Friday, November 4, 2011

Hotel Diplomat, Kolkata

 I booked the hotel just a few days before my trip through agoda.com. It was a last minute deal. I wanted a clean budget hotel. Just as I expected, the hotel was a decent one, clean room and clean toilet. Except the entrance to the hotel which was dusty just like any other budget hotels in India. They claimed that was because of the renovation going on. Anyway, I think that was the best hotel for that price.
The location was good too. It's about 45 minutes from the airport if the traffic is smooth. Located at NO. 10 Sudder Street, Hotel Diplomat is closed by to many shopping area. The Metro Station, the new Market, Park Street, Indian Museum, McDonald, KFC and Subway are also within walking distance. There are a lot of restaurants at Park Street. To me, McD, Kfc and Subway are important because that's where I have my daily meal most of the time in Kolkata. 
 I booked the rooms for two days online. I decided not to change room after the two days because of the clean toilet and bed room over here. I wouldn't take any risk of paying higher bill for another hotel because in India, most of the budget hotel rooms are very bad condition. So I extended for another two days. This time I negotiate for a better room rate.
In India, it's better that you book your room is advance. The best way is through online. Because the walk in price is extremely high. I scouted around for room price. Almost all hotels quoted publish price knowing that you need the room badly if you walk-in. Unless you have a big group, you can always negotiate for a better deal. And always ask for a net price because they always twist around. And during all my stay in India, these hotels never issue receipt even though they collect your money in advance. I think they either try to evade tax or they charge us more than the local price.
At Sudder Street. taxis are available the whole day because there are a lot of budget hotels and tourist around. There are a lot of taxi drivers sleeping inside their taxi too during the night time. Also, Sudder Street is the most happening place in town.

You may also want to consider a cheap holidays to turkey.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kolkata

Kolkata or Calcutta, what's the difference ? One is the new name and the later is the old name. Just like the name, I was expecting to see the two sides of the city. I didn't plan any sight seeing as I do not wish to encounter the same trouble and hustle which I experienced while I was in Delhi. What I mean is the traffic, the horrible attitude of the drivers and the strict securities at every entry point of tourist spot. They are so rude. So my 5d/4n tour is strictly street photography and shopping.  
The moment I step out from the plane, I realize there is no two sides of Kolkata. There won't be any glittering or colorful side for my photography. Everything look so old and run down. The coach which supposed to take us to the airport terminal is so old. I think it's more than 30 years old. We don't even have this kind of bus servicing at our place anymore. These buses can even overtake and honk at each other at the airport runway. I see some passengers decide to walk to the terminal on their own. And the airport building itself is old too.
I bought the taxi ticket from the counter. But as I walk through the departure hall, it was almost dark. There is no sign where to wait for the taxis. There are a lot of plain cloths and untidy men approaching me for taxis. They asked for my tickets. I couldn't identify who is the right person to approach as none of them is wearing uniforms. They past around my ticket and finally I got one. This guy can't speak English at all. I end up having difficulty locating my hotel. I booked my hotel on-line. But somehow I managed by using my phone to call the hotel directly.
I stayed at Sudder Street, the most happening place in the city. For 5 days 4 nights, these are the photos that I would like to share with. Sad but true.

Where human (a rickshaw runner) share with stray dogs sleeping along the street. Rickshaw runners are homeless people too, other than taxi drivers, street sellers, hawkers, beggars, drug addicts etc.
Kolkata - Where city never sleeps. Only the people do.

These are the 3 Ds of Kolkata. Dirt, dusty and dump site. Humankind searching at the dump site near the most crowded Market in the city. Dogs, crows and pigs can be seen too.
Building houses without toilets. People have to queue every morning for their turns to use the public toilets.
These are the brave people of Kolkata. They are construction workers without any safety precaution and wearing 'sarong' climbing up high buildings to do their work.

So much talk about corruption but who take care of these homeless people ? They are everywhere in the city. Dirt, dust, noise and all kind of pollution. They cook, bath and sleep along the road side. They don't even have the 3 basic needs of a human being which is food, clothing and shelter.

There are lots of huge buildings left by the British, but these people have to live outside the buildings make of tents.

