Saturday, 31 December 2016

Forbidden City @ Beijing

Being one of the most iconic tourism destination in Beijing, Forbidden City holds a huge impression among the tourists and receives thousands of them visiting every day. Well-preserved relics and fine architecture. These are the reasons why this ancient palace could become the first in everyone's checklist.

Due to its perfect location, which situated right in the center of Beijing City, the palace is accessible by any means of transportation. If you are planning to take the subway, simply stop at either Tiananmen East or Tiananmen West Station. Walk about 500 meters to the front o Tiananmen Sqare and that will be the entrance of Forbidden City.

Both of the square and palace are interconnected. Hence, you will have to walk past the square before you could reach the palace. Ticket counter will be provided at the end of Tiananmen Square. As of November 2016, the ticket price was RMB 40 per person. The pricing would be different if you had student pass.

This massive palace got its name from literal translation of "紫禁城" (Zi Jin Cheng). Zi, means 'purple', was referring to the North Star, which in ancient China was called Ziwei Star, and in traditional Chinese astrology was the heavenly abode of the celestial emperor. Jin, means 'forbidden', as the people inside the palace were forbidden to walk in or out of it without emperor's permission. As for Cheng, it simply means 'city'. Keep in mind, though, that the word "Zi Jin Cheng" is only used in formal context. If you are heading toward it by taxi, tell the driver that you want to go to "Gu Gong", which means 'Former Palace'. The locals use this name more often.

Tourist in Beijing, they tended to seek for one common trait from Beijing - the historical heritage. That is exactly the main tourist magnet of this city. These monuments and relics inside age more than a century, but you wouldn't even notice that once you entered it. This is the result of strict preservation done by the Chinese government in keeping every single piece of item in the palace seemingly untouched. I, personally, would have this same feeling every time I managed to step foot here - it felt as if I was stepping on the same ground that the emperors of China did centuries ago.

Visiting the modern and trendy spots in Beijing could be quite fun too. But you might wish to have a little insight on some of these magnificent inheritances passed by the great ancestors. As said by Philip Stanhope, "The world is a country which nobody ever yet to know by description; one must travel trhough it one's self to be acquainted with it."

The word 'China' or 'Beijing' do not fairly portray what they truly have to offer. Some were misled by the media and news. Fearing of the unknown, creating speculation based on unclear and incomprehensible description. The choice is yours, though. Just my tiny piece of advice, you wouldn't know it if you hadn't been there yourself. So, go and experience it firsthand.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Beijing & Xi'An Itinerary (2)

 If this is your first time visiting my blog, do check out my first part of this post - Beijing & Xi'An Itinerary Part 1.

Here's the summary of my suggested plan for 6-day stay in this two cities:

1st Day - Beijing : Familiarize with surrounding. Street market. Long relaxing time.
2nd Day - Beijing : Forbidden City during day. Nan Luo Gu Xiang during night.
3rd Day - Beijing : Mutianyu Great Wall. Wang Fu Jing during night.
4th Day - Beijing : Nearby park to relax. 14-hour train.
5th Day - Xi'An : Muslim Street. Great Mosque of Xi'An. Drum Tower. Bell Tower. Hot pot for dinner.
6th Day - Xi'An : Terracotta Army Museum. Airport.

4th Day - Beijing

We spent most of our 4th day in the train. The tickets cost us RMB 188 per person for a hard bed. That was inclusive of processing fee and Paypal charges, because I booked them a month before traveling. Take my advice and do not get too stingy with yourself when purchasing ticket for regular train in China. The difference between them was nearly RMB 100, but what made it worth it was the accommodation and space.

Getting a single seat would be fine if you were having 1-2 hours commuting. But if it was overnight, you wouldn't want to cramp up your entire body on that tiny/hard seat. The hard bed came with, of course, an adult size bed with pillow and blanket, two tables and two chairs for each section,  a clean shared toilet and water boiler for the whole cabin. There isn't a need to get too worried about crowd, as one hard bed cabin only accommodates up to 60 passengers. While single seat cabin accommodates twice the amount. And the ticket comes with only a hard seat and shared toilets.

5th Day - Xi'An

By the time we reached Xi'An Train Station, it was already dawn, around 6.00 am. My contact in China selected a hotel/dormitory just next to Bell Tower. It was accessible by metro or public buses.

Due to its good location, which was exactly in the city center, our plan of the day focused only on these few destination - Bell Tower, Drum Tower, Muslim Street and Great Mosque of Xi'An. All these four places were perfectly near to each other and only took us around 15 minutes to walk. Entrance fees for Bell Tower, or Zhonglou (钟楼) and Drum Tower, or Gulou (鼓楼) ranged from RMB 40-50 (I was meeting a friend and did not exactly join the day tour). As for the Great Mosque (西安大清真寺), you could enter for free if you were Muslim and wished to perform prayer in it. But if you weren't, RMB 40 per person would be charged to enter. The mosque was a nice place for photography, but they had to control the number of crowd due to limited space and privacy of pilgrims.

