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Archive for January, 2007

Minsk World

Minsk Panorama

On Saturday we decided to check out Minsk World, a military theme park based around the Minsk, a decommissioned Russian Kiev-class aircraft carrier. The Minsk was launched in 1975 but was decommissioned in 1993 and sold as scrap to Korea in 1995 when Russia could no longer afford the maintenance. Before it made it to the ‘crusher’s jaws’ it was sold to a Chinese businessman in 1999 and Minsk World was created. Despite the parent company going bankrupt and the Minsk being sold (for US$16m) the theme park still operates.

After some on-line research it seemed that the best way to get there was to accept a steep taxi bill. I phoned a colleague to see if he knew of a bus that ran that way and he kindly offered to take us there in his car, which was very much appreciated.

Gail hiding behind canon Minsk World mascot Andrew on canon

The land-based part of Minsk World consists of a Russian-looking building to welcome you, along with the usual Chinese water features and statues. In the square at the entrance there were all these white doves milling around. Why they were at this specific place, I don’t know, but you could buy bird food to keep them nice and plump. Quite obviously, many people did this. Inside the park there was an assortment of Russian tanks, aircraft, canons and missiles. There was also this corny mascot with a very short Chinese man inside.

Once on board the Minsk we were shown a short video (in Chinese) that gave an overview of where aircraft carriers came from, what they were used for and finally onto the Minsk itself. On this floor there are some real and fake torpedoes, complete with launching tubes, and the aircraft hangar. The hangar space has another fighter with lots of ordnance, a section dedicated to the Russian space program and a stage where some Russian and Chinese dancers were performing traditional folk dances.

Moving up to just below the top deck was the missile storehouse and most of the other ordnance. Also on this floor were the officers quarters, small doctors room (don’t get sick here!) and lots of other military paraphernalia. The separate officers and sailors quarters have subsequently been turned into bars and restaurants. Down a long corridor there were posters of Russian military propaganda, some of which were quite amusing. Not to be outdone, the corridor ended with some of China’s own military posters.

Control tower

Up on the top deck there were a couple of armed helicopters and a mixed-bag of aircraft including a MIG-23, which realistically could have never operated from the Minsk’s 14,700m square flight deck, but it is a theme park after all. Sprinkled all over the top deck were rocket launchers, missile launchers, canons and guns of various descriptions. A small stage had been put down where some Chinese solders performed arms drills in sailors’ uniforms. Sprinkled throughout the ship were Chinese staff dressed in sailors suits who would happily explain their related section of the ship to anyone who could understand them, which didn’t include us.

The driver's seat Flight deck Rocket Launcher

Up inside the control deck it was very clear that the theme park owners have not spent any money doing any restoration work. Everything is just as it was left. There were cut wires, broken this, damaged that, etc. I’m sure it would be easier to build a new aircraft carrier than to try and re-commission the Minsk. I was a little surprised by how archaic the design seemed although Russia has always struggled on the dollars side of the equation. The level of technology used seemed more appropriate to world war 2 than the mid-70’s.

Double-barrel canon Condoleza and Saddam

One of the funniest things from the day was found in the toilets. Above each of the men’s urinals was a political caricature. Here we see Condoleza Rice lighting Saddam up. Another one included Saddam ambushing some US troops whilst they were burying dead soldiers.

Andrew with Anchors

Whilst I wasn’t blown away by the physical size of the Minsk it’s still a very big bit of gear. To give you some idea of perspective, here I am with a few of the anchors. Some of the statistics are very impressive. 273m long, 53m wide, 43,000 tons loaded, 12m draft loaded, 32 knots top speed, 1,600 crew, 13 Yak-38 aircraft, and dozens & dozens of rockets, torpedos and missiles. In fact the Minsk was so heavily armoured that it seemed to be a bit of a hybrid; part destroyer and part aircraft carrier.

Jet nose Aft view of the hull

Google Earth coordinates for the Minsk:

  • 22° 33′ 13.62″ N
  • 114° 14′ 13.69″ E

PS: As usual, click the pictures to get the big versions.

