Thursday, December 28, 2006
Shanghai tour summary
This will probably be the longest day of the Shanghai vacation. We took this 'Baruda Inodesia' flight towards our detination. Not much to say here other than the 5 hours flight and the slight delay in the departure. Food is pretty much like all economy class food, only slightly worse because...well...not being racist but it's 'Indonesia'. The music thingy built into our seats are playing extremely old 5 year old songs. The rest of the channels I can't understand the language. Ride was bumpy and almost unsleepable like all airplane flights. At 0845 we landed in Shanghai.
The weather isn't really cold in the morning due to the sun. Even in the night, when the temperature took a nosedive, it wasn't so bad. Then again, when I was in korea I was only equipped with my BHSS pants and my cloth long sleeve shirt, a jacket, a beanie and a thick leather(?) glove. But the wind didn't eat my face like the last time. In korea's -20 it practically destroyed my lips, my nose, my ears just when I step out into the open. Shanghai isn't so bad compared to that.
We first sat the bullet train all the way to this town called 'Wujian'. It travelled damn fast (like it should), like 421km/h, which is about...7 times our MRT speed? Anyway, Hanzhou is goddamn messy. Zebra crossings are useless, persistant beggers are everywhere, babies are sold, clothes are hanged in the open for drying, everything is just chaotic. Of course, not the mention the retarded amounts of conmen roaming the streets selling fake branded watches. We all just ignored them and went ahead for our lunch. But seriously Hanzhou is very messy and very...uncouth? I've seen the retardedness of korean, thai, HK and malaysia traffic but this one is so messy there are roads with no lines.
Lunch and dinner were pretty 'chinese'. You know, spinny glass table thingy with food on it. We had that for lunch and dinner. Only cool thing in Hanzhou is that incredible...er...street?...that sells all sorts of great food and a 18RMB bottle of water.
After lunch we headed to Suzhou, a place where, according to my tourist guide, says that chiobu's with beautiful white skin etc etc come from. God I remember when I entered the airport, I already saw one chio policewoman and every young lady in Suzhou is more or less 'passable' as a girlfriend as far as looks go. Suzhou, I find, is also more organized that Hanzhou, which sort of gave me a sigh of relief that maybe this vacation isn't as bad after all. Their traffic lights are huge and has a timer for every single fucking thing. Like the time left for the red light and the green light, the bus number is digitally...er...visuallized via LED lights but mostly I find the traffic light a bit overdone. It's like they have red and green arrows pointing at different directions at the same time with a green timer ticking down, I mean, wtf does that mean?
After visiting some random 'attractions', temples and the works, we finally booked into our hotel...which seats right beside a 5 star hotel. That's where I am now typing away. It's some wierd hotel called "Scholar's Inn" with nice looking but badly designed architechure. Bed's reaaaal comfy though. oh well. That's about it for Day One.
I'm not going to deny that when I first thought of going to Shanghai for a tour, I thought I would only understand 50% of whatever the tour guide said. That's already being nice. I didn't really think I would really understand 90% of his talk, not counting jargons here and there which I don't even know what it is in English. Our tour guide(s) didn't speak in some thick accent; he spoke in perfectly understandable chinese, although sometimes because I suck at chinese I occasionally find it hard to keep up.
When we left our hotel, we encountered the fog. It's pretty thick, maybe it's normal; I can't tell since I haven't encountered that many fogs in my life. The air was so cold that when I breathed out, by the time I run out of breath I can still see the part of the breath that came out of my mouth first, as if I was really smoking. It wasn't too cold however. Then again, today I was doubly equipped compared to the day before. We ate in some...place, I dunno how to describe it but it was basically a buffet with half-western half-chinese food, with more to the chinese side...that wouldn't make it half, would it..?
Now I have to say that I really enjoy visiting factories because I love to see processes, that's why I love my course alot. I love to see processes done espacially those I have absolutely no clue of, and today we went to Suzhou's reowned silk mill. It's really amazing to watch all the workers working, it's even better because the whole process is probably only 20% machine. The silk manufactured there was really heavenly, soft and smooth. On a touch it makes me want to jump on it or something. Mum bought a few pillows and such there for a really cheap price for a silk product.
After we left Suzhou, we took an hour or two worth of bus ride to the riverside town of 'Zucheng'. It's a really quiet place compared to the previous two cities (esp Zujian). Outside the actual town was a whole goddamn row of resturants (which specialize in lamb meat) and car washing services, slot in a couple of tacky little marts. The actual town was really really cool to look at. All the old buildings with old people still living inside. The amazing thing is that it actually looks clean and when I took a closer look, it's not really as old as we thought. I mean wtf man those old ah ma's are living in a dark old room with a plasma TV and microwave in it. Old my ass. I wouldn't be surprised if one of them owned a PS3.
