China- Guangzhou (part 2)

April 10, 2010

China is the most populous country in the world. Expect huge crowds in popular areas like the train station. Also, it is common practice to buy train tickets in advance especially during peak season (ie. Spring Festival) but you may still buy one on the spot. Getting one from travel agencies there is also one way to make it a lot more convenient.

Guangzhou's railway station

Many were loitering by the train station's entrance

It was crowded when we got there. There were long lines to get inside the train station itself. This was the chaotic part as some people would push and shove to get to the front first. Everyone had lots of baggage so that adds to the feeling of being swallowed up by a crowd. ;) Once inside, you’ll have to look for your platform (if you can board already, there’s a huge screen showing these details) and respective coach number. People were running and I was tempted to run alongside them (excited much? ^_^) but my companion reminded me that we’re on time and that there was no need for us to run.

After we found our train, a conductor ushered us to our compartment after checking our ticket. There were 6 bunks in a compartment (ours was near the entrance of the coach) but when we rode the train, it was just us there. It was a different story on the coach’s other end. It seemed crowded or probably, they were just loud and were loitering by the aisle. My friend was admittedly disappointed with this as he was keen for me to mingle with the locals. He probably would have dragged me there if I’d let him. hehe

It took us 12 hours to get from Guangzhou to Guilin. Our tickets (for a hard sleeper) cost 215 rmb each (1rmb=7php). The train left at 6pm.

My hard sleeper

There are four common type of train tickets available:

Soft sleeper

These are private compartments which are fitted out to a higher standard. Each compartment has four bunks and a double action  door allowing separate access to the two upper and two lower bunks. Comfortable bedding and good quality pillows are provided. Each bunk is equipped with a small reading lamp. Temperature controls are installed alongside the door. Generally speaking, the facilities include a clothes rack, slippers, clothes brush, stainless steel thermos, fine porcelain teacup, a trash can and wall socket. Some of the trains may have a squat-style toilet together with a supply of toilet paper. The price is a little higher than the other kinds of seats.

Hard Sleeper

The so-called hard sleeper is generally less comfortable than the soft sleeper. The compartments are open and comprise six fixed bunks, arranged as an upper, middle and lower on either side. Basic bedding such as sheets, pillow slips, blankets and pillows are provided. The space tends to be cramped and inclined to be noisy at times. However, if you are obliged to take an overnight train trip, the hard berth is highly cost effective.

Soft Seat

There are no bunks for sleeping, just a nice, comfortable cushioned seat. The carriages are clean and roomy.

Hard Seat

This is the basic way to take a train trip, and has the lowest price. As the name implies it can be something of an ordeal, especially for a long or an overnight journey. The seat is less soft, roomy and comfortable than a soft seat. The carriages are always noisy and crowded with people, especially during peak times or the high travel season on the most popular railway routes. Usually, people holding standing-room-only tickets are arranged to stand along the aisles of hard-seat carriages. The toilets are usually unclean and cramped (only 1.2 square yards) and no toilet paper is supplied. For the adventurous or maybe just a short daytime journey this is acceptable as it is a wonderful way to experience something of the timelessness of the real China and its people.

-http://www.travelchinaguide.com/china-trains/tickets.htm

The train's aisle

During the trip, food laden carts would regularly make their rounds. You can buy noodles, drinks, fruits, etc from there. It is better though to buy your snacks before you get on the train so that you’ll save some money (a big bowl of instant noodles is around 4rmb outside, it can easily cost twice that inside the train). Also, don’t be misled by its name, hard sleepers in my opinion are a comfortable way to travel (I wasn’t cramped on my bed, the sheets were clean, lots of space!). ;)

Related Posts:

DIY: Chinese Visa Application

First time in Mainland China

Cruising the Li River

The Quaint Town of Xingping

Trekking a Karst Mountain

Arrival in Yangshuo

China – Guangzhou (part 1)

April 9, 2010

My flight for Guangzhou, my first in mainland China, left late at night. After a short almost 2 hours flight, the flight attendant  welcomed us in 3 languages upon touchdown (English, Filipino, Cantonese). I’ve now officially arrived in China!♥

But wait, how do I pronounce Guangzhou? Gwang-zoo? Gwang-zu-o? The proper way to do it is by saying “Gwang-jo” since their “zh” has a “j” sound. :)

It was chilly when I got there. At the immigration, everything’s the same save for one, they take pictures of those arriving in their country. Uh oh! I am so not photogenic! Ugh!

