Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year!

chinese new year greeting, bu bu gao shengMickey Mouse year has gone, and now now it's time to usher the Ox!

Firstly, many thanks to all readers for your great support in this blog - the year has been awesome, and it is great being able to share my journey with you all.

And next, here's wishing those celebrating Chinese New Year a Happy Year Of The Ox!

May the New Year bring lots of blessings, and achievement for all dreams, hopes and goals - in all areas of your life.

And a special note to fellow blogger khakis, may your blogs continue to grow with wonderful posts and increase in hits & readerships!

Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Ji Xiang Ru Yi!
Bu Bu Gao Sheng!
Nian Nian You Yu!... Let's celebrate in Joy!

*I'll be taking a few days off blogging this CNY - to reflect, relax & rejuvenate to prepare myself to 'run with the Ox'! :)

*Don't forget to eat the kuacis this New Year! Haha!

Related Greetings:
Year Of The Rat Greeting: New Year Greetings
Year Of The Boar Greeting: Make It Great - Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Cheap Travel Insurance

Cheap Travel Insurance

I've recently been approached directly to review a travel insurance website - Cheap Insurance Travel. As you guys know, I only review things that I believe will benefit you readers and that relates to this blog (I've turned down a fair bit of other non related reviews).

Okay, now that's clear... let's start.
I'm not sure how many of us actually go for travel/ holiday insurance, especially from this part of the world. But as we increase in travel, and with the insurance industry gaining importance too, I think this is one segment we can look into, especially if we are traveling overseas.

Why Travel Insurance
Some of the things that travel insurance can cover usually include things related to travel, eg. delay (baggage/ flight) and missed departure.

But what I think is more important is the medical emergency because medical for foreigners and locals are always vastly different - to me, this is the main reason to purchase travel insurance.

*For full details on types of coverages, see: Policy Benefits.

Cheap Travel Insurance Packages
This site allows one to book different packages - from Single Trip (3 days - 91 days), Annual Multi Trip (more than 1 trip in 12 months), Long Stay Travel Insurance (31 days - 18 months).

Interestingly, there is also packages for Backpackers (with a focus on the Up To £3 million Medical and Repatriation Cover), Business & Travel Insurance (this applies for those going on business trips), and also a good coverage for those above 65 - The Over 65 Travel Insurance (this is good for senior citizens who find getting insurance difficult at times).

Insurance: Things To Note
1. When buying travel insurance online, you must make sure if your country is covered. Although this site states its for UK Residents, but it has a link to Nomad for those from other countries (and our country is listed there! :) ).

2. Another important thing to note when buying insurance is also to understand the claims procedure. And the good thing is that this site clearly states on how to make a claim - which I think everyone should read and see how comfortable they are with this policy (it seems pretty decent for me).

So, if you do plan for another holiday, you can consider a travel insurance - either through your insurance agent, or checking this site CheapTravelInsurance :)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

China Souvenir (And One For You)

China Souvenir

What is a trip without bringing some souvenirs back? So, while in my China trip, I actually did shop for a few things - some to remind me on what a beautiful trip I had and others for more practical use.

china souvenir crysanthemumI bought lots of tea back - this chrysanthemum tea is apparently very popular in Wuzhen.

china souvenir green teaAnd when I was in Hangzhou, I bought lots of green tea with its few different grades (there are 4 grades). One of them - the most premium one, at the Hangzhou tea plantation. This is my first time buying tea... and I'm now kinda hook with tea!

china souvenir paintingI also bought some art paintings at the Yuyuan Garden Bazaar in Shanghai. I like the art as they come in a series of 4 (for 4 seasons) - Im now figuring where to display them haha!

china souvenir paintingI bought a fair bit of paintings - as they were quite affordable (think this is 10 yuan). The only problem was carrying back, as paintings are quite fragile in a way.

china souvenir magnetAlso at the Yuyuan Garden Bazaar, I bought some magnets - for me this is my no. 1 item that I buy on my trips (btw, this is so appropriate for Chinese New Year!)

china souvenir magnetIn fact, that's not the only magnets I bought, though this is pricier as compared to the 2 yuan magnets above (this was 6yuan).

china souvenir new year decorationAlso at this 2 yuan shop, I bought a few Chinese New Year decoration souvenirs, which I thought was quite a bargain... but then I saw some back home also quite cheap!

china souvenir new year cardActually, my souvenirs from China seem to revolve a lot around Chinese New Year! (thought the card is quite unique - do we have it here too?).

china souvenir i love china t-shirtBut I did managed to buy something for myself as well, like this souvenir of China - the I Love China t-shirt. Firstly, I love t-shirts, and secondly, I like to collect 'I Love t-shirts' in all the place/ country I visit.

