Monday, August 15, 2005

Shanghai Rendezvous

Just couldnt get up this morning til 9am. We're heading to Shanghai on an 11:25am train. It was already 10am after brushing my teeth, taking a bath and packing up. We had to quickly check out, then went to the nearest bus stop to catch the Y2 bus, as directed by the hostel reception, but we must have gone to the wrong bus stop because Y2 doesnt go through the stop. A lady and a couple of old folks tried to help us, giving us directions, but we figured we would already be late by the time we figure it out, so we took a taxi to the train station in the east, which cost us Y10. The drive only took a few minutes which was comparitively much faster. We bought a tea container so we could drink our Long Jing tea in train.

We then checked into the train station and sat near the gate. At about 11:20am the gates opened and since everyone was rushing through the gates, we had to do the same. We thought we could get good seats since we were through the gates pretty early but this train already had passengers from earlier stops inside. We walked through the carriage and stoped near some chinese occupying 2 seats and politely asked if we could sit there, "Ke Yi Zuo Ma?"

They look fierce or abit brash at first but when they made space for us and helped us find space for our backpacks, they werent as unfriendly as they seem. I guess some politeness goes a long way. We later enjoyed our Long Jing tea over a pack red bean paste mooncakes for brunch. While I was writing my journal, the chinese fellow next to me started leaning on me sleeping but i just let it be.

When we were about to reach Shanghai, a chinese lady shouted into her mobile phone saying "I"VE REACHED SHANGHAI, TELL MY DAUGHTER-IN-LAW TO COME PICK ME UP". That drew some laughter among the crowd and everyone in the carriage new we are arriving in Shanghai. Finally the train stops and we were excited to finally land our feet on Shanghai.

We walked to the Shanghai Metro subway which was just nearby the exit. We took the Line 1 to Ren Min Guang Chang, People's Square in english, then took the Line 2 interchange to get to Henan Road, which cost us Y2 per person.

We checked the map for directions, walked along Henan and Central Jiangxi road about 10 mins to Hiker Youth Hostel and checked-in after confirming our reservation from Hangzhuo. We are sleeping in a 4 bed mixed dorm which cost Y40 per person per night and also deposited Y100. We went to our dorm, freshened up and unpack some of our stuff. Internet is free for the first hour, so we quickly checked and replied some emails.

We later walked along Suzhou Road towards The Bund for sightseeing.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Fast Forward Hangzhou

I havent been writing my journals because traveling is tiring. By the time i get back to the hostel, i would need to capture the videos and also transfer pictures. Yeah I got it fixed and i'll give you a brief story about it later on. The weather is still very hot and I'm always sweating when I on the road, even during the evening.. experiencing summer. After going around sightseeing the whole day, i come back to take a nice cool bath and then into an air-conditioned room. Naturally it gets too comfortable to write anymore. If you call that lazy, I'll admit to that.

Anyways, back to how i got my precious back. It's relatively harder to find an electrical store in China during my travel so far. Most malls i go to dont have an electrical department. We had to look at the mall directory to see if there's one and we found one that did. The staff at the camera booth was helpful to find us the address to the fujifilm service centre, which was relatively far from where we stayed. We took about 3 buses to the service centre because we were confused with the bus routes.. which is real frustrating.

We finally found the EGO IT mall after asking for directions numerous times. The service centre was located on the 11th floor and by the time we reached there, it was already about 4:30pm. We left the camera there and the customer support told us to call the next morning to see if the camera could be fixed and what are the cost. I was prepared to fork out about RM500 to get my baby fixed, cos the lady told me it'll probably be a major fix since the power couldnt be turned on. I tried not to think much of it or it would drive me nuts, I'm a worry freak. Oh yeah, I was lucky the service centre operates during the weekends too or else i would've to wait till i get to Shanghai.

The next morning we cycled around the West Lake to the Hangzhou Provincial Museum. Bicycle rent was Y15 for 4 hours and u need to deposit Y200 for each bike. We called the service centre after finishing the museum and was told that the camera would be ready this afternoon and we can pick it up before the centre closes at 5pm. The cost of the repair, Y350, which is around RM 170. I'm just glad I'm getting my camera back and being able to snap pictures again. Of course i will be much more careful since dropping it. We went for lunch before heading back to the hostel to return the bikes. Since we sweat quite abit cycling under the hot sun, we bathe before heading out again to allow the body to cool down. I must mention that the hostel reception has already switch me to a bed in the same room as Joey. The was another friendly couple from the Netherlands sharing the room.