At night, we strolled through Muslim Street, or Huimin Jie (回民街), which was located just outside of the Great Mosque. There were around 10 streets combined and formed the tourist hot spot. An advice from my friend here, was to go deeper in the streets. You would find yourself better selections at cheaper rates. We got ourselves a double hotpot that cost around RMB 40 per person. It was quite cheap, considering the amount of food we ordered. Great meal we had.

6th Day - Xi'An

Our last day was simple and relaxing. We checked out from the hotel around 9.00 am and hired a driver to Terracotta Army Museum, or Bing Ma Yong (兵马俑). It cost RMB 300 for the entire day.

Only 1 hour was required from city center to the museum. Perhaps it was weekday, we faced no difficulty with traffic on our way out. Once arrived, we had to pay RMB 150 each to enter the museum. There were numbers of tour guide stood-by to offer their service. I assumed there were at least Mandarin, English, Russian and Spanish language provided. But our group figured that we'd all made our homework and knew part of this museum, so went in without a tour guide.

The entire visit lasted roughly 4 hours, but not solely in the museum, you will have to walk pass a huge garden on the way up, and rows of shops and restaurants on the way down. The walk alone took us around 45 minutes.

Our flight back to Kuala Lumpur that night was at 12 midnight. But by the time we got into our car, we still had around 3 hours to spare. So, the driver took us to the souvenirs stores nearby and another detour back to Muslim Street for one last shopping.

Once everyone was done, we tipped the driver another RMB 200 for one last trip to Xi'An International Airport. It could have been RMB 50 cheaper with another driver my friend recommended. But we were too exhausted for any transit, so this extra money worth the while.

We managed to arrive at the airport just in time for check in and relax. The driver was welcoming and we had good conversation with him. It was just something nice that all of us need before leaving this country. No delay and no trouble caused on our way home. We arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport around 6.00 am. And finally got ourselves some Nasi Lemak. Lovely time.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

5 Interesting Facts About Beijing

1. Beijing subway is super efficient, but dangerous if not careful.

Subway system in Beijing is indeed incomparable with any city in China. Speed and efficiency, they're actually written in the motto. Chances of getting disrupted during your train ride is so little, that you barely hear any complaint made by the users. And even if you missed a train by few seconds, you don't have to worry getting late, because there is one coming just less than a kilometer away. Keep in mind, though, that good system is a result of constant adherence. Most of the levers, doors and trains are completely computerized. One foot wrong and the door will not hesitate to crush you like a bug, well, not literally, but you get my point. Nothing will stop it unless someone is quick enough to press the emergency button. My best advice are, halt your step when the signal light blinks or when the bell rings; and never cross the yellow line until the train stops, especially during peak hour.

2. The city is divided by 'rings'.

Beijing is one of the few cities that possess road rings. They are designed in strategic ways to ease heavy traffic in the city. There are seven rings in total and all of them size differently. It starts from the city center (Tiananmen Square) as the first ring. And moves toward the outskirt. The further the number goes the larger the ring expands. Hence, you will not find it odd hearing the locals use those rings to refer certain locations. For example, I stayed in a hotel that was located in Chaoyang (semi-outskirt). Sometimes when I hailed a taxi to go somewhere in city area, the drivers would ask me which ring the address was in. Not that they don't know the address, but Beijing is a big city, perhaps that's just how the local memorize locations.

3. Certain cars are restricted to enter 5th ring on weekdays.

This was once taught by my Chinese teacher. Every Monday to Friday, the city only allows certain cars to stay within 5th ring, and all cars are categorized by the last digit if their plat number. On Monday, cars that end with 0 and 5 are not allowed in. Tuesday, 1 and 6. Wednesday, 2 and 7. Thursday, 3 and 8. Friday, 4 and 9. As for weekends, all cars are free to go anywhere. Any car that disobey this rule will definitely receive a ticket. So, it's pretty important to understand this if you wish to travel through the city using a car. Or maybe if you wish to hire a driver. Make sure of the day and plat number.

4. Changes of air quality are extreme.

We heard multiple times in the news that Beijing is notorious for its poor air quality and thick haze. You may believe that, but but it's not entirely true. Because air quality in this city is very conditional. If you travel during arid and windy season, there's no way the haze would stay around. All you will see is a tremendous blue sky with very little cloud. A complete stunning view. In many of my trips, I had experienced two different air qualities within two short days. One day it was smokey, and the next it was bright and clear. Take this advise and dome some research before deciding your travel date. There are websites that provide air quality forecast for cities with constant haze condition.

5. Phone simcard is as important as ID or passport.

Getting a simcard is always on top of my safety list, especially when I'm traveling with a group of newcomers. But lately, the laws are getting even more silly when they require foreigners to register for simcard in mobile center. It used to be easier and it could be done only on the street, or any little mobile store. Although the requirement is simple, only to bring a passport, it's pretty hilarious to see that they perform the exact procedure as if you're registering for an ID. Here is the entire process - they scan the passport, photocopy, snap a photo of you, ask for fingerprint and a signature. Only then the officer will ask you what of simcard you want. The entire process of queuing and waiting took us around 30 to 60 minutes. I'm not trying to ridicule the law here, but as a short-term traveler, I did not have 60 minutes to waste.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Beijing & Xi'an Itinerary (1)

Lately I've been really busy. Either personal or work related, I just couldn't draw some free time for blogging. But worry not, I'm here now for more China travel tips.