Again I say I love to watch processes being done, and this time it's the damn old and traditional method of making cloth. It's so old, the 'machines' look almost unstable. The damn zai ah ma that skilfully show us how to use one of them. We also visited the winery where they make white wine ('san bai jiu' or direct translation: Three White Wine) and tasted it. God that thing is fucking powerful. It's almost like drinking pure alcohol with a damn powerful fragrant enough to knock the very weak unconscious. When I drank it, my chest is on fire (that's fine) and my brain seemed to have experienced some major nuklear leakage. You can just feel the alcohol going into your chest, up to your skull and leaking out of your ears. That strong.
Afterwards, we took a 2 hour ride to our tour guide's hometown of Hangzhou. When I first entered that town, it looked strangely like Singapore. The roads are organized, zebra crossings are working, the road is exceptionally clean and I swear the place we dropped off is Orchard Road. No wonder they say living here is the best in one of their sayings. Furthermore, the tour guide told us that this place hardly have any overweight people because they hardly eat too much meat and love drinking green tea and talk cock alot. Then of course there are those 'lengendary' food he mentioned. Heck our Suzhou tour guide told us hundreds of ways to keep beautiful and live long. Also, Hanzhou is famous for its 3 love stories that happened in its old times like the 'Liang San Zhang ying Zhu Yin Tai' (my hanyu may be wrong). And no the Cowherd and Weaver Girl doesn't come from here. Seriously though, this place does resemble singapore quite abit, just a lot more chinese words.
During dinner, we tried the 'luoye' wine (Falling leaves, there's a pretty funny reason behind its origin) we tried during dinner afterwards was very nice; warm, not too strong and not too sour. I can't believe no one is drinking it other than me. Wtf is up man, that thing is expensive, in front of us and tastes great!
After dinner, we went to watch a performance. I tell you the cultural performances we see in Singapore are like 4th rate compared to this. The Wushu guys are so serious they break their poles and I know it wasn't intentional because only on pole broke with dust coming out of it and it was flinged in some really random direction. The...what I like to call...circus performers are really really good, save a couple of them who probably didn't practice enough. It's not only the people and the performance, it's also the way they layout and organise the whole show. It's not about one person's act, its about the whole stage. Even the dance, the part of chinese cultural performance I don't really appreciate in singapore was beautiful. And yes, the chinese girls are really hawt. Maybe that's why I can stand their act not singapore's. Also the lighting effects were top notch. If our singapore chinese performers can come up with such a performance I don't mind paying to watch.
Soon after, we checked into our hotel, the Carry Centre Hotel (maybe that's why they help us carry our luggage up? The previous noob one didn't). It's a lot more of a hotel compared to the last one we were in. Bed is less comfy but place is overall much better than the less. Next stop: Nanjing.
Before making our way to Nanjing, we stopped by another of Hangzhou's many love-parks (where couples hold hands and cross the bridge yadayada) and went to a tea...farm? Dunno if that's the correct word. We watched the master 'fry' Hangzhou's famous 'longjing' tea (Dragon-Well for direct translation). It's exceptionally fragrant. We were explained (in Chinese) how these 'longjing' tea leaves are healthy to the body and the reason why Hangzhou people are very very rarely fat (still haven't seen a fat person). Even though the explanation was in Madarin, it was like...infinite times more interesting than the past two e3 PS3 Sony conferences combined. Note that I am a tea drinker (I hate pure coffee) so naturally I would find this interesting. They sell all kinds of tea shit here. Tea sweets, tea biscuits, tea cake, tea-shirts and tea-shoes. Excuse the pun on the last two tea products, I was just kidding. But they DO sell shirts and flip-flops there. And the shirts are decorated with tea leaves...I think. My mum bought a fuckload of tea stuff.
Lunch was pretty godly, probably thanks to our tour guide since this is his hometown. The chicken and duck was fantastic, and I forget to mention yesterday's dinner's chicken-in-lotus-leaf (and plastic bag) is also pretty godly. Then we took a 4-5 hour trip to Nanjing.
Upon arriving Nanjing, it was getting dark. We were told of Nanjing's specialty dish: some cold salted duck, can't remember the chinese name but it's somewhere along that line. Yes we tasted the cold salted duck, and the wet salted gravy duck, and the warm dry salted duck and if I'm not mistaken, the rice is abit salted too. It's salt heaven, I like :).
Overall, Nanjing is a bigger, more commercial, more vibrant, more modern and busier as compared to Hangzhou. I mean, here I sighted for the first time during this trip: a LAN shop. I think if you take Nanjing and Hangzhou together you get a really big Singapore...more or less. We went shopping at this junction much like the market area between Sim Lim and Bugis Village, abeit bigger and more chinese. I saw this array of very nice necklaces and was about to buy the one with a scorpion symbol for Brenden but that only comes tied to a short elastic band (choke) or in black beads. Beads are fucking uncool...can't imagine Brenden wearing it. If it comes tied in a lose chain + dog tag I would've bought it immediately for 18RMB.
