To Miaoli for food [YQasia Day 15 Oct 10]

miao li

Location: Taichung, Taiwan

It was a weekend so my uncle brought everyone out to Miaoli for a meal of Hakka food. My aunt’s sister and her family came along in another car.

Before we had our lunch, we dropped by two housing areas to take a look at the latest Be A Weekend Farmer craze in Taiwan. These housing areas cater to city folks who want to grow their own organic vegetables and don’t mind dropping hundred thousand NT$’s for a little patch of land.

Be a weekend farmer
Be a weekend farmer

Developers fence up the plots and include a little one-room house and a webbed area for planting which also includes a sprinkler. Those who buy these plots probably envision themselves driving two hours out into the suburbs during weekends and collect the fruits and vegetables of their labors.

One of my uncle’s concern for such a place was that hobos would come and stay there while the owners are away. The developer assured that residents can hire security guards for their neighborhood to patrol and avoid such problems.

After the house seeing, we drove for another 30 minutes to the famous Hakka restaurant where meals are cooked for multiples of 4 persons. We had the 8 person set which included noodles wih pig trotters, a whole fish, chicken, radish cake, veggie and soup.

Hakka food in Taiwan
Hakka food

After our stomach-exploding meal, it was back to Taichung.

Over excited little old dog with protruding eyes
Over excited little old dog with protruding eyes

During the night, we met up with my mom’s friend and ex-classmate, Aunty Wu. She brought us out to dinner at a Japanese izakaya-like place. Unfortunately, the photos of the restaurant and food were not transferred to my computer so you just have to imagine.

We had thick slices of sashimi, steamed egg, yakitori on sticks, a salad (which I did not touch) and soups in little teapots.

Post-dinner, we visited Aunty Wu’s manfriend (the guy is about 70, I can’t still call him boyfriend, can I?). He was delivering goods but was hit by another motorcycle and broke his leg quite badly. He was put up in a nice private ward and had the whole room to himself.

After a brief chit chat, it was time to head back to my uncle’s. My aunt bought 2 cans of Taiwanese flavored beer for me to try. I tried the pineapple beer first. The aftertaste of beer was much stronger than similar stuff from Japan.

Encouraged by the beer, we went to bed early.

Read more about the Taiwan trip:

Day 0 Flight to Taipei cancelled because of typhoon
Day 1 Flight to Taiwan, bus to Taichung
Day 2 Staying at a hot springs resort in Dongpu
Day 3 Outlet shopping at Sunshine Plaza in Taichung

Outlet shopping at Sunshine Plaza in Taichung [YQasia Day 14 Oct 9]

taichung shopping

Location: Taichung, Taiwan

I have quite a silly travel regret: I do not go to outlet shopping enough.

Wait a minute, you ask. Aren’t you a miserly traveller? Why do you even want to go to outlets? Plus, why didn’t you go in the first place so you won’t regret not going?

Let me answer your questions one-by-one:

1. Somewhere in my miserly mind, I associate the discounts from buying at outlet stores as savings. (Nevermind that I would save more if I don’t buy anything in the first place.)

2. I never went to any outlets in Paris, Barcelona, San Francisco or Tokyo because the outlets were far away from the city and I would rather sightsee more than head out to shop.

So I finally had the chance to indulge in outlet shopping when my aunt and her friend brought my mom and me to Sunshine Plaza in Taichung. Well, my mom had the chance to indulge in outlet shopping, I mean, since I don’t have a job yet I cannot afford to buy.

Coach outlet at Sunshine Plaza Taichung
Coach outlet at Sunshine Plaza Taichung

The saleslady at the Coach outlet was really nice as she probably has a good commission. She even allowed us to put our backpacks along with our purchases behind her counter while we went for a small lunch and a walk around the outlet mall.

In contrast, the saleslady at the Fox shoes outlet was a pain. She grudgingly gave me too sizes to try. I didn’t like the designs to begin with but my mother insisted that I try them out. While I put them on, I complained that the sizes were either half a size too large or small.

Fox Saleslady then mumbled really loudly about people who do not know how to wear shoes and that sizes are fixed anyway. I felt like being a bitch back at her but bit my tongue.

I got my consolation later. As we were heading up the escalator after applying for tax refund, I saw Fox Sales lady talking to her friend. Her reflection was in the mirror at the wall and I was reflected as well. This time, I didn’t hold my tongue but rather stuck it out at my reflection. I think she caught me doing it but I brushed past her back and went up the escalator.

I think I’m still too childish.

In the end, I managed to get one pair of shoe at Sunshine Plaza. It’s actually a triumph because I rarely find shoes that I actually like.

The beginning of the day…

I took a bath in the hot springs tub behind the room before heading to breakfast. The breakfast buffet was quite amazing with a spread of Taiwanese food including porridge, pan fried dumplings, organic soy milk, century egg, tofu, stirfried veggies and so on.

Later, we took the 10:20am bus to Shuili and then another bus to Taichung. Halfway through the journey, an old lady realized that the bus was not heading to where she wanted to go. The bus driver kindly went out of the way and dropped her off before

When we reached Taichung station, we found our way to Sunshine Plaza and did what I mentioned in the beginning of this post.

Taichung Second market
Taichung Second market

After our shopping trip, it was my aunt’s time to head back while mom and I waited for my uncle in front of a shopping mall. The sky turned dark and the lane in front of the mall was semi-clogged by cars dropping off and picking up passengers.

Our uncle arrived finally and brought us to a little place for freshwater fish. Then we retired for the night.