About a month ago, I visited Beijing  Xi'an with a group of friends. Me visiting Beijing isn't something surprising. I'm super familiar with the place like it's my hometown. But Xi'an? Hmm that's new. New challenge could be real fun, but  how do yo plan something that you've never experience?

Well, here's a suggestion:

1st Day - Beijing : Familiarize with surrounding. Street market. Long relaxing time.
2nd Day - Beijing : Forbidden City during day. Nan Luo Gu Xiang during night.
3rd Day - Beijing : Mutianyu Great Wall. Wang Fu Jin during night.
4th Day - Beijing : Nearby park for relax. Quick shopping. 14-hour train.
5th Day - Xi'an : Muslim street. Drum Tower. Bell Tower. Hot pot at night.
6th Day - Xi'an : Terracotta Army Museum. Airport.

1st Day - Beijing

We arrived at the Beijing International Airport two hours after midnight. All five of us were in tight-budget travel, that means none o us wished to spend money on unnecessary stuff. So what we did was, we waited in the airport till 7.00 am for the express subway to open up. Although the terminal wasn't much of a place to relax, it still provided steel chairs for you to sit around, or maybe sleep if there wasn't much crowd. Also, there were Starbucks and KFC that operated 24 hours non stop.

Fare for express subway to either two final stations cost RMB 20 per person. It was actually cheaper than my previous trip to this city. And once we got off on city subway, we got ourselves a Beijing transportation card, or Yi Tong Ka (一通卡). It could be used for subways and public buses. This would cost you RMB 40, with RMB 20 credit and another refunable RMB 20. This card could be refunded on any subway station in the city.

Our group loved the idea of staying in the university I one attended., Beijing International Studies University (北京第二外国语学院). It was mid November, so we were right about having less students. The school located in fifth ring and next to Chaoyang Road. It also shared a wall with Communication University of China (传媒大学). I'm not going for hotel's details now. It will be mentioned in the next post.

Just like any other trips, first day is the most exhausting day. So our group just stayed around the university and enjoy the crisp all this city had to offer.

In my opinion, getting a local number is always a priority. So I took one of the group members and went to China Mobile center, located on Chaoyang road. It was about 8 minutes of driving for our hotel. Or you could simply get a bus. Beijing lately has introduced a strict rule that requires foreigners to purchase simcard only in the center. That would be to track down every phone user in the city. The cheapest simcard we bought cost RMB 50 and another RMB 20 for processing fee. We bought two cards for the entire group.

The two meals were pretty simple, we had lunch in the Uyghur restaurant called "Alibaba", located on Dingfuzhuang East Road. It was near to CUC station. As for dinner, we dined in the university's Muslim cafeteria. Cheap and tasted lovely. Each meal cost around RMB 20 per person.

Due to major exhaustion, we spent the night strolling around Dingfuzhuang and Chaoyang road. The streets were pretty crowded every night, with students and hawkers on each corner. A great place to look for snacks and cheap winter outfits.

2nd Day - Bejing

Second day was super refreshing. Indeed, getting enough sleep is a key of satisfying travel. We started the morning with breakfast in the same Muslim cafeteria and headed to the Forbidden City (故宫/紫禁城), located in the middle of Beijing City. The palace was accessible by city subway.

The entrance fee cost RMB 40 per person. It would cost differently if you were local Chinese or student. And as always, every corner of this city was filled with crowd, even on weekdays. But it would be really odd if you came to Beijing and not visit Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City.

It total, we spent three hours in this palace and got out around 4.00 pm. It was a huge maze in there. Next, I had told the group that I'd made an appointment with an old friend of mine in Peking University. I wanted to interview this friend and get to know more about her student's life in this city. This topic will be shared in different post.

The interview lasted around two hours and we were told with great stories. After Peking University, we headed for Nan Luo Gu Xiang (南锣鼓巷). Beijing is quite famous for its alleys, or Hutong (胡同). Nan Luo Gu Xiang is one of the Hutongs. You could find all sort of cafes, restaurants, hawker stalls and souvenirs all around them. 

In short, we focused mainly on first and second ring of the city. It was much easier to commute, without needing you to travel long and far. And also, we spent very little money. Exactly like how we wanted.

3rd Day - Beijing

Third day pretty much cost us a fortune. We hired a driver and a van for a trip to Mutianyu Great Wall (慕田峪长城). RMB 600 for the entire day. If you were looking for a cheaper way, look for Badaling Great Wall (八达岭长城). It is accessible by subway and public buses. The reason I chose Mutianyu was because of the view. Unlike Badaling, this section of Great Wall has better and taller view.

The trip took us around two hours from Chaoyang district. When we arrived, it cost a total o RMB 150 for each of us to enter. Mutianyu used to be very cheap, less than RMB 100 for everything. But lately, tourist were getting more and more. Hence, the government had upgraded the place and set a new fee.

After completing the visit, we were welcome with rows of souvenirs near downhill. Of course, the price were insanely expensive. But if you had no option but to buy it there, try hard to negotiate for cheaper price. I bought a snow globe for RMB 20, after talked down the price from RMB 80. But I should have tried harder, I could get that for RMB 10 from somewhere else.

