Sunday, November 29, 2015

Day Two - Onward to Zhaoqing 肇庆 [Chan Brothers 8 Days 7 Nights Scenic Guilin + Longji Terraced Fields Tour Package (GUARANTEED No Shopping Stop)]

It was a restless sleep although i woke up energised with the motivation to do some light exercises in the hotel gymnasium before proceeding to the restaurant for breakfast!

A minimal intake of breakfast as i didn't want to face the frustration (with a low risk of embarrassment) of looking around for washrooms given my "sensitive" gut.

With three hours to go before our departure to the next city on the itinerary, i took the opportunity to take a better shot of the hotel we stayed in on the first night of our trip; H.J Grand Hotel.

Accommodation rates for those who are interested.

Want to make a guess for the blue building's purpose? It housed a sheltered swimming pool and the gymnasium i visited earlier on.

Time to leave and have a better look of our tour mates! There's a family of seven members, three families of two (consisting of my father and i) and a family of three.

Harrowing sight on the roads with an electric motorbike trudging in such a near proximity to the fast moving truck! When i was taking my driving lessons, i had to drive on the Ubi roads which were filled with humongous vehicles like the above and needless to say, the stress level was rocket high!

A scrap yard with possibly thousands of motorbikes! Kind of reminded of Wall-E; the waste collecting robot that was all alone on abandoned earth.

The huge pools of water were insignificant from far but once the coach neared, i can see hundreds and hundreds of ducks / geese! Now, that's considered free range right?

A modern looking pagoda by the name of 纪元塔.

First stop after two hours of drive; to have lunch at 新庆嫂渔港. Now, i don't really look forward to meals in China packaged tours as the food were quite standard although a much wider spread. In two of four packaged trips to China, i actually lost weight after i returned back to Singapore.

10 dishes in total that included a bowl of soup! With quite a few members who were my parents' age, it's impossible to clean up all the food!

I stepped out to have a look at the surrounding; guess the restaurant either has a good reputation or serves economically priced food. The place was big and there were many diners.

渔港 is translated to fishing port and you can find a good variety of live seafood; including the hairy crabs that were in season. Pricing was much cheaper in China with one costing less than S$10.

There were even flounders and puffer fishes! I must be quite a mountain tortoise (meaning ignorance) as i don't remember ever seeing a live flounder before.

There was one more dish that was served way later! That means a total of twelve dishes and i am not including the large bowl of white rice (self served).

Boarded the bus again with the tour guide taking to microphone and dispensed nuggets of useful information again. A Guilin native, he talked about food in Guangzhou, sights that we would be experiencing in Guangxi province which is an autonomous region under the Zhuang minority etc.

Along the way, i could not help noticing signboards that have the three characters;裹蒸粽; it was a dumpling that Zhaoqing was famed for and the tour guide kindly told us it would be on the breakfast menu the next morning. I could not wait to have a taste of it; hoping it would be as delicious as the nyonya style dumpling we have in Singapore.

Bidding goodbye to the cityscape and welcome to the landscape of natural beauty! Of course, this by right could not be compared to the stunning views said to be at Yangshuo (阳朔).

Zhaoqing (肇庆) is still within the Guangdong province; a fact i wouldn't know since i don't even know of its existence before the trip. One way to get your bearing in China is to look out at the license plates of the motor vehicles. At that moment, most plates bear the Chinese character 粤 which denoted Guangdong province.

Checking out the Paifang Square which kind of bored me to death, especially when i was still suffering from a lack of sleep on that day. For more information on the Square, click here.

This was said to be Duanzhou Pedestrian Street (端州步行街) which had been converted into a shopping street. We were given two hours to roam around and this wasn't good news; Dad doesn't have a love for shopping centres and you can usually catch him yawning non-stop.

Nothing much caught my fancy too (frankly, shopping centres are generally the same everywhere) and with this being the second day only, i would not want to spend my money so quickly and so early into the trip.

After spending some time in the supermarket, we proceeded to the outdoors with the intention to find a place to sit down and for me to hook up to the internet.

An interesting poster promoting a day trip to this place known as Qing Yuan (清远). At RMB 59 (about S$13) per person, not only would you have a tour; you can even bring back one chicken, one goose and two chicken necks!

