bus to qiandao hu

To Thousand-Island Lake by bus [YQasia Day 4 Sep 28]

Location: Hangzhou -> Qiandao Hu, China

Initially, we planned to stay overnight at Xitang before heading to Qiandao Hu. However, Whitney said that her family will be heading to Qiandao Hu on the 28th so she advised us to skip the overnight trip and instead go for a day trip.

I thought that a day trip would be too tiring so I didn’t relay this bit to Nicole. (Sorry if you’ve just found out today. Um… Surprise!) So today was the day we headed to Qiandao Hu which translates to the Lake with a Thousand Islands.

In the morning, Whitney’s husband drove us to the metro. He warned that the underground might be crowded as everyone is preparing to head back home for the 7-day long National Day holidays.

Nicole and I bought a bit of things to eat before taking the underground. The little convenience store was stocked with tidbits. We bought two Pocky stick biscuits, yogurt and plain water that had Lee Hom Wang’s face on it.

Yogurt drink in China

Yogurt drink in China and handsome face on water bottle

The metro wasn’t as crowded as I imagined it would be. In fact, Singapore’s Chinatown station probably has more people during the weekend than there was today at Wenzhe Lu Station. Our destination was the fifth stop and we reached without a hitch.

Queuing at the automatic ticket counter

Queuing at the automatic ticket counter

At Hangzhou’s long-distance bus station, we went to queue at the ticket selling machine. Unfortunately, our line’s machine was the one that broke down every time it had to spit out 1 yuan coins. We probably would have bought our tickets sooner than we did if we queued elsewhere.

When it was our turn at the machine, it broke down again. I went in search of a station employee. I found a security guard who banged on the screen behind the machine. One of the ladies answered the banging and helped turn the machine back into operation.

While we were queuing, a man standing behind Nicole went too close for comfort. He was wearing a cone straw hat and very traditional clothes. I guess his sense of personal space differed from ours. He did ask us to help him buy tickets in the end so I suspect he might not be too familiar with touchscreen devices.

Bus ticket to Qiandao Hu

Bus ticket to Qiandao Hu

Our bus to Qiandao Hu would leave at 13:50. It was 11:20 when we had our tickets. Instead of heading into the city and risk missing our bus, we stayed in the station. Luckily, we found seats and sat there for the next 1.5 hours.

Soon, it was 30 minutes before the bus was supposed to leave. As I’m a worrywart when travelling, I told Nicole that we had better get going. We had to pass a luggage scanner before taking the escalator down to the waiting area where hundreds of people were already waiting for their buses.

Crazy crowd preparing for the Chinese national day holidays

Crazy crowd preparing for the Chinese national day holidays

Our bus wasn’t as shabby as I imagined it would be. We had a lot of leg space, in fact, I can’t even reach the foot rest if I sit upright. During the 2+ hour journey, I napped a lot to catch up with sleep. The bus was showing a Hong Kong gangster movie and a game show. In the game show, contestants have to perform and stay on stage for 100 seconds without getting voted off by 58% of the audience.

One of the contestant was a former runner up in a Miss Bikini competition. She was gorgeous but couldn’t carry a tune. One of the men behind wondered out loud why such a person would want to put themselves on stage.

Another contestant brought a large basket of fruits. The man behind commented again about how he had seen this show and that the woman had a sad history since she was adopted. In the end, we all found out that this was another person and not the one he had seen previously.

When I was not sleeping or watching the TV, I looked out the window to find tall mountains dotted with green trees. These mountains were dainty compared to the giants I saw in Peru. I imagined being someone in the past and having to cross these mountains on horseback.

Soon we reached Qiandao Hu long distance bus terminal. A lot of people were looking for business and asked if we needed a lift. Since Whitney told us how to take the bus to her sister’s place, I told the enterprising youth that someone was going to pick us up. I guess it doesn’t matter if the person picking us up was the bus driver.