On the way back to the city, we asked the driver to drop us near the subway station, as we were planning to go to Wang Fu Jing (王府井). There is a subway named after the place, so you don't need to worry about finding it.

Wang Fu Jing itself is an area name, or a street. It is surrounded by big malls and expensive hotels, a very common view in the city center. But what we were really looking for was Old Beijing Street (老北京风情街). 

Why Old Beijing? Because hawkers here were selling food that people used to eat decades ago. And surprisingly, that included food that are inedible. Yeah! I'm talking about scorpions and scary-looking insects. Honestly, even until today, I still have no idea would there be anyone buying the deep-fried gigantic black tarantula. Or those were just for display purpose. Either way, it was oddly satisfying to witness that kind of weirdness up close.

I guess that it's for today's post. I seriously do not want to drag this up to ten pages long. I'm going to share the rest of our trip in a second post. But or now, I wish you guys a very good luck on any coming trip to China.

Continue Beijing & Xi'An Itinerary Part 2

Sunday, 30 October 2016

5 Facts You Should Know About Guangzhou

Everyone prefers to follow their own ways when it comes to travelling. Even so, never neglect some of the facts about the city you're travelling to. Keep them in mind and it might save you from non-necessary hard time there. These 5 followings thought are something that I learned during my previous trips to Guangzhou. They don't exactly give a huge impact on me, but I sure know how to plan my trips better next time.

1. Halal food is extremely easy to find

Being a Muslim who constantly steps foot in China, having to think about what to eat next is quite challenging. But Guangzhou offers a different situation. Almost every corner of any street has Halal restaurant. Simply ask around and you'll find at least one of those passerby knows where to ind the restaurant.

2. Not a place or tourists

This is true. On a scale one to five, I would give two starts or Guangzhou's tourism. The tourist hot spots in this city are quite limited. This isn't a place where you visit every spring to have good time. You spend one week in this city and you'll find yourself super familiar with all tourist destinations. Guangzhou generates most o it income from trading. Unless you are a trader or business person, do not bring your family to this city for holidays (just because there plenty of online guides and recommendation).

3. Budget hotels are at the same rate

In my personal experience, I've been to multiple hotels in Guangzhou City, and most o the budget hotels are actually offering RMB 199 for a queen size bedroom. It's a good thing if you can find a better rate. But i you are seeing a higher rate, don't just go for it. Look around. Compare few hotels before deciding.

4. Locals are nice toward foreigners

Learn some little Chinese words, like how to greet, how do you say thank you, good morning, evening and night. The locals love it when foreigners try to speak their language. It might sound cheesy, but that's how you make great connection in this country (don't be such a "try-hard", though). In some other situation when you wish to buy some stuff from little shops around the street, you will ind the shopkeeper are super friendly. Unlike other cities, say Beijing, the locals do not simply cheat on prices or try so hard to win a bargain. Shops in Guangzhou only give prices that are written on labels.

5. Public transportation are cheap

Two most important transportation when being around in Guangzhou - Subway, taxi and pick-up van. I'm not sure if this is a common though or not, but the train from Baiyun Airport to the city center doesn't cost you extra charges, and that's insanely amazing. It charges you exactly as if you're having a normal city trip. Even I have to pay five times more for the train to Airport in my home-country. As for the taxi, don't worry too much because it will always be in your budget. A trip around five kilometers will charge you only around RMB 10. And the best part is, you do not need to argue or bargain about the price. Because every taxi in Guangzhou has a meter, they won't simply cheat on you. I guess that's back to my previous point, the locals are just to nice toward us.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

5 Problems To Expect (as foreigner) In China

Facing all sort of problems while traveling in foreign country is a common thing for everyone. Sometimes the problems are so tiny that you can deal by ignoring it. While some, they are just too big that they will interrupt your traveling experience. One thing that I do to lessen this type of crisis - it is to identify the worst possibility I will face. Here are the five things I notice people who traveled with me faced during their first visit to China.

1. Assorted thick local accent

This problem implies on either those who speak Chinese, or those who don't. The country itself is huge, hence, you may expect the accents produced by it are plenty. Just when you think you understand Mandarin or Cantonese, there come Hakka and Hokkien. Being in a job which involves massive communication, I always prepare myself with little of each accent. A little of everything could eventually help you out during desperate time. But if you don't speak any Chinese, you might as well go to Youtube, or anywhere on the internet, and learn some tiny words. There is a slight possibility that you will face locals that refuse to speak English. Mostly it isn't because lack of knowledge in the language, they just refuse to speak it.

2. Road Rage

I believe this doesn't only happen in China. But to those travelers who grew up in a country with well-mannered drivers all around the neighborhood, you definitely be surprised with the road rage here. In my worse experience while taking a taxi in Beijing, we nearly got into a highway accident when a car came out of nowhere from our left side. The taxi driver put a brake real hard when he saw it that the car actually spun to the side. Funny part was that the two drivers had a quick argument afterward and resume the driving like nothing ever happened. My intention here is not to scare the travelers away. But if you really have to get a taxi or any pick-up service, just let yourself aware of what to expect.