At the last inspection, I was pulled aside after I said it was my first time there, routine baggage inspection. It was kinda funny though because I brought ube with me to give to my host (my mom bought it in Baguio’s Good Shepherd). When the lady officer saw it, she asked me what it was. So picture a small rectangular clear container filled to the brim with a smooth surfaced, soft, violet thingy and you have no idea what it is (she tried to smell it but it has no odor). I was trying to explain that it came from a rootcrop and that we use it for desert (I wanted to cite halohalo as an example but she gave me a blank stare, time for another tactic!). I enthusiastically suggested to her to try it coz its delicious! haha She was surprised about my offer she stammered out “No, no! It’s okay. You go! Go ahead!” :D

It was chaotic when we got outside the airport. I traveled with a close friend there. He was already in China so he was waiting for me at the arrival area. Guys in suits walked up to us and tried to sell us cigarettes, local sims (they have a good deal it turns out), or usher you to one of the cabs in line. We ignored it all and got on an airport shuttle bus outside to head for the city.

TIP: To head to the city, it is cheaper to ride an airport shuttle bus found just outside the arrival area’s exit. They can cost anywhere from 8-40rmb depending on your destination. We went to Tianhe district and it cost us 20rmb each.

We were hosted by Pietro in Tianhe District on our first night.  It was nice of him to allow us into his home eventhough he was busy moving on to a new place (and with the opening of his restaurant, Amici Miei). We slept very late coz we chatted the night away. :)

Pietro's cozy living room

The view from my room :)

We had the whole day to enjoy before we board our train for Guilin that night. However, since I wasn’t exactly dressed for cold weather, I opted (though with a heavy heart) that we explore only the areas near our host’s place.

The park in front of our building

TIP: April is spring time in China BUT that doesn’t mean that it’s not cold anymore. Better be prepared and check the weather before you fly there and bring a jacket with warm lining, a pair of gloves, and scarves with you to keep you warm. Locals were wearing coats and boots while I was there!

Guangzhou on a cold, foggy morning

Inside one of Guangzhou's metro station

Before we boarded the train, we met with another host of ours, Giselle, so that I can leave my luggage with her. I wanted to travel light so I only brought my backpack along.  :)

Complete listing of the airport shuttle bus’ route and fares

Related Posts:
DIY: Chinese Visa Application

To Guilin by Train

Cruising the Li River

The Quaint Town of Xingping

Trekking a Karst Mountain

Arrival in Yangshuo

Roadtrip in Ilocos (part 2)

March 21, 2010

Our second day started out early. We’re all well rested and ready for the long day ahead.

We scrapped plans of another roadtrip and opted for a laid back morning. We’re going to go beaching and Len has the perfect place for us. Badoc Island!

It took a 10 minute drive to get us to the coastline from our host’s place. From there, we had to ride a boat. I found it scary because it was a small boat and we had no lifevest. I opted to seat inside, on the boat’s floor instead of sitting on the side.

We literally had the whole island for ourselves and the water was crystal clear it was like being in a swimming pool. The only downside was that we were stung by jellies that morning. Water was safe past 10am though. hehehe

The underwater views in our country are always a sight to behold and the place was no exception. I’m glad I brought my snorkel gear along. :)

We brought food and had an impromptu picnic there. We were very hungry from all that swimming, our food was quickly finished!

Time flies when you’re having fun. It was all too soon that we had to head back because we still have Ilocos Sur’s Vigan in our list. ;)

The only down side that I can think of when traveling with a big group was that even if your host has a lot of bathroom, it will still take ages for everyone to get freshened up! Hmph! We walked around the town while waiting for our turn to shower hehehe

After everyone’s packed up and ready to head off to our next destination, we set aside a few minutes for group pictures. :)

We had to wait for almost 30 minutes to catch a bus headed for Ilocos Sur. No worries though because we were all busy munching on delicious empanadas sold on the street. That and taking pictures of course! We had to part ways with DJ though coz he’s headed back to Pagudpud (lucky guy!).

With DJ, before he boarded the bus for Pagudpud

Vigan is Ilocos Sur’s capital. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is famed for its Spanish influenced colonial houses and cobblestone streets. A stroll in Crisologo Street is like a walk back in time. :)

Calle Crisologo

Unfortunately, we had limited time there coz it’s back to work the next morning for most of us. It was still enjoyable and is on my list of places to return to. ;)

Roadtrip in Ilocos (day 1)

Len, a good friend who hails from Badoc in Ilocos Norte, hosted me along with 18 more from the world over in her hometown for a weekend. I had so much fun! I must say that Ilocos province is one of my favorite countryside. The view of the ride is very scenic; the mountains, plains, the sea, it all kept me enchanted with the province.


March 19, 2010

Our meeting place is at RCJ bus station in Sampaloc, Manila along España by 9pm. It’s opposite Florida bus line, almost directly in front of UST. Since it was a Friday night (again), traffic was heavy so our host Len along with few other joiners were late. She sent me an sms to get everyone organized. I introduced myself to the others joining us on the trip and collected 500php from them for the bus fare! hehe We were all seated at the bus when our wonderful host arrived. :D

The bus set off a few minutes past 9pm. We had two stops over the night and I learned from Len that you can claim some noodles and biscuits at one of the stop by just showing them your bus ticket. Cool! The ride took 9hours. A bright sunny morning woke us up. :)

Initial itinerary is to cover as many spot as we possibly could given our short stay there that’s why our first day is going to be a roadtrip!

1st stop: Paoay Church a.k.a. St. Augustine Church in Paoay

Paoay Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Church is a unique combination of Gothic, Baroque and Oriental designs. Its facade reveals Gothic affinity, its gables show Chinese elements, while the niches topping the walls suggest Javanese influence (reminiscent of the famous Boroboudur Temple). Known as the “Earthquake Baroque” church in the Philippines, Paoay church was built of baked bricks, coral rocks, salbot (tree sap) and lumber, and has 24 carved massive buttresses for support. – wikiPilipinas

When we got there, a wedding was about to take place, perfect timing for taking pictures! :D

Along with students nearby practicing some dance moves for a presentation.

It really is a beautiful church. :)

2nd stop: Bahay Ti Ili (Marcos’ ancestral house) in Batac

A property owned by the Marcos family, it features their ancestral house as well as a museum filled with the late president’s memorabilia and a mausoleum which houses his waxed remains. Taking pictures within the mausoleum isn’t allowed.

3rd stop: Cape Bojeador Lighthouse a.k.a. Faro Cabo Cape Bojeador a.k.a. Burgos Lighthouse in Burgos

Considered as a cultural heritage structure, its light marks the northwesternmost part of Luzon.

The view of Cape Bojeador from the top of the lighthouse is amazing!

That’s why it is popular with tourists. ;)

4th stop: Pagudpud

The place is known for its fine white sand that’s why it’s touted as Boracay of the north. We had our late lunch here and made some time for fun in the water and on the beach.

5th stop: NorthWind Bangui Bay Project a.k.a. Bangui windmills in Bangui

The first wind farm in the country and the the biggest in Southeast Asia. It is a good example of usage of renewable energy. :)

Since it was past sunset after our stop at Bangui, we went back to our host’s place for dinner and rest. :)

There were places that we weren’t able to go to like the sand dunes and rock formations since there were just so many interesting places to visit. But that gives me another reason to go back. ;)

Considered as a cultural heritage structure.

DIY: Potipot Island Camping

shoreline of Potipot

Potipot is a tiny island off the coast of Uacon, Zambales. Potipot is so small  you can walk around it in about 30 minutes. The sands are a bit fine but I wouldn’t say it’s as fine as those in Boracay. A good place to relax and enjoy the beach, you can even do some snorkeling here.

To get there:

We rode a Victory Liner bus from Caloocan Station bound for Sta. Cruz, Zambales. It took us more or less 5 hours to get to Zambales by bus and from there a 10-15 minutes boat ride to reach this haven.

Don’t forget to:

  • Bring along stuff for your entertainment (frisbee, volleyball, a deck of cards, snorkel gear, a book) to keep boredom at bay.

do some snorkeling ;)

  • Be prepared for night time (bring a sleeping bag/tent, blanket, and a good flashlight).
  • If you are going to go camping, make sure you have enough food (for your meals and snacks to munch on too) and drinking water supply.

snacks! :D

Expenses:

island fee

  • bus fare – