Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Wuyuan, Canola Flower Trip (江西婺源。油菜花) (2)

Wuyuan, Wuyuan, where and how do I begin?  It's my first backpacking trip to rural China (with strangers).  I am grateful that my parents are very understanding and unlike the stereotypical Asian parents.  (Maybe they know I am so stubborn they know they can't stop me anyway?)  It's an eye opening experience and you have to have an open mind for everything because everything can be ridiculous and infuriating if you apply any international standards.

My trip started off bumpy, to the point I got very grumpy...  You probably recall some of my grief from my previous post for this series... that was only the beginning... when I went to pay for my plane tickets, the agent told me the airlines have changed the schedule flight time from 20:05 to 21:30.  Great!  That means I won't arrive in Hangzhou until 23:30 even if there is no delay.  However with Air Macau, delay is inevitable.  Whatever it was (lies, weather, technical problems, etc.), the plane didn't take off until 00:30 and the flight was full of grumpy passengers, some even demand an explanation from the airlines for the delay... BOO - please... Air Macau?  Explanation for delay?  It's like an oxymoron.  Please avoid this airline if all possible.

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Although it says Air China, it's really Air Macau
You can't earn miles on your Star Alliance card (aka United / Utarded for me) :/
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Delayed, as usual.
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I was not the only one...
Should I be happy or sad?

Finally we took off but the 2-hour flight took almost 4 hours since there was a storm mid-flight and the pilot has to take a detour.  Fantastic!  Finally I arrived in Hangzhou around 4 am in the morning when all public transport has stopped except for a few taxis.  Imagine auctioning for a taxi among a bunch of tired and grouchy travelers. Since there was no alternative, I ended up carpooling with this couple each paying the taxi driver RMB$100 (the normal fare is RMB$100 one way).  I am grateful that I only paid RMB$70 for my room since I barely got any sleep.  (I didn't lay down in my bed until 5:30 am and woke up around 8:30 am)

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YMCA Hangzhou - booked via Hostel World

Nice and bright reception area.
The hostel is nicely renovated, reasonable rates and close to West Lake.
There is no elevator though.
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It used to be a church I think
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West Lake
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The restaurant I wanted to try but didn't get a chance this time :/
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I ended up eating this... doesn't look very appetizing but it wasn't too bad.
As long as I didn't have to eat McDonald's.

My misfortune didn't end there.  My friend bought the 11 am bus to Wuyuan and we had to carpool again with strangers when we hitched a taxi.  (It seems like the normal thing there... :S) We got stuck in traffic and missed our bus by a mere 10 minutes.  (Buses and trains seems to run on-time in China for the most part.)  We panicked as we thought that was the last bus to Wuyuan that day (or so my friend was told by the station staff when she bought the tickets the day before).  Finally my luck turned, there was another bus at 2:40 pm and we got 50% back for the fare we paid from the 11 am bus.  Consequently, we walked around the area for a bit and sat at the station and waited for our bus.

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Flower market across from the bus station
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So many different types of osmanthus!!!
I felt like I was in a herbology class.
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In addition to plants, they sell birds, rabbits and other pets too.
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Waiting for our bus - the station is better than I expected.

The bus ride was smooth but we had an annoying passenger who talked the entire time.  She was loud too!  Anyways, after 3 hours, we finally arrived in Wuyuan and were greeted by an eager horde of motorcycle taxis and taxis.  The motorcycle taxi seems too dangerous for us and our luggage (they expect the two of us to go on one 150 c.c. motorcycle with our luggage and there is no helmet) so we opted for the regular taxi and paid 100% more... (It's only RMB$40 after all.)  Of course our taxi driver didn't hesitate to try to take more passengers going to the same direction for extra money... Thank goodness there wasn't anyone going in the same direction... whew...

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The roads are very good, took us only 3 hours from Hangzhou to Wuyuan.
Pretty scenery along the way too.
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Bargaining at its best!

Finally arrived at Li Keng (李坑), checked in at our hostel  (傍溪居 / Brooke Hostel) and got settled.  The room is small but nice and clean.  The toilet is not your customary Western style toilet but we saw pictures before on the website so it didn't surprise us.  The owner is much nicer in real life compared to the alter ego I encountered online, which I am thankful.  Our hostel did ask for full payment plus a deposit (~RMB$150) when we arrived, it was weird but we did get our deposit back in the end so don't worry if you were asked the same.  Overall, I am very happy I chose to stay in the village versus the town.  I will recommend Brooke Hostel to anyone who is looking to experience village lifestyle.

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The village of Li Keng (李坑)
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Where we stayed
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The village at night when most of the tourists are gone~~~

Our hostel also offers dinner at a very reasonably price.  One of the reason why we chose this hostel is because of their food.  Their food got 5-star reviews on the internet and I can ascertain the quality now too.  It was very delicious and we ate there every night.  Their menu is simple but since everything is home grown or super fresh, it's absolutely delicious.  Take for example, we order our vegetables from their veggie patch.  It's picked in the morning and if there is a veggie we wanted to eat and they didn't pick, they will just go to their patch and pick them.  I don't think it can get any fresher than that.  I think I will do a separate post to showcase all the dishes we tried.

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Red Carp in Sauce (荷包紅鯉魚)

This is one of the dishes Wuyuan is famous for - a must try.

During dinner, we met a young couple from Beijing who just arrived from Shanghai.  We had a great conversation and decided to go sightseeing together over the next 2 days.  (They had a car and agreed to take us with them!)  Yay!   Instead of paying hundreds joining day tours with a tight schedule and little flexibility, we saved money on transportation and made great new friends!  My luck has finally turned!!!

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This is the carpooling board at the hostel.
If it weren't for our new friends, our room number would end up on the board too.
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The Chinese wine bar
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We came here every night and I even got a frequent customer discount in the end.

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