It's just too bad that I could only find very few t-shirts as it was winter time, and most clothes were winter wear.

So, what I got myself is actually a trench coat (been wanting this much!), which I bought in Hangzhou, and also China's very own sportswear, Li Ning (I got a pair of shoes). I like the Li Ning brand which is all over China, for its slogan "Anything Is Possible".

Oh, I did managed to buy some shirts too (which is meant for Chinese New Year clothes). I would have done more shopping hadn't I been in 4 winter wear, which makes trying clothes difficult... plus having the cameras & video cameras all around me.

china souvenir key chainAnd finally, the other stuffs I got are these key chains which I bought from the sellers outside the metro while in Shanghai. The bright colours kinda got my attention!

Now, here comes the exciting part.

Some of you readers have been a big encouragement to the whole China Trip from my very first day in China when I'm One In A Billion, sharing with me the funny memorable moments of having Ice Cream At Zero Degrees, seeing with me the picturesque Hangzhou West Lake and the scenic water village of Wuzhen, being with me through the Stressful China Incidents, knowing what China Food I ate, and understanding my observations to guess those Definitely Not From China.

And then, there is Shanghai - with me sharing from the popoular shopping area at Nanjing Road and Xintiandi, plus all the other unique Travel Places in Shanghai. And I'm thankful too as you guys encouraged me to write a beautiful post dedicated to this China city: I miss Shanghai!

China Souvenir For You
As this China Trip series come to an end, I would like to give 1 special reader a lil keychain I bought from Shanghai (the blue rabbit above). I've been thinking hard on how to do this.... and I decided I'll do on a feedback.

Ie. if you are interested for the blue rabbit keychain, just let me know what you liked about the series or anything you think I could improve on (just be kind in words haha!). But seriously, I will appreciate your feedback lots to help me improve! :)

*This documenting of my trip 'on the go' is my first - you guys really made this special! Thank You! :)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Song Dynasty

I figured that the Hangzhou review wouldn't be complete hadn't I mentioned about the Song Dynasty theme park & show that I visited & watched.

song dynasty, park
Actually when I was in Hangzhou, I wasn't really into any show - thinking that they are most likely going to be boring and expensive. But the hotel staff convinced me somehow saying that this show was "really, really good!".

(I half believed her, but thinking that there's nothing else to do on my last night, why not give it a try).

song dynasty, parkThe Song Dynasty was a lil far, and after about 20-25 minutes ride, I arrived and bought my tickets, to which I got a lil surprise. Apparently, one have to purchase not only the show ticket, but also the theme park ticket.

This was not mentioned in the brochure - and came in a rather rude shock for me. But coming so far, I guess, there's no turning back. And besides, I'm a tourist - so I think they somehow know, that we will spend - if it's still affordable!

song dynasty, traditional restaurantAnd so, I paid for the Song Dynasty theme park ticket too (if not wrong, 80 yuan, on top of the show ticket which was 100 yuan).

Entering this theme park, I'm greeted with rows of eateries that seem to pop out from a China village - very authentic.

song dynasty, traditional eateryI must admit I enjoyed the setting quite a lot. I ate my chicken thigh here in this outlet.

song dynasty, traditional foodI enjoyed walking around the theme park, as I managed to see the many rows of shops selling different kinds of traditional food.

song dynasty, traditional foodAnd the many traditional snacks done in the traditional way, plus being able to see how the mainland Chinese people bargain, with the shopkeepers stamping their grounds!

song dynasty, theme park gameAnother segment of this theme park is focused on games - traditional style. I think I somehow grew out of this.

song dynasty, water parkA bigger segment of the Song Dynasty theme park is dedicated to this water park area. If I get this right, it is suppose to teach us about the Chinese science using water as a medium.