3. Dining Apparatus

It is a common knowledge that the main dining tools used by locals are chopsticks. The do have spoons, but most of the cheap diners, they do not have forks, let alone knives. Interesting part is that sometimes you even need to ask spoon manually even when you're ordering rice. My best advice when you decide to visit cheap diner, as I only seek for that type of place to eat, is to bring you own disposable chopsticks or spoons. You will never know what is happening at the back of the kitchen.

4. Internet & Website Access

China has a strong security when it comes to the internet. You may purchase cheap data or Wi-Fi package, but there is a massive limitation for website access. For instance, Facebook or Instagram are the most restricted applications. Some people made their conclusion and thought anything that wasn't produced by local corporation, especially those applications or websites from the United States, are not permitted. Unless those corporation had prior arrangement, then you might get to view them. Even Google Play is blocked sometimes. For those whose livelihood depends heavily on internet access, I suggest you to do this - Download every VPN you could get in Playstore or iTune, and activate them before departing to China. Some VPN's are only trial versions, but it will do you plenty of good if you were traveling for short period.

5. Toilet

Ultimate nightmare for Malaysians. If you were used to cleaning yourself using water in the toilet, you would have to be aware that you wouldn't be able to do so in China. Picture this, the toilets here are provided with only toilet bowl, flusher, and a roll or paper towel (if you were luck enough). There is no water hose for you to clean your hand, you feet or any part of your body. Personal advice, do bring a paper or plastic cup filled with water when you have to go for a quick business in the toilet. Also a tiny hotel soap if you could get one.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Iftar with Orphans Home @ Grand Blue Wave Hotel Johor Bahru

"Return what society has given to you before". Well, it doesn't imply only on material stuff. It could be the deeds that people nearby had done to you, or the helping hands that were let during your desperate times. This type of initiative has always been my goal - to give back to people around me and channel all my gratitude in a form of charity work. I may not have much to give out now, but I can create an awareness of doing so. And that worth pretty much the same.

So I was invited to an Iftar charity event held by the Grand Blue Wave Hotel Johor Bahru during Ramadhan 2016. It was dedicated for 50 orphans who are residing in Rumah Kebajikan Raudhatul Maryam (a registered organization under Pertubuan Amal Anak-anak Yatim dan Miskin Skudai). The hotel grasps the idea of corporate social responsibility in a serious manner and they never have failed to deliver it since the year of 2008.

On top of it, the General Manager of Tasek Maju Group, Mr Long Cheow Siong explained that this project of 2016 was mainly to raise a donation - 5% of every purchase of the hotel's Ramadhan buffet, which they called it "Muhibah Ramadhan", will be channeled directly to the orphans home.

A quick introduction of Grand Blue Wave Hotel Johor Bahru, it is actually part of Tasek Maju Group and has been involved actively in the Tasek Maju Charity Carnival (TMCC) for various types of charity works.

In 2015 alone, Grand Blue Wave Hotel Johor Bahru, together with the group, had organized three charity events. They were the handover of donation to the Handicapped & Disabled Children Association in Saleng, Tasek Maju 2015 Children's Party, and Ramadhan Iftar charity event for Rumah Jagaan Warga Emas Nur Ehsan.

The HR Manager of Grand Blue Wave Hotel Johor Bahru shared with me the situation in one of their previous event at an elderly care. It was a successful event with plenty of volunteers and participants, which a great number of them were the hotel staffs. It was painful to see the condition of the folks there, as most were either disabled or too old to take care of themselves. However, the volunteers stepped out to offer their assistance during the Iftar. This lovely event might lasted only for a day, but you wouldn't know how much that one day meant to those in need.

Great hospitality given by the staff. I had a wonderful time meeting the kids. They were just like any other kids, who sought for attention and would fall into depression when left unattended. Hence, when they were gifted with souvenirs by the hotel, those smiles bloomed.

It was an Iftar event, so, of course, people would like to learn more what were served for the kids. Well, you might want to zoom or double-click on the photos. I bet it will make you feel terribly jealous with them.

Introduction made by the Executive Chef, Chef Karim, that the concept of this buffet is a mixture of western and local cuisine. Four types of rice (Briyani, Bukhari, Jagung and Minyak rice) were presented on rotary basis to fulfill your crave during Iftar. Not to be missed, ten stalls, with various of cooking, which included roasted whole lamb, satays, grilled fish, Sish Kebab, local fried noodles etc. As for the highlighted dessert, you may want to try traditionally made Pulut Serawa, sticky rice served with thick durian sauce.

Here's the contact of hotel, in case any of you would like to visit next tie.

Grand Blue Wave Hotel Johor Bahru
Address : Jalan Bukit Meldrum, Tanjung Puteri, 80300 Johor Bahry, Johor, Malaysia
Contact : +607 221 6666

Sunday, 26 June 2016

5 Survival Tips Against Fraud in China

Fraud and scam are not something alienated in China. As the country has largely emerged to become a wealth-oriented society, you may expect the stress among locals have gotten worse that it seems on the media. Hence, fraud activity (especially direct cash transaction) has been popularized far before recent years. New travelers that plan for either a brief or long stay should definitely adapt to these few tips.