We reach the EGO IT Mall around 3pm and it was still confusing getting there the second time. We were greeted by a friendly guy. He checked the camera in front of us to comfirm that the camera has been fixed and we paid the fee accordingly. I was really happy my camera is fixed and here's a lovly picture of us.

I noticed that EGO has got at least 3 IT malls in the area with one more under construction.

We were walking back to the bus stop and came across a vendor selling a local snack that is cooked in the same way as a naan. There's 2 flavours to choose from, one is sweet and the other is spicy.. both very enjoyable.

We didnt note down the buses we took to get back previously and besides, the buses we took stoped quite a distance from our hostel, so we wandered again looking for the most convenient route back to the hostel. Just to give a heads up on the Hangzhou bus service, there are 2 sorts of buses. One with the letter "K" infront of the bus numbers and one without. The ones with the "K" are well air-conditioned, have soft seats and cost Y2 or higher, while the ones without the "K" does not have air-conditioned or not properly air-conditioned, have harder seats but cost cheaper at Y1 - Y1.50. Here are some pics of the busses and the bus info board, which are in chinese and i had to rely totally on Joey for this.

We hopped on a bus which we thought was going to the hostel but it took a road not recognizable. We believed we were going the wrong way when we passed through an interesting area with an old gate and a night market. We went down on the coming stop and walked towards the old gate. Here are some pics of some old building and the old gate.

We also spotted a beautiful church nearby and the church member invited us in and we took a couple of pics of the excelent arches on the way in.

we then proceed to the night market which turned out to be a long walkway with old buildings converted into a tourist attraction filled restaurants, arts and craft, antique, traditional chinese medicine shops plus many more.

The walkway ended near Ling Yin Temple and from there we knew where we were because we passed this temple on our first day in Hangzhou. It was about 10 minutes walk back to hostel by the West Lake. We cleaned up then head off to dreamland.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Onward to Hangzhou

Woke up at about 6am, cleaned up and packed up. Mr Dong was still asleep and we didnt want to wake him, but he was soon awake and already started cleaning the house. We wanted to take a photo together with our kind benefactor so we went out to greet him.

After the group picture, Mr Dong gave us a few good advise about traveling in China and that we have to be extra carefull with things that seems too cheap or undervalued. It's best to avoid than to learn it the hard way as Mr Dong did. Thank you so much Mr Dong for your kind hospitality! We'll definitely return the favour when he wishes to visit Kuala Lumpur. After the farewell, we were on our way to the bus stop, we took a look at the bus chart again to make sure we didnt get it wrong. Bus No 19 came in a short while and the ride cost us Y2.

At the Xiamen Train Station, we managed to buy 2 hard sleeper tickets going to Hangzhuo at 2:30pm. We were reliefed that there were still tickets, if not we were to visit Gulang Yu, but that wasnt in our plan. We kept our backpacks with a baggage deposit service nearby the ticketing area. Each locker cost Y8 and our backpacks were big enough to fill two.

He had 4 hours in between, so we walked around looking for a way to call home and also have lunch. We bought a Y30 China Unicom call card, but somehow we still didnt manage to make a call home, perhaps we didnt punch a few numbers, we only tried 603*******. The lady who sold us the card only told us that we could make an international call with the card but i guessed she didnt how how either. We were feeling hungry by that time so we walked to a nearby street market.

We bought a few pork and red bean paste bao (dumplings) which looked inviting. We then found a chinese mixed rice shop and decided to have our lunch there. Rice with some toufu, lotus root and egg oysters cost only Y4.

We later strolled into a shopping mall and did a little window shopping. Since the train ride to Hangzhou took approx 23 hours, we thought we should get some food and water for the trip. Went to KFC to buy some meals which went up to Y43 in total and that was where I drop my digital camera. :( The camera wouldnt switch on after that. Such utter carelessness! Heavy hearted and appetiteless, but still headstrong in continuing the trip in cheer. Forced a few smiles until the depression went away. The thought of my broken camera still haunts me now. I have to get it fixed quickly in Hangzhou/Shanghai, and i fret to think about the cost. Only video from now on.