We ended up boarding at the wrong place but thankfully, it was the right choice. The bus was crammed with people as soon as it stopped at the proper boarding area. Nicole and I each had a seat and my seat gave me a good view of bus signs to see where to stop.

We alighted at what I hoped was the correct place. Nicole called up Whitney’s sister, Xing, and told her where we were. Xing came soon on a bicycle with her daughter riding between her and the bike handles. The little girl was chatty, as was her little cousin Coke.

Xing brought us back to her place which was a 3-storied apartment. Our room is on the upper floor and is connected to the balcony where we could hang our laundry.

After a while, Xing brought us out to give us a mini tour of Qiandao Hu’s city area. She also brought us to dinner where we ate food for 6 people. It included a large bowl with fish head straight from the lake.

Xing had to meet someone after dinner so Nicole and I strolled down the busy street. Shops were open and blasted recordings to lure people in. We had something to drink at a bakery before heading back.

Xing, her daughter and her husband were home when we got back. Nicole and I have to wake up at 6 to get ready tomorrow so we have to say good night now.

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]

cycling at west lake

Bike returning at West Lake/ Staying with a cute baby [YQasia Day 3 Sep 28]

Location: Hangzhou, China

Nicole and I woke up late today, not only because I watched anime till 1am last night–Tudou videos are viewable here and they load really fast–but also because the hotel didn’t include breakfast so we didn’t have to head out for the breakfast spread.

After checking out, we needed to claim the deposit on our bicycle rental. We walked a bit down the street where the hotel was and then headed to one of the bike rental stands to cycle back to West Lake for the refund.

Cycling in Hangzhou City

Cycling in Hangzhou City

Cycling in China is a rather scary activity. There are a lot of electrical bikes and motorcycle around so you have to watch out for those. Plus bicycles don’t have rear view mirrors so you have to turn your head back frequently to be sure you won’t die from getting hit.

Once, I wanted to cycle on the other side of the path and I didn’t look back to see if any vehicle was behind me. Just as I was approaching the side, I saw the front wheels of a motorcycle in my peripheral vision and I yelled out loud. The motorcyclist yelled out as well and he braked just in time.

After the hair-raising ride, we reached one of the booths. The guy in charge said we could refund our deposit but there wasn’t any space for us to return our bikes so we had to cycle down the road to find a booth that allowed refund and had bike space.

We did find one after 1km of cycling. We got our 300 yuan back and we were rich. What do rich people do? Eat. So off we went to eat at a Hong Kong dessert place.

Manji desserts

Manji desserts

I ordered a steamed milk pudding with caramelized walnut while Nicole ordered a steamed milk pudding with durian. Unfortunately, the durian pudding was out so she ordered a different pudding.

After desserts (or was it breakfast), we decided to head back to the hotel because Lilian’s friend will be picking us up to her place. Lilian is the bride-to-be whose wedding we are attending.

We went to the nearest bus stop to see if we could find a bus back to the hotel. There weren’t any. Luckily, the free Hangzhou Wi-Fi worked and I used Baidu Maps (which is a lot more awesome than Google Maps) to figure out which bus to take.

At the bus stop, there were two buses heading back to the hotel. Bus 7 costs 2 yuan (S$0.40) while bus 900 costs 3 yuan (S$0.60). At first I was quite firm that we should only take bus 7 but then I realized that the 1 yuan difference is only S$0.20 and it wasn’t worth waiting for a crowded and slower bus for that price.

Just then, bus 900 rolled in and we hopped on. The air-conditioned bus smelled of damp socks and it wasn’t very pleasant. Our stop was only one stop away and the bus drove a long way down before we reached our destination.

We went back to our hotel and got our luggage from the storage area. After a bit of waiting, Whitney arrived. We then put our luggage back into storage and went out in search of lunch.

Strolling on QIng He Fang pedestrian street

Qinghefang in Hangzhou

Qinghefang in Hangzhou

Not far from our hotel was Qing He Fang, a pedestrian street lined with ancient Chinese-themed buildings but modern wares. Since the long national day holidays was starting, the streets were filled with visitors strolling slowly.