1. Compare the price with nearby stores

Never assume that you are in safe position. Scammers in China are everywhere, even in the malls. Best practice to avoid yourself from getting overcharged is to compare the item you intend to purchase with neighbor stores. Let yourself on a stroll around the floor before settling down with one single store.

2. Study size and image of RMB (Chinese Yuan bill)

One of many mistakes made by the first-timers is to let themselves being fooled with fake Yuan bill. Hence, it is essential to study the look, size, image, color and texture of Chinese money. During my first travel experience in China, I was tricked by an old lady in Beijing Summer Palace to believe that she actually handed me the right Yuan bill. After showing it to my Russian friends, they said that was actually an outdated version of fifty Russian Ruble. Even if the money was valid, it was still twenty times lesser that what I was supposed to get.

3. Always prepare yourself with smaller change

A following step to avoid the previous taboo, is to provide small amount of cash on any direct transaction. It is much safer this way. If you somehow too lazy to do so, there's a chance that you will receive a stack of nearly crumpled cash, with short of amount as change. No joke on this. It happened before.

4. Don't be unsure of your price (when negotiating)

Any person with obvious foreign traits or personality will always be the primary aim by the scammers. The best way to avoid that is to be firm when dealing with them. Stay sure with the price you're proposing (even if you have no idea whether it is the right one or not) and talk it through. If possible, act like you've been around the place for quite some time and you know that they're bluffing.

5. Lock in the price before handing over cash

The final step in a direct transaction - to hand over the cash. But before doing that, do make sure that the price offered is finalized. There were few cases I encountered where the store-keepers acted as if they didn't hear the final price I asked for. There were also travelers who had to argue with store-keepers after handing over the cash. The reason being was miscommunication.

5 Things Not To Do in China

Traveling to a foreign land, we must always bare in mind of the things not to do there. You may call it a taboo, but I call it an "act of suicidal". It's crucially important for a traveler to do research through internet or books before reaching the destination. Failing of doing so will result in some awful consequences. Without further a due, here are the five things you shouldn't do while in China.

1. Never cross a two-lane road (without pedestrian crossing)

I am not saying this just because the locals have zero tolerance for the jay-walkers. But there is a strict rule in any place that says you should find a bridge, or a pedestrian crossing for this purpose. Hence, majority of the drivers in this country would never think twice on running you down when they are speeding on the road. And funny thing is they could easily get away from the authority. In most cases, very few passerby would step out to lend a helping hand. Well, don't ask me why. It's something that us, foreigner, should never get involved in. Just be extra cautious.

2. Never answer any stranger's calling (unless you understood the person)

Either by phone or on the street. For those who never experienced the street culture this nation, you should really try to avoid this. Sometimes when you get a local number in China, you will receive multiple unknown phone calls. Not because of the number saying "unknown", but you will find the voice or the accent of the caller strangely creepy. Being a nation with highly advanced technology, you may expect some of those callers may have malicious intentions. My friends, while on the other hand, faced multiple fraud attempts in few different occasions. Few of them were ushered into a group of people and were forced to pay for unwanted items. And the rest of them were halted by strangers and asked for credit cards or cash.

3. Never purchase smart phone outside of store

An Iphone 6 plus with the price of less than RMB 2000 - sounds amazing, doesn't it? Well, you'll get what you pay for, sometimes it turns to be even worse. In some cases, the phones weren't even real. They were just empty little boxes covered with metal cases and stamped with Apple logo. It doesn't imply only on Apple, though. Any new technology or IT product that are well-known among the locals will definitely get imitated. Who does this? You will never know. Just play your part and be aware of these frauds.

4. Never purchase hand-made food on the street (unless you saw how it was made)

Not trying to discriminate any type of business here, but being in a foreign land with no close friend or family, you have got to stay alert with the food you're eating. A snack that cost you only 3 Yuan, but if it was poorly made, the consequence could be devastating. Luckily so far, so far, I haven't yet encounter any horrible experience. The worst scenario was me getting a bread, they call it "jian bing" in Chinese. I could literally taste my bile thrusting its way to my vocal cord on the first bite. The bread smelled so foul, as if the lady left the ingredients unattended that they got rotten real fast. Also, I saw her grabbing those ingredients with her bare hands. Not a pleasant sight, and I had no idea why did that the first bite.

5. Never negotiate for a cheaper price if you aren't intending to purchase

In places like night markets or wholesale markets, negotiating for lower price is a tradition that is well-known among visitors. But keep in mind that this tradition has been practiced for a long while and the locals treat it as a way of business. They will easily get offended if you brake it. Sadly this knowledge doesn't occur to every new-comer. Some of them thought it was not a big deal. They asked for a discount and got it after a serious argument with store-keeper. But in the end, they walked away. This happened with people who traveled with me. When it took place, I would feel terribly embarrassed and apologize to the store-keeper. I could literally see the look on their face on how disrespectful it was. Well of course, I would channel back my frustration to the friends.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

3 Great Places To Shop @ Guangzhou

Shopaholic has never been a thing for me. My main priority when traveling is to reach the unexplored destinations. Guangzhou is a big city, even after visiting it for three times I still have plenty of unknown spots in my travel map. But you can't always be in the hunt the entire time. You'll get exhausted eventually. So what I did during my short breaks was to stroll around the malls in the city.