Small eatery in Taichung
Small eatery in Taichung

Check out the YQ in Taiwan series:

Day 1 Flight to Taiwan, bus to Taichung [YQasia Day 12 Oct 7]
Day 2 Staying at a hot springs resort in Dongpu [YQasia Day 13 Oct 8]

Staying at a hot springs resort in Dongpu [YQasia Day 13 Oct 8]

hot springs in dongpu

Location: Dongpu, Taiwan

My mom decided not to join the tour group organized for overseas Chinese and instead to go with the flow. Today, the flow (my aunt, no pun intended) brought us to a hot springs resort in Dongpu.

We met up with my aunt’s high school classmate at Taichung train station. The train station is a beautiful colonial building and its internal structure reminded me very much of the train stations in Japan.

Taichung train station
Taichung train station

In fact, did you know that that Taiwan was colonized by Japan between 1895 and 1945? Quite a few people are still enamored with the Japanese rule and hope to return to “the good old days”. (“Quite a few” being a handful few older folks that I’ve met.)

The train rolled through the Taiwanese country side, bringing us visions of rice fields, tall betel nut trees, mountains and one scene of hundreds of ducks. I thought the countryside looked a bit like ours back home in Sabah with betel nut trees swapped with coconut trees.

Our final destination was Dongpu (东埔) so we stopped at Shuili (水里) for the 1pm bus. We walked on the narrow streets and had an early lunch before having an ice cream. Then we headed to the bus station.

Shuili train station
Shuili train station

When the bus came at 1pm, we queued to get on. Strangely, the bus queue stopped moving so we thought that the old lady in front was holding up the queue.

A quarrel on the bus

Suddenly, the bus driver got out of the bus and went into the office. He brought out one of the station employees, saying, “A passenger said he wants to ‘fix’ me!” He got back on the bus with the lady in tow and shouted for the man to reveal himself.

We eventually got on the bus but the driver was still having his one-sided shouting match. He threw a tantrum and said that he dared not drive since the man would beat him up. An old lady with snowy white hair kept apologizing on behalf of her 50-year-old son. From her pleas, we learned that the son had mental problems and was angry when the driver required his mother to show him her senior citizen pass.

Some of the passengers also tried to calm the driver down, saying that the passenger’s mom had already apologized and the driver should forgive and forget. Still, the driver did not budge.

We all sat in the warm bus while the driver made calls to the police, announcing loudly that a passenger had “threatened” him. Soon, a police officer who also looked in his 50s arrived. When he got on our bus, he said, “Hey, why is it so hot in here.”

The driver turned on the engine and cool air rushed out of the vents. My mom clapped once. Upon hearing the clap, the officer asked everyone to clap for the driver. We all did clap and cheered.

The police then heard both sides of the stories. In the end, he gave the driver a choice of filing a report or suing the passenger. The driver probably chose the former. Finally, the drive started.

A hot spring resort

Even though Google Maps said it would take 24 minutes to reach Dongpu, the bus stopped multiple times so it took about an hour to reach our destination.

Our room was on the lower floor of a wooden structure. Behind, there were two small pools, one for hot spring water and the other for cold water.

Dongpu Hot springs
Dongpu Hot springs

The Taiwanese also inherited a love for soaking in hot springs from the Japanese. Taiwan’s mountains are filled with these mineral-laden hot water so it makes perfect sense to cultivate such a tradition.

We didn’t do much in the resort. We watched TV, took turns in pair to soak in the little tubs and had dinner. Then I went to the open air pools with my aunt’s friend where we soaked in 40 degrees Celcius hot spring water.

Open air hot springs
Open air hot springs

Life is good.

Check out the YQ in Taiwan series:

Day 1 Flight to Taiwan, bus to Taichung [YQasia Day 12 Oct 7]
Day 2 Staying at a hot springs resort in Dongpu [YQasia Day 13 Oct 8]

How to pack for a weekend trip [Weekend Traveller series part 6]

pack for the weekend

Welcome back to the fortnightly Weekend Traveller series where I share tips and strategies for travelling during the weekend so you can travel more using less work leave. You can find all of the previous posts for weekend end travel here.

Today, we will be thinking up a packing list for a 2-day trip.

Now that it’s almost time to leave for your trip, we need to start packing!

Packing for a weekend trip is very easy since you won’t need that much clothes. In fact, for one of my trips, I bought just my pajamas and washed my day clothes and wore them the next say after washing and drying them for the night.

overpacking

(Photo credit: Flickr–AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker)

Since all my weekend trips were in Southeast Asia, I don’t need a lot of thick clothing, besides a light sweater for the inevitable cold airplane/train/bus.

Here are some of the things you will need in your backpack for the weekend (besides all the basic underwear):

For city trips:

  • Fancy clothes for the night (not that I go out much at night)

For countryside trips:

  • Mosquito repellant
  • Walking shoes

Funnily, my list of electronics is much longer than my clothing list. For a weekend trip, I would bring:

  • Phone
  • Phone charger
  • Camera battery charger
  • Laptop and charger
  • E-book reader

Check out what others have to say about packing for the weekend:

how not to pack for weekend trip

What would you pack for a weekend trip?

Missed the previous weekend travel posts?

Part 1: Pros & cons of weekend travel
Part 2: Where to go for Weekend Travel?
Part 3: Choosing transportation for weekend travel
Part 4: Travel planning for weekend trips
Part 5: Make your own travel guide for a weekend trip
Part 6: How to pack for a weekend trip
Part 7: How to use Foursquare to plan a day’s travel
Part 8: Why a weekend trip is the best time to start solo travelling
Part 9: I’m going to Melaka for a weekend trip

Flight to Taiwan, bus to Taichung [YQasia Day 12 Oct 7]

to taichung

Location: Shanghai, China -> Taipei -> Taichung, Taiwan

Background: My flight to Taiwan was cancelled yesterday because of typhoon. However, the airline company gave us each a bed in a nice hotel far away from the airport.