Went back to collect our backpacks at 1:30pm and then checked into the train station. They have X-Ray scans and i later found that they have it in most stations. A helpful and friendly train station warden helped us to get seats in an already crowded waiting area. She raised her voice and shouted at a few chinese to make space for us. People were starring and we quickly took our seats as ordered by the warden, feeling quite shy. I just acted carefree, just doing what was ordered and not smilling around.. people might think we are smirking arrogantly. The gates opened at 2:20pm and the rush is on. The carriages are nicely numbered and we easily found ours. We were on the 6th carriage and beds on the 19th row. The top bed had little headspace and u had to crawl to get in. The middle had a little more, but u cant sit up. The bottom beds are the most comfortable where u can sit up straight and set your foot on the floor. There's also a`small table with a flask underneath, but all this comes at a steeper price, Y300.

Our neighbours were quite friendly, they offer ciggies and also bought us a large bottle of beer. We offered them longans, Y10 for a small basket, in return. The view of the country side was really nice, mountain terrains, vegetable + rice fields, farmer working the land, villages, a few dams and a hydroelectric station. We updated our journals and budget before going to bed at 5pm. I woke up at about 9pm, brushed my teeth before sinking it into the KFC meal we bought this morning. After that i spent some time typing my journal onto the laptop. Went back to bed at 11pm. Woke up in the morning at about 7am and saw that our friendly neighbour had already left. I heard they wanted to get off at Wuyishan. Had to queue up to brush my teeth. Joey went to the restaurant carriage to buy some breakfast, some porriage with salted egg and vegetables, plus a bottle of milk which cost Y15 in total. We sat on the bottom beds since it wasnt occupied, read up on Hangzhou and updated our journals again.

We finally reached Hangzhou a few hours later, and that was the end of my longest ride on a train so far. We walked around looking for the bus that would take us to Nanshan Lu, where our hostel's located, but couldnt find any. We took a 10 mins walk to the main road in a hot weather, carrying heavy backpacks.. real tough since we're not used to such labour. The the bus stop, we still couldnt find the bus, so we seeked help from a lady. She told us to go back to the train station and catch the Y2 bus on the right-hand side of the train station. Instead of walking back, we took a bus back which cost Y1. We werent sure where to get off the bus, and we stoped about 15 mins away on foot. I just wished i could read the chinese roadsigns! We were just heading out on a wrong direction when a middle-aged man said out loud to us "Wow, carrying such huge bags under the hot sun! you have to take care of yourself." We asked him if he knew the way to Nanshan Lu and he showed us the opposite way. Thank god we didnt go far before we knew our error. We thanked him and later found the Nanshan Lu street sign, feeling glad we are finally near the Hostel.

We were looking for a large landmark which was the an art institute, but i managed to spot the IYH signage across the road. When we tried to check in the hostel, we were dissapointed to find out that there wasnt any more beds. The staff recommended another hostel which was 10 mins away but half way through discussing what we should do next, we were told there might be some space for us, because someone have cancled thier reservations. We later got a bed in a 4 bed female dorm for joey and I'm sleeping in an extra bed in an 8 bed mixed dorm, at Y80 for 2 persons per night and we had to deposit Y200 since we are in seperate rooms. We'll need to recheck with the reception the next morning if there's a room for both of us or at least get me a dorm bed. The extra bed was a foldable bed with hard support with no mattress. The only consolation was that i was sleeping in between 2 foreign ladies.

I met 3 guys in the dorm, one's a friendly Korean and the others are his german mates. We had a short chat and I joined up with Joey later to see the city and find dinner. We dropped by a Carrefour Hypermarket along the way to get some drinks and water. We decided to walk the smaller lanes in search for stalls instead to find cheap good food and we did. There's a few small restaurants and we randomly picked one. Joey had vegetable noodles and i have the spicy pork noodle, boy they tasted good. Sorry there's no pics yet for me to display.. I TOTALLY NEED to get my camera fixed pronto. Anyways.. we went back to the hostel after a long hard day, slept. I was lucky there's a bed with no one sleeping on it, so i ditched the extra bed and took it since the rest of my roommates told me it has been empty the nite before. Splendid.