I See. I Like. I Blog.
WHEN: September 14 to 22, 2013
TRAVEL BUDDIES: Farhan and Hanim
XI’AN (Shaanxi Province) & GUANGZHOU (Guangdong Province)
WEATHER: Guangzhou was hotter than Malaysia this time of the year. Mild and cooler in Xi’an.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND: Planes, Trains, Subway,Tuk-Tuks, Cabs and Buses
We flew into Guangzhou after midnight. Early next morning, we boarded the regional train to Xi’an. That took us 27 hours – the longest train ride for me so far.
The diesel engine made the ride noisy, but even though the machine is old and shabby-looking, the sleeper cabins and communal toilets are relatively clean (surprise, surprise!). Cooked meals and fresh fruits can be bought on board.
MEMORABLE SCENERY ALONG THE WAY: Nil 😦
VERDICT: an ‘okay’ journey, even for a train-lover like me. Do it if you’ve got time to spare. Otherwise, fly.
The bullet train from Hua Yin (a city near Hua Shan) to Xi’an was totally the opposite – a grand ride! The seats can easily outmatch the economy seats of a Boeing 747, and for only 54 yuan (RM25), it was a steal!
To climb HUA SHAN or Mount Hua (highest elevation: South Peak 2,160 m)
THE COOLEST THING WE DID:
Walking on the CLIFFSIDE PLANK PATH.
Changkong Zhandao a.k.a the Sky Walk is situated on the South Peak of Mount Hua. It’s a path built along the surface of a vertical cliff, part plank and part footholds carved out of the cliff wall. The wooden-planked path is about a foot wide, the path 20-30 feet long. The drop is roughly 2km – straight down! It’s listed as one of the Most Dangerous Hiking Trail in the World, by the way.
Postscript: My mother shall never find out about this until her dying day. Heh.
THE NEXT COOLEST THING WE DID:
Standing side by side Emperor Qin’s Terracotta Warriors.
You’ve probably seen it on NatGeo or read about it in wikipedia and a dozen other websites and books, but it is nothing like seeing the Generals, the Archers, the foot-soldiers, and horses and chariots right there in front of your eyes. Simply breathtaking!
We were also lucky that day to have had the opportunity to shake hands with Mr. Yang Xinman, the man who discovered the warriors back in ’74.
But he “no speak ingrish”, sits in the corner of the souvenir store like a bawz, and charges 20 yuan for a photo-shoot.
I decided then he wasn’t very photogenic, thank you very much. Heh.
OTHER TOURISTY SITES WE VISITED:
The Grand Mosque in Xi’an
Night Market on Beijing Lu, Guangzhou
Chen Clan Temple, Guangzhou, and
Guangzhou Opera House.
TIPS AND ADVICE for NON-CHINESE SPEAKING TRAVELLERS:
1. Thou shalt face a serious Communication Breakdown. The general Chinese public do not speak, or know very little English, so don’t waste time asking for directions from cabbies or street vendors; though you could try the reception staff at some fancy hotel, or look out for college students.
2. Learn to speak, read and write Mandarin;
3. Take a Mandarin-speaking friend along;
4. Bring a book of useful phrases.
Good luck figuring out the response afterwards!
5. Hire a tour guide. But make sure the guide can speak and understand English.
We forgot to ask our guide and found out a little too late that he can only do French! So there we were, 3 Malaysians and a Chinese on a bus somewhere in frigging China trying to make sense of things in French.
If all of the above do not work out for whatever reason, then your next best option would be toBrush up on your “Charades” skills.
We did so and survived China with flying colours!
Lemme give you some samples. Try this line: “Is this beef or mutton?” Easy-peasy, eh?
Then how about “Do you have bread?”
And if that’s also no problemo for you, try this: “we would like 3 sleepers in one cabin”.
Oh, and I’d suggest you practice in front of the mirror before you go so that you won’t end up looking like a retarded chimp in Mainland China later.
WHAT WE ATE: HALAL CHINESE FOOD!!
We were like hound dogs on a fox hunt, and stuffed ourselves silly when we first got to the Muslim District in Xi’an.
Grilled beef, mutton and chicken wings on skewers served with pizza-like savory bread became our staple diet for the entire 4 days there (someone pass me the chilli sambal, please). In Guangzhou, we came across a small halal restaurant in the city that serves delicious spicy fried noodles.
I kept looking out for Ipoh-style kopitiams. Ya know the kind … kopi-o in porcelain cups, roti kahwin and maybe some high-strung Chandu-smoking Chinaman sitting around marbled-top tables (kidding). None found. Wrong province, must be.
WHERE WE SLEPT:
We’re flexible that way, you see. Heh.
Way Too Many. Everywhere we went, the place would be swarmed with humans – the good, the bad and the ugly.
Note to self: India can wait.
Like I mentioned earlier, not many speak English, but some did their best to help out. Take Officer Hong for instance, a policeman we met on the train to Xi’an. We were on the 2nd leg of our train ride when we suddenly found Officer Hong standing outside our cabin in his smart blue uniform, smiling and asking shyly: “How can I help you?” Word must have gone around the train about 3 brown-colored foreigners who spoke the white-man’s tongue, hassling the rail staffs for the last 12 hours.
There was a 2-second pause before we realized that he was actually speaking English! But credit given where it is due, Officer Hong did his best answering all our questions. He was even kind enough to help us buy provisions at a mini-mart during one of the stops!
We parted at Xi’an afterwards like long-lost friends… Heh.
Then there’s also Claire Yuan, the young receptionist at the Capsule Hotel, who struggled much in giving us the information we needed in her broken English (and whom I could easily strangle to death had I not reminded myself of the atrocious prison conditions in China). But she did okay, really, always smiling sweetly and never once fail to greet me cheerfully every time I passed by the reception counter.
Thank you Claire and Officer Hong, you guys added a splash of color and good vibes to the trip.
1. Spitting In Public. Chinese men must have got some serious phlegm overstock stored in their bodily system. Farhan nicknamed it “The Marcarena” (go figure!)
2. Infants and toddlers are taught from young to be environmentally-conscious. Many don’t wear diapers, only knickers or shorts with cut-outs at the bottom. Why, easy for baby to wee-wee and poo-poo on the kerb, of course!
A Good Trip with only minor hiccups.