Friday, 1 February 2008

Photos of Li River

L: River cruise boats. R: Tourists and never-ending boats

L: Shallow water, mountains and boats. R: Karst peaks

L: Can u see a figure of a woman carrying a child? R: Classic peaks

L: The 9-Horses Painting. How many can u see? I can only see 1. That means I'm not scholar material. R: The guide pointing out the 9 horses.

L: Buffaloes feeding on the river grass. R: My simple lunch. The tray reminds me of my army days!

Li River (Li Jiang) - One of the Top Sights in China

As recommended by Rough Guides and also

Think about traditional Chinese paintings of mountains and rivers, and this is what you'll see here on the Li River. Karst peaks of all shapes and sizes. The waters of the river is very clear and shallow. At this time of year (late Oct), the waters were already very low. And at many points during the cruise, the boats had to manoeuvre gingerly around the winding rivers. And the problem is compounded by the sheer number of tourist boats. It's like an armada of Chinese tourists. I thought the golden week was just over 2 weeks ago!

So, I paid 240Y for this cruise and carried my backpack with me as I intended to stay in Yangshuo and not return to Guilin. My boat had 2 storeys: lower level for sitting and eating, upper level for sight see. There are 3-level boats too, but are generally about the same size. 240Y included lunch. But once the cruise starts, the guide will give a talk on the special fish and produce that's only found in this river, and recommends everyone to order their special lunch now in order to have this once in a lifetime taste. It turned out that the lunch that came with the ticket price was very simple: just rice, eggs, bean sprouts, some chicken. It's worse than army food back in my BMT.

Throughout the cruise, I carried my backpack with me. Reason? Another lone Chinese backpacker was doing the same. I suppose he knows better. I wouldn't want to end up losing my clothes or backpack. I didn't even buy travel insurance!

The mountains were really of all shapes. And many had a special name, like 9-Horses Painting Mountain and Waiting For Husband Mountain. Basically, the Chinese had really wonderful imaginations (and lots of time to stare at mountains). The mountains were named after the objects or people they resembled. The 9-Horses Painting Mountain even had a story: only the brightest minds can see all 9 horses. It's a bit like those optical illusion graphics. You really had to bend your mind to see the horses. This cruise is famous because even Bill Clinton took this cruise when he visited while he was still president.

The cruise started about 9am, and it was 4pm by the time we reached Yangshuo because of all the "traffic jams". I'll say the cruise was the highlight of the China trip so far. Though full of boats and tourists, it was still a nice, relaxing cruise in the China countryside, with unique landscape. Too bad the weather was terrible. Hazy and glaring. So my photos all turn out pretty poor.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Next Stop: Guilin

While at GZ airport, an ELong (or YiLong) promoter chatted with me to intro their hotel booking services. I was already an ELong member anyway. On hearing that, he offered to arrange for someone to pick me up at GL airport, free of charge. That's nice, or so I thought.

After a short 1 hour flight on China Southern Airlines, landed at GL airport and there was someone waiting for me. But, ended up not taking the ride, as the lady told me that she's a tour agent, and can only give me the ride if I take up their travel package. No thanks! No biggie, as I had planned on making my own way by taxi to the hotel anyway.

Glad that I read all those stories on the internet about how GL is full of people waiting to rip you off. Other than the tour agent, the taxi driver is another one trying to sell tour packages at inflated prices. Now, this guy is persistent. Throughout the journey, he just kept on offering to bring me to a tour agent office and book a river cruise. I would find out later that the price he offered was 100Y more than the normal cruise, and his was actually another kind that starts off at another town. The route was reduced by about half.

Managed to make it to my hotel Grand 0773 without having to take any tours. From the outside, it's just a simple 6-storey building. But the rooms were a surprise. Looks very modern. Even comes with something that could be a sun bed.

Booked my river cruise with the agent at the hotel lobby. 245Y. Note that I got ripped off anyway. Found out later that normal price from agent is 235Y. Sick.

Lunch was at a nice looking restaurant near the hotel that sells local specialties. Look at the hygenic packaging of the bowls and plates. Tried their famous mifen (beehoon or rice vermicelli) that looks and tastes more like noodles. This version is too oily though, like many of their food.

Walked to Elephant Trunk Hill (Xiangbishan). The shape of the hill looks like an elephant dipping its trunk into the water to drink. Can u see? Yeah, it's pretty boring, so didn't go to the other sights. Anyway, they're just more mountains. There'll be many more mountains to see in the next few days.

Guilin is a nice looking city, as u can see from these pics. At night, the multi-coloured lights come on and give the city a different look. U can take a night cruise around the city too.