Funny thing about malls or shops in foreign lands is that you will see those odd things you would never find in your home-country. For instance, foreigners, especially Malaysians, are so into Daiso in Japan. A convenient store that sells pretty much every daily equipment everyone needs, but never been sought. Ranging from huge stuff like garden fences to tiny little book labels. Some would say those are quite trivial, but it's the little thing that makes it interesting. You don't need a reason to visit the store. You just go in  and look around. Good concept, by the way.

Here's the list of three malls I found people should really visit. If you don't like the types of items they're selling, you should at least visit it once. It could be a good finding for you.

Onelink Plaza

Chinese name: 万菱广场 (wan ling guang chang)
Metro station: 海珠广场 (Haizhu Square Station)
Types of product:
Home-decor, glass jar, ceramic, painting, toy, souvenir, fengshui fountain, accessory, drone etc.

Most of the time, people who visit Guangzhou to seek for suppliers would put this mall as their top priority. Being in here alone could expose yourself to a huge chain of suppliers. If you were enrolled in retails or trading industry, this would do good in your business massively.

Aside from staying inside of the mall, you might want to explore the streets nearby. There are few other malls too next to Onelink Plaza. They may not be as famous as Onelink, but you will find the items there quite useful.

Once you are done with the shopping, there will be drivers and carriers waiting for you at the front of Onelink Plaza. Hire bicycle carrier if you are staying one kilometer away from Onelink. But if your hotel is located beyond that, get a van driver instead. I stayed in Jiefang North Rad during my last tip and it took us around 15 minutes to reach the hotel by car. So we got ourselves a van driver with the cost of RMB 50. The traffic was horrible at that time and I couldn't negotiate for a lower price. But you try to ask.

New Asia International Electronic & Digital City

Chinese name: 新亚洲国际电子数码城 (xin ya zhou dian zi shu ma cheng)
Metro station: 文化公园站 (Culture Park Station)
Types of product:
Smart phone, smart watch, action cam, power bank, phone & camera battery, phone case, phone accessory, hover board, pen drive etc.

Lingnan Electornic & Digital Plaza

Chinese name: 岭南国际电子数码广场 (ling nan dian zi shu ma guang chang)
Metro station: 文化公园站 (Culture Park Station)
Types of product:
Surveillance camera & tools, action cam, drone, phone accessory, USB cable, smart phone etc.

For the tech-lover, or those who are venturing in tech business, these two malls could be awesome places to visit. Always keep in mind, though, these are not the places where quality is being prioritized. The majority of these stores are just a window to their main factory. Hence, the sellers here are expecting to deal with bulk orders. And commonly when items that come in mass number, you may estimate that a small part of them are defected.

In my personal experience with my friends, we bought a huge box of USB cables (with the price below RMB 5 each), only to realize that 20 out 100 cables were badly made. Some were reported damaged and null, while others were reported to charge very slowly when connected to smart phones. But hey, just take a look at the price. It's a real gambling situation there.

The location is very easy to find. Simply head east for about 200 meters and you will see Lingnan Electronic & Digital Plaza on the right. And if you walk for another 200 meters, you will see New Asia International Electronic & Digital City on your left.

Heping East Road / Jianglan Road

Chinese name: 和平东路 (he ping dong lu) / 桨栏路 (jiang lan lu)
Metro station: 一德路 (Yide Road Station) / 文化公园站 (Culture Park Station)
Types of product:
Clothing, jacket, trousers, scarf, shirt, jeans etc.

Lastly, but not the least, clothing. Something that none of us could escape. Whether you are interested with fashion or not, we are all in need of this.

This particular area, or the streets nearby, specialize in selling fashion outfits. Cool thing about shopping around this place is that the stores here are not located inside of a mall. Instead, they are all scattered around in every street. In my own opinion, it is much more fun strolling around the street while window shopping, rather than staying in one same roof.

Another reason that make me so into this place, the same reason why I love clothing line in China, is the design of the clothes. One thing how the designing industry works in the mainland, is that they have to come out with new creations by each autumn and spring, it's just something that we don;t have in the tropics. For that reason, you will never run out of selections when you shop for outfits here. And do take my little advice, prices of the clothes here are much cheaper when you purchase them during the transition of seasons. Get your summer outfits during spring, or get your winter jackets during autumn, and you will get yourself a half-price discount.

These two street are reachable by both metro stations. If you are getting off at Yide Road Station, simply head west for about 300 meters and you will see the stores across the Remin Road. And if you are getting off at Cultural Park Station, you may head north for about 200 meters and you will directly come to contact with the streets.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Zumba & Yoga For The First Time

I do sports sometimes, like jogging, weight-lifting, basketball, and a little bit of badminton. I’m not just a geek, or you may call a nerd, whom loves travelling and blogging so much that spend most of his days staring at the screen of laptop. Well, like I said, I do sports.

Those who have the same interest as mine may understand when I say that I love physical activities for the thrill, and for how it drains the sweat out of me. Trust me, you will feel incredibly light afterward. And also, that amazing feeling when your muscles are completely exhausted, but your body is still continuously moved by the adrenaline. Oh God, what a lovely creation. It’s like an additional battery for human-being.