Matt comes to visit

The other week we had the pleasure of having a friend from a Australia, Matt C, with us for a couple of days. He'd just been helping out some friends a couple of weeks in a city a little north of Vietnam. He was doing what's known as a short-term m*ssion trip. He came back with many stories about the goodness of our Father towards the people of the mainland. It really was very, very encouraging, and I learned a lot from what he said. It was great to see a friendly face, and especially one with whom Andrew taught some hometown youngsters. Suffice to say we really enjoyed having him here. In the interests of everyone with whom he worked, that will be all. So here are some photos. We went to LianhuaShan park (the one with the bronze statue of Deng Xiao Ping striding purposefully into the future), walking up to the top. Here is a picture of Matt, with the city behind him. For reference, between his shoulder and the white pillar on his right you can see Diwang.


We walked past the kite park, where, despite being the middle of the day, there were a few kites out and about. Along the edge of the park there were some statues, depicting various aspects of life.

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There was also some sort of a display going on, involving Pepsi. The elephant in this photo is blue, and made out of Pepsi cans. There were other Pepsi can constructions there, too.

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We walked along an area of the kite path that I hadn't seen before. Near the tea house is a grassy area for further sculptures and exhibits. At present there is a bonsai garden; I suspect about 40 or so sculpted bonsai trees in their individual pots, all displayed. Check this out; it is a sculpture of the main aspects of Shenzhen, namely the Diwang building, government building with the wavy roof, and a replica of the bronze sculpture that's in front of the museum, namely an ox pulling a stump out of the ground.


Crash, boom, bang…

Things have been a bit noisy at our apartment lately. On one side of our apartment complex they are re-surfacing a main road. On the other side there are demolition works in progress. Those two combined with the regular squealing of bus brakes has meant that there hasn’t been too much peace and quiet around here.

To capture some of the noise I slung a microphone out the window and recorded 30 seconds of ambient sounds. You can download the 300KB MP3 file by clicking on the picture below.

Demolition works

Pass the falafel, Ehud!

On the way home on the Metro tonight I noticed a Jewish guy on the train opposite me. He had the typical glasses, big nose, square jaw with beard, and looked a bit like Topol’s character Teyve from Fiddler on the Roof. As my stop approached I moved across the carriage towards the door, squeezing between other passengers, and he looked at me and gave a big smile. I said, “Hello” and he replied with a hearty, “Hello!” Despite his position against the wall of the train he still tried to move backwards even further, saying “There you go.” I thanked him and, as the doors opened, he patted me on the shoulder and warmly said, “Take care!”

I thought this friendly hospitality towards me, and not the other Chinese on the train, a little odd. Then as I stepped forward it dawned on me - he thought I was Jewish!

What is even more surprising is that he’s not the first Jew to think that I am Jewish. The first was Clive at the Hong Kong Australian Embassy expatriate bash.

Gail thinks it’s my nose that does it.

A Helping Hand

Monday night I was on my way home, just leaving the Metro station, when I spotted a pair of Swedish back-packers standing at the entrance to a restaurant, papers in hand and seeming to be getting nowhere. I walked over and asked if they needed a hand (taking a punt that they’d understand English). “Oh, thank God!” came the reply. “We’re trying to find our hotel are having trouble”. I could see why when I took a look at their (English) directions:

Take a Taxi to the Di Wang Da Sha. All the taxi drivers know this building. Our hotel is on the opposite side to Di Wang, one street away”

With the potential direction of the hotel narrowed down to 360 degrees I set out with them to find the hotel. We did a half-lap of the Di Wang area (including our apartment complex) before it became apparent that I wasn’t going to find this place by merely looking about for it. They were staying at a relatively small and inexpensive hotel (AU$25 per night) so it wasn’t going to stand out. Time to put the mobile into action. Friend 1 - no connection, Friend 2 - no answer, Friend 3 mobile - no answer, Friend 3 at work - no answer. Hmmm.

I decide to call the hotel and take a punt that there will be someone who can speak English there. If no-one there can speak English then I’ll be relying on my broken shards of Chinese! The phone is answered by a Chinese lady. I ask “ni hui shuo ying yu ma?” (can you speak English?). Unintelligible babble comes back and I am transferred. I have a touch more success with the next person but I manage to deduce that it’s South of where we are.

