A Travellerspoint blog

China

Zhuhai - Pearl Sea.

sunny

I can't imagine this blog will be of interest to anyone as we did not really see Zhuhai properly, but I'm adding it here as a blog because it was the first time we ever set foot on Mainland China. It was the 28th of March 2002. The day before my husband's birthday. We were on holiday in Macau. We had been to Macau many times and often gazed across into Mainland China from it, either from Sun Yat Sen Park near the Barrier Gate or across the Pearl River from the Maritime Museum or Coloane Village. This time we actually had a visa as we were shortly due to visit Beijing, so we took transport to the Barrier Gate and walked across into Mainland China.

We only explored the parts of Zhuhai near the border with Macau and we just wandered around on foot. This area mainly consisted of a lot of night clubs and restaurants. We were quite shocked by the live animals in cages outside one restaurant waiting to be killed and cooked. They were kept in very small cages and included things such as badgers and bears. There was also a very pleasant large wide open grassy area.

Zhuhai means Pearl Sea as it is located where the Pearl River flows into the South Sea. Zhuahi became one of China's Special Economic Zones in 1980 due to its proximity to Macau. Its population is around 1.9 million. One day we'll have to return and do proper justice to Zhuhai as it's supposed to be one of China's prettiest, greenest and most liveable in cities.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Zhuhai.

Posted by irenevt 00:13 Archived in China Comments (2)

Shang Hai

China

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Me in old Shanghai.

Shang Hai - A trip postponed

We originally booked to go to Shanghai for around 4 days in 2003. We had applied for and got our China visa. We had also booked a cruise from Hong Kong to Xiamin. What went wrong? ............SARS. People started getting ill, the much predicted global epidemic had arrived and everything started to shut down. The cruise got cancelled. We have never rebooked as they stopped doing cruises from Hong Kong to Xiamin. Our Cathay Pacific package to Shanghai got cancelled, too, and with fewer and fewer countries even letting people from Hong Kong in, we diverted ourselves off to the relative sanity of Macau.

In 2004, when life had returned to normal, we booked to go to Shanghai again, but we could only manage a very short trip due to work obligations. We flew to Shanghai on a Friday, checking into our hotel at around midnight. We had all day Saturday and did not have to be in Shanghai Airport till early evening Sunday. That in itself would have been rushed enough but worse was to come. We got up on the Saturday morning to find Shanghai was being hit by the tail end of a terrible typhoon. The result was not so much wind as torrential rain.

I insisted we went out anyway; husband disagreed. I won. We explored the Bund, took a boat trip along the Huangpu River, took a train ride under the river through the psychodelic tunnel and looked at the Pearl Tower. Then it was off to the Yuyuan Gardens - all done in torrential rain. We arrived back at the hotel soaked to the skin. My camera was waterlogged and wrecked. Husband's video camera was destroyed. He was not pleased.

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The Bund.

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The Bund.

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The Bund.

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The Bund.

We had a lovely swim in the hotel pool; put on our only remaining dry clothes and ......... I wanted to go out, but it was still pouring. Hubbie said just stay in the hotel. We argued; I won. We walked to the Peace Hotel to listen to jazz in the bar there. We got soaked. Back home we had no remaining dry clothes; wet clothes hanging everywhere.

Next day we even had to go to breakfast in wet clothes. Still at least the sun had finally come out. I bought a disposable camera to replace my wrecked camera ­ - fairly crap. Don't expect high quality pictures here. I dragged hubbie off to do the Bund again now the sun was out. We also explored People's Square and People's Park, then had a quick look at the former French Concession. We dried out as we walked around. It was fun, but it was all too quick and we soon found ourselves back on a plane heading to Hong Kong again.

The Bund is the famous road that runs along Shanghai's waterfront on the Huangpu River. It is 1500 meters (0.93 mile) in length. It was once part of the British settlement of Shanghai. When Shanghai became a trading port in 1846, the street by the river was paved and the banks of the river were reinforced. Then a long row of commercial buildings was constructed. A building boom at the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th century led to the Bund becoming a major financial centre.

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The Huangpu River.

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Hubbie_on_the_Huangpu_River.

A walk along the Bund is a must when in Shanghai. The walkway along the river is pleasant with trees and flowers. There are good views across the river to Pudong with the famous Pearl Tower. On the Bund itself you can see the famous Peace Hotel, the original Hong Kong Shanghai building.

From the Bund you can get on a boat for a sail along the Huangpu River. There is also a tunnel under the Huangpu River. You can go through this by train. It's like a fairground ride with psychodelic lighting. This will bring you out near the Pearl Tower.