Spent the rest of about 45 minutes in a bubble tea cafe with dad dozing off and it's time to walk over to the Seven Star Lake again for a cruise. You may read more here. I think the itinerary was planned in a way for us to relax on the first day after the late flight the night before.

For a moment, i thought Thailand's infamous tuk tuk has been imported to China but at a closer look, you would notice it was more a motorbike with attachments. If i recollected correctly, the tour guide referred to it as three-wheels and warned us on the danger of taking the vehicles.

Another section of Seven Star Lake; the original size was about the same as Suzhou's West Lake but it was expanded to include this man made section.

Adorable girl on a motorbike with her mother in front and grandmother at the back. This view would have resulted in many talks on safety in Singapore yet in the trip, i ever saw one motorbike with five persons on it!

Appearance of the well preserved ancient city wall from the Song Dynasty!

So surprised to see a mosque in China given the many news reports of the Uighur minority being marginalised. However, not many people would know that China has quite a few Muslim minorities and aside from Uighur, the Hui minority has also quite a sizeable population although relationship with the latter was much more cordial.

半岛酒店 (peninsular hotel); the second hotel for the trip.

Zhaoqing used to be called Duanzhou and in the ancient times, it was notable for one product that made up one of the four treasures that every academic in the past should have (文房四宝).

The "treasure" is the ink stone (also known as 砚 in Chinese)! In Peninsular Hotel you can find a whole display of ink stones (端砚) and those who practice calligraphy can consider purchasing it directly from the hotel.

Room rate for those who are keen as the hotel was only mere minutes from the ancient wall. I noticed that prices for the two hotels we stayed in so far hovered about S$100; if i have taken free and easy, my budget for one room would not have exceeded S$50 a night.

The room; the tour guide had educated us earlier on the difference in star classification for attractions and hotels. In the local arena, a five-star hotel may be a four-star under international standard. So, do manage your expectations if you are in China!

Bathroom; no bathtub but as i age, i prefer a quick shower rather than a long bath! If i want to relax, the bed would be more important than the bathtub.

I like the hotel for one simple reason; there was an electronic bidet! With a new house coming my way, i did consider having an electronic bidet installed but after using the electronic one, i think i would go for the cheaper, non-electronic range. I honestly don't see the need for a warm seat and hot water washing my asshole.

Going for dinner and this was taken right outside the hotel entrance. From the picture, you would be able to see a traditional building from above the trees and that's the location of the ancient city wall.

Found this bug in the coach and being the kind hearted soul that i really am, i made an effort to coax it onto my hand before releasing it in one of the plants along the roadside.

水禾田酒楼 - our dinner venue! Those expert in the Chinese written language can guess a word from the three characters 水禾田. The word is my mom's surname, pan (潘). 

Never, ever be shy to ask for WiFi password if there isn't any notice. I had a success hit rate of about 90% in this trip although i wasn't as siao on to post on social media. 

A rundown on what we had; the food here was better than lunch! 

There was a nagging question at our table during dinnertime; the sweet potatoes leaves (番薯叶) were very tasty but we could not help noticing the greenish stains on the plate. Question: was it artificial coloring? Answer from the tour guide who went to clarify with the restaurant: fresh sweet potato leaves had the tendency to leave stains and if it was really artificial colouring, there should be stains on our tongues (and there wasn't any).

The food safety fiasco aside, i was more excited with the live displays within the restaurant. 

Thinking it would be the normal seafood like shellfishes, saltwater fishes, freshwater fishes, crabs etc, i was astounded by exotic looking tortoises / turtles, including quite a number of soft shell turtles! 

What's even more shocking were the cages of snakes!!!! Yikes!!! As Singapore doesn't have a culture of eating wildlife, like snakes, reputable tour agencies would not include any in the meals. In our case, even beef was excluded as quite a few of our members are Buddhists.

Back to the hotel! 

While the rest of our tour mates decided to call it a night, my dad and i proceeded to the ancient city wall to digest our dinner. For more information on the wall, click here. The above motorcycle helmet shop was one of the few spotted along the way, on the opposite side. 

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