Anyway, as my new backpacker friend from China and also what had been said about Guilin on the internet, forget about Guilin. Just go straight to Yangshuo. Much more things to see and everything's cheaper there. Much more holiday feel to it too.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport

This airport deserves a post on its own. It's impressive. It's BIG, new, beautiful, and expensive. From the outside, it looks a bit like BKK's Suvarnabhumi Airport. Inside, it's much more spacious.

I already knew this place is expensive during my 1st trip here about half a year ago. A glass of fruit juice at their cafe cost more than at SG's airport. What I found out this time is there are more ways that the airport earns money:
1. If you check-in your luggage, you need to get it tied up and secured at this counter in the pic below. Cost: 10Y
2. At the airline counter, pay another 10Y for insurance for your check-in luggage.
3. Take the electronic buggy to bring you around the HUGE airport for a price. 2 of those buggies are in the pic below.

Very impressive.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Photos from Guangzhou

L: Tao Tao Ju. R: Welcome to Guangzhou! Smog!

L: At the subway station. R: Di Shi Pu Rd.

L: Beijing Rd. R: Old relics.

L: Story of the relics. R: The enormous GZ airport.

L: What? 10Y to tie my luggage! R: What? Pay these buggies to bring u around the humongous airport!

1st Stop: Guangzhou (GZ) or Canton (CAN)

Took the 6+am Tiger Airways flight and landed in GZ at 10+. This is not the 1st time I've been to GZ airport, but there are still things I didn't notice the 1st time. More on that later.

Had a bit of trouble finding the airport cabs. Just felt like a angmoh or farang in China. So blur. Well, the signs are pretty confusing:
"On the taxi the guest stands forward"

What? Huh? Luckily I could read the Chinese words too: "Taxi boarding point"

It was a long way from the airport to the city center: 45min. Price: 92 Yuan + 15Y toll. Ouch. Guess travelling in China is not that cheap.

Checked into Hotel Canton. Rooms are not bad, good location too. It's near Beijing Rd, one of the shopping streets. Really wanted to try the Cantonese timsum, so went to "Tao Tao Ju" that was recommended by the hotel staff as the best in GZ. It's near Shang Xia Jiu Rd, another shopping street. Well, this is a huge restaurant. At least 3 floors. Managed to get a seat at a shared table. Then blur again. How to order? Found out that after 2.30pm, all dishes are at 4.80Y. Note: the 1st round of tea is used to wash the bowls and spoons, then the water is poured away into another bowl. I didn't know that. At least I didn't get a stomachache from not washing my bowl. I tried 5 dishes. Couldn't finish the last 1 and had to tabao (packet) it back. Seems like a common practice among the aunties there. Pay bill, blur again. The waitress didn't give me a receipt! Was worried that I'll have to pay again. Had to explain to another staff as I couldn't find that waitress again. Anyway, no problems in the end.

Outside the restaurant is the start of the walking street already, all the way till Shang Xia Jiu Rd. Not that interesting to me, since it's mostly fashion. But it is a nice shopping atmosphere.
Same with Beijing Rd, mostly fashion. Beijing Rd has some relics from the old dynasties displayed right under the street. Took a photo of the story of these relics. My dinner that day was just a simple street snack: deep fried squid stick. :P Too oily and chewy for my taste.

Next morning, took a cab to the airport for my flight to Guilin. Only stayed 1 night in GZ because my trip clashed with the Canton Fair and all hotels just double or triple their rates during the fair.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

My 45-Day Journey - Prelude

Right, so I've not been blogging much lately. Actually, not blogging at all. I shall not explain why. Anyway, I've something new to post.

I've just returned from a 45-day journey last Thu. Why journey and not holiday? Well, it's a kind of solo walk of self-discovery for me. How did I manage to take time off to embark on this? Easy, my former company decided to "restructure". So, it was a good and rare chance for me to get out of my normal life, and try to decide what's next for me.

I've got to admit, one of the places I chose to visit is what's "in fashion" now for Singaporeans: Macau. I saw the new The Venetian Macao on TV, and wow, I was impressed. The other place I wanted to go was Chiangmai, now my favourite destination. I knew I'll be able to stay there long term cheaply and still enjoy myself. I would prove myself right later on as the Chinese cities I went to were more expensive.

So, I planned my trip around these 2 places, and this is the route I ended up with:

Singapore (SG) -> Guangzhou(GZ) -> Guilin(GL) -> Yangshuo(YS) -> Shenzhen(SZ) -> Macau -> Bangkok(BKK) -> Ayuthaya -> Sukhothai -> Chiangmai

Looks like alot of places to cover, even for 45 days! Actually, I covered most of them in 2 weeks as I spent 1 month in Chiangmai. Heheh.

Just a little appetizer first to whet your appetite. Coming up next: the main course.