The Yuyuan Garden is a classical garden in Anren Jie, Shanghai. It was built in 1577 by Pan Yunduan, a government official. Yu means pleasing and satisfying. Pan built the garden as somewhere for his parents to enjoy their old age. The garden contains pavilions, halls, rockeries and ponds. The garden is interesting, though it was very crowded. The surrounding areas are also interesting.

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Area near gardens.

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Yuyuan_Gardens

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Looking towards Shanghai.

People's Square is located at the very center of Shanghai. It covers an area about 140,000 square meters making it the largest public square of the city. The Shanghai Museum, which is meant to look like a giant Chinese cooking pot, is to the south of the square. At the northwest corner of the square is the Shanghai Grand Theater made almost entirely of glass.

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The Shang Hai Museum.

Our hotel, the Howard Johnson, was very close to Nanjing Road ­ one of the main shopping streets in Shanghai. The street is about 3 and a half miles long. It starts at the Bund and runs to the junction of Jing'an Temple and Yan'an West Street. This street has lots of shops, restaurants and some interesting sculptures. It is busy day and night and is good for people watching. At night there are many bright neon signs.

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Nanjing Road.

Posted by irenevt 05:30 Archived in China Comments (0)

Guilin

China 2004.

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Scenery around Guilin.

If you have ever looked at a Chinese painting and admired the steep mountains which look almost two dimensional, you are probably looking at Guilin.

I took my husband to Guilin as a special weekend birthday treat, arriving late on a Friday, off down the Li River on a boat trip Saturday, fly back to Hong Kong on the Sunday. Generally I don't like to travel in a rush, so to ensure we actually got to see something, I booked the trip as a guided tour. Again we don't usually do tours except the occasional day tour. I was a bit worried we would not enjoy it, but actually it was pretty good. The only thing wrong with the tour was that we did not get much free time and we like free time to swim and to wander aimlessly around. There was not much aimless wandering on this trip. We had a boat trip down the Li River, a boat trip around Guilin's waterways by night, a trip to some caves and a look at the tourist sights of Guilin such as elephant rock.

All the food was included on the tour as well and the food was very good. My husband loved the fact we were automatically given beer as soon as we arrived in a restaurant. He thought he had died and gone to heaven. In one restaurant I pointed out I have a bad allergy to scallops. They noted this. Then they brought the soup. I took one mouthful then a frantic waitress came tearing across the room, grabbed the soup off me and hurriedly brought me a different soup. She kept a nervous eye on me throughout the meal in case I blew up or something. Happy days! When we finally escaped the tour of an evening we found a lovely little bar near our hotel. Cheap, peaceful, not very touristy. It became our local for our brief stay.

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View over Guilin.

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View over Guilin.

On our first evening shortly after we arrived our guide hurried us out for a boat trip around Guilin's waterways by night. Guilin has 2 rivers and 4 lakes. These are Li river, Peach Flower River, Wooden Dragon Lake, Gui Lake, Rong Lake and Shan Lake. These waterways have been linked together since 2002 and it is possible to travel round them on a tourist sightseeing boat. Various pagodas and fountains and things were lit up at night. Very touristy, but fun. We also took a look at the twin pagodas on Shan Lake by day.

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Elephant Trunk Hill is on the west bank of the Li River. It is one of the symbols of Guilin. This hill gets its name from the fact that it looks a bit like an elephant drinking water from the river. There is a park on the hill called, not surprisingly, Elephant Trunk Hill Park. It's worth a look. It makes a good photo spot.

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Elephant Trunk Hill.

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Elephant Trunk Hill.

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Elephant Trunk Hill.

As part of our tour we were taken off to see Reed Flute Cave. This is in the north west of Guilin, about 5 kilometers from the centre of Guilin. The cave is famous because of its interesting rock formations. I enjoyed my visit here, but my husband did not. He got sick of our guide continuously saying things like: ' See, that rock looks exactly like a dragon standing on its head under a huge mushroom'. The poor man wanted to be left alone to see his own images in the rocks; not spend hours being asked 'do you see, do you see'. Well, he's never easy to please ­ unless beer is involved.

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Reed Flute Cave.

However the real reason tourists flock to Guilin is for the scenery around the Li River. A boat trip down the Li River is very enjoyable. The scenery is superb. You feel as if you are standing inside a Chinese painting. The trip will take you to the lovely town of Yangshuo.

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Boat trip down the Li River.

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Boat trip down the Li River.

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Boat trip down the Li River.

The fishermen here are famous for using cormorants to do all their fishing for them. We did not see this happening, but we did get the standard tourist photo of a fisherman and his cormorants for a small fee. There are lots of old fishermen posing with their birds.

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Cormorant fishing.

The food on our weekend package was excellent. We really enjoyed this restaurant with its peculiar seating, but I don't remember what it was called.

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Good food.

Posted by irenevt 04:26 Archived in China Comments (0)

The ups and downs of Beijing.