I set the alarm for 4:15am since we needed to check out at 5:00am. But I woke up before the alarm and spent 15 minutes lying in bed, not willing to get up before the alarm. Is there a word for this situation?

The hotel lobby was dark when I went down to check out. It wasn’t until 5:32am when the shuttle bus came to pick us up to the airport. Yesterday, there were 2 buses which brought us to the hotel. Today there was only one as many had probably left for their home in Shanghai.

Shanghai Airport

When we arrived at the airport, only one regular counter and the first class counter was opened. The queue snaked out of its boundaries. Soon, someone managed to put the queue in order.

As I was reaching my end of the queue, a lady with a ponytail went to the counter and made a loud fuss. Between her fake-like, dry crying, she asked the airline employee to “please, please let [her on]” since she wanted to “bring [her] kid home”. Then she dropped to her knees and started really begging him for help.

The airline employee looked uncomfortable and replied that he couldn’t help her if she did not bring her identification with her. Hearing this, the woman let out a loud moan. In the end, the employee said he would see what can do.

In the end, I did see her and her kid at the boarding lounge. So thankfully for that.

Another flight delay

When we were all gathered at the boarding lounge, we were still not asked to board the plane. I overheard that the flight would be delayed yet again. This was confirmed when the airline folks asked us to queue for our breakfast since the flight would be delayed again.

I never say no to free food.

I ate some of the biscuit and drank all my Coke and waited. Suddenly, we were asked to queue up for the shuttle bus to the plane. Hurray!

My seat was in the middle with four seats in the row. My seat mate was on the other end of the row so I sad comfortably.

For breakfast on China International Airlines, there was a choice of Chinese and Western breakfast. Chinese food was porridge while Western was eggs with one sausage.

I fell asleep for most of the flight so the 2-hour flight so it was very fast.

Back in Taiwan!

The last time I was in Taiwan was in 2010. It was a business trip so I didn’t enjoy a lot of the island. This time ’round, I will be joining my mom on a 9-day trip where we will see a lot and eat a lot.

Buy your 3G SIM cards at Chunghwa Telecom booth at the airport

Mom was already at the airport when I arrived. We headed to the mobile company booths on the left corner of the arrival doors. Here, we each bought a SIM with unlimited 3G internet for 10 days at a cost of NT$500.

We bought bus tickets to where we would meet our aunt. The bus journey was long and I even caught a few winks.

My aunt was waiting at the bus stop when we got there. We went to her place and settled our luggage before taking the bus to central Taiwan–Taichung.

Since I didn’t need to do any travel planning, travelling from Taipei to Taichung seemed easy. We went to the bus company and bought tickets for the bus leaving in 10 minutes.

Off we went to Taichung. Of course, this is also the best time for napping.

Tong Lian bus company

Let's go pray with incense

Miyahara ice cream in Taichung

Miyahara Eye Specialist Ice Cream

When we reached Taichung, my aunt brought us to a famous ice cream place. The building was previously a hospital but now it’s a really beautiful place selling ice cream and biscuits.

We bought three ice cream flavors (82% Ecuadorian chocolate, “half-dreaming-half-awake” and local guava) on a wafer bowl. With three flavors, we got four free toppings including cheesecake, pineapple cake, pumpkin seeds and caramel.

The shop also has a lovely space selling all sorts of wedding cookies. However, these cookies are packaged like books and are arranged on shelves.

Miyahara Eye Specialist cookie store

After desserts, we took the bus to the National Museum of Natural Science. While we were there, there was a promo for paying bus rides using payment cards. The first 8km of the ride was free when you use payment cards. Luckily, Taipei’s prepaid cards work here too.

Public bus in Taichung

National Museum of Natural Science holds fond memories for me. The museum was a place my mom brought my sister and me to frequently when we were in Taiwan as kids. Unfortunately, the museum was closed on Monday so we ended up sitting at the garden behind the museum.

Dinosaurs

After bumming around in the garden, it was time to meet my uncle. When we got on his car, we found a walking sticks. Turns out he was knocked down by a motorcycle on his way to take the bus. He added that he rarely takes the bus.

Since my uncle could not walk far, we chose to eat inside a shopping mall. Our meal for the night was Hunan food, a bit funny since I just came from China and ate a lot of Chinese food there.

After dinner, we head back to uncle’s place.

Have you been to Taichung? Do you have a favorite sightseeing spot?

Flight to Taipei cancelled because of typhoon [YQasia Day 11 Oct 6]

china flight delay

Location: Shanghai, China

My flight to Taipei was originally scheduled at 2:30pm and I was supposed to reach the destination at 4:25pm. However, I learned that the flight was delayed till the next morning so I would be Google, Faceook and Twitter-less for another day.

This is the story of the day my flight was delayed. (There’s a happy ending, don’t worry.)

Breakfast at Xiao Yang

After eating at Xiao Yang’s Dumpling yesterday, I still wanted to have more of it. The dumplings themselves weren’t delicate works but its rough, doughy texture and soupy filling makes it a great meal. This was why I decided to wake up early to head to a Xiao Yang branch before finishing my luggage packing and checking out.

As my phone didn’t have mobile Internet, I copied out the directions given by Baidu Map and took a look at the road maps for that area.

Rainy Shanghai
Rainy Shanghai

When I stepped out of the hotel, it was drizzling. I had to head back and grab my umbrella since I would be walking quite a distance later. The bus stop was right next to the hotel, which was convenient, but the bus that I needed to take arrived much later.

Taking the bus in Shanghai is very easy if you know Chinese as you will be able to read the destinations listed at the bus stop.

Even if you don’t know Chinese, there are announcements of the next destination of the bus once you are in it. However, sometimes the announcement comes too late (one second before the bus leaves the stop) so you’ll have to memorize how many stops there are before yours.