Anyway, the adults seem to enjoy here a lot!

song dynasty, posterDespite the authentic setting and all, I felt that the time flew rather slowly in the not too big theme park, and I couldn't wait to go in for the show (which is really why I went there anyway)!

So when the theatre doors were opened, I was one of the first to go in. Oh btw, here's what I got in anticipation - looks really good!

But of course, I didn't want to put too much hope - as after all, this is a cultural show. So I prepared myself that this show might be a lil 'slow'.

song dynasty, showBut, when the stage came alive, this grand show was nowhere near slow. It was really fast paced, and had a good cordination of music and lights.

I like the play of lights particularly which was interwined with the costume colours. This was done in the different themes (there were about 4-5 themes) - something similar to the movie Hero. The difference was that each had its own plot, showcasing Hangzhou's past, its history, and Hangzhou today!

And though the Song Dynasty show was somehwat short, but it really lived to its own billing - of being a Las Vegas & Moulin Rouge performance!

I'm glad I believed in the hotel staff... and didn't turn back despite the extra ticket price... cos this is the best cultural show I've ever watched!

*Apart from Song Dynasty, another good show to watch in Hangzhou is Impression - the West Lake, directed by Zhang Yimou. However, I missed this as it only shows on Friday & Sat nights.

*There is also the free nightly musical fountain by the lake, but this has irregular timings (not as stated in the tourism brochure) - hence I missed this though I waited over an hour.

*For the full series of my holiday in China, go here: China Trip. Btw, this is my 2nd last post for the holiday China series.

And if I may invite you, come back for the last one - there's something special coming up!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Things To Do: Hangzhou

Things To Do: Hangzhou

It seems that I didn't write much on my Hangzhou trip so far. Well, I actually did more...

hangzhou, things to do, westlakeApart from going to Hangzhou's scenic West Lake and it's park,

hangzhou, things to do, exercise parkwhere I saw people exercising their wushu in the morning,

hangzhou, things to do, scenic drivetaking beautiful walks (in the cold weather) at the roads along the West Lake,

hangzhou, things to do, shoppinggoing shopping in the city centre (or at Qinghefang),

hangzhou, things to do, foodand trying out the Hangzhou delicacies,

hangzhou, things to do, tea plantationI actually visited a very popular green tea plantation, which apparently has leaders from the world over visiting.

hangzhou, things to do, plantationAnd it was here that I was given the sample of trying 2 different types of green tea grades (the super high end and the very low end one, which took me a while to distinguish from taste).

hangzhou, things to do, drive scenicActually, the taxi driver who wanted business badly, also brought me to see 2 other 'must buy' items in Hangzhou (apart from green tea) - the silk factory and the pearl shop... of which I didn't quite enjoy nor buy any....

Instead enjoyed more scenic Hangzhou's views from the car ride!

hangzhou, things to do, busTalking about rides, I actually took the bus ride in Hangzhou as well once - mainly to save money, as I find the taxi there a lil expensive (starts from 10 or 11 yuan, with 1 yuan fuel surcharge (huh?)... and with the meter moving quite fast).

*Btw, don't you think this information stand at the city bus stop is quite impressive?

hangzhou, things to do, cycleI think I did quite a fair bit of what a tourist would do in Hangzhou. However, the only thing that I did not do was to take a cycle on the many bicycles provided in Hangzhou.

The reason for not cycling is because I was hesitant to learn the paying system of the bicycle and found walking good enough (or the taxis if far).

However, saying that, I find this go green system in Hangzhou very impressive - where one can get the bicycle from any of its stands and park them in another.

Looking back, it does seem that I've had a more laid back holiday in Hangzhou despite spending a good 5 days there. But, there's one more thing I did in Hangzhou in the night.... and that's coming up next! :)

*For the full series of my holiday in China, go here: China Trip. Btw, this is my 3rd last post for the holiday China series.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

China Food

China Food

china food, hangzhou food, dumpling restaurantI tried many types of food throughout China - from fast food to local delicacies and many times eating what the locals eat.

This is especially so in both Shanghai and in Hangzhou.

Hangzhou Food

china food, hangzhou food, dumplingI'd just pop by their local restaurants which I think is decent enough, and then look for the pictures in the menu and start to order! And if without any pictures, I'd just ask for recommendations.

This include trying the ever popular dumplings (I think that dumplings in China are quite nice, and one of the better food around China, or at least the cities I went).

china food, hangzhou food, fried noodleI even tried this fried noodles which looked so similar to what we have back home. This was in a local like fast food restaurant. Again, having hot plate during the cold weather was nice, though the food was a lil too oily for liking.

china food, hangzhou food, pancake shopAnd while I was at Qinghefang, I noticed such a long queue for food. I thought that this must be good, or at least worth the try. And so, I went in to order the food that was selling like hot cakes.

china food, hangzhou food, pancakeI seriously waited with much anticipation.... but for this. Huh? It's just like roti canai/ prata/ pancake - minus the curry (give us ours anytime!).

china food, hangzhou food, steam fishBut that wasn't the only food I ordered in this Muslim food outlet. I also had the famous West Lake carp in sweet sour sauce. This made up for the pancake lots... The fish is very fresh and the sauce though a lil heavy, is delicious.

china food, hangzhou food, dongpo pork
I also tried other delicacies from Hangzhou - including this dongpo pork. But I felt, it was so hype.

And funnily, in the travel guide, it says that the pork isn't fatty. But what I got was a half fat pork! (that's why they really can't blame us for our perceptions on China, Chinese & Chinese food haha!) - btw this one piece pork costs 8 yuan.

china food, hangzhou food, you tiao fast foodOne of the things I find unique in China is that their local food like this you tiao is also available in fast food restaurants. This is a meal set which comes with the soya bean. Makes a good snack, though a lil oily.

china food, hangzhou food, hangzhou street snackOne of my other highlights in Hangzhou is to try out the local Chinese delicacies. This is one of the many restaurants/ outlets in the traditional like setting in a tourist area, Dynasty Town.

china food, hangzhou food, traditional chinese food, roast chicken, salty beancurdIt was quite interesting to have tried this chicken for the way it's cooked and also the salty beancurd.

china food, hangzhou food, dessertOh ya, and one of my highlights in Hangzhou is to try this unique dessert in the 'Honyemoon Dessert' outlet, which I enjoyed lots.

But, I was self pitying myself as I only found out about this outlet on my last night there... but then as fate have it, I found another of their outlets in Shanghai!

Wuzhen Food
When I went to Wuzhen, I also made a point to try their local food.

china food, wuzhen food, restaurantThe main highlight would be this authentic looking restaurant near the Dongzha district, which apparently is frequented by the China celebrities.

china food, wuzhen food, mutton, vegetableI tried Wuzhen's most popular dish - the mutton cooked in dark sauce and the rather unique vegetables. The restaurant really lived up to its name, and I don't mind coming back here (though I doubt I'll go to Wuzhen again soon, or ever).

china food, wuzhen food, smelly tofuAnd apparently, the smely tofu is quite popular here. This one is one of the better ones I tried, which was served at a push cart, also around the same Dongzha area.

china food, wuzhen food, spicy noodle soupAnd like the other places I visited, I tried Wuzhen's own local noodles. I like the spicy gravy on this one.

china food, wuzhen food, dessertAnd of course, apart from main dish, I had to try the special local desserts!

china food, wuzhen food, cake dessertThe one I enjoyed most is actually this steamed cake.

china food, wuzhen food, dessert shopKnowing it was prepared in this rather authentic setting just made it taste better!

china food, wuzhen food, cake dessertI enjoyed this quite a bit, and ordered this again in another stall... this time in the Xizha district.

Looking back, I really ate such a wide variety of China foods! I guess it takes one to be adventurous enough to try - for in between the many so-so foods, there tend to be the good ones! :)

*Hangzhou's traditional cuisine apart from the dongpo pork and steam fish is the beggar's chicken and stewed duck.

For Wuzhen, there's also the fresh fish, though mutton seems to be super popular there.

*The China series which I've been writing for about a month is about to end. If you've missed any, or would like a reference, you can visit China Trip.