Fastfood is pretty warpped. MacDonalds sell chestnuts, KFCs sell prawn and KFCs do not sell the oh-so-godly cheese fries.
We checked into our Nanjing hotel and in all seriousness, THIS is a decent hotel. Room is large, place is beautiful, hey it's like our hotels are getting better and better. Bed is the same as the last though, but the room is really cosy. Also it seems that the hotels we are staying is getting more and more modern. Suzhou's have 0 internet connection. Hangzhou has the cable but apparently no server. Nanjing has a cable, and have to pay 30RMB per day. Of course we're not paying because we're heading off tomorrow already and it's 1030 when I started typing this.
Nothing much to mention about our Nanjing tour 'cus I'm not really a sightseeing guy. The stories behind the city of Nanjing is insanely old and plentiful and so are the attractions we visited. Lakes, gates, bridges, a master artist, lots of kyrptonite and Green Latern rings. Sightseeing = 10 seconds. And yes, we have cold duck for lunch again. It's worth mentioning though that Nanjing's cold weather is a lot colder, almost feels like korea's -20 degrees I experienced, just that it's more humid. Apparently, today was only near 0 degrees, but due to the humidity, it feels alot colder than that.
Our next stop was Wujing. The industrious/residential area feels dead and old. The shopping area is damn alike to singapore's. It is definately more modern than the other cities I've visited. Heck it actually has a proper electronics shop that sells mp4s and other modern applications. Food here was really great too. It suits very nicely to most singaporean's tastes. And finally, we ate a proper fish. Other cities' fish dish was extremely bony and has a strong 'fishy' smell. This one was pretty fresh and not to mention their 'paigu' is really delicious. They sold this traditionally warmed (charcoal) "xian tiao qiang" (er...the famous 'Buddha jump over the wall').
We went shopping after dinner but its mostly ladies stuff. I tried to find a shop to my liking but couldn't. And KFC's prawn tastes like a pepper-heavy popcorn chicken. Packaged the same way too.
Hotel is almost the same as the last, maybe a bit smaller and comes with a bathtub. Wujing's a really active town with 24 hour shops near us. Too bad we are staying for only one day.
Touring in Wujing was pretty nice. We went to some big acting prop area used to shoot shows of the olden days (ie "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"). We met a few stars which I don't recognize...maybe I've seen them in shows but I don't really take note. Saw a few kungfu people here and there, and saw a re-enactment of the "Lui Bei, Zhangfei and Guanyu vs Lu Bu" on horseback.
Next we went to some clay teapot-making shop and was introduced to the beauty of claypots, which I am not going to elaborate here.
Next was a 2 hour ride to Shanghai (finally). Shanghai is incredibly huge, goddamn crowded, and looks insanely twisted. AS the tour guide said: in air there is the (damn twisting) highways, on land there is the normal roads, underground there is a subway. Even though there are so many roads to help with traffic conjestion, traffic everywhere is still a clusterfuck. We took a walk along Nanjing road and that place is solely just to 'admire the population' or something. Buying and queuing is almost impossible here and things is also more expensive than usual (ie, close to the price of things back home). We ate at some Dragon Boat place and continued to sightsee along the river and on a damn tall tower.
Meh, I'm getting tired and am looking forward to go home. I doubt the next few days will be anything interesting.
Last 2 days:
The tour in Shanghai was horrible. We went to see a park, some fengshui place and a "ladies-wear" shop that sells only female winter clothes. That place is pretty fucked up, I don't know what the hell they even thought to bring us here. Not only it's a department store dedicated to female wear, it only sells winter clothing. It's not only this shop, the other shops near it also only sells winter clothes, male or female. The only good thing about today is the dinner and that dinner is just as good as any other dinner I had the previous days.
I spent most of the last day sleeping and I'm a little glad I did. At 1700, I went to take a walk around outside. Hailing a cab is a nightmare on top of their hellish traffic. Their traffic is conjested like fuck. It takes years to reach a nearby area.
We went to the nearest "electronics shop", and I was hoping to see something alike to Sim Lim. It's incredibly disappointing. It makes you want to tear you hairs out of your scalp. The long cab travel time, the tolerating of the horns, all for nought. The most updated game store has !@#$ Heroes 5 as their latest game (from what I can see). The closest thing to Half Life was CS 1.6.
The hotel we stayed in was less technologically advanced as compared to our Wuxi one. At least the dinner we ate was better than what we experienced the past few days.