Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wuhou Ci and Jinli Street, Chengdu

Late Afternoon, Day 2 (23 October 2012)

I caught the taxi to Jinli Street at the side entrance of Xinanmen Bus Station. The taxi fare was RMB13.

As I arrived, I was dropped off just outside the entrance of Wuhou Ci but I thought that was the entrance to Jinli Street. I saw people turned away at the entrance and decided to buy a ticket. If I had known that this was Wuhou Ci entrance, I might not have bothered with the ticket. That's the handicap of not knowing Mandarin.

Just as I stepped into Wuhou Ci at 4:30 p.m, I received a call from Y. She told me we would meet for hotpot. Her nephew would fetch me in a car at 6:30 p.m. and she asked me whether I could make it. My answer was in the affirmative and I was thinking that I needed to hurry up to finish both Wuhou Ci and Jinli Street.

Wuhou Ci was just a small place and I was soon at Jinli Street, after exiting from a side entrance to Wuhou Ci. Jinli Street is neat looking but looked too modern, like West Street at Yangshuo.

By 6:00 p.m., I was done with Jinli Street, with the aid of my Garmin to navigate through the maze of streets there.

Monday, November 26, 2012

People's Park, Chengdu

Morning, Day 2 (23 October 2012)

Today, I had wanted to get a SIM card for my Sony Xperia P, for the Google map. I saw SIM cards displayed on the shelf behind the reception desk at Traffic Inn. However, I was told by a staff that the lady in charge was not in and he advised me that I should just buy it from China Unicom. How on earth was I to find China Unicom?

My programme for today was to visit interesting places in Chengdu, i.e. Jinli Street and Wuhou Ci. However, the staff at the reception recommended People's Park. As such, I got a taxi for RMB9.00 to People's Park to one of the park entrances.

There was really not much to see. There were tea houses with mostly elderly Chinese playing mahjong at the tables, sipping tea or simply relaxing there. There were also a lake and a nicely manicured garden.

I exited at another entrance and decided to stroll around. I soon find myself at Tian Fu Square and explored its metro station too. The metro station was like KL and Singapore's MRT.

Using my Garmin GPS, I was not worried about getting lost.

Exploring the streets, I found strange food for lunch. There were bunches of sticks of animal parts and unknown food skewered to bamboo sticks dipped in big bowls of fiery looking oily soup. I ended up with a simple lunch of rice and stewed belly pork with preserved vegetable, though I told the shop owner I wanted a meat dish and a vegetable dish.

Using the GPS unit, I was able to find my way back on foot easily.

On returning to Traffic Inn, I checked again with reception, now with different people on duty. I was told that the SIM card she was selling was for phone calls only, not for data communication. It would cost me RMB80, with a call value of RMB50.

I hesitated and did not buy it until later in the afternoon. I felt that I needed to call Y, a Couchsurfing acquaintance. I had promised her that I would call her when I arrived in Chengdu and I have not done so even until now. She had obliged me with her phone number and email address already.

Finally, after an hour or two, I went back to reception to buy the SIM card to call Y. Y told me she just had an operation and was just about to leave the hospital. After a short conversation, we agreed that she would call me when she was ready to meet me. She needed to rest to recuperate. In the meantime, we agreed that I needed not wait for her at Traffic Inn, as was originally suggested by Y herself. She had meant to meet me on the way back from hospital. With that, I made plan to visit Jinli Street and Wuhou Ci.

Friday, November 23, 2012

From Kuala Lumpur to Chengdu

Day 1 (22 October 2012)

The flight from Sibu to Kuala Lumpur left at 10:35 a.m. However, it arrived at the Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) on time at 12:15 p.m. I hurried to the bus parking lot to catch a 12:30 p.m. bus to KL Sentral so that I would be able to reach Bukit Bintang as soon as possible to change my US dollars to Chinese Reminbi. The exchange rates offered in Sibu was very unattractive, worse than the rates offered by Maybank as at 18 October 2012.

The particular money changer I was looking for was no where to be found when I arrived. It must have relocated elsewhere due to the ongoing construction work there. A friend told me that this particular money changer offered very competitive rates.

Fortunately, there were other money changers on both sides of Bukit Bintang Road. The first two money changers had no stock and the third offered RMB6,100 plus MYR26.50 for my USD1,000. The selling rate was RMB100 for MYR49.50, the same as those offered by money changers at the airport. The buying rate was USD1 to MYR3.0460 while those offered by the money changers at the airport was USD1 for MYR3.000.

For my effort, I saved MYR46 and spent MYR20.20 for bus and monorail fares, a saving of MYR25.80 only for my time and effort. It was not worth it!

The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Chengdu was delayed also. Instead of departing at 6:15 p.m., it departed only at 7:30 p.m.

I arrived at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport at 11:40 p.m. and by the time I exited to Arrival Hall, it was mid-night. As I came out, a lady was holding up my name on a placard. That was great from Traffic Inn. It did not forget to send someone to pick me up. The lady was with the driver.

Thinking that Traffic Inn staff would speak good English, I spoke to her in English. She could only speak in halting English. We spoke little.

After sending me to Traffic Inn, I thought she would come together with me to the reception. Instead, she stayed in the pick up van and I never saw her again. She was quite a looker!

After taking my shower, I only went to bed after 1:10 a.m., 23 October 2012.