Friday, August 28, 2009

Visiting My Ancestor's Homeland - Nan'an, Quanzhou

My paternal grand dad came over to Malaysia during the late 1920's and met my grand mother and settled down at Bachok, Kelantan. He was from China and I think he landed at one of the beach at Bachok at the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. That's the same route the Japanese attacked Peninsular Malaysia during the World War 2. But the Japanese came in through the Sabak beach. And the Japanese occupied Malaysia, my grand mother had all my granddad's documents burnt and destroyed because she doesn't want her children to have any association with the Chinese because the Japanese who is also at war with China hated the Chinese so much. My dad and his other siblings were very young at that time.
My grand mother is a 'peranakan', meaning a local Chinese. Her father is from China who married a local Siamese. As such, she practice mix culture, half Chinese and half Siamese.
After my dad passed away, me as the eldest son had his tomb engraved his origin of homeland which he had registered with the Kelantan Hokkien Association, as Nan'an. Before that or during my younger days, I never bother to find out my grand dad's origin. Thanks to the association for keeping the record till to date. I am also amaze and surprise that the old man who works with the Kelantan Hokkien Association knows my dad so well when I mentioned my dad's name. Without the association, I wouldn't be able to trace my grand dad's origin.
After knowing the town of my grand dad's origin, I make a pledge to visit Nan'an some day. After some search here and there from the Internet, I finally manage to visit Nan'an with the help from a friend from Xiamen. We had a day visit by bus from Xiamen to Nan'an in the morning and return the same day. The journey takes us almost 2 hours by bus (one way).
Nan'an itself is a small town in Quanzhou. The journey is interesting as I get to see how the small villages would look like in China, along the way. Most of the land is agriculture based except where it is nearby to the town,and there would be lots of factories to be seen. And most of the farmers owned multi storey houses which looks like an apartment. I was told that they would allocate each floors to their children depending of the number of children they have. But the later generation are only allow to have 1 or 2 child per family depending on their social status. Farmers are allow to have 2 children, especially if their 1st child is a girl as they need more men in the farm, but not in the big city.
The first thing I did upon reaching Nan'an is to take a walk around the little town. I think Nan'an is a flood prone area as it is a valley with many hills around. The town itself has a lot of high rise buildings but within walking distance. I manage to take a bowl of noodle after taking a long walk around. It's not easy to find a food stall around, or maybe I was at the wrong street. And the street was very quiet and wide. Maybe it was Sunday or maybe everyone was at home to avoid the typhoon which hit Taiwan the same day. The wind was strong and it rained during that day. I hired a motor bike to the higher ground to see Nan'an as a whole. The motor bike carry 2 of us up to a nearby hill. This is my first experience taking a motor cycle in China. It's even eventful as it carry Tony and me on the same motor cycle at the same time. That remind me of Thailand and my Sapa trip in Vietnam too.From the photos, you can see that Nan'an town is surrounded by hills. I wonder which village my ancestors and it's Chinese roots are in by now. Probably they are still at the village and work as farmers. Or may be they are richer by now. Maybe they are all over China or maybe they are in some other parts of the world. Do they meet together during the Chinese New Year just like we do over in Malaysia ? But I am sure those of the same generation group with me would have better living by now just as we are in Malaysia. I hope so and pray that they are.I seldom have my photos over at my blog but this time I posted some for the record as proof that I have been to Nan'an, my ancestor's homeland. And I also took a few photos with Nan'an sign boards and road sign to confirm the place I have been. Well, the feeling is indescribable but I am sure glad I did make it so far on my own. And I am sure my ancestor would be happy to know it too, especially my dad.
To my grand dad, the photo above is the guy, your first grand child to make the first visit to your homeland. I doubt the others will follow, firstly is because many of them has loss touch on the old tradition, culture and heritage of their ancestors. Many of them are already modernised and are more interested to visit more advance places and city. And so are my kids. I hope this blog will be a record for my kids to know where their origin is too, even though they are now 1 Malaysia citizen. Come this 31st August, we will be celebrating 52ND Independent Day. Happy Merdeka (Independent) to all Malaysian ! Let us all stay in harmony as 1 Malaysian !

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Taiwan

They say you can see Taiwan from Xiamen. So I went to the beach on one Saturday when the weather was fine. And this is what I manage to see. The people from the mainland China finds it difficult to visit Taiwan. They require permit to visit there. It is more easy for people like me to visit Taiwan than the Chinese from the mainland, as I was told.
There are daily ferry services to the island across. And there are a lot of Taiwanese from the small village across who come over to work in Xiamen. The people in Taiwan and Xiamen and other parts of Fujian such as Quanzhou speak common dialect called Minnan Hua, which is similar to what we call Fujian or Hokkien dialect in Malaysia. I find it very interesting because they understand me very well and vice verse when Minnan Hua is concern while I was in Xiamen. That makes me feel like at home in Xiamen.
For more photos of Xiamen, you can also click 'http://srikebakat.blogspot.com'

