly across buildings.

























87. I noticed the doors are usually quite large, like this one.

























99. The number boxes are quite uniform and unique as well. They're easily spotted from the street.

























 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Helsinki #3

112. Katajanokka is home to a lot of Jugend architecture. The styles are simple, but the decorations are elegant. Add to that numerous colours, and they look quite good.















119. This entrance will swallow you whole!

































135. The density is just about right. With parking on one side of the street, the scale seems quite perfect and intimate at the same time. We need a few more trees and shrubs to please the eye most.









139. Any smaller and I can bring it into the house.















146. A beautiful water scene borders this part of town.

































162. Icebreakers taking a break during the off-season. More on the next part!

 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Helsinki #4

163. Helsinki is a fairly laid-back place. With water surrounding the city, there was an air of serenity, and walking along the waterfront on a cool sunny day was absolutely amazing. Continuing along in Katajanokka ...





165. I wonder how big these apartments are and how much they cost?



166. The icebreakers are home for the off-season. Too bad I couldn't get much closer.

















174. As I rounded the corner, I noticed many more modern, but ugly, functional buildings. It was a residential area for the middle class I believe.











179. My map showed the water's edge nearby. With very little battery power left, I snapped this last picture before it went out cold.



Katajanokka is a nice mix of beautiful old buildings and functional architecture. A good neighbourhood needs a mix of all classes.

One of the days was dark, gloomy, and rainy. I decided to brave the cold and went to Suomenlinna without an umbrella. I had one at the hotel, but I was just too lazy to walk back from Senate Square to get it. I paid the price. I thought I'd catch a cold and have it bother me on the flight back to Hong Kong. Luckily, I did a sauna at the end of the day to get the impurities and bugs out of me. :)

180. The 2-euro guidebook I picked up at the tourism office had a number of sites listed for this island. This is the first one.



181. Perhaps it was because of the weather, but the island looked quite deserted.

















189. There wasn't too much to see along the walk.



190. This could be anywhere in America.













196. There were a number of these walls, and some teenagers had set up shop inside to enjoy the rainy day.

















204. Had it been sunny, Helsinki's skyline would have been fully visible.















 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Helsinki #5

212. On my final day in Helsinki, I did a very long walk towards the southern reaches where the sea greets land. Let's start with the nicely-planned Esplanade.











217. Although the heights are uniform, the details are different and with a mix of colours, the streetscapes look quite refreshing.

















225. Looking good on the outside, so had to peek inside as well!











230. I wonder if these are cheaper than the water-view units in Katajanokka?











235. Eira has a big collection of Jugend architecture, according to my 2-euro walking guide. Let's see what these ones look like!







238. These look a bit simpler than the Katajanokka ones.




































 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Toronto
94. It's time to head north to the city above Toronto to see how urban sprawl has blighted yet another North American city.



95. While these houses look nice and spacious, don't count on the bus to get you anywhere.











100. There is a price to pay for a garden in the city.











































121. Coming soon ... more sprawl!























 

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1. My visit to Beijing in the winter cold was quite fruitful, as I saw a lot of new and interesting things from the Olympic Games. Let's start with the new subway line.











6. It's a short ride to the Olympic site, but getting to this subway line takes a few changes from the city centre.



7. Start saying WOW!







10. Now I start my snapshot spree of the Bird's Nest.











15. It's a hefty price to get in. In fact, it's more costly than the Forbidden City, which is a bit of an atrocity given this is only one building. But there was no shortage of visitors. The Olympic factor is still strong and drawing the crowds. I will post the interiors in the next part of my Beijing series.









19. Beijing also has a lot of old buildings. The hutongs are interesting to explore, but the reality is, many of these homes lack even the most basic necessities. Renovating them and adapting them for modern use is not always possible. Some may be worth preserving, but I think the vast majority simply cannot be upgraded for today's expectations.

























31. There are a couple of historic sights that offer a view. The Bell and Drum Towers were on my to-visit list last time (in 2007), but I never got a chance to climb them until this visit.



















40. Unfortunately, there was a bit of smog as well.

























Stay tuned for more parts. I've started posting my 2009 trip photo set on my website :
http://www.globalphotos.org/beijing.htm
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Beijing #2
1. The exterior is surely impressive. Now it's time to make best use of my expensive admission ticket and venture inside the National Stadium.





3. The interior looks like a typical stadium. It's big, but nothing too special to the eye.















10. Luckily, despite the crowds, the huge space meant people were spread around, so there weren't many roadblocks along the way as I snapped pictures relentlessly.











15. The press gallery









19. Take a seat and feel the Olympic spirit.



20. Let's change gears and head back into the city. Qianmen used to be a major market street in Old Beijing. When I first came by this area in 2007, all the buildings were boarded up and there was a lot of traffic along the actual street. I was quite surprised the boards had renderings of what the future would look like, and it was impressive they had these boards all along both sides of the street for as far as the eye can see. Well, it's now done, although still awaiting tenants to move in, and it's quite impressive.



21. They even reproduced the old tram, although a bit clunky like an ironclad on rails.





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25. There were a lot of people strolling along this newly-pedestrianized street. But most of these buildings are actually empty. Not many people have moved in. So a lot of lookers than shoppers and diners.



















34. Remember, they rebuilt this street. All these are new buildings in the old style. Back in imperial times, commoners could not use the bright red colours on their buildings. Those were reserved for the royal clan.













40. 2 years ago this was a boarded-up street.













46. Towards the end of the street, the crowds got thinner. It was a cold day, and I couldn't believe I lasted so long out there. But then, I haven't endured the -30C Canadian winters for a few years, so now my ability to withstand real cold has decreased.













The Whole Set : http://www.globalphotos.org/beijing.htm
 
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