We went into a noodle shop for lunch. My noodle had earth eels (is that what you call it?) and tiny prawns. It was an alright dish but the eel was fried crispy and tasted very good.

Next up was sightseeing/window shopping. The street of Qing He Fang had many old buildings and buildings recreated to look like shops back in ancient China.

All sorts of odds and ends targeted at tourists were sold. There were candy shaped into figures, caramel twisted into shapes, 5-minute portraits by street artists and even a man dressed in period costume selling flat bread under Wu Da Lang’s name. Wu Da Lang is a character from an old Chinese novel and his wife and her lover killed him.

We Da Lang and his bread business

We Da Lang and his bread business

There was also a haunted house on the second floor of one of the shops. While I’m curious about ghosts, the idea of getting scared by humans wasn’t very appealing.

We headed back to the hotel after finishing our walk. We passed by a street performance of an ancient Chinese play by a local university’s drama club. This was part of the international drama week or some strange celebration like that.

We picked up our luggage and went on the underground back to Whitney’s home in the suburb.

Hangzhou’s metro was launched recently. The train carriage was clean and the station sparkling. When we got on the train, we found a couple sitting on little foldable stools as if this was the norm.

Bring your own seat to Hangzhou Metro

Bring your own seat to Hangzhou Metro

We switched trains before reaching our stop. We then had to take a cab to Whitney’s place since the metro in front of her flat wasn’t opened yet. The cabbie even picked up another customer along the way. He told us that it would be difficult to make money if he doesn’t pick up different batches along the way.

A cute baby!

When we got back to Whitney’s place, we were introduced to her 2-year-old kid–Cola. He is cute as a button (rather rare for little boys his age) and has unlimited energy. He cannot carry on a conversation but keeps on babbling in his own language.

The baby entertained us as much as the TV program did. We watched one of the episodes of The Voice of China. Cola likes the duo who sings a song about curly lashes (It was originally a song by a Taiwanese pop idol, which explains the strange lyrics.) He bobbed around when the duo was on screen.

We spent much of the afternoon in the house watching TV reruns. Dinner came at about 7pm. Whitney’s husband cooked many platefuls of vegetable. We even had fresh water crabs and soup with pork ribs and corn.

After dinner, the family brought us to a branded outlet. I’ve never been to a branded outlet while travelling because I never found the time to do so. I should have in the US where Coach bags are said to be dirt cheap. Oh well…

Nicole and I had tea at Haagen Daaz after a stroll in the mall. I tried to use the free Wi-Fi but I was required to login with a password sent to a local Chinese number. Seems like I need to get a local number.

After the non-shopping trip, we headed back to the house.

Tomorrow Nicole and I will be going to Qiandao Hu–the lake with a thousand islands.

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]

day 2 jiuxi xihu

Swindlers and bicycle misadventures at West Lake [YQasia Day 2 Sep 27 PM]

[I didn’t have access to my blog during my time in China so all daily posts are postponed until now.]

Location: Hangzhou, China

Nicole and I had breakfast at Guanghua’s lobby. The breakfast spread would end at 9:30am so we didn’t have the luxury of sleeping in until late. Unfortunately, the buffet had a terrible selection of food that I suppose even a local would find lacking.

Breakfast buffet at Guanghua Hotel Hangzhou

Breakfast buffet at Guanghua Hotel Hangzhou

The porridge was watery and the side dishes looked like it had been picked clean by crows before being served. Still, I stuffed myself with eggs so that I wouldn’t be hungry too easily.

After breakfast, we pottered around the hotel room a while before heading out to catch a cab to Hangzhou city where we would spend a night at Ibis Hotel.

Our cabbie was a chatty Hangzhou-born guy. He told us about which surrounding sight was interesting (Wuzhen is apparently better than Xitang which is very commercialized) and how many rich people in China are from Hangzhou (for example, Pony Ma from Alibaba and the folks from Wahaha).

