Archive for October, 2009

Xihu, Longjing Cha, Dongpo Meat

October 28, 2009

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.

Wuzhen

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

October 26, 2009

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.

Wild, Wild River

October 23, 2009

I was on the bus with some family members and other people whom I not known. We were traveling to the crocodile farm. Upon reaching the place, suddenly the bus driver stepped on an emergency brake and sent everybody in the bus flipping all over the place, except for my family members whom I held on tight. Without warning, the bus fell off a cliff heading towards the crocodile farm at 90 degrees and rolled over a few times before hitting a stop.

The bus doing a 90 degrees drop

Miraculously, nobody was hurt. Apparently, this is the only way buses can enter the crocodile farm. We were welcomed with open arms by owners of the farm. From the waterfall to the river, we could see crocodiles the sizes of bolsters were swimming along the water current. We were somewhat not afraid of what we saw.

Shooting the rapids along the crocodile infested river

Then, the owners ushered us to a very long boat with its hull looking somewhat like the built of Noah’s ark but without the roof. We were shooting rapids in the very long board, going against the waterfall current. Everybody was wet. It was a fun ride. I kept warning people to lay low to avoid falling into the crocodile infested river. Also, to avoid the crocodiles that were jumping out of the river and above our heads. When we reached the destination, we got off the boat to get to our place of rest.

A platform surrounded by crocs

To my horror, the place of was just a nicely decorated, slightly alleviated platform on the river! Before we could prepare ourselves, the owners suddenly shouted and asked us to pretend to sleep and ignore the crocodiles if they go up the platform. If we do not heed his advice, we would be attacked or eaten alive. It was then the crocodile climbed over a child and came for me. I quickly pretended to sleep and the crocodile opened its mouth and sunk its teeth between my left armpit and back.

I know.. the croc here looked like giant lizard.. and I wish I am THAT slim

I could feel the teeth sinking into my flesh. I didn’t even budge. I tried not to make any noises and remained as dead as a log. I even tried to pace my heart beat slower. The croc was still gnawing on my back for a few more minutes before letting go. I heaved a sigh of relief when the crocodile went back to the river.

I was furious. The owners of the crocodile farm should not put us in such dangerous situation. I was about to write a strongly worded complaint letter to the management, then I woke up.

LOL!! The dreams just got weirder and weirder.

Random Notes

October 21, 2009

Ms Kai

There is a new receptionist in my office. She addresses me by my middle name – Ms Kai. I am not sure if she has any Chinese friends. We don’t address people by their middle name! I told her not to call me Ms Kai and please address me by my surname. Then, she has the nerve to call my boss directly to let him know there are guests looking for him. It was a good thing I always take my boss’ calls whenever he’s busy or he is on the other line. I guess she just made my job redundant! Also, she doesn’t ask for the names of the guests and to her, everybody’s name is “Somebody”. Somebody is here to see your boss. Somebody is looking for you. Receptionist’s job is the EASIEST in this world, yet there are people who just like to spice things up.

NKOTB

Most likely, only those living as teenagers in the 1990s would remember the acronym NKOTB. It stands for New Kids On The Block. They were something like Jonas Brothers back then, except they were more clean cut and could get away with singing like a girl. It was a total craze back then.

Last week as I was walking in Mid Valley shopping for grandma panties (lol), the song “I’ll be loving you (forever)” was played. At first, I thought the song was rather familiar. Then, I was shocked that it was NKOTB. I was even more perplexed that I could actually remember the lyrics! Omigod! Haha! So, Curly, let’s go for another round of karaoke and let’s sing the 80s and 90s boy band songs!

Big Tikus

Apparently, there is a big rat in my office. Whenever there are gifts or food courtesy from the company, half of them would be gone mysteriously. During the recent mooncake festival, we noticed half of the company allotted mooncakes mysteriously went missing. When they finally caught the culprit – the one with the trinity diseases – diabetes, hypertension and coronary disease, she was let go with a stern warning. I guess, eating all those stolen stuffs herself would somehow shorten her life so, why would the company risk being sued for “unfair” dismissal?

Awhile ago, I went into the pantry and I saw the Tikus reading a book. I almost fell on the floor and laugh till tergolek golek when I saw the book title – “Panduan Menghapus Dosa” (A Guide for Repentance). LOL!

The Reader

I watch the Reader again for the second time. My favorite scene is when both the lovers went cycling into the country. Hanna chanced upon an old building which functioned as church. There was a choir singing beautifully and she cried tears of joy. The contented look on Michael’s young face when he saw Hanna ‘s genuine happiness was simply heartwarming and priceless. It was utterly romantic… and yes, I wept the second time too watching this movie.

The Best News for Year 2009

Beginning next year, Sept 16, which is Malaysia Day has been declared a public holiday.

Hom Mama Hom

October 18, 2009

After open heart surgery, one has to lie down flat on the back to sleep. I cringed at the thought. My friend who had just underwent the replacement of the valves, said she cannot sleep on either sides in order not to crush the ribcage. Yikes! Pretty scary! Lying back flat can be quite uncomfortable.

I told her, if I ever have a heart surgery, I don’t think I can survive the aftermath. I cannot sleep straight on my back. Somehow or rather, I would end up sleeping like this.

Or this…

Or this…

Source

I am a cross between these three positions.

Then I recalled that I started to sleep on my side religiously ever since  I was  pounced by those “things” once when I was staying in a college student’s house. I dare not sleep on my back and facing upwards as this would somehow make it easier for the “thing” to get on me – well, that is according to my friends lah. After consultation with friends who experienced the same, I decided to place a knife under my bed. I have been sleeping quite peacefully ever since. Isn’t it wonderful to have many friends to look up to when there was no internet? LOL!

Recently, a colleague went to one of our branches and stayed at the staff quarters. She too suffered the same incident. She couldn’t breathe and then, couldn’t get up and felt something was pushing her down. She couldn’t even open her eyes to see what was on her. So she silently chant a prayer, “Hom Mama Hom Ni Sor Har”. Then miraculously, the thing left her instantaneously.

She was trying to convince herself that, it was merely stress that made her entire body paralyzed and couldn’t get up. But then, if you think about it, if it was really stress and your body was somewhat suffering temporary paralysis, do you think you could get up that instantly after the chanting?

The funniest part is, part of the chant rhyme with another colleague’s name. That is why it made it so easy to remember the chant! So people, chant this now with me, “Hom Mama Hom Ni Sor Har”.


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