Thought of the day

The temperature has raised to 31C yesterday. It was only 14C few days ago. With the sun out, I aired out my pillows and duvet in the sun. I stayed indoor when one would expect to be out in the sun. I was watching TV today and there was a part where it introduced Yunnan and showed Yulong Snow Mountain. I got all excited and the next thing I did was checking out flights to Yunnan. Now, it is a matter of which long weekend….

Xiamen

If you are following my instagram, I have been to Xiamen recently. It was a spur of the moment that I booked a trip over Qingming Festival public holiday. I have been working in China for more than 5 years. I travelled nationally for work purposes regularly. And I would just fly back after completing my agenda. Many asked why I didn’t extend my trip to enjoy the local attractions over the weekend. My response – I miss my bed. With that, I travelled but I don’t get to see much of the sights in China. With a 3 days public holiday, I decided to take advantage of the spare time to go somewhere. Why Xiamen? It was just over 2 hours flight from Shanghai. I had two full days in Xiamen. Here’s my itinerary;

Day 1

Arriving to Xiamen in the evening. Immediately, I could feel the pace of life was so much slower than Shanghai. For once in China, everyone took their time to get up from their seats after the plane has come to a complete stop. No one seems to rush to the taxi stand. For once, I wonder if I was even in China.

I stayed at Le Meridien which is up in the mountain. Many had asked if it brings inconvenience staying at this hotel. It is not as bad as it seems. I am pleased with my choice and I would highly recommend Le Meridien in Xiamen. If you had stayed by the harbour, you would be waking up to the sound of cars and ferries. On the other hand, I woke up to the sound of wind and bird chirping. And a comfortable bed!

Day 2

Gulangyu Island is a must visit, according to many. I have differences in opinion after my visit. For passport holders, you are unable to buy your ferry ticket over the internet. Xiamen restricts the number of tickets sold on daily basis. To avoid disappointment, I arrived to the Xiamen International Cruise Terminal at 0800. The first ticket I was able to get departs at 0910. And given that it was public holidays, it was a good call getting there early. I also bought the all-in-one attractions ticket for 100 yuan. I visited all the key attractions on the island on foot. The island is not big but certainly not a flat land. If you are into walking and hiking, make sure you have comfortable footwear. It amazes me how tourist can wear leather shoes or even heels to hike.

The ferry ride was 20 mins and I arrived to Neizuoao harbour (内厝澳). I turn right and started walking along the beach. It was a peaceful walk. The crowd has not kicked in. By the time I get to the Sunlight Rock, there was a queue for the climb to the top of the rock platform. It was indeed the highest point on the island. In my opinion, the view  was not as breathtaking as I would hope. I did not queue to the top as the view from the second lower platform was enough for me. And then I continued on to other attractions. By the time I covered the third attractions, I realised that there wasn’t much wow factor as I expected. I finished the last attraction at Moon Garden (皓月园) with the imposing status of Zheng Chenggong. I continued the walk towards Sanqiutian ferry terminal (三丘田). By this terminal, there are a lot of common stores like McD and KFC. Much more advanced compare to the other areas I was before. I tried the local delicacy, small sausage in big sausage made of glutinous rice (大肠包小肠). It was pretty fattening I have to say.

By this time, I was exhausted from all the walking. I took the next available ferry from Sanqiutian and was back to Xiamen by 1430. Took the taxi and head back to hotel for a good afternoon nap. Come night time, I went to Zhongshan Road Walking Street. Here’s the tip – a lot of areas in Xiamen are on reconstructing for the next big event. You can imagine my horror when the so called walking street was full of scaffolding. The queue for local delicacies was too long for my liking. I ended up in Starbucks for dinner. Yes, what a pity!

Day 3

I arrived to the Nan Putou Temple at 0900. When the taxi arrived to the main street, that final 500m was stuck in a traffic. With hindsight, I should time my arrival an hour earlier. Behind the temple, there is a mountain you get to hike. I did not get to the top as the narrow path was overwhelmed by the number of crowds. I had a vegetarian lunch at a restaurant nearby and head back to hotel for my regular afternoon nap.

Day 4

It was my last day before my 1230 flight. The hotel has hiking trails to two temples on the mountain. I took the 1.945km trail. Given the time I had, I walk briskly up the trail. A quick visit to the temple and head back to the hotel. Altogether 45 min for my 4km workout left me drenched in sweats! It was good all in all.

Conclusion

I enjoyed the slow and steady pack of life in Xiamen. If you are up for a easy weekend, Xiamen is a good one to eat, walk and pray. In terms of food, I recommend the sweet peanut soup amongst all.

