Day 2, 21st October 2009, Wednesday
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.