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]

Buying tix to Shanghai/ Eating on a floating platform in middle of nowhere [YQasia Day 6 Oct 1]

qiandao hu

Location: Qiandao Hu

Park by the lake

Since Nicole and I did not sign up for any day tours, we were free to wake up whenever we want. “Whenever” turned out to be 8am since we still needed to buy our Oct 3 ticket to Shanghai from the long-distance bus terminal.

Either Wang Xing or her mother-in-law prepared breakfast so we saved on spending for one meal. Breakfast was porridge with two vegetable side dishes. Wang Xing’s mother-in-law helped us pick out cutlery and we only had a pair of chopsticks and our bowl as ammo.

How do you eat porridge with chopsticks? Drink it like soup. If you eat more daintily, you can pick up bits of flowing rice with your chopsticks. That works too.

After breakfast, we went to see if the bicycle rental shop was open. I joked that we could cycle all the way to the bus terminal but everyone vetoed the idea. Anyway, the bike shop wasn’t open yet so we took the public bus.

Bus 7 was already filled up when it reached our stop. Our luck of having seats on public bus ended today and we had to stand for the return trip as well.

At Qiandao Hu’s terminal, there wasn’t any automated vending machine for tickets so we spoke to the lady at the counter for our ticket to Shanghai. It costs 122 yuan each for the 7-hour trip.

We didn’t have any plans for the day after the tickets so we hung around the terminal. We found the tourist information counter and picked up a few maps. The maps encouraged visitors to cycle around the lake. But looking at the map, we realized that it was really a Herculean effort to do so.

We hung around until we were bored and decided to head back to town. The queue at the bus stop was terrible and we didn’t board the first bus that came. We tried to beat the system by hanging out at the drop off point for bus #2.

Unfortunately, the driver was fair and told us to board at the correct place. We sighed and obeyed. At least this bus wasn’t packed with people.

When we got back to town, I told Nicole that I saw a shop selling fresh soy bean milk and that it had Wi-Fi. We went to the place and got very strange drinks. My soy milk tasted like it was made from powder and Nicole’s blueberry cheese milk shake was made from powder and was warm.

We got online and surfed the very limited sites that we could: Foursquare, LinkedIn, Nicole’s Yahoo Mail. That’s about all that was free from the Great Firewall of China.

I had to reload some credit onto Whitney’s phone. She lent me her Xiaomi phone and it was running out of credit. I found out that her monthly phone bill is 150 yuan which is rather shocking. Later I found out that the phone company pumps back 60 yuan as part of her phone contract.

Playing chess with a statue

Lunchtime at Xiushui Renjia

As gluttons, we were ready for lunch at the stroke of noon. Since Nicole figured out that dinner was at some place far, we went to the fancy restaurant Wang Xing wanted to bring us to that day.

There was a short queue at Xiushui Renjia (秀水人家) [The People of the Beautiful Water, I think.] Everyone in the queue is required to leave their phone numbers. Unfortunately, I didn’t know my number and I told the restaurant employee so.

The employee gave me an incredulous look and said, “How could you not know your number?” *All conversations are translated to English.*

I explained that I borrowed the phone from my friend. In the end, I only left my name and the number of people dining (2 people).

Our turn arrived fast and we picked four dishes from the menu. Our table was by the window and looked out to the square. Since it was a public holiday, there was an event out on the square and loads of people were walking around.

Our meal was fabulous and we managed to finish every scrap. When I was in Peru, I met a Russian lady who proclaimed that China has the best food. I didn’t quite agree then since I thought Malaysian food was awesome as well. But now, I think I’m starting to believe that the best food is found in China.

After our meal, we were tired. Since we needed to head out for dinner at 5pm, Nicole suggested that we head back to Wang Xing’s house for a nap. I agreed and imagine dozing off on the hard spring mattress (which is more comfortable than soft beds).

I took my nap seriously and woke up before 4pm. Whitney said she would pick us up at 4:30pm so we got ready.

Dining on the water

Little Cola

Whitney, her husband and little Cola came to pick us up. They told us that we needed to wait for two other cars from Shanghai so we hung out at a little park beside the lake shore.

The park had exercise equipment for the old. Singapore also has these equipment and I enjoy the “Space Walking” machine and the “Lift Your Own Weight” machine very much.

At the park, there were a lot of kids. I think, generally, there are a lot of kids in China and the parents marry quite young (25-ish).

The boys were playing a rough game of shooting each other’s brains out with toy guns. One particular kid look rather haggard and was very violent with his toy gun.

Cola managed to pee with his pants on. Afterwards, his mom reminded him to tell her if he needs to pee. He then said in his cute voice, “Mommy, I need to pee.” *All conversations are translated to English.*

After Cola had his pants changed, the folks from Shanghai arrived and we all set off to the dinner place.

It turns out, our dinner was in the middle of a valley and we needed to drive on a long unlit, windy, unpaved, mountain road covered with dust. Just beside the road is loads of water so we could end up as fish food if the drivers were not careful.

Finally we reached the end of the road, we still needed to get onto small boats to head to the dining area which was on a floating platform.

The food came out very fast and in very large woks and plates. We had fish cooked in 4 different ways: spicy, milky fish soup, steamed and sashimi form. The steamed fish brought out the tenderness of Qiandao Hu’s fish and was very popular among us at the table. There were quite a lot of stir fried vegetables as well.

We also ate persimmons and mandarins plucked fresh from Whitney’s husband’s family orchard. I’ve never eaten persimmons as juicy. We were told to take off the persimmon’s crown and break it into half to gorge on the flesh.

After the food coma-inducing meal, we set sail back to shore. Whitney’s family brought us back to her sister’s. Nicole and I need to be ready at 6:10am tomorrow so we can be on time for the wedding procession to Lilian’s hometown.

Until tomorrow!

Read the other posts in the YQ in China series:

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]

Tour of Qiandao Hu (Thousand-Island Lake) [YQasia Day 5 Sep 30]

touring qiandao hu

Location: Qiandao Hu (千岛湖)

Travelling the Wharf
Travelling the Wharf

Nicole and I got up early today because we wanted to make it in time for the 8:30am tour of Qiandao Hu (千岛湖). The weather was slightly chilly as the sun hid behind hay clouds when we got out of Whitney’s house at 7:15am.

The bus to Qiandao Hu’s tourist harbor was quite empty when we got on. But at the next few stops, more and more people boarded and the bus was full in a short while. The bus took us up hills and down slopes. passing by the lake shore.

Entrance ticket to Qiandao Hu
Entrance ticket to Qiandao Hu

At the harbor, there are counters for independent travellers to buy packaged boat tour of the islands. Even though the lake is called Thousand-Island Lake, we’ll only be visiting 4 main islands (which are made up of about 1 to 4 islands each). Our tour cost 215 yuan (S$43) each, which is pretty expensive considering a very nice meal in a restaurant for 2 costs less than 90 yuan.

We had our breakfast picnic of bread while we waited for our tour to start. Most of the people passing by were in tour groups and they each wore a cap in the color of their group. So far, we spotted turquoise, purple and red.

Soon it was time to board our boat. Our vessel was a three-decked modern things. When we got on, the employees urged us to head to the third level “to be more comfortable”. When we got onto the third level, we realized that they charge an extra 50 yuan per person for the comfort, plus unlimited refill of tea.

We headed down to the lower deck where there was no extra charge. When one of the employees asked why we were leaving the third deck, I replied bitterly, “I don’t have money.”

The only space we could find with a chair was the table occupied by two couples and a family of three. We each minded our own business for most of the trip.

Our ship came with two tour guides. One of the guides said that tour guides are only dispatched to ships made up of indie travellers only when there are a certain number. I think it was only to make us feel better as they probably dispatch guides to every ship that goes out.