The original Xiao Yang
The original Xiao Yang

I reached my destination without a glitch and found the restaurant. The Xiao Yang Dumpling branch at Huanghe Road (黄河路) is the main branch and it even has an upper floor.

As with yesterday, I paid for my dumplings and went to queue. Unfortunately for me, the last dumpling in the pan was given away right before my turn. I waited for the next batch and suddenly realized that I was standing in the wrong queue. Thus I joined the second queue.

Again, my luck ran out and there were only 3 remaining dumplings by the time it was my turn. It was déjà vu as the same situation happened yesterday. I was a bit whiny so the employee told me to find a table and she’ll let someone send it up.

Only 3 dumplings
Only 3 dumplings
Wantan soup
Wantan soup

So up I went the upper level which smelled like a musty table cloth. My wanton soup arrived and I happily dug in. The fried dumplings were still as oily and had a strong taste of pork, making me wonder why I actually like them. As I ate, I realized that the best part about these dumplings were the soup inside.

Unlike xiaolongbao which are tiny, these shengjianbao are much bigger. Nibbling a bit of the upper part off, you can slurp out the scalding hot soup inside. It takes several deep slurps to suck the dumpling dry. Then comes the crunchy bottom part (which is actually the top of a regular Chinese bun). This is the most oily but I cannot help not eating them.

After I finished my meal, my single dumpling hadn’t arrived yet. I waited and waited and still there was no sign of my dumpling. Since my stomach was stretched to its limit, I thought I should just leave without it.

As I walked down the stairs, I thought I heard the employees say my table number. Too late to turn back and finish that little rascal.

Off I went in search of my bus back to the hotel. Again, it was the slowest to arrive but at least I had a seat.

Taking the metro to Shanghai airport

At first, I thought about taking the Maglev train to Shanghai Pudong Airport. However, Nicole who went to the airport last night reported that the time it takes to reach the airport wasn’t very long so I decided to take the metro and save 33 yuan. Plus, the distance from Longshan Station to the airport is really quite short.

Off I went with my luggage to Yuyuan Station. The rain had stopped but the ground was still wet with puddles.

The train station wasn’t as crowded as it was yesterday. I couldn’t find a seat so I stood most of the way. At Guanglan Station, everyone got off and switched to another train.

Flight delayed…until tomorrow

Sorry that your flight is delayed
Sorry that your flight is delayed

Finally, I reached Shanghai Pudong Airport. But when I reached the check in counter, there was a note saying that the flight had been delayed to 8pm and we should check in at 2pm. Hey! We were supposed to leave at 2:30pm. The airline would get us a room to rest.

There wasn’t much to do in Terminal 2 so I walked around, bought a stamp for a postcard home, walked around some more and sat down to read before it was our check in time.

At check in, Air China employee told me to wait at Gate 26 for the shuttle to the airport. As you have guessed, the bus–buses actually since there were too–came late.

We were driven around for a while before finally stopping at a fancy hotel. Is this where we will be resting?

Yes, it was. The hotel staff said the rooms were for two people so I paired up with a lady who spoke with a Taiwanese accent. After putting my bags in my room, I head out for food and some toiletries shopping.

The little ramen place that I visited was run by Muslim-Chinese. Many of them run noodle shops such as the one I went to. The father of the house was rolling dough and pulling it into thin strands of noodles.

Ramen rolling
Ramen rolling

Unfortunately, the noodle wasn’t that good. I couldn’t finish half of it. When I asked how much it was, the son even charged me a large bowl of noodles although I think it was a small one. That’s only 1 yuan difference but it’s annoying to be overcharged.

Then it was toiletries shopping. I bought several bars of soap–something I’ve been buying as souvenirs for some time–although I’m afraid that people might think I am hinting that they need to take a shower if I give them any.

Hotel for the night due to flight cancellation
Hotel for the night due to flight cancellation

So back to the hotel I went. While I went online in the lobby, I spotted my roommate who was getting her luggage out of storage. Turns out, she was returning to her home in Shanghai city as the flight was delayed until tomorrow.

Back in my room, I found out that the internet speed was really fast. Wonderful! I have been plagued by slow internet speed since returning home.

In the middle of j-drama bingeing, the reception called to say that I could go for dinner at 5:30pm. Dinner was pitiful but at least they tried.

Later, the reception called again to say that check out tomorrow is at 5:30am and we will leave at 6:00am.

Wonderful.

Follow my (2 weeks late) adventures in China:

Day 1 Misadventures at Hangzhou Airport [YQasia Day 1 Sep 26]
Day 2 Swindlers and bicycle misadventures at West Lake
Day 3 Bike returning at West Lake/ Staying with a cute baby [YQasia Day 3 Sep 28]
Day 4 To Thousand-Island Lake by bus [YQasia Day 4 Sep 28]
Day 5 Tour of Qiandao Hu (Thousand-Island Lake) [YQasia Day 5 Sep 30]
Day 6 Buying tix to Shanghai/ Eating on a floating platform in middle of nowhere [YQasia Day 6 Oct 1]
Day 7 A very Chinese wedding [YQasia Day 7 Oct 2]
Day 8 A very Chinese hotel/ 7-hour buses to Shanghai [YQasia Day 8 Oct 3]
Day 9 Exploring Shanghai: Buffet, the Bund and Nanjing East Rd [YQasia Day 9 Oct 4]
Day 10 A day of food and coffee in Shanghai [YQasia Day 10 Oct 5]

A day of food and coffee in Shanghai [YQasia Day 10 Oct 5]

day 10 in china

Location: Shanghai, China

I have come to embrace days when I do not do sightseeing while travelling. These days are for recharging and slowing down.

Today was one of those days of very slow travel.