With hindsight, I could have plan an excursion to Hakka House on Day 3. Combining Gulangyu Island and Nan Putou temple in one day was doable. Why did I not? Many had advised me that Gulangyu can be a good one day trip and Hakka House is very far out of Xiamen. Basically, it is a 3 hours single journey to see the unique historical round houses.

The taxi driver who sent me to Xiamen airport shared with me that she had brought tourists to Hakka House on a day trip. She charged 1000 yuan per day, as a reference.

Until the next time then.

Shanghai Taxi Scam

Recently, I landed to Shanghai Pudong airport in the evening. I had not made any pick up arrangement. Nonetheless, there was no queue so I was on the first available taxi in the queue. I did note the differences in the taxi brand I boarded. I was with the ones in dark red. Soon after we left the airport, I noted the dodgy arrangement in making the taxi meter obscure. With the half cover meter, I could see the price picking up fast and furious. I had in mind not to say or do anything until I get back home and get the police to settle the issue. The driver was obviously a regular con and when he was about to reach the highway exit, he pretended there were issues with his headlights and he had to hail another taxi to send me back. He did ask me to pay with discount after I commented about my usual rate from airport to home. I was on the second taxi continuing my journey back home and started having a discussion about this incident with the driver. He claimed that the earlier taxi was known for these tactics. And the price I paid was not as outrageous compare to other cases. The price I paid altogether was not outrageous indeed because the first taxi driver had given me a discount. I guess the key take-away is not the price but how to watch out for these scams.

Tip #1 – Drivers are good at judging if you are an easy one to con. For tourist, they often fall into the scam of paying outragerous price. It happened to my colleague who had been asked to pay 400+ yuan for the journey from Pudong to Hongqiao airport. Typically, it would cost about 260 yuan, subjective to traffic. You need to know your direction well enough for driver to be weary of you.

Tip #1 – Do not annoy the taxi driver if you have identified a con. They are likely to drop you off in the middle of nowhere. If they initiated an earlier dropped off like what I experienced, the least they can do for you is arrange another taxi for you. It did cross my mind if the second one is part of the scam. Glad it was not.

Tip #2 – Avoid the taxi in dark red colour. They are owned by private firms and known for these tactics. My colleague had a worst experience than I did. She was screamed at throughout the journey. Complaining to the taxi hotline would not make a significant difference. A bad experience last for a long time.

Tip #3 – Watch out for clone taxi. Here’s a new tip that I picked up from having a chat with taxi driver. Clone taxi means they are illegal taxi that is an exact clone of a legal one. A clone taxi will be slightly costly as they have hacked the taxi meter. So this taxi driver himself was taking a taxi one day and picked up a clone taxi by chance. With his expertise, he was able to detect it was a clone. What are the characteristics?

  • No electronic tag (a rectangular black label) on the upper left on the windshield. These are issued by the local bureau. These electronic tag will be scanned remotely by the officers to detect their validity.
  • Clone taxi is not registered legally so they are able to accept payment using the Shanghai metro card.
  • The taxi fare will be slighthly more than the usual you pay for. 20 vs 30.

Someone used to joke that I like to ‘interview’ taxi drivers. Indeed I do have the habit of chatting up with drivers. To me, they are not just driving me to where I need to go. They are also human and I like to know their story. It is amazing the kind of interesting stories I get to hear. Once I had a driver who has been driving for donkey years. So I asked if he had picked up any interesting clients. He told me two type of clients – a pickpocketer who came out of prison commenting about how difficult to earn his income as people nowadays do not carry cash anymore in their wallet. #facepalm

The other one was a drug trafficker and the driver was sending the client to pick-up point and then sell. Did he report to the officials? No, but I guess if he did the client would know who was the whistleblower.

I hope my tip helps with your life in Shanghai or travel to Shanghai.

Thought of the day

I’ve been watching a Chinese show called 超级演说家. Not exactly the right translation, in English they called the show ‘Super Speaker’. It is a similar concept of American’s Got Talent. People who comes for the competition prepare their speech as part of their work of art. They come from all works of life whom shared their stories, thoughts and challenges. A man in his 60s shared his story on how he was 200m away from the Everest summit but due to extreme weather condition he lost his legs and had to be amputated. He goes on how he lost his way until he realised he could stand again if he uses prosthetic limbs. Since then he trained himself and went on paralympic. At the age of 67, he embarked on his expedition to Mt Everest once again. My takeaway from his story is…what is that one thing that keeps you going everyday?2015aspiration

Just do it

Today has been one of those days I told myself to not second thought everything. When I saw a flight availability that wasn’t there yesterday, I took it as a sign to go for it. What was it….a shorter flight time but also means an hour changeover time. If it’s meant to be, it’ll be. So I shall see. This week I’ll need all the positive vibes and energy. This book has been with me since donkey years. It got me my first job at my first interview with my current firm. Where next?
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