So I had an invitation last weekend. They called me up, along with a group of other bloggers for an afternoon Zumba session. At first I was a little reluctant to accept this (it wasn't really my thing), but I thought that I’d never try this. So, why not?

One thing I can tell you, after going through nearly an hour session of freaking Zumba, is that it’s kind of crazy. A quick comparison – body-builders have a room of iron for them to pump, gymnasts has a gymnasium filled with metal loops and grab-bars, sprinters have a track for them to sprint on or a stadium for a relentless run. As for those with ADHD (Hyperactivity Disorder), they have Zumba. A perfect match.

I’ve got people around saying that this type of work out is meant for ladies. Honestly, I wouldn’t say that.

The only reason people are keep saying that is because of the moves you need to make. They’re kind of feminine. But other than that, the cardio and stretching were unisex. Just try it yourself and you’ll know. The entire work out is not even feminine.

This was my first experience, and guess what I loved most about this session? The instructor. Like serious, she was insane. She’s like the duplication of Jim Carrey, but in a form of female, and added one hell of an ADHD. Staring at her face itself could make you feel extremely exhausted, let alone her moves.

Upon our session with her, the organizer let us have a moment of Zen. A quick yoga to stretch our muscles off. Surprisingly, led by this ripped dude. He had soothing voice, though.

Right before the yoga, they let us to clean our faces first and put on these new products by The Face Shop – White Seed. A complete set with serum, mask, toner and lotion. I’m not much of a beautician, but I was quite in love with the mask. It had milky cream that soften the skin when you apply it on. And so I had it during a ten-minute Shavasana (lying flat with eyes closed on the yoga mat).

Well, this was fun. Perhaps I’m going to try again if there is any other invitation.

For more info, you may click into this link : The Face Shop - White Seed

Saturday, 14 May 2016

'Sajian Nostalgia' Ramadhan Buffet @ Seri Pacific Hotel KL

Haaa food ~~~ I am just in love with them. Everyone should really look at me eat in buffet, it's priceless. Unlike some people, I've got a strategy when eating a buffet. The main priority is to try out everything the chef is offering. Heavy dishes and barbecues being the first of target, while dessert and rice being the last.

Speaking of buffet, aren't these photo just 'horribly' tempting? If this doesn't kill you inside for not being here, I don't know what does.

Lucky for me, I was invited for a Ramadhan buffet preview at Seri Pacific Hotel KL. Unlike the year before, they're wearing a retro/traditional concept for this time - Sajian Nostalgia (Taste of Nostalgia). If you were born in a big city, or never had visited a true country side of Malaysia, these dishes will definitely blow your taste bud away.

Sajian Nostalgia at Seri Pacific KL offers a variety of delicious traditional spread, featuring multiple different dishes every day. Let's have a sneak peek of what awaits you there.

Salad & Traditional Fare

Sambal Belacan 
Tempoyak Cili
Sambal Nenas
Sambal Mangga
Sambal Gesek
Kacang Botol
Ulam Raja
Daun Kadok
Paku Rawan

Traditional Dish

Bubur Lambuk
Serunding Daging Ayam
Rendang Ayam
Sup Gearbox
Nasi Kandar


Bubur Cha Cha
Pengat Ubi
Bubur Kacang Hijau with Durian
Pulut Hitam
Pengat Pisang
Bubur Kacang Merah
Bubur Jagung


Soya Bean
Air Kelapa
Lai Chee Kang
Teh Tarik
Nescafe Tarik
Sirap Selasih
Air Kiwi
Air Kurma


Sup Ekor
Sup Ayam
Daging Salai Masak Lemak Cili Padi with Pisang Muda
Udang Goreng Kunyit
Ikan Siakap Kukus Kuah Tauchu
Ayan Lemak Rebung Santan Nipah Muda
Ikan Sembilang Laut Berlada Sri Kandi
Tumis Kupang Hitam

And of course, there are plenty of other dishes that I couldn't get my nose on. Too much to handle. To make it simple, buffet is all about variances and having too much selections (at least that's how I see it). Don't forget to check out the prices too:

Pacific Ball Room, Level 2

6 June 2016 - 5 July 2016
RM 98 nett (adult)
RM 49 nett (Children)

Zende Restaurant, Lobby Level

8 June 2016 - 4 July 2016
RM 128 nett (Adult)
RM 64 nett (Children)

A thing more about Hotel Seri Pacific, is that it's perfectly located in a prominent business district and connected to KL's iconic landmark, like the Putra Word Trade Centre (PWTC). And it's pretty accessible too. Star LRT to the left and highway's exit to the right. If you walk around 200 meters, you'll get yourself another Putra KTM Station.

A 5-star hotel with luxurious comforts and homey vibe. Just don't get me started with the facilities around. I went there twice and I just wished I could stay for the night.

By the way, here are my two hand-picked dishes - Marinated Whole Lamb and Gearbox Soup. You could literally get fulled just by standing in front of these stalls. The spices, the aroma, and the smell of burned fat, they were crazy.

Here are the details for early reservation:

Direct Line : 03-4049 4351 / 4352
Email :
Address : Seri Pacific Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Putra, 50350 Kuala Lumpur.

Now let's have a moment to appreciate these amazing chefs.