Store near Yuyuan

Back street of Shanghai

Going to the wrong Grandma’s Place

In the morning, we headed to what I thought was a branch of Grandma’s Place (外婆家). This is a famous chain of restaurant in Hangzhou. We didn’t make it there because there was always a gigantic queue in front of the place.

However, when we got to that particular restaurant, it felt weird. The sign said “Grandma’s Place” in Chinese but it looked like a pokey little place instead of the grand chain that we saw.

I couldn’t remember where the other branches of Grandma’s Place were so we stood outside Costa Coffee for its free WI-Fi. While we were searching, Nicole suggested that we head to Xiao Yang’s Place for 生煎包 (shengjianbao) which our mutual friend had recommended. Then I remembered that there was a Grandma’s Place branch there so off we went in search of food.

The fake Granma’s Place is situated just outside of the Chenghuang Shopping area so we had to swim through crowds to get to the subway station.

Once we were at the right stop, it took a while to find Grandma’s Place since I didn’t record the address. Nicole used Costa Coffee’s Wi-Fi to figure out where to go.

Probably fake monk at Yu Yuan

Grandma, what big bowls you have!

Dishes at Grandma's Place

The branch that we went to occupied the whole 7th level of a shopping mall. It was like a maze trying to get to our table. Since it was still a bit too early for lunch, we didn’t have to wait for our table.

We ordered what we thought would feed 2 people nicely. But what came out seemed to be a nice meal for four.

Of course, we ate them all (except a bit of dessert).

Our next to-do list was to eat shengjianbao at Xiao Yang. However, we were still very full from lunch so we had to pass time before eating again.

How to use the toilet

We spent much of our time in Costa Coffee, surfing the internet. I dearly miss apps such as Facebook and Twitter but I had to satisfy myself with repeatedly looking at Instagram and WeChat. It was a very difficult period.

After sitting in the café one hour too long, we went off to do a bit of shopping. Yes, it was only “a bit”. My favorite clothes store UNIQLO has awesome shops in Shanghai. While we were there, its largest worldwide flagship store was opened somewhere in Shanghai but I didn’t go because we didn’t have time.

One of Uniqlo's flagship stores in Shanghai

Finally, it was time for tea. There was already a queue at Xiao Yang. Unlike the Nanxiang branch we went to yesterday, Xiao Yang’s employees do not help customers look for seats. Instead, Nicole found a table while I queued for the shengjianbao.

Unfortunately for me, my order of 8 mini buns lacked just one bun and I had to wait for the next batch.

How Xiao Yang sheng jian bao are made

At XIao Yang (or at least the two branches that I’ve been to), the buns are cooked constantly so you won’t get anything chilled. The main cook prepares the buns by arranging a pan full of raw buns in hot oil. The buns are arranged with the usual top (the swirly part) on the pan so the flat part remains white and fluffy.

The cook then shifts the pan from side to side so the oil scalds all the buns. This process takes forever since I was only waiting for ONE. After the buns are fully cooked, the cook shifts it to another pan from where the food is served. The assistant then scatters sesame seeds and some Chinese green onion-like thing before scooping the cooked buns onto plates.

Shengjianbao

The most fun part about these shengjianbao is the soupy inside. When you bite into a Xiao Yang bun, the soup flows out and you have to slurp it up fast. It takes me about 2 slurps to suck the thing dry. Then you eat the meat along with the crunchy part. It is divine.

After our meal, it was time to head back to the hotel. Nicole had to catch a flight at 1am so we couldn’t go shopping.

YQ at Shanghai's Metro

Follow my (2 weeks late) adventures in China:

Day 1 Misadventures at Hangzhou Airport [YQasia Day 1 Sep 26]
Day 2 Swindlers and bicycle misadventures at West Lake
Day 3 Bike returning at West Lake/ Staying with a cute baby [YQasia Day 3 Sep 28]
Day 4 To Thousand-Island Lake by bus [YQasia Day 4 Sep 28]
Day 5 Tour of Qiandao Hu (Thousand-Island Lake) [YQasia Day 5 Sep 30]
Day 6 Buying tix to Shanghai/ Eating on a floating platform in middle of nowhere [YQasia Day 6 Oct 1]
Day 7 A very Chinese wedding [YQasia Day 7 Oct 2]
Day 8 A very Chinese hotel/ 7-hour buses to Shanghai [YQasia Day 8 Oct 3]
Day 9 Exploring Shanghai: Buffet, the Bund and Nanjing East Rd [YQasia Day 9 Oct 4]

Exploring Shanghai: Buffet, the Bund and Nanjing East Rd [YQasia Day 9 Oct 4]

busy shanghai

Location: Shanghai, China

We checked out of our upgraded suite because we made a reservation at a nearby buffet place. But first, Nicole had to buy flu medicine because she was coming down with something.

At Watson’s we couldn’t find any familiar flu medicine. The rest of the Chinese medicine came in big boxes with up to thirty pills each. (The one Nicole bought said you need to take 3 pills each time, no wonder the volume is huge.)

We walked to the mall where the buffet place was but we didn’t head there first. We hung around outside a café which provided free Wi-Fi. Here in China, places like Starbucks and Haagen-Daaz offer Wi-Fi but you need to have a local phone number to receive the password that it sends.)

At Costa Coffee, there is an option to select English in the Wi-Fi obtaining page. This allows us to use our foreign phone number to receive password. We already binged on the WI-Fi there last night but somehow I managed to write several Whatsapp messages and look at Instagram (one of the few apps I could use in China).

At last, we headed to the buffet place. It full name is “Lily Garden Seafood Buffet Meals”. From the outside, it looks like a posh restaurant. On the inside, it still looks posh and has many stalls serving different dishes. Its size is still smaller than the Jogoya in Kuala Lumpur.