Bathing along the walkways on the busy streets are a common sight. Water pumps are installed for the homeless instead of homes.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wada Hostel, Guilin

 I made the right move when I decided to change hostel on my way back from Yangshuo. And I wanted to try different hostel in different part of Gulin. Backstreet hostel in located downtown whereas Wada Hostel is located slightly outskirt but neared to the main bus station and the train station.  Both stations are about 600 meters away from the hostel. You can actually walk to the stations.
 The hostel provide clean and cheap dormitory beds and rooms. A single room with bathroom attached cost about RMB130.  Free WIFI, DVD room, Bar and courtyard design cafe are available serving local and western food. And opposite the hostel is the biggest Shopping Mall in Guilin. And the staffs there are friendly and speak fluent English.
 If you are keen to stay in this hostel, you may contact:

Wada Hostel,
No. 212 Huanchengxi 1 Road,
Guilin.
Tel: 86-773-2154888 / 2154999
www.wada-hostel.com
email: wadahostel@yahoo.com

 If you are traveling on a small budget or as a backpacker, I strongly recommend you to stay at this hostel. The only disadvantage is that it is slightly far from all the tourist destinations and most of all the popular Pedestrian Street of Guilin, near the Li River.



Saturday, October 8, 2011

Yangshuo - The Great Scenic Area

 In Guanxi people always say that Guilin has the most beautiful scenery of the world, and Yangshuo has the best of all. The whole place is covered with unique hills and stunning waterways. More than 20,000 hills and 16 rivers are named. Yangshuo has over 100 scenic spots, they are the Yanti scenic spot on the Li River,  scenery area of Fuli, scenery area in Gaotian, Xingping, Liu Park on the Li River and Yangshuo town itself, just to name a few. And the most popular way to visit all these places is by bicycle. Others include Motorbikes and electric public buses. You can easily rent a bicycle all along the popular West Street or from your hotel itself. Alternatively, you can also opt for cheap and all inclusive holidays here.
 During the evening, West Street is the most visited place in Yangshuo. All kind of goods and foods can be found. Local and Western food are available everywhere. Bars are also plenty. My only advice is to ask for price before you order because everyone in this town are tourists. Including shopping, bargain to your lowest price as much as 80% discounts and beware of pick-pockets.   

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Yangshuo Countryside Tour

A visit to Yangshuo would not be complete without the countryside tour.  The tour includes visiting the Yulong Village and Yulong Bridge. Also while strolling along the crystal clear river with a bamboo boat, the guests were brought to watch the Cormorant Fishing show. The scenery and landscapes are so beautiful as if seen on the painting. I'll let the pictures speak by itself. 

 
 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Li River Cruise To Xingping



 The Li River cruise is another wonderful experience for me in China. The amazing picturesque scenery makes it more interesting for a solo traveler like me. I never get bore even alone as I was too busy 'clicking' my camera. Obviously I wasn't the only one enjoying the cruise. It seems like everyone was having fun too. I strongly recommend this Bamboo cruise to anyone traveling to Guilin.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Li River Cruise

Cruising Li River is a must if you visit Guilin. You can either take the Deluxe Boat or the Bamboo Boat. The Deluxe Boat package includes the bus which  picks the tourist at about 8 am from the hotel. It takes 45 minutes by bus to reach the Zhujiang Pier. The boat will leave the pier at 9.30 am. It takes 4 hours on the boat and arrives Yangshuo  at around 1.30 pm. You will have a few hours to tour Yangshuo, depending on the water level during the cruise. At 6 pm, the bus will drives the tourist back to Guilin. This package cost RMB 480 per adult and RMB 300 for children which includes bus, boat ticket, Chinese lunch and an English speaking guide.
 During my trip, I choose the cruise by bamboo boat which is more interesting and cheaper. Our bus came to pick us up at our hostel at 10 am sharp. The group from our hostel comprises the largest group with almost all westerners except me. Then we also have a family of three Chinese from other hotel. As such our tour guide have to use English explanation followed by Chinese explanation.. After about an hour journey by bus, we arrived at Yangdi Pier. The motor bamboo boat was actually a boat made of PVC pipe.
The bamboo boat cruise along the Li River took about 2 hours from Yangdi to Xingping.  It was beautiful scenery all the way with karst hills, caves and scenic spots. The water was crystal clear too. At Xingping, the bus took us to Yangshuo, dropping us at the famous West Street. I pay RMB200 for all. And the service by the tour guide was excellent !

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Trekking Up To Longsheng Rice Terrace



The Longsheng Rice Terraces 龙胜梯田 are located in Longsheng County, about 100 km or 2 hours drive from Guilin, Guangxi, China. And it takes about 45 minutes to trek up the Longji (Dragon's Backbone) Terraced Rice Fields.The terraced fields are built along the slope winding from the riverside up to the mountain top. The terraced fields were mostly built during the Ming Dynasty, about 500 years ago.