The cabbie seemed like a nice guy but he dropped us off 4 blocks away from our real hotel. It made me wonder if he was really a good person who made a wrong mistake or a swindler out to get us. Fortunately, the weather was breezy and cloudy so Nicole and I didn’t feel too tired walking to our hotel.

When we got into our room, we found a few sexually suggestive namecards which promised sexual favors for money. Argh!

Sexually suggestive namecards from Ibis Hotel.

Sexually suggestive namecards from Ibis Hotel.

Detour to Jiuxi

After checking in the hotel, we decided to head out for lunch. While we were debating which was the correct road to the famous Grandma’s Place restaurant, a woman interrupted us and told us that the restaurant isn’t that amazing.

She then suggested that we head to Jiuxi 九溪 to look at the waterfall there and the paved road which Emperor Qianlong had walked on before. So we took her advice and boarded a bus to Jiuxi. When we got there, we walked down the road to look for somewhere to eat.

A bucket of tomato and egg soup in China.

A bucket of tomato and egg soup in China.

We ended up at a midsized restaurant. We ordered about 2 dishes and a bowl of tomato and egg soup. The soup came out in a bowl that reminded us of a basin which people used to wash their faces in. Of course, we ended the meal with gigantic tummies.

Next, we took a taxi to Jiuxi waterfalls. The driver gave us a detailed explanation of the surrounding area and even gave us suggestions of which trail to take.

The view at Jiuxi wasn’t as fantastic as what the passerby told us to be. There was a nice waterfall with a small lake. Loads of groom and brides-to-be were taking their pre-wedding photographs.

Views of Jiuxi, China

Views of Jiuxi, China

Trusting strangers in a land of mistrust

When we were walking on the path, heading for the exit to take the bus. A woman pushing a bicycle started chatting to us, telling us which were tea bushes and even plucked a few tea leaves for us.

She even invited us to have tea at her place. Although I’ve read about tea scams in China [LINK], she looked like a nice person so I didn’t object to going with them.

She brought us to her house which was a little cement place behind a fancy house. She brought out two bags of tea leaves and made glasses of tea for us.

We chatted about random things. She mentioned that her child’s teachers have sent mobile phone messages to remind them about the holidays and the kids’ homework. She also told us that it was sale season for black freshwater pearls.

When we had enough of tea (about 5 glasses), we told her that we were leaving. Nicole bought some tea from her.

The woman brought us out and told us that we could take a cab back to West Lake. So we walked up the hill. There, a man was waiting beside his car. He told us that the charge was only 20 yuan to West Lake.

We took the cabbie’s offer to head back. While we were driving down the hill, he kept asking if we wanted to buy pearls or silk products. Fortunately we didn’t.

Soon, we reached West Lake’s area. But the map told me that we weren’t very near where we wanted to go. Then, the cabbie said he could drop us off somewhere further in front after he picked up his kid.

A girl was waiting by the road. She got into the back seat with us. We chit chat with the kid while her dad drove us further down the road.

Then it suddenly hit me. (Nothing solid actually hit me, just a thought.) Could this man be related to the tea-woman? Could she be sending him phone messages about us?

I asked the kid which level she was in in primary school. She replied, “Third grade,” which was the same as tea-woman’s tea.

The thing about travelling is that you are never sure which stranger you can trust and which you cannot. It’s easy to reject everyone that comes along but you would never know if that person meant you harm or not.

I still wonder if it is better to trust or to mistrust.

Cycling around the West Lake

Starbucks at West Lake

Starbucks at West Lake

After the could-be swindler cabbie dropped us off by West Lake, I suggested that Nicole and I rent bicycles to cycle around the lake.

Hangzhou has an official bicycle rental program where you can rent the bike for an hour free of charge. The next hours are charged but if you return the bike within the hour and get a new rental cycle, then it’s free forever. It’s similar to the one in Paris which I’ve rode before.

The first bike rental place didn’t accept new applications so we walked 5 minutes to the counter opposite Yue Fei Temple.