Glutton at Lily Garden

Buffet at Lily Garden

First up on our personal menu was raw fish from the Japanese stall. There was already a queue forming at that particular spot because who doesn’t like loads of sashimi? Nicole and I had to fight others with our chopsticks when it came to picking up the limp sashimi from its tray. Crabs with fat legs were available as well.

At the to-order stalls, there were loads of choices. I went to the grill stall the most, ordering foie gras and steak. The steaks came out to be smaller than my palm as they seem to think that people would want to eat more of other stuff.

The alcohol section was filled with flutes of colorful mixtures. I also got a small bottle of cold sake which was a bit watered down.

After a lot of stuffing our faces, it was time for dessert. I picked Maple Walnut flavor which was divine. Too bad I couldn’t eat another mouthful.

Buffet at Lily Garden

All that cost 218 yuan per person, which was expensive in terms of living costs in China but it was worth every cent.

After lunch, we went back to the hotel to pick up our luggage to move to our other hotel. While looking for a cab, we found a bunch of drivers loitering around. These loitering cabbies seem to want to pick up customers who would pay more. One of them even told us to get on a cab by the road.

Before getting on the cab, I was worried that the driver would take us around in circles. I have a fear of dishonest taxi drivers and I have heard of a lot of horror stories about cabs in China. Surprisingly (or perhaps not), the cabbie didn’t exceed the fee estimated by Baidu Map.

Our new hotel was situated near the Bund and Yu Yuan Gardens. We took a nap before heading out into the wild wild city.

A walk with the crowd on the Bund and Nanjing East Road

Walking with the crowd

When we were in Shanghai, it was halfway into the week-long National Day public holidays. My mom even sent a shot of the newspaper back home which reported of the massive crowds in China. Nicole and I had to chance to witness just a bit of this phenomenon.

The Bund

At first, when we got to the Bund–a long stretch of road besides the river–it looked like there weren’t a lot of people. When we got onto the second level where the view of the river was, we realized that there were more tourists that we thought.

To me, the bund didn’t change as much as West Lake did when I was in China back in 2007. There were still old buildings on the left and fancy high-raise on the right of the river shore.

As we walked down the Bund, careful to take photos with less photobombers, we reached the end of Nanjing East Road. There was another long walk before we could reach the pedestrian street of Nanjing East Road. It was here when we met the full force of Chinese on holidays.

Walking with the crowd at night

At the pavement opposite, we say crowds of people shuffling towards the Bund. The last time I’ve seen a crowd of such size walking obediently in one direction was at the end of a National Day parade in Singapore. There was just too many people.

We had to slip through free spaces between humans to move forward to our destination. Nanjing East Road is famous for shopping and I was eager to look at the collection at Uniqlo.

Before we reached Nanjing East Road, we stopped by the Forever 21 right before the start of the pedestrian street. The price tag of a product reached 200 yuan and it made me wonder how the Chinese can afford to buy these clothes when it makes up such a big portion of their salary? Maybe they earn more than I realize.

After Forever 21, we managed to hit 2 Uniqlo stores. One of them was tiny and had a limited selection while the other was a lot bigger but didn’t have the things I want in my size.

Nanxiang xiao long bao

For dinner, we had 小笼包 (xiao long bao) which are tiny dumplings with a soupy and meaty filling. We ate at one of the branches of the famous Nanxiang Xiao Long Bao shop. This particular branch is hidden on the 3rd floor of Shanghai’s First Food Hall (2nd if you start with Ground Floor) and was recommended by a few people from Shanghai whom we met at Lilian’s wedding.

The mini buns were yummy. Soup flowed onto my soup spoon as I bit through the skin. At 25 yuan for 8 pieces, it was a price not found in Singapore.

After dinner, we walked back to the hotel. Nanjing East Road was still packed with people, shuffling slowly from one end to the other. We saw a mass dance performed by senior citizens and several bands (with old and young lead singers).

Musicians at Nanjing East Road

We walked on the Bund again on our way back. At night, the historical buildings were washed in yellow light, which was more pleasing than the bright, florescent-like sunlight. Opposite, sky scarpers blinked out advertisements or wore hoops of neon lights.

I love cities at night.

Shanghai at night

Follow my (2 weeks late) adventures in China:

Day 1 Misadventures at Hangzhou Airport [YQasia Day 1 Sep 26]
Day 2 Swindlers and bicycle misadventures at West Lake
Day 3 Bike returning at West Lake/ Staying with a cute baby [YQasia Day 3 Sep 28]
Day 4 To Thousand-Island Lake by bus [YQasia Day 4 Sep 28]
Day 5 Tour of Qiandao Hu (Thousand-Island Lake) [YQasia Day 5 Sep 30]
Day 6 Buying tix to Shanghai/ Eating on a floating platform in middle of nowhere [YQasia Day 6 Oct 1]
Day 7 A very Chinese wedding [YQasia Day 7 Oct 2]
Day 8 A very Chinese hotel/ 7-hour buses to Shanghai [YQasia Day 8 Oct 3]
Day 9 Exploring Shanghai: Buffet, the Bund and Nanjing East Rd [YQasia Day 9 Oct 4]
Day 10 A day of food and coffee in Shanghai [YQasia Day 10 Oct 5]

A very Chinese hotel/ 7-hour buses to Shanghai [YQasia Day 8 Oct 3]

a very chinese hotel

Location: Feng Shu Ling to Shanghai

Last night, Lilian mentioned that she’ll be coming down from her place to the hotel to breakfast with us. She and her husband discussed what time they would come:

Mr Lilian: It won’t be very early.
Lilian: Yup, about 7:30am.

My jaw kind of dropped when I heard that. 7:30am is very for us indulgent people. Still, we all have to cooperate so I woke up at 6:45am to pack my bags.