We decide to cross over to the south side of the main road and try our luck at a Starbucks. Hopefully someone there can speak English. On the way I call the wife. She drags out the Shenzhen map at home but there’s no sign of this hotel or even it’s street on our Shenzhen map.

At Starbucks the staff eventually drag out a map. Two of the 7 staff that came to our aid were more helpful than others. Through my bits of Chinese and the piece of paper bearing directions I eventually communicate what we’re after. To confuse things even further the name of the road the hotel is on is the same as a major arterial road that runs along the south east part of the city, except that the road for the hotel is called the east part (we were west of the main road). Bugger! I call Friend 4 - success! Mid-stream the staff guy I give the phone to flicks from Mandarin to Cantonese once he realised Friend 4 is from Hong Kong. Friend 4 re-explains to the Starbucks staff guy what we’re after. It doesn’t help. I give Friend 4 the number of the hotel and Friend 4 promises to call back with directions.

Just after I hang up Friend 2 calls back. I give her the name and number of the hotel and she goes off to find it on the Internet. Friend 4 calls back to say that the hotel is small and it’s to the left of the Xinhua book store, near the World Financial Centre (whichever big tall building that is). Great! The book store is just upstairs on Shen Nan Dong Road! We set off back up to the surface and do a lap of the building to the left of the Xinhua book store, without success. My two Swiss back-packers are totally drained but they’re still trying to keep hope up that we’ll find the hotel soon.

Friend 2 phones back. She’s found the hotel and asks to speak to a passing Chinese person so that she can explain the location to them and they can point for us. The first middle-aged woman passing by totally ignores my Chinese “qing wen” (excuse me). The next young woman to come along obliges. She is able to point in the direction along Shen Nan Dong road but that’s about it. Friend 2 promises to SMS the details through so that we can show a taxi driver or other Chinese person.

Mercedes Benz Dealership near DiWang

We start walking east along Shen Nan Dong road when I spot the Mercedes Benz dealership and a security guard walking around inside. I bolt down and around the stairs and into the showroom. There are 2 sales people there. I ask the guy if he can speak English and he defers to the woman there, who can speak a little English. We converge on the computer and she Googles the hotel. She writes down the directions in Chinese. Just then the SMS from Friend 2 comes in, which confirms we’re talking about the same place. We go outside, where we can see down the road, and I insist that she draw me a map. She is talking frantically and switching back between Mandarin and English but I can catch about 70% of the words being used, enough to confirm that it’s down there, turn right at the ‘lu si’ (green) building and it’s on the ‘zuo’ (left) a bit further down.

We set off together, me and my two Swedish back-packers, down Shen Nan Dong road. As we’re crossing the bridge over one of the putrid rivers that flows through Shenzhen one of the guys points to an illuminated building down the river and thinks that’s it. We turn down a 2-way lane along the edge of the river (the aforementioned road) and about 200m down we finally reach their hotel.

After the 10th “Thank you so much” and with check-in under way I depart for the 10 minute walk home, 1hr 1/4 later than planned. My, that was good fun!

Stuck in the Mud

The other afternoon I went for a walk in search of a bookshop that, according to my friend, sells English books. On the way, I saw a policeman who looked a bit embarrassed. The reason for this was quite obvious; his motorbike was not stuck in the mud, it was stuck in the concrete! Right up to the middle of the wheels in freshly poured concrete. A few workers had gone to get some sort of machinery to help get it out. - I think the policeman might get a bit of stick when he gets back to the station! )

On the subject of concrete and similar things, roadworks along our road are continuing. The workers have progressed to the section right in front of our apartment. Consequently we went to sleep on Friday night to the sound of machinery. They must’ve stopped at some point, because both Andrew and I woke up the following morning to the same sound - the following morning being from 2-4am. It wasn’t extraordinarily loud, but loud enough to keep us awake for a little. The same thing happened Saturday night.

If it happened Sunday night, we didn’t hear it.

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