Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 6: Shanghai - Hangzhou

Bye-bye Shanghai =(

On the 6th day we were to bid Shanghai farewell and board the 10:00 a.m. Gaotie "高铁" (bullet train) back to Hangzhou. The Gaotie ticket was much more expensive than Dongche "动车" - RMB82 per head (refer to my previous post for more information).

Waiting to board the train in 上海虹桥火车站 Shanghai Hongqiao train station.

Reached Hangzhou in 45 minutes.

Hello again, Hanghzou =)

Of course we can't miss dining in the infamous 外婆家 The Grandma's in Hangzhou. There was one branch near the Hangzhou train station. We decided to give it a try before taking the bus back to our hostel.

It was located on the 15th floor of a hotel building next to the train station. We didn't expect to walk into a high-standard-looking-restaurant and the waitresses were greeting us at the entrance saying "欢迎光临!" ("Welcome!"). By that time we had limited budget and I asked for the menu before making a mistake beyond repair.

As if reading my mind, she said with a smile, "菜单在里面可以看,我们的价钱很公道的。" ("You can view the menu inside, we give reasonable prices.") Feeling slightly embarrassed, we walked in, only to find......

... that the Chinese tea was free-flow, and FREE...

(I could tell that the tea leaves they used weren't those good ones. But yeah, it was manageable.)

... that the Dongpo pork 东坡肉 was reasonably-priced...

... that this 麻辣豆腐 spicy tofu cost RMB3...

... and the fish...

... and the fried don't-know-what...

... and the 葱油拌面 noodles with onion oil... all incredibly, reasonably priced!

We tour around West Lake after checking in the Hangzhou West Lake Youth Hostel 杭州过客青年旅社. I chose this hostel due to the good feedback and reviews from some websites that I browsed.

断桥 The broken bridge.

This was where Bai Suzhen and Xuxian met when they were reunited (refer to my previous post for the love story between Bai Suzhen and Xuxian).

Could see Leifeng Pagoda 雷峰塔 from there.

And the Chenghuang Temple 城隍庙.

Mr. Chin saying bye-bye.

Musical fountain 音乐喷泉. It was nothing to shout about.


So we called it a day and went back to the hostel room. Like I said, I had read so many positive reviews of this hostel before I came. And I didn't know we would be so unlucky.

First the hostel staff told us we couldn't have the double bed room that we wanted because they had to do some pest control for the only double bed room available, which was fine and we could understand as we made the booking quite last minute. However, he was being really helpful and said that we could stay in the twin bed room for the night and shift to the double bed room the next day. We agreed.

So we went back to the room and when we wanted to shower, there was no hot water. I couldn't imagine myself showering with the room temperature water when I was freezing my ass off. So we went to complain and the staff checked and reverted to us that the hot water was available in all the other rooms. The "water heater technician" came and said he couldn't find anything wrong with the water heater. The solution they gave us, was to use the bathroom in the double bed room which was undergoing pest control. We didn't like the idea very much as we didn't feel comfortable about it. We decided to wait for a while and see if the water heater would have mercy on us.

In the end the water heater did came to his senses. But the temperature fluctuated like hell! The whole showering process was like a roller coaster ride. Suddenly I was missing the warm bathroom in my brother's condo.

I literally jumped into the blanket after shower. I thought it'd be all over once we moved to the double bed room the next day. I was wrong.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

And I'll love you, always.

Distinctly remember during my childhood, my brother who is 10 years older, would sing shout this song to me all the time and forced me to listen. He was seriously obsessed with Bon Jovi. I hated this song then. But as I grew older I began to be able to appreciate this song - its powerful vocal, its meaningful lyrics. My favourite would be,

when he holds you close
when he pulls you near
when he says the words
you've been needing to hear
I wish I was him and those words were mine
to say to you till the end of time

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 5: Suzhou

Suzhou 苏州

One day trip to Suzhou was a wrong decision. Buying the return train ticket to depart as early as 18:02 was a wrong-er decision.

Lesson 5: If you're on a vacation and you're to travel to another place that you've never been for a one day trip, buying an early return train ticket is not a wise choice. In fact, should have just forget about traveling to that place. And again, proper planning is required.

Gaotie train ticket to Suzhou, one way RMB41 per head.

 Traveling at 286 km/h (and increasing), reaching Suzhou in less than 1 hour (precisely 32 minutes) is definitely possible.

Reaching Suzhou train station there was tonnes of tourist agents approaching us offering "great deals" to tour around city. Ignoring them, we proceeded to the bus stop. The public transport system in Suzhou was not much different to Hangzhou, so we didn't have much trouble finding our way.

The Tiger Hill 虎丘 was the first stop - and one of the only two stops - we made.

Entrance to The Tiger Hill, RMB60 per head. To me, that was way too expensive.

 吴中第一山, which means "the best hill in Suzhou".

There were many tourists with tour guides entering The Tiger Hill with us. We just followed one of the tour guides to listen to her explanation of all the legends behind this historical place, which I think were mostly made-up.

There was a story about this well and the frog-like-stone which I forgot. The frog was waiting for something then it turned into a stone.
Sword testing rock.
Anyone believe a sword done this?

A tomb of some lady.
千人坐 Seat for a thousand people - it is a rock that could fit 1 thousand people on it.

虎丘剑池 The Swords Pond.

There was a story about this lake. Once upon a time, there was this calligrapher named 王曦之 Wang Yizhi, he came upon this lake and saw that there were a couple of geese swimming in it. The geese belonged to a monk. The calligrapher then asked the monk if he can have them (what a greedy fella). The monk told him, he can if he write a couple of words for him. So he did, as shown in the pictures, and he got his geese.

Mr. Chin said this story was total bullshit. He said he would've heard of it if it were true.

 The words were suppose to show how the water flow when the geese were swimming in it.

These holes were on the bridge. The monks used this to fetch water from the river below.
This was the leaning tower of Pisa in Suzhou.
It is leaning towards the right.
Written by the Emperor of China.

Mr. Chin being a kid.
I can also do it!
Hundred steps reach. It was a stair with a hundred and eight steps. It's true and precise - I counted.

A hundred and eight steps.

It seemed as if Chow Yunfatt and Michelle Yeoh from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon would suddenly appear out of nowhere.

Leaving the Tiger Hill, we found ourselves at a different exit from the entrance which we came in, far from the bus stop. We didn't have any choice but to take a cab to the our next planned stop. Due to the limited time we had we only can choose another destination - 盘门 Panmen City Gate, entrance ticket RMB40 per head.

I particularly like this picture that I took.

The Panmen City Gate was one of the most famous scenery area in Suzhou. It was first built during the Wu Kingdom of Spring and Autumn Period and it is the only well preserved water-and-land city gate in the world now. It was a place with utmost importance for the army in ancient times. The double water city gate is a pioneering work in architectural history. There is a sluice on the gate which can be closed and open by a stone gate at any time to control the water as well as resist aggression. Upon the gate, there is a city tower. There are many ancient weapons on display on the first floor of the tower. And the city wall is 300 meters long and 5 meters high. (Reference site: Travel China Guide)

Check out the scenery. This could never be seen in Malaysia.

The fish in China were really aggressive. They would swim real close to the surface and open their mouths so big you could literally throw bread crumbs into them.

Evening was already approaching by the time we were done. So we took the bus back to the train station and then back to Shanghai.

Shanghai, again

Back in Shanghai, we took a stroll along Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street, bought McD sundae and ate it in the cold. =)

A huge aquarium in one of the shops.
Then we took the MRT back and called it a night.