A very Chinese hotel

Since yesterday’s post was about Lilian’s wedding, I need to tell you a bit about the hotel she put us up at.

Lilian kindly booked us a room for the night since the dinner ceremony would end quite late. (7:30pm!) When she checked us in, she had to borrow someone else’s identity card because the little hotel cannot accept foreigners.

I asked Lilian to explain why. She said that only certain hotels can accept foreigners since there would be major problems if the visitor faces problems (aka dies) while staying in the hotel.

Since Lilian booked too many rooms, Nicole and I each had a room. My room had 2 single beds and a view of the countryside. I didn’t get to see the countryside at night as it was too dark.

A very Chinese hotel

The bathroom had a squatting toilet and a shower. My shower didn’t have hot water in the morning but it had loads the previous night. In the toilet was a curtain with a naked girl. I thought that was very weird. (Though not as weird as the erotic name cards we received in Ibis.)

I lit a mosquito coil during the night and kept the cutains closed. I felt faint from what could be the fumes that night. At least I didn’t died.

Breakfast in Feng Shu Ling

A vrey Chinese breakfast

All the guests had breakfast at an eatery nearby. There, Lilian introduced us to 米羹 (mi geng), a rice paste-like dish with some local chili sauce and preserved vegetable. She explained that the dish was made during war times when food was scarce. The villagers put together all the rice they have as well as the veggies. Out came this special dish.

Other food served was a pancake with preserved vegetables (again!) and bits of meat. There was also sweet soy bean milk and runny, plain rice porridge as well as tea eggs (eggs boiled in tea).

Bus to Qiandao Hu

After breakfast, Nicole and I waited for the bus back to Qiandao Hu. We would need to catch the 13:50 bus to Shanghai.

Lilian’s husband, Mr Lilian, was very helpful with the bus. He even ran across the street when the first bus at 9am came. Unfortunately, that bus was full so we had to wait for the 10am bus.

Lilian was more anxious than us and asked if a local could drive us to Qiandao Hu. As the lady driver was getting ready, another bus came. Mr Lilian went to check if the bus was leaving soon. Turns out, it was the 10am bus but it came out earlier to pick up passengers and would leave early if there were enough passengers.

So Nicole and I, as well as Lilian’s cousin, got on the 10am bus. We said farewell to the newlyweds and waited patiently for the bus to leave.

Unfortunately, the bus didn’t fill up as fast as I hoped. In the end, the bus left as its usual timing.

The road to Qiandao Hu was rocky. Even though I was napping throughout the 2-hour journey, I felt the bus sway from left to right. The driver even had to honk frequently on the narrow road.

Let’s just fast forward to the Qiandao Hu bus station since the first bus journey was very boring. At the Qiandao Hu bus station, Lilian’s cousin sent us off until the waiting room. Nicole had to tell the cousin that we would be alright alone before she left.

Qiandao Hu bus station

Bus to Shanghai

A very Chinese traffic jam

Soon, it was our turn to board the bus. The bus was quite full. I sat next to an older lady who shifted the airconditioning shaft directly at me. -_-”

As we zipped through the highways to Shanghai, I was surprised at how developed China is. There were multiple high-raised roads (is that how you call them) and buildings on the side of the road either soared up high into the sky or were built in the strange format preferred by rich farmers. These strangely shaped houses are usually painted gray and are at least 3 storey high. They look like milk-boxes with roofs inspired by ancient Chinese roof tiles. It gave an impression of a mix of the west and China but in a jarring way.

At the beginning of the journey, I watched the very lame movie. It was about killer giant crocodiles. The movie was predictable so I napped in short bursts along the way.

A very amazing Chineserest stop

We stopped at a rest stop and the driver game us only 10 minutes. He warned everyone not to get instant noodles too.

Unfortunately, we got back onto the bus late. The driver yelled at me in his extra loud voice: DO YOU WANT TO FIND YOUR OWN TRANSPORT TO SHANGHAI?

I went back to my seat meekly and watched the other movie. I think it was The Transporter with the very buff Jason Standham. (?)

We reached Shanghai sooner than I thought. We got off the bus at 6:30pm and took the metro to our hotel.

Upgraded hotel suite

Our hotel room was upgraded to a suite because they ran out of double bed rooms.

Then we went in search of food, stopping by Watson on the way.

Since Costa Coffee had free WI-FI, Nicole and I holed ourselves up at the café to update our social networks. We also made reservations for a buffet lunch tomorrow. Cannot wait!

Follow my (2 weeks late) adventures in China:

Day 1 Misadventures at Hangzhou Airport [YQasia Day 1 Sep 26]
Day 2 Swindlers and bicycle misadventures at West Lake
Day 3 Bike returning at West Lake/ Staying with a cute baby [YQasia Day 3 Sep 28]
Day 4 To Thousand-Island Lake by bus [YQasia Day 4 Sep 28]
Day 5 Tour of Qiandao Hu (Thousand-Island Lake) [YQasia Day 5 Sep 30]
Day 6 Buying tix to Shanghai/ Eating on a floating platform in middle of nowhere [YQasia Day 6 Oct 1]
Day 7 A very Chinese wedding [YQasia Day 7 Oct 2]

A very Chinese wedding [YQasia Day 7 Oct 2]

lilian wedding

Location: Feng Shu Ling, Chun’an District, Zhejiang Province, China

Today is the big day. Nicole and I came to China for the wedding of our friend, Lilian. Since Lilian’s house is deep in the forest of Qiandao Hu, we had to wake up early for Whitney to pick us up at 6:10am.

Whitney and her husband picked us up and drove on to the hotel where Lilian’s friend were staying to lead them to Lilian’s place too. The two cars then went to another place to follow the wedding car’s way to the Place Deep in the Forest.