Longji (Dragon's Backbone) Terraced Rice Fields received their name because the rice terraces resemble a dragon's scales, while the summit of the mountain range looks like the backbone of the dragon. Visitors standing on the top of the mountain can see the dragon's backbone twisting off into the distance. In an early morning, when the weather is fine, the sunrise on the summit of Longji Rice Terraces is magnificent. They are often considered most beautiful in early June. At this time, water is pumped over the rice paddies and young plants are transferred to the main terrace.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Longsheng Tour To See Da'zhai Village And Longji Terraced Field


Our six seater van came to pick us up at the hostel at 8 am sharp. It was arranged by our Hostel. The charges is RMB120 per person for the transportation and RMB 80 for the entrance fee. It takes about 2 and half hours from our hostel to the base of the Longji Terraced Field. From there, we have to walk up to the three peaks on our own.


Since there weren't much tourist to this place, I followed the Chinese group of 17 from Kwantung. They choose the signage to Xinzhai Village as they are putting a night there. This is the toughest trek among all. I didn't realize I follow the wrong route until half the journey when I asked around. It was tough as the climb was very steep all the way up.

After half an hour, I slow down and let those group to go ahead leaving me behind on my own sweet time. I took the opportunity to relax and enjoy the scenery and photography. When I was inform by a local guy who was walking up the same peak as I am, that I wasn't even half the journey, I make up my mind to make a U-turn. I came unprepared and it was too tiring for me. It was a shame of me.













With so much extra time, I took the opportunity to visit the house of the hill tribes and had a chat with them in order to understand their daily chores and cultures. I also take the opportunity to practice my Mandarin with the local tribes along the way. Those local sellers were friendly indeed.

We were supposed to meet up at 4 pm as arranged earlier with the driver for the return trip but I end up waiting at the based at about 1 pm. So I slept until the rest of the group arrived. Perhaps I will try visiting this place again on my next trip to Guilin !!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Guilin 桂林




Guilin  桂林 which is in the northeast of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of far Southern China sit on the west bank of the Li River. Its got it's name which means "forest of Osmanthus flowers", owing to the large number of  Sweet fragrant Osmanthus trees located in the city during the ancient time. The city has been renowned for its unique scenery.

Guilin has enjoyed the reputation of having the most fantastic natural landscapes not only in China but also abroad. Its dreamy natural scenery and unique ancient architecture from the Qin and Ming Dynasties astound visitors from home and abroad. Visiting Guilin and discovering its natural wonders, such as its magical green pinnacles, crystal-clear water, picturesque rocks and intriguing caves, can provide a never-ending journey for every visitor. Now is the prime time to travel to Guilin and experience this charming and historic city in all its splendor.

Guilin is not only a perfect place for living, but also an extraordinary, eco- friendly tour destination.

With a total population of 4,951,100 in the city and surrounding areas, Guilin is currently home to 12 ethnic nationalities. 8.5% of the population is made up of 11 minority nationalities including Zhuang, Hui, Yao and Dong etc..

Guilin covers an area of 27,809 square km and has 5 districts (Diecai, Qixing, Xiufeng, Xiangshan, Yanshan) and 12 counties (Yangshuo, Lingui, Lingchuan, Xing’an, Quanzhou, Ziyuan, Longsheng, Yongfu, Lipu, Gongcheng, Pingle and Guanyang).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Guilin Backstreet Youth Hostel


Take the shuttle bus from the airport to the second (last) bus stop. Than, walk along the Li River or take a taxi which cost 9 yuan instead. The hostel is easily recognize as it is opposite Sheraton Hotel and within the Pedestrian Street. In fact Backstreet Youth Hostel is in the city by itself where every tourist spot is within walking distance including eating, shopping and bars. Local and western food are easily accessible. As for me, I prefer to look for fast food chain such as Pizza Hut, KFC or McD before I adjust to Chinese food and they are all available within walking distance from my hostel.
For those who are interested, here's the contact:

桂林后街国际青年旅馆
地址:桂林市人民路3号(喜来登大饭店隔壁),
电话:0773-2819936,2827116
or
Guilin Backstreet Youth Hostel 
Guilin Backstreet Youth Hostel,
3, Renmin Lu.
Guilin,
China
Tel: 0773-2819936 / 2827116
e-mail: guilinhostel@hotmail.com

Most of the travelers especially westerners who share common interest stay at this Hostel. The staffs speak fluent English and are helpful. You can get all the information you need from the staffs here or from other travelers. They have single rooms, double rooms and even dorm beds. I pay RMB120 for a single room.
The famous Elephant Hill and Shanhu Lake are within walking distance. But what I enjoy most is walking along the Li River as most of the local activities are along the river bank. The Chinese like to exercises, relax and chatting along the river especially during the evening. The elderly meet up for a chat, play cards, practicing Kung Fu, Tai Chi or even playing some musical instruments. There are also plenty spots for a swim and fishing. I stayed at this hostel for the first two nights before proceeding to Yangshuo.