We had to pay 300 yuan deposit for a rental deposit card. However, there was no bike around for rental so we walked back to the first rental place.

There were quite a few bikes there. We then realized why there were so many bikes there–Half of them were broken. One bike’s back tire broke when I sat on it. Another bike’s chains were gone.

So Nicole drove the only bike we could find to the other bike station. Still, no one returned the bikes. Well, some did but they took it away immediately so it didn’t count.

We then went further down the road, trying to find a bike station with functional bikes. Nicole and I took turns on the bike, trying to find a bike station.

We didn’t find a station with free bikes until 40 minutes after we got the first bike. At one point, I took the bike to find a bike station. I was supposed to cycle back to Nicole and report to her about my findings. I did cycle back when I found a station and thought that I would start looking for her after passing one of the bridges.

Luckily I stopped. Turns out, Nicole already reached the junction and was looking for me. If I didn’t stop, I would have to cycle to the meeting point and then back to look for her.

After we both reached the vacant bike station, we hopped on our bikes and pedaled down the dangerous road on which we rode alongside moving vehicles.

We rode our bikes for what felt like a long time before we were ready for dinner. We parked our bikes and went to a branch of “Green Tea” which we accidentally found.

We took a queue number and was about 20 numbers away. We went to find a public toilet at a shopping mall opposite. The sign at the mall was weird. It kept pointing upstairs and downstairs. We found it in a totally different place in the end.

Dinner was great. Green Tea was packed with customers. They have 5 floor and yet each table was occupied.

After dinner, we walked back to the hotel, passing by a Carrefour. I could not resist Carrefour. We bought some interesting skin care products.

Too tired at the end of the day, we stayed in. I watched some anime before retiring for the 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]

day 1 in china hangzhou misadventures

Misadventures at Hangzhou Airport [YQasia Day 1 Sep 26]

[Since I did not have access to my blog when I was in China, I have to update my trip only now. Enjoy the delayed posts.]

Location: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia -> Hangzhou, China

Hello everybody, I’m now in Hangzhou, China. Today’s the first day of my East Asia (China and Taiwan) trip.

At the beginning, I didn’t thought about writing daily entries as I did on my round-the-world trip. But today’s event was so interesting (or frustrating) that I thought it would be interesting to share details about this 20-day trip.

Let’s hop over to the start of the trip, to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Mom dropped me off at AirAsia’s terminal and headed off to the shop. Our family’s kind of laissez-faire about sending off people because we seem to be travelling too much for tearful farewells. Heck, my parents only start driving to the airport to pick me up after I call them to say that I’ve arrived.

The counters were full of guests waiting for check-in. I picked one of the queues that seemed to have less people and even lesser luggage.

Queue at AirAsia Kota Kinabalu

Queue at AirAsia Kota Kinabalu

Of course, I have the worst of luck when it comes to queues so my line was slower than the one on my left but faster than the one on my right. (I feel good about the latter part.)

While I was waiting, my mom suddenly appeared at my side. She told me that a police officer had left the parking area so she parked illegally. She didn’t hang around for a long time and went off soon.

After checking in my 8kg luggage despite having 20kg of paid weight, I headed into the boarding room. AIrAsia’s boarding room is kind of messy since they only have number gates and everyone waits in the same place.

I didn’t realize that my flight was boarding until I heard a man yell out my destination, “HANGZHOU!” By that time, the queue has dispersed and only the rest of the absentminded guests were rushing over to pass the gate.

The majority of the passengers on my flight were tourists from mainland China. It’s great that AirAsia has started Hangzhou – Kota Kinabalu route as it brings in a lot more tourists. Still, I think that the city still needs to work more to make the place tourist-friendlier.

Anyway, back to my flight. I booked a meal for the trip to Hangzhou because it was flying at an awkward timing (4:15pm to 8:20pm!). I booked black pepper chicken since I would be eating a lot of rice for the next 20 days.

AirAisa black pepper chicken

AirAisa black pepper chicken

All throughout my flight, the little kid behind me kept kicking my seat. He even shut the window shutter really loudly when I had my head leaning on the wall.