The tour guide explained that Thousand-Island Lake was formed when the government built a dam for electricity. The damming caused two ancient cities to be submerged underground but all was done in the name of progress. (And we’re dang proud of it!)

The lake does have a thousand or so islands during periods where the water level is high. And when the water level is low, there can be up to 3,000 islands in the lake.

To tell you the truth, now that I’m writing about the tour, I’ve kind of forgotten what was on the four different islands. I have a vague memory of walking a lot under the shade of trees and taking photos. Luckily, I have photos to jog my memory. Off we go to the first island.

Moonlight Island

Our first stop was 月光岛 [yueguang dao] which translates to Moonlight Island. I’m not sure why it was named this way but the island consists of about 4 islands and one of which is named Wedding Photo Taking Place (or something like that).

Moonlight Island included a lot of locks. What locks you say? Well, those locks you use on your luggage or door to keep out thieves. On the island, they sell locks which you can buy and lock onto all sorts of predetermined places.

Island of Locks
Island of Locks

After the locks, there was a fish feeding area. About a hundred fishes fight for the feed that visitors throw into their little square living area. The fishes fight so hard that many of them are carried onto the surface of the water for at least 10 seconds. I sometimes feared for the lives of those fishes.

The last part of the island includes a metal bridge called Zhuangyuan Qiao. “Zhuangyuan” is one of the levels in ancient China’s examination system. If you pass it, you have the chance of becoming a government official. Kids and their families are encouraged to pay a fee to cross the bridge so that the child will pass his or her examination with flying colors.

Bridge of success
Bridge of success

Nicole and I skipped the bridge and explored around the harbor. There was a tower with no stairs and a stage with no audience. It was a bit creepy.

Empty stage
Empty stage

We got back onto the boat and bought one fried fish for each of us. The fish was supposedly fresh water fish caught from Qiandao Hu itself. It tasted like a skinny fish deep fried in oil. I even accidentally ate the gills before realizing it.

Fishy fishy
Fishy fishy

Dragon Mountain Island

Memorial Hall
Memorial Hall

Next stop was 龙山岛 (long shan dao) which means Dragon Mountain Island. The island had a couple of pillars carved with dragons which was probably why it was named that way.

The island was famous for one of its officials back in ancient China. Hai Rui was born in year 14??, which explains how back in ancient China that was.

He was a very fair government official and didn’t waste his city’s money (unlike a lot of officials then). The people were so in love with him that they built him a temple-for-the-living and asked him to write a few words about it.

The island was small so our tour ended really fast. It was off to another island.

Happy Fishing Island

Our third stop was 渔悦岛 (yu yue dao). The name is a pun on Happy (yu yue). They changed the first word to another “yu” which means fishing. So I guess the name of the island is Happy Fishing Island.

On this island, there is a buffet place, a performance stage and plenty of watersports. We were given 1.5 hours on the island because of the various activities.

Since Nicole and I brought our own food, we skipped the 30 yuan and 50 yuan buffet and ate our bread. But we did get a 25 yuan ticket into the performance area where we were promised plenty of ladyboys from Thailand, some dancers from Africa, a master of Chinese calligraphy and beauties dancing with snakes.

The show was all levels of bad. The best part was one of the ladyboys singing in both a female and male voice, although I suspect the male voice part was lip-synced.

The snake charmer ladies wore sparkling gold costumes and held onto their limp snakes. Their dance could only be the result of total non-practice. Heck, even I could go on stage and wave one arm about.

The African dancers seemed like a caricature of their culture. They wore “native” clothes and wriggled about. I have a feeling the dancers all have degrees and were only doing this to travel.

Another performance by the so-called master of calligraphy was bad too. While the master wrote with ink, the screen played a short clip about him. However, in all of the photos of the master with famous people, it looked like his face was photoshopped on. Even the photos of him in Thailand and Vietnam looked like a bad mix of green-screen and Photoshop.

