So the time has finally come for us to say our goodbyes to our stay here in China. Looking back, I will greatly miss this place. The Zhe Jiang University hostel was like my second home, and I felt more at home there then even my SUTD hostel. The memories forged from the late nights in our rooms playing board games and mahjong will always remain close to my heart. The feeling you get when a message from Taobao arrives saying you have a parcel ready for collection just a minute walk away from our hostel is exactly how a kid feels when he discovers presents await him on Christmas Day, a simple yet blissful one.
The travels here in China was probably the best I have ever had, and its all thanks to the cultural immersion experience that DATE was able to provide. I would have never used any chinese apps such as C-trip or 点评 to plan for my itinerary, and the whole experience will not have been complete without the use of Alipay and Wechat to make payment.
Tips for those reading blog posts for tips, take sleeper trains for longer distance rides if you have the time to spare. Its much cheaper than high speed trains or planes, and its something with experiencing!
China is massive, so where to choose to go? Lucky for you, I have a few good places to recommend, continue reading to know more!
So you are here in DATE 2020, and you wanna go for weekend getaway trips, not more than 2 or 3 days. Where to go? ShangHai is one option, beautiful city landscape but the thing that I enjoyed the most was 欢乐谷, an amusement park HALF the price of ShangHai Disneyland. I can’t speak for Disneyland as I didn’t manage to go, but 欢乐谷 is an absolute must go if you love amusement park rides, ESPECIALLY THRILLER ONES!
Looking for something more scenic? Look no further than 黄山. Once you have been to 黄山, there really isn’t any mountain that is going to make you go “WOW” as much. (looking at you 张家界) Go for two days, staying in a tent up there will only set you back by at most 100 yuan per tent (big ones fit up to 3 or 4), instead of taking the pricey hotels that costs a whooping 1500 yuan per room! Be sure to catch both sunrise and sunset, and be there earlier to beat the crowd! The nightsky is just as pretty, with abundant stars lighting up the sky along the bright moon. TIP: bring jackets and long pants, the weather there at night is crazy cold (16 deg) and we were totally unprepared for it!
Getting tired of seeing mountains? Legs feeling sore from all that climbing? Then head over to 千岛湖, a man-made lake that spans over 500km square. Its a marvel that it was just a valley just less than a centuary ago, and how China managed to flood a valley near the size of Singapore I will never know, but its the perfect getaway place with countless of activities! My personal favorite was renting bikes and exploring around. Seeing the whole lake is not for the faint hearted, as cycling around the perimeter is a shocking 200km! We cycled for 2 days and managed to cover about 30km worth, and that was good enough for us. Fishing was another activity I enjoyed. Though we didn’t manage to catch anything, it was fun, and took alot more effort than I thought it would.
Alright, so we reached the point where these short trips just don’t cut it. Where to go during the long recess week? For our group, we went to 4 cities over the span of 12 days, travelling over 1800km! We started by making a day trip to 上海 for an amazing day at 欢乐谷, after which we took a flight (about 300 yuan), to 桂林, where we spent almost 4 days there. Initially, we had planned for a trip to 阳朔 as well, just an hour train ride away. But unluckily for us, there was a huge downpour that lasted for 2 days, causing the area we were planning to stay at 阳朔 to be flooded, reaching a depth of 2.6m! We ended up cancelling our trip there, and I still regret not visiting 阳朔 🙁 桂林 was my favorite city for this trip, with a good mix of city and nature.
Next stop was 张家界, and for me that trip was a rollercoaster of emotions. BIG tip, completely ignore everyone that approaches you that tries to sell you stuff or offer you tour services. We thought we were smart enough, calculative enough to avoid being scammed. But we still got scammed into following a 2 day tour, and not only did it cost a lot more than it should (1000 yuan per person), but it made the rest of the trip in 张家界 a lot less enjoyable. Scenery-wise, I think 张家界 has a lot to offer, but 黄山 still takes the king spot for best mountain views.
Last but not least, we headed over to 成都 for the last 4 days. For those who can eat spicy, think again. 麻辣火锅 here is not for the faint hearted. Even the best of us could not handle the sheer spice and 麻 of the SiChuan peppercorns here, even with the smallest chilli level (微辣). Prepare for your anuses to burn as all food here, even if not stated spicy, is cooked with SiChuan peppercorn. Overall it was still a great time spent there, with the sickest nightlife district I have ever seen. Rows and rows of bars with live music, ranging from all out rock bands to chill acoustic sessions, litter the streets, and competition is tight here, so deals are often of the charts, with very affordable prices!
All in all, China has countless things to offer, even with 4 months, you will never explore all of it. So treasure your time there, and not only work hard, but play harder! I feel that China is definitely worth visiting once again in the future, and my impressions of China has changed tremendously since I started DATE.