I didn’t confront his parents because I’m a wimp but from the kid and his mom’s conversation, I can tell that they are actually good parents and not raising a spoiled brat.

Soon (actually, about 4 hours), we reached Hangzhou. The airport was huge and our plane needed a car with an arrow sign to lead it to its space. I only glimpsed the car when it made turns. This made me wonder if there are actually tiny cars leading planes to their right parking in all airports.

Immigration at Hangzhou airport was fast since it didn’t seem like a lot of people were around. I hurried past the customs officers since I was eager to hea

Waiting, waiting and waiting for my hotel pick up

Hangzhou Airport arrival

Hangzhou Airport arrival

I got out my phone and tried to call the hotel through Skype since it’s much cheaper that way. What I didn’t realize that Skype’s service was blocked in China. (I should have known this considering my previous job involved a lot of writing about the Great Firewall of China.)

I was nervous and did the next best thing: Whatsapp my mom and ask her to call the hotel. I could see from my phone record that Mom had read my note. But a long while passed and she still did not reply me.

I forwarded the hotel’s number to the Whatsapp group where I contact both my mom and my sister. Soon, my mom replied. She said she was busy fetching someone to the airport and didn’t have time to call the hotel then. She had made the call and the receptionist said that the hotel bus was already off to pick me up. This was 9:27pm.

So I waited and waited and waited. I looked at every person who walked by, to see if they would approach me and ask if I was staying at Guanghua Hotel. No one asked me even though they looked like they were there to pick someone up.

At 9:40pm, I told my family that the vehicle wasn’t there even though the hotel is supposed to be near the airport.

9:46pm I wrote Nicole’s full name on a piece of paper and hung it on my luggage. Since she made the booking, I assumed that the pick up person would know to pick me up.

9:48pm I asked my mom to call the hotel again. My sister also volunteered to call.

9:54pm Mom wrote that the reception to the hotel was bad and she couldn’t hear much. I tried calling and no one could hear me speak.

10:03pm My sister said she would call. Mom wrote back, “I just called. They said that they’ve picked someone up. I told them that you’re still at the airport. She asked if there were 3 of you. Then I said that you have been waiting since 9pm.”

10:06pm My sister wrote, “The receptionist dared say that the 2 Malaysians have checked in. Head to Gate 14. Car plate 38, silver gray car with a driver called Liu.”

So off I walked from Gate 4 to Gate 14. Even though the numbers don’t feel too far from each other, the walk was dang long. When I reached Gate 4, my heart fell. This place was a total mess with more people waiting than people arriving. I knew I wouldn’t be able to recognize anyone there. I didn’t dare walk too far out of the airport because it was unknown territory. I told my sister about the situation and she called the hotel again.

10:20pm My sister wrote to tell me to head out and a vehicle would be honking and some one would be calling out my name. I walked out and there was a van outside. The driver was honking but he wasn’t yelling my name. I gratefully got on the bus.

Even though it was only a 5-minute drive, it felt like forever. The highway was quite empty and the dark roadside was lit here and there with florescent signs announcing hotels.

Finally, the bus approached a grand hotel. It was Guanghua, the place where I will be staying for one night. The receptionists were apologetic when I checked in. I took my room card and the breakfast coupon to our floor.

The room was majestic. After 4 months of living in hostels, a grand hotel room was very unfamiliar, although very exciting. Soft comfy beds! Dim lights! Not very cold air conditioning. These were things unfamiliar to me.

Guanghua Hotel

Guanghua Hotel

Payable items in China hotel

Payable items in China hotel

Other things that were unfamiliar to me were payable items such as junk food, face towel, shampoo and even instant noodles in the room.

Another thing that I’ve never seen in a hotel room is this basket consisting of 1 box of vibrating condoms, 1 box of ladies’ underwear, 1 box of ladies’ socks, 1 box of men’s underwear and another box I didn’t see clearly.

Condoms in Chinese hotel rooms

Condoms in Chinese hotel rooms

Nicole’s flight arrive slightly after midnight. I went to the reception to tell them to send a car over. Soon, she reached and we’re about to start our adventures tomorrow!

What is the strangest thing you have seen in a hotel room?

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]

china flag

Where I’m off to next: China and Taiwan

Hello everyone! My 2-week break from blogging has just ended and I’m very excited to tell you about where I’m heading off to next.

china flag

china flag

On September 26, I’ll be flying to Hangzhou, China, where I will meet up with my friend Nicole. We’re spending a few days there before heading to Zhejiang for the wedding of our friend. After the wedding (and hopefully without a hangover), we will be going to Shanghai.

As it’s the National Day holidays in China then, I’m crossing all my fingers, toes and limbs that transportation will be smooth and we can get good hotel rooms at affordable rates.

After Shanghai, I’m flying to Taipei where I’ll be meeting my parents for a 10-day trip around the island. We’ll also be taking advantage of cheap tour groups organized by the Taiwanese government for overseas Chinese. Let’s hope we don’t fall into some strange loveboat tour. ;)

Do you live in either Hangzhou, Shanghai or Taiwan? Share your travel tips with me in the comments or on Facebook!

Where on earth is YQ?

Now, I’m back home in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Even though I’ve written about being homeless, I’ve come to realize that this place that I’ve lived in for a good 18 years of my life is really home–at least for now.

What have I been doing these few days? Besides helping out at my parents’ shops, I’ve been playing a bit of mahjong with my mom’s and working on the first draft of a Chinese travel memoir.

Wait… A memoir in Chinese? Yes, I working on a Chinese book first because my parents haven’t really been following my journey on my blog because English is not their main language.

Sad to say, I’ve only reached the end of Anuradhapura in my draft and that’s the first 10 days of the trip! I need to find out a way to be stop being so long winded.

I’ll be heading back to Singapore at the end of October to look for a “real job”.  If you know any company that’s looking for a travel and writing-loving person, ping me a note here in the comments or drop me an e-mail [yqtravelling AT gmail.com]. Thanks!

Safe travels,

YQ

Offerings for ghost month

Welcome to Ghost Month

You know how the west (and Americans) have one night of Halloween to play dress up, ask for candy and honor the dead?

Guess what, we Chinese have a whole month of that but minus the dressing up, candy or playful spirits.

What we have instead is the opening of Hell Mouth and a bunch of Hungry Ghosts.

Welcome to the Ghost Month

Offerings for ghost month

Offerings


The Ghost Month begins on the 7th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. In 2012, the first day of the 7th month falls on Aug. 17, Friday.

On the first day of the 7th month, it is said that the gates of hell open and the spirits leave the underworld and come back to visit their families. Unfortunately for homeless ghosts, they would have no where to go and would roam the earth.

To appease these homeless (and most likely hungry) ghosts, the Chinese would burn “hell money” and incense as well as put out food to feed the hungry ghosts.

Paper money burning place

Getai

Besides all the money burning, there’s an interesting event happening in Ghost Month.

In neighborhoods in Singapore, outdoor stages are set up. At special days, these stages transform into “getai” or “song stage”. From an old Hong Kong movie I watched, the shows are performed for the benefit of the wandering spirits.

I’ve only been to one getai performance because we don’t have this sort of stuff back home in KK. The getai that I went to had a small stage, which disappointed me.

Mini getai

Mini getai


There was a host who told jokes and young sexy singers who sang and danced. The usual female singers for getai are known for their skimpy outfits and high heels.

If you are interested in seeing a getai, the performance schedules for 2012 is available at STOMP.

I suppose the sexy ladies are there for the benefit of the sex-hungry ghosts as well. Unfortunately, I have yet to hear an equivalent Chippendale performances for the lady ghosts. I assume hell does not support equal rights. If I were a ghost, I will petition for a male stripper show.

My experience with Ghost Month

I cannot describe the fear I have of Ghost Month as a child. To the little me, ghosts lurked everywhere in the 7th month and were out to get me.

There are superstitions such as: Never turn back when walking alone at night if you hear someone call your name. Also, try not to go swimming because the spirits of those who drowned will want to put you down to replace their place.

Today, I don’t fear Ghost Month. I have a wish to see a real ghost and get proof of it so everybody else can rest in peace that our spirits do stay back after death.

Do you have a similar festival as Ghost Month back home? Or do you have ghost stories to share? (I love ghost stories.)

#FoodFri I bet you can’t pronounce this dish @ Xi’an

While we were in Xi’an last year, we went in search of an unpronounceable noodle dish. The Chinese writing for it looks like it would take two minutes to write just one character.

We didn’t know how to say the word, but we knew how to look and point.

We found a tiny stall with quite a lot of patrons. We settled down and sheepishly asked for a bowl each, mumbling our way through the name.

Biángbiáng noodles

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a terribly fantastic dish. Maybe we weren’t used to minced meat mixed with sauce and fried egg with tomator or maybe the stall wasn’t the best around.

From Wikipedia:
Made up of 58 strokes, the Chinese character for “biáng” is one of the most complex Chinese characters in contemporary usage, although the character is not found in modern dictionaries or even in the Kangxi dictionary.

Have you eaten any unpronounceable dish?

Connecting to a location through my stomach

I met another traveller, K, while I was in San Francisco. On our way to a taco place she loves, she asked what I usually do when I travel.

I thought for a short while and said: “Eat.”

I cannot imagine not trying local food in a new location. I usually detail my travel food diary in the Glutton-series and #FoodFri where I feature a yummy, or not, dish I’ve had.

Best dish I ever had


My most memorable dish has to be the noodles in my 大盘鸡(dapanji) in Luoyang, China.

I thought 大盘鸡, or roughly translated as “big plate of chicken”, was a literal big plate of steamed white chicken. Turns out, it’s chicken in soy sauce with potatoes.

The stall I went to only had portions for two people and more. I was alone but ordered the two-person set anyway.

I like chicken very much as I gobbled down the salty meat and the starchy potatoes. Just when I thought I could not eat another bite, one of the employees brought me a large plate of udon-like noodles.

I asked for half of the portion she gave me but regretted it once I bit into the noodles. It was too tasty!

It was a strange type of noodles. It was thick and white like udon but was more firm like ramen and more chewy.

Mixed with the salty soy sauce, the plain noodles transformed from boring Cinderella into the main character of the dish.

After I finished my small portion, I could not eat another bite which was a real pity.

Until this day, I dream of it… My beautiful chewy, white Chinese udon.

This blog post was inspired by BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge weekly travel blog project.
This week’s topic: Food.

More yummy goodies

#FoodFri Milk in plastic bag @ China

When I was on student exchange in China, I was very fascinated with these milk-in-a-plastic-bag. Besides regular milk, other types of liquid also come in these bags, eg: watery yogurt or peanut milk.

From where I grew up, liquid milk either came in a bottle or a paper box.

I like milk in a bag. It’s more convenient to pack since it won’t have the pointy edges of paper-boxed milk or the awkward shape and weight of a plastic bottle.

But I don’t like how awkward it is to drink. I either have to cut a hole and drink it like I’m sucking on an udder or find a glass to pour it in. There’s also a risk of the bags leaking because of sharp and pointy things in my bag.

If you’re ever in China, give these milk-in-a-bag a try. They taste good.

Why toiletries make the best souvenir

When travelling, I usually buy tacky souvenirs for friends at home. (Sorry!) But for myself, there is only one type of souvenir–which unfortunately has multiple product categories–I need.

Regular cute souvenirs

My Achilles heel is not a killer pair of shoes nor a nice dress, but toiletries.

I dislike how the airlines limit how much liquids we can carry. But I’m secretly happy that this will give me an excuse to buy toiletries in a foreign land.

Here’s why you should buy toiletries as souvenirs (for your friends or yourself)

Continue reading