The journey to Lilian’s place took about 2 hours. We passed by the beautiful lakeside of Qiandao Hu (Thousand-Island Lake) and the green mountain side as well as the dusty roads that were being fixed. The view while driving was better than what we saw on the tour of the Qiandao Hu two days ago.

Chinese bride makeup

Finally we reached Lilian’s place, located deep inside the mountains. There was a slope before her house. When we got there, the beginning of the slope was covered with red strips from firecrackers. Her family would release a lot more firecrackers and fireworks.

Lilian was still getting ready when we got there. Since the makeup person arrived with our group of cars, the bride was still not yet made up. While they did her dress and make up, we walked around the village.

The groom’s entourage arrived at about 10:30am. As with the customs in Malaysia and Singapore, the bride’s army of busybody ladies (I say this fondly since I was among one of them) had different levels for the groom to pass before he reaches the bride.

Here, the levels weren’t prepared as well since it felt more like free-styling. Still, it was great fun as everyone laughed at the different things the groom had to go through.

One of the more memorable level was the groom singing 10 different verses of songs that had the word “Love” in it.

Groom teasing at Chinese wedding

Multiple feasts at this wedding

I spent the last part of the games outside, waiting for the feast to start.

Since we’re talking about feasts, let me share how much we ate for this wedding:

At Lilian’s we had some nibbles and then a full lunch with a table full of food. Later at the groom’s place, there was also tea and a full dinner. That is a great amount of food for this celebration.

For nibbles and lunch at Lilian, I sat outside with Whiney and Lilian’s ex-colleagues. During nibble time, sunlight poured strongly, burning the tops of our head and everywhere that wasn’t covered by clothing.

We had a break after the small meal. When the lunch feast was served, the sun had moved slightly and we moved our table as well to somewhere shadier.

Lunch feast at a Chinese wedding

On the table was a bottle of 女儿红, a white liquor used during marriages. I tried a sip of the 42% alcohol drink. It was clear as water and had a sweet fermented taste. But as soon as it reached my mouth, I could feel it evaporate and leaving a tingling burning feeling.

Also at the table was a packet of cigarette. Whitney later explained that at weddings, people in China prepare packs of cigarettes. Those who smoked were also pushed single cigarettes as part of the celebration.

After lunch, the groom and bride had the usual tea ceremony where they kneel to elders and give the elders dainty cups of tea. I didn’t join in this part as there were too many people around.

Soon, the bride left for a quick photoshoot. When all the wedding cars left, the bride’s family let off meters of firecrackers and boxes of fireworks. One of the fireworks even fell onto the bamboo forest and caught fire. Luckily, they were prepared and put out the fire.

Photoshoot post-wedding

Post-wedding photo shoot in China

The wedding procession went to the newlywed’s old high school. It was in this high school where the couple met.

While the couple took photographs, Nicole and I ventured into the boy’s toilet since the girl’s toilet was locked.

It takes a lot to get used to the toilets in China. Since it was an older toilet, there were no doors for the toilets. Actually, there weren’t any toilets but there was a drain. The drain was divided into different chambers with walls up to the knee.

When you need to “do business”, you squat so people won’t see your bum. That way, everyone’s honor is kept in tact.

Anyway, back to the wedding business. At my request, the bride tossed her bouquet. Neither Nicole nor I managed to catch the flowers but many of the roses spilled out. I did pick up the roses and stuck them back onto their foam base. I wonder if that counts as catching the bouquet in Cupid’s books.

After the photoshoot (something different from the Chinese weddings overseas that I’ve been to), we were off to the groom’s place. It was another long drive before we reached there.

Wedding dinner

Chinese wedding dinner

At the groom’s place, the bride and groom drank sweet soup in their wedding bed. Lilian’s nephew, who was almost a year old and born in the year of the dragon, was required to roll around the bed so the newlyweds would have heathy babies. (Baby, in the case of China since they have the one-child policy.)

As the guests, we had a bit of tea and nibbles (again!) before we were sent off to dinner (feasting, again!)

During dinner feasts at weddings, there is an emcee. There was one here as well. The man had a strange shave, leaving a small plate-shaped on the top of his head. He had a strange goatee that reminded me of old teachers in ancient China.

At the beginning of the feast, our tables were heaped with food as well. In fact the lazy susan was filled to its brim with small bowls of yummies. Funnily, we weren’t given bowls but everyone tucked in, nonetheless, and had a grand time.

On stage, the emcee humored us all. He also asked the fathers of the newlyweds to give speeches. I admit I got a bit teary then.

Afterwards, the bride went to change and the emcee sang while throwing small soft toys at guests. (The guests loved that, not that they were attacked.)

The bride wore a traditional Chinese qipao out. The newlyweds went around to drink with each table.

The night ended. We had to wait for Lilian’s uncle to leave before everyone else could. It was the custom of their village.

Courtesy of Lilian, Nicole and I were each given a room to stay at the town of Feng Shu Ling. I wrote this while bingeing on anime.

Lilian the bride

To end this post, let’s toast to Lilian the bride (and her groom Feng Tao too) a Happily Ever After.

Follow my (2 weeks late) adventures in China:

Day 1 Misadventures at Hangzhou Airport [YQasia Day 1 Sep 26]
Day 2 Swindlers and bicycle misadventures at West Lake
Day 3 Bike returning at West Lake/ Staying with a cute baby [YQasia Day 3 Sep 28]
Day 4 To Thousand-Island Lake by bus [YQasia Day 4 Sep 28]
Day 5 Tour of Qiandao Hu (Thousand-Island Lake) [YQasia Day 5 Sep 30]
Day 6 Buying tix to Shanghai/ Eating on a floating platform in middle of nowhere [YQasia Day 6 Oct 1]