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pizza Hut, Xiamen

Pizza Hut in Xiamen looks like some kind of posh Italian restaurants instead of the regular fast food chain family restaurants back at my homeland. You don't see youngster or the teenage group hang out at this type of place. To me, it looks like some kind of romantic candle light place dinner for two. What I saw is it is mostly patron by adults or accompanying adults, and the price is not really cheap. And the best part having meals in China is that there is no service charge or sales tax incurred. So what you pay is the price you see at the menu.
During my 5 days in Xiamen, I visited this same place twice. Firstly is because I frequently visit Pizza Hut back at my homeland. So I want to see the difference between the two countries. Secondly is that Pizza Hut offer convenience for me, a non 'pu'dong hua' speaker. I know what to expect at Pizza Hut and they do have pictures and price stated on their menu. Thirdly is it's locality near to my hostel.
Well, from the pictures you can see what I have ordered. Above is the two slices of toasted bread with some curry flavoured beef and below is a plate of seafood fried rice accompanied by a glass of lemon juice. Total price is about RMB80.00 (about MR$40.00 or USD13.00).
Overall, the interior design of the restaurant is great. Very high end. Value for money. The only dissatisfaction I felt is the service. I think most of the Chinese restaurants in China lack of good service. As in my case, I was sitting near the window. The waitress serving my food just put them on one end instead of serving them to my front. So I have to take over the food myself. And so are the utensils. And the worst part is the straw wrapped with a plastic wrapper is chucked near to my drinks as she do not want to walk extra steps. I was shocked to see that attitude. Perhaps this is just the way things are done here. I would say the service industry in China has not reach the average standard. For this case the Pizza Hut in China has not even reached the Italian restaurant's service standards. And yet they are using international name.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Gulang Yu Island, Xiamen

Gulang Yu Island is a small island full of activities and tourist. I just couldn't imagine how it would look like until I personally visit there myself. At first I was expecting just some villages or a beach only. Actually, it's more than that. There is no motor vehicle or cars at the island. So you just have to walk around from one place to another. There are lots of old and historical buildings and of course museums. They even have a piano museum. I didn't visit any of the museum there as I was to tiring walking around, and the weather was really hot. The cotton t-shirt I was wearing was all wet. Thanks, they have plenty of restaurants. They have the old and the modern restaurants. Of course I am more interested at the modern one where air-conditioners are available to cool myself up. Fast food chain is my favourite, such as Mc Donald and KFC, but they are mostly crowded. I remember going out from one and to get into another just because I can't stand the heat outside. Did I mentioned about shopping ? There are a lot of things to buy too. So bring plenty of moneies while you are there.To go to Gulang Yu island is easy. I just walk to the nearest bus stop to my hostel and take the bus No. 531 , and drop at the Gulang Yu jetty opposite. That will cost me just 1 yuan. And take the underground crossing, and there you are at the jetty. To tour around the island, you have to buy the ticket for RMB18.00. The ferry will take us around the island. To just cross over to the island, there is no charges. But you have to buy the ticket for the return trip which cost RMB8.00 per person.Besides the little township with plenty of souvenirs to offer, there is also a beach for the swimmers. Most popular type of stuffs that people buy from there are dried sea food, pearls, local handicrafts, tea leaves and etc. They also have a lot of Taiwanese goods there too.
I wanted to stay back till night to watch Gulang Yu after sunset. But my legs are too tired and I can't bear the heat no more. After about 3 pm I headed home tired. But my hands are full because of the souvenirs I bought.
I have plans to go back again to Gulang Yu on my next few days, but things didn't work out as plan as I was too worry about Typhoon Marakot that hit Taiwan on the next day.
Maybe I will visit Gulang Yu again some other trip when I visit Xiamen again. I would say this is the best place to visit when you are in Xiamen.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Xiamen International Youth Hostel

I stayed at Peking Youth International Hostel in Beijing once but check out immediately when the sun rise, even though they offer strategic locality, excellent Chinese court yard at the entrance and the cosy cafe. I just don't like some of the young staff's attitude and the size of the room which is too small and compact worst still if you are on a sharing basic. You don't even have space for your luggage, instead you have to leave them at the luggage room provided. Just imagine, if you are renting a room for two, all they have is a double Decker bed and you can't have two persons standing or walking at the same time in the room. It's is ridiculously too small to move !
Whereas, I certainly recommend Xiamen International Youth Hostel to all those single travellers to Xiamen. You don't have to be a backpacker to stay in a youth hostel especially in China because most of them offer cleanliness, privacy, security, economical and comfort as well. The reason I recommend Xiamen International Youth Hostel is not just all of the above, they also offer excellent staffs attitude, friendliness, knowledgeable and also beautiful design and strategic location especially to tourist destination and availability of buses at the surrounding area.
I especially like the courtyard with free wifi facilities and ample space for the guest to relax and mix around. The room rates are fairly priced with many types to offer, from single rooms, double rooms to mix dormitory. And you can even get discounts if you are a member of yha China ( International Youth Hostel in China) which is applicable to all youth hostels in China.
The hostel is located at a hill slope and slightly inside from the main road. And you can walk or even rent a bicycle to some of the tourist spot such as the Nan Pu Tuo Temple, Xiamen University and the beach nearby. Or you can even take a bus to many places within the island at just RMB1.00
And the best part is that the young staffs of this hostel communicate very well in English and also, they are capable to provide you with information and directions as to where to go, eat and taking buses around Xiamen. As compared to other youth hostel I have stayed in china, this is the best so far. Thumbs up for the management and staffs of Xiamen International Youth Hostel !

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nan Pu Tuo Temple, Xiamen


Just some distant away from my hostel is the Nam Pu Tuo temple. Next to it is the Xiamen University. In fact I can walk there almost everyday if I like to, because there is also a bus stop to many places around Xiamen from there. There is a big pond in front of the temple with beautiful landscaping. I took the most photos there as they have a huge variety of water lilies large and small with many different colours. Nam Pu Tuo temple is one of the famous tourist destination in Xiamen. Many tourist come from near and far. In fact, I visited this place twice, my first day and fourth day. Morning is the best time to visit this place, if you are taking photos of the lilies. However, during summer it's also best to come during morning as you won't feel so hot walking up the stairs. The temple has many levels and buildings up the hills.
There is no charges to go into the park outside the temple. However, you may have to pay some minimal charges to go inside the temple as maintenance charges, around RMB10.00 per person. And of course the park, the lilies and the birds are outside the temple compound.