The master did two works which were auctioned off. While the writing was indeed very good, the starting budding price was a ridiculous 500 yuan. The video did promise that the works of this master could go up to thousand of yuan. During one of the shows, no one bought his writing but someone did during the second show.

The finale of the show was a performance by 5 ladyboys. After the show, they stood on the stage for people to come up and take photos (30 yuan charge) with them. No one did during the first show we saw and we didn’t stay back for the other show.

On Happy Fishing Island, there was also facilities for banana boats and motorcycle for water. There was also a souvenir area where the vendors scream for attention and business.

After this “fun-filled” island, I was ready to head back to the mainland. However, we still have one last island to go to.

Plum Peak Island

梅峰岛 (mei feng dao) means Plum Peak Island. This is the most famous island because visitors can capture a shot of many of the other islands. We did try to take some photos of the same angle but it was blocked by trees and the crowd.

Besides photo taking, the island included a tea house where people are introduced to three types of tea. Nicole and I bought a set of 3 cans of tea and was given a tea set. We have no idea if we were cheated of our money but the tea did taste quite nice.

We had to climb for 15 minutes before reaching the peak. As for going down, there is a choice of grass sledding. I didn’t want to walk any more so Nicole went ahead with the grass sledding too.

The grass sled was a ratty looking plastic seat and the grass were fake grass. I sat into the plastic seat, stuffed my bags between my knees and grabbed the handle. I screamed all the way down the slope. It was awesome.

After the quick ride down, we hung out a while before heading back to our ship. The ship took about 40 minutes to get back to the mainland.

Boat on Qiandao Hu
Boat on Qiandao Hu

Food and shopping for razors

Since we didn’t eat a proper lunch, we were very hungry even before the end of the tour. We got off our bus form the harbor and headed straight to the restaurant we visited yesterday. The boss still recognized us and got our order of half a chicken, vegetables and a soup.

We ate our meal with gusto and I even had a few sips of Qiandao Hu beer. I found the not-so-alcoholic drink pleasant since I’m wimpy when it comes to beers.

After the meal (70 yuan), we went to check out bus tickets for the 3rd when we would be heading to Shanghai. The shop owner didn’t really know how to switch the system’s calendar to October and we helped out a bit. We realized that tickets for Shanghai were not yet for sale and we checked the timing of the buses. We decided to head back tomorrow to buy our 7.45am ride.

Our next chore was to buy razor so we could have smooth legs for Lilian’s wedding on the 2nd. Razors sold for an expensive price at the skin care shop. (10 yuan each!) In the end, we got razors for men, still at an incredible price of 9.5 yuan (I could get it for about 3 yuan in Malaysia.

Nicole deduced that the low demand for razors caused the price to be high. Indeed, underarm shaving for women in China is not yet the epidemic as it is in the west and in Singapore.

We headed back to Wang Xing’s place where we got to meet her mother-in-law. After our long day, we were ready to retire 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]

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

bus to qiandao hu

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]

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

cycling at west lake

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]

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

day 2 jiuxi xihu

[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]

Misadventures at Hangzhou Airport [YQasia Day 1 Sep 26]

day 1 in china hangzhou misadventures

[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]

Caturday: Fat cat in Hong Kong Hostel

fat cat at hong kong hostel

Fat cat

Back when I was in high school, there was a Hong Kong drama about a man with special needs but with a golden heart. The character’s name was Fei Mao (Fat Cat) so I thought it was funny when I saw this rather fat cat in my hostel in Hong Kong.

The cat had a huge belly and a bell at its throat so it rang musically where ever it went. One of its hobbies was to scratch the side of the fake-leather couch.

fat cat scratching couch

In the hostel, there was also a sign warning people against feeding the cat. I later found the cat being ushered into some other person’s flat so I suspect the hostel doesn’t own it.

Other Caturdays: