Back to Hangzhou

Day 5, 24th October 2009, Saturday

It was pretty hectic day on Saturday. Most mornings were wasted at those specialty shops. The trick to visiting China’s specialty shop is – to be the last one to get your deal, you would end up having the best deal. When we were visiting the green tea shop, we also “made” to pass by their shopping centre located on the way out. We gotten 5 packets of Taiwanese mochi for 100 yuan where another group of girls gotten theirs – 7 packets for the same price! You tulan or not??

So, when we were visiting the chrysanthemum plantation on the last day, we just showed disinterest. At first, they were selling 2 boxes of good grade chrysanthemum for 200 yuan. We ended carting away 5 boxes of good grade chrysanthemum for the same price. So people, repeat with me – Show disinterest, be the last to bargain, get at least 50% off (this does not apply to the green tea though. But you can bargain to get more freebies).

I think I like Tongxiang Leather Market the best. We went on a hunting bargain. I managed to get two pairs of leather gloves at 70 yuan and a nice hobo leather bag at 100 yuan (original price was 500 yuan!). It’s really thrilling to do the bargaining here. Anyway, if you are a local, they would straight away quote cheaper prices. We were looking at some wallets as presents for my dad and cousin brother when a local group dropped by. The sale assistant immediately offered them 20 yuan per wallet! As for us, we had to bargain till the cows come home and we still have to pay 40 yuan!

Soongchen transports you back to ancient times

Anyway, after the “brutal slaughtering” of prices at Tongxiang Leather Market, we went off to Soongchen. It was a theme park in Hangzhou. Here, the staff all dressed in their ancient clothings. It surely transported you back in time during the glorious days of the Chinese Dynasties the moment you stepped into the place. We had a good time walking about the area. However, since it was a weekend, there were seas of people again! A whiff of foul-smelling tofu lingered in the air, peddlers actively selling their food and wares, jugglers performing, fire eaters, acrobats showing their gracefulness, puppets play, etc. There was even a guy holding a gong and hitting it periodically like the olden days – asking people to beware of fires at night.

Graceful dancers, fit for a king

After a brief walkabout, we went to watch the Soongchen show: Romance of Three Kingdom. Actually, I seriously have no idea what the show is all about but then, it was spectacular! Imagine – rain falling in the theatre! They even have waterfalls, live battles with canons and real fire and live horses running about! The scene I enjoyed the most is probably two dancers dancing in the dark with only two green spotlights. Made it looked somewhat artistic and futuristic. The show was put up by “second” grade dancers according to our tour guide. They don’t look like second graders to me! They are simply awesome! There were many oohs and ahhs throughout the show!

Very, very yummy chicken thighs

After watching the amazing show, we were given time to walkabout again the place and of course, we had some dinner here. The baked chicken thighs are delicious!


Our last stop for this Eastern China’s trip was Qihefang. It’s Hangzhou’s walking street. Here, I think the walking street is about 10x longer than Jonker’s Walk in Melaka. There are rows of shops and little stalls in the middle of the lane. The place is quite spacious so you don’t have to bump into people while walking. It’s very comfortable to walkabout and not having to sweat because of the slightly cold weather. Get your things from the little stalls as the prices in shops are not negotiable. There were fireworks at the West Lake nearby when we were shopping there. It was really a lovely night!

We ended our fruitful trip with bags of silk quilts, pillows, green tea, pearls, wuxi pork ribs, chrysanthemum, teapots, leather goods, fake goods and little knick knacks. Of course, also the privilege to know some really nice people throughout the trip. 😀

Some tips on going to the airport though. Please have your meals at the lower ground of Hangzhou airport before checking in. Hangzhou Airport is very strict as they scan your temperature even before letting you go to the check-in counters. Once you get into the check-in counter, you are not allowed to go out. So you had no choice but to go through immigration already.

After the immigration counters, there were only 3 shops selling food and drinks and I tell you, they cut throat! One sandwich meal is about 50 yuan! Many of us ended eating instant noodles as they are the cheapest! Please buy things from the shop nearest to the immigration counter as they are cheaper! Here, one bottle of 500ml mineral water is about 3 yuan while the last shop sells at 5 yuan for each bottle! You may also bring your empty bottles in as they have water dispenser there – but if you meet a group of aunties and uncles, then you won’t get any water because they would exhaust the warm water as if there were no water in Malaysia!

So, this post concludes the 5D4N trip to Eastern China. 😀

Xihu, Longjing Cha, Dongpo Meat

Day 2, 21st October 2009, Wednesday

Tranquil Xihu

Morning call was at 6.30 am. Seriously. I never like traveling in tour because having to wake up so damn early. I don’t even wake up this early to go to work. Haha! However, it was all good because everybody was quite punctual. Well, if you are 15 minutes late – for Malaysian’s standard, it’s still okay. Breakfast at the hotel consists of some mantaos with sausages, porridge, eggs, stir fried pak kor, fried rice. Somehow, I just didn’t have the appetite.

The very fragrant Gui Hua

The weather was rather chilly so it’s great to walkabout at West Lake (Xihu). We were led by another tour guide, Ah Fong who was born and bred in Hangzhou. The moment we got off the bus, we were greeted by a strong smell of perfume. I thought it was the Kuching girl’s perfume who was walking in front of me. It was actually the smell of the small, yellow gui hua. October is indeed a great time to visit China, given the blossoming of gui huas as well as the cool weather. That is why the entire place was packed to the brim. Everywhere you see, there were seas of people!

We got on a boat to take us round the Xihu. It was just a short 15 minutes ride. It would be great if I could have more time to walk about by myself here. Sigh.

After Xihu, we went to tea plantation at Meijiawu. This place looked a bit like Cameron Highlands. What type of tea they have here? It’s the famous longjing cha (dragon well’s green tea). We were ushered into a room and given demonstration by a lady. A friend told me during her visit here some years ago, 1 kg of green tea leaves cost about 900 yuan! We could actually eat the leaves – hence, the locals coined it as eating tea, instead of drinking tea.

The tea leaves are harvested in March and April when the shoots are tender and green. It would be then hand-pan fried to be dried then, packaged. The tea leaves would still look green actually! All you need is 2-3g of leaves, preferably using 80 – 90 degrees hot water. You may add water to 4-5x and drink all day. The second brew is the most fragrant. You may also add in slices of dried orange peel and san cha if you would like to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol level.

The trick of getting best deals out of your purchase is to show disinterest. At first, it costs 900 yuan per kg and two packets of 50g would be given for free. Eventually, someone in our group managed to haggle for additional two more packets if he purchased 1 kg of green tea. We managed to get half kg of tea and gotten ourselves two 50g packets for free.

After the much haggling for prices at Meijiawu, we went to have our lunch at a nearby local restaurant. Here, we were served dongpo meat. It was said, it was named after Su Dongpo who was the governor of Hangzhou. Ah Fong bid us farewell here.

Old lady by the River, Wuzhen

After lunch, we proceeded to go to Wuzhen. Wuzhen is an old ancient town opened to public. There were actually some people still living in the place! It has clean rivers and old houses in stilts. You can see villagers washing clothes in the river just outside their house! I think I remember Tom Cruise filming his movie here – Mission Impossible.


After a short visit to Wuzhen, we went to Suzhou. We were greeted by another tour guide, Mr Suet. Suzhou is a very old town (2,500 years old!) famous for its water canals and had been described as “Venice of the East” by Marco Polo. Since the weather in Suzhou is one third raining, one third cloudy and one third sunny per year, there were inevitable floods. So residents dug up canals to alleviate floods, hence there were many canals in the town of Suzhou itself. There were also many bridges. To date, there were about 366 bridges – big and small all over Suzhou!

In Suzhou, we should not address the ladies as “Xiao Jie” as this term refers to the working girls at night. Please address the young ladies in Suzhou as “Ku Niang”. I couldn’t remember where though, that “Xiao Jie” is actually pronounced as “Xiao Ji”. Those above 30s are addressed as “Ta Ji” (sounds like big chicken. LOL). Then the tour guide got mischievous and asked what do we call older ladies then? Some buggers sitting behind the bus shouted, “Lao Ji”. LOL!!!

Science & Education Centre

We stopped by the Science & Education Centre to check out the “bird nest” designed building. In fact, we were made to understand that, this design has been copied by the Beijing Olympic Stadium and not the other way round! The place is quite a sight to behold. And we were lucky enough to see the building before and after lights were switched on. It’s situated nearby the Lee Causeway (which was named to commemorate the ex Prime Minister of Singapore – Mr Lee Kuan Yew for Singaporean’s investments in the area) overlooking the Jing Ji Hu (Golden Chicken River).

Jing Ji Hu

After dinner of steamboat in chicken broth (their specialty), we left for Suzhou walking street. Here, you could get the famous “Kong Tang” from a medicine shop. It was said that, Empress Cixi was having bouts of terrible cough for months. No remedy seemed to cure her till someone made her this candy. The candy was then made a royal candy! I wish I discovered this in July when I was suffering two months of incessant coughs!

While everyone was busy shopping for cough candy (taste like Lor Hon Kor though) and I tapao-ed the Mala Pork Burger from McD. Haha! I am such a glutton. It was really good. It’s slightly spicy and the meat pâté is deep fried.

McD’s Mala Pork Burger

We ended the night and headed for Suzhou Tourism Hotel. It was a nice, small hotel. I think of all the hotels I stayed out of the 4 nights here in Eastern China, this one is the most comfortable.

Hangzhou at Night

Day 1 20th October 2009, Tuesday

It was a 5.20 pm Air Asia X flight from Kuala Lumpur to Hangzhou, arriving at 10.20 pm. The moment we got to the check in counter, there were sea of people. Since the first counter stated “Open”, there were people lining up there as well only to find that, there was nobody manning it. Frustrated, we moved to the next lane. However, it really felt like China even before we got to China. Everybody is cutting queue like nobody’s business. Since we were early, we didn’t really bother.

The flight was quite unpleasant. We were seated next to the toilet, so you can imagine – the amount of people going in and out from the toilet and bear in mind, it was a full flight! I could actually keep track of how many times one white haired lady who went in and out from the toilet in the 5-hour flight. Haha! So people, please pre-book your seats to avoid such situation.

I don’t remember that the seats are so rigid and tight. It’s even worse than the smaller planes. This is Air Asia X, mind you… for long haul flights and we had to sit straight on our back and on such a tiny seat! Imagine my aunt, a 50 kg 5 ft old lady complained that the seat was too narrow. What about me, who is 2x heavier than her and taller than her by 4 inches? Thank God they are going to change the seats in 2010.

Apart from that, there was a pasar malam action going on at 35,000 feet above sea level. When the flight attendants were selling duty free products, it took one guy 30 minutes just to buy a bottle of liquor. Currency problem? Communication problem? Some Malaysians were nice enough to help them to translate what they wanted. So, there – new friendships were formed instantaneously. Then there were endless talking. It was really like pasar borong on the plane. There was one middle aged fat lady who has a balding patch on her head was speaking at the top of her voice in a triad-like Cantonese, like she’s going to run amok anytime on the plane. I prayed hard that she is not one of my travel mates otherwise, we are screwed.

I spent the entire 5 hours reading “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini, the author for the much loved Kite Runner. I think I’ve never spent such long hours sitting on a chair, reading a book before! After reaching the page where Laila and Mariam tried to escape but were caught by their barbaric husband, Rasheed, we reached Hangzhou.

We were greeted by Ms Shao, a pretty Suzhou lass. There were 22 people in our group. Since it was such a long and not to mention noisy flight, we were tired. But we were rather impressed to see the highways of Hangzhou. They were all multi-tiered and brightly lit with multi-colored lights! Even if the lights are sort of ah beng-ish – you have a bit of blinking blues here, yellows here and shocking pink there, everyone went “wow” when they saw the highly colorful highways. There were many beautiful lush willow trees surrounding the highway.

Hot street food is good for a cold Tuesday night.

We stayed at Wan Hao Wan Jia Hotel in Hangzhou for a night. After checking in, we went for a walkabout and sampled some street food. They only have some fried food and satay. We made do with some fried noodles and rice to ease our hunger pangs before going to bed.