China - 2002.

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The Great Wall.

We live in Hong Kong so China is not far away. We've only been four times. The first time was to Zuhai just across the border from Macau. That was a day trip. The second time was to Beijing for a few days. The third time was a weekend in Guilin and the fourth a rather rushed weekend in Shanghai.

We should go more; we always like it when we are there. I think it's the annoyance and inconvenience of having to get a visa that we find a bit off­putting. After all it's just over there!!!!

Highs and Lows:

There were some sights in Beijing that I loved and others that I found very disappointing. The absolute best was our day trip to the Great Wall. It is such a universally known sight and yet growing up in the UK, it was so exotic and far away. Suddenly we were standing on it. It felt amazing.This trip also took us to the Ming Tombs -­ sorry but I really did not find them in the least interesting.

Another highlight was Tiananmen Square so stark and gray and Communist with its Soviet style buildings and statues, soldiers and kite flyers ­ I adored it. I could have gone there every day. Right next to it the famous Forbidden City ­ drab and concrete and samey and so boring it almost put me to sleep. What a waste of time a visit there was.

We loved, loved, loved all the parks we visited with their greenery, spring blossoms, people practising tai ­chi, people singing or playing musical instruments, 80 year olds zooming round exercise courses and people playing somewhat incongruous games of croquet.

The Temple of Heaven was another disappointment. Better than the Forbidden City but nothing special.

The Yong He Gong Lama Temple was stunning with its red wooden buildings, spring blossoms and overwhelming reek of yak butter. Fantastic.

We were ripped off just once as far as we know and that was by a taxi driver who took us on a long circuitous route to the Temple of Heaven. We were so pissed off we did not go to the Summer Palace as we had no wish to take a taxi. I reckon we would have loved the Summer Palace but, on the other hand, we used the day we had planned to go there to visit the Yong He Gong Lama Temple, the Confucius Temple, a wonderful park and the old hutong area with its bell tower and drum tower.

The things we enjoyed most about Beijing were the food, the parks and the Great Wall. The things we disliked most were the demented traffic and the dishonest taxi drivers.

We booked a day trip to the Great Wall ­ Badaling Section ­ after our arrival in Beijing. It was a superb trip and I would heartily recommend it. I would say visiting the Great Wall was one of the travel highlights of my life. The wall is just so world famous and it is so far away and exotic. I found it hard to believe I was actually there. The building of the Great Wall started in around the 3rd century BC and continued to the 17th century AD. It was built as a defensive structure and is more than 20,000 kilometers long. The Great Wall begins in the east at Shanhaiguan in Hebei province and ends at Jiayuguan in Gansu province to the west. It is made up of walls, horse tracks, watch towers, shelters and fortresses.

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The Great Wall.

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The Great Wall.

The Great Wall.

The Great Wall.

The Great Wall.

The Great Wall.

The Great Wall.

The Great Wall.

The trip also went to the Ming Tombs which we felt were­ nothing special and to a Chinese medicine centre ­ which was quite interesting. They asked for volunteers to have an electrical current passed through their body. All the Chinese people on our tour volunteered; not a single white person did. Cultural difference perhaps!!!

I loved visiting Tiananmen Square. This huge square in the centre of Beijing is sombre, gray, filled with soldiers and stark Soviet Communist style buildings, and huge Communist style sculptures. It was teeming with life; people out for a stroll; children flying kites; groups of friends posing for photos; people dragging us into their photos.

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Flying kites, Tiananmen Square.

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Soviet statues, Tiananmen Square.

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Chairman Mao, Tiananmen Square.

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Soviet style sculptures.

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Let's go fly a kite.

At the Forbidden City end of Tiananmen Square there is a huge picture of Chairman Mao. I loved this atmospheric square. We visited several times. I could never tire of it. Tiananmen Square is named after the Tiananmen Gate (The Gate of Heavenly Peace ­ - the one with the Mao picture). This gate separates the square from the Forbidden Palace. Tiananmen Square is the third largest city square in the world. It is located right in the very center of Beijing.

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Can't you just feel the atmosphere.

Right next to Tiananmen Square is the Forbidden City . Well, you have to go and see it because it is so famous, but I was heartily disappointed. Large drab gates lead onto large drab squares with large drab palace buildings in their midst. Then another gate, another square, another palace building; then another; then another. I think it was the total lack of greenery that got to me, that and the fact it all looked the same to someone like me uninitiated in Chinese palace architecture. The only saving grace was the little garden right at the back. Thank goodness for a bit of colour. Having said that. What do I know? Maybe you will love it. Lots of people probably do.

The Forbidden City was the home of the Chinese Emperor from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. For almost 500 years it was the ceremonial and political center of the government of China. Work started on building the palace in 1406 and continued until 1420. The palace is made up of 980 buildings and covers 7,800,000 sq ft. I may have enjoyed my visit more if I had read up on it more. It could be my own lack of knowledge that made me see it as dull.

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The Forbidden City.

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The Forbidden City.

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The Forbidden City.

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The Forbidden City.

Jingshan Park is a very beautiful park located immediately behind the Forbidden City. The park is set on an artificial hill formed from the soil excavated when digging the Forbidden City's moat nearly a 1000 years ago. The park has great views over the Forbidden City. It also has several pretty wooden pavillions. During our visit it was filled with stunning spring blossoms. This was so beautiful. Jingshan Park has five peaks, and on the top of each there is an elaborate painted wooden pavilion. These pavilions were used by palace officials for leisure purposes. The park is sometimes referred to as Coal Hill. In 1644 the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Chongzhen, committed suicide by hanging himself in this park.

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Pavillion with blossoms.

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Now you see me.

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Now you don't.

We also visited the beautiful Beihai Park which is also near the Forbidden City and Jingshan Park. It is a large park centred around a huge lake. It is a lovely place for a peaceful stroll. Beihai Park was once part of the Forbidden City's imperial garden. It was created in the 10th century. This Park has an area of more than 69 hectares. Much of its area is occupied by its lake. Beihai means Northern Sea. Beihai Park was built to imitate famous Chinese scenic spots such as the canals in Hangzhou.

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Hubbie in the park.

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Beihai Park.

The Temple of Heaven is another hugely famous sight and it is worth seeing, but don't get too excited or you might end up disappointed. The Temple of Heaven is located in the southern part of Beijing. It occupies an area of around 273 hectares ­ mainly vast, tree ­filled gardens. It was built in 1420 and was used as a place for the Chinese emperor to worship heaven. The temple's main buildings are the circular Altar of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven which is enclosed by a circular wall of bricks known as the echo wall and the Circular Mound Altar. The Temple of Heaven joined the world cultural heritage list in 1998. Again I feel my lack of knowledge of what I was looking at may have dampened my enjoyment of this site. Or it could just have been the taxi driver who overcharged us in getting there and put me in a very bad mood.

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The Temple of Heaven.

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The Temple of Heaven.

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The Temple of Heaven.

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The Temple of Heaven.

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The Temple of Heaven.

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The Temple of Heaven.

Another place we were delighted with on our visit was the Yonghegong Lama Monastery. The Yong He Gong Lama Temple is also known as the Palace of Peace and Harmony. Yong He Gong is one of the largest and most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world. Work started on building this temple in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty. Yong He Gong managed to survive the Cultural Revolution due to the intervention of prime minister Zhou Enlai. It opened to the public in 1981. This is a stunningly beautiful building and we really enjoyed our visit here. It even contained a rather smelly exhibition of sculptures formed from rancid yak butter.

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Yonghegong Lama Monastery.

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Yonghegong Lama Monastery.

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Yonghegong Lama Monastery.

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Yonghegong Lama Monastery.

Close to Yong He Gong Monastery stands the Confucius Temple. Confucius temples are fairly simple and plain inside but they are still interesting. This temple was built in 1302. It is the second largest Confucius temple in China; the largest is in Qufu, Shandong Province. The temple has four courtyards, Xianshi Gate (Gate of the First Teacher), Dacheng Gate (Gate of Great Accomplishment), Dacheng Hall (Hall of Great Accomplishment) and Chongshengci (Worship Hall). Inside the temple there are 198 stone tablets containing 51,624 names of Jinshi or advanced imperial scholars. Address: 13 Guozijian Jie. Directions: Yonghegong subway stop.

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Confucius Temple.

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Confucius Temple.

Somewhere near the Confucius and Lama temples we wandered into a large public park. I do not remember its name. What made it enjoyable to stroll around was all the activity going on inside. There were people singing. People practising musical instruments. People doing tai chi. Elderly people taking part on exercise courses. There was even a very popular game of croquet going on. Sometimes it is the everyday sights rather than the famous ones that make a visit worthwhile.

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In the park.

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In the park.

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In the park.

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In the park.

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In the park.

Quan Ju De (Peking Duck): We found a large Peking Duck restaurant near the Peace Gate. Many famous people have dined here. It has a cheaper fast foody version next door. We ate a delicious meal there. We enjoyed that we could watch the chefs preparing the food, too. To eat the duck: pick up a pancake, add raw spring onions dipped in a few splashes of bean sauce. With your chopsticks add a few pieces of duck to the pancake. Roll it up and enjoy. Peking duck is really delicious and unless you are vegetarian I heartily recommend you try it.

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Peking Duck.

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Peking Duck.

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Peking Duck.

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Peking Duck.

Posted by irenevt 02:42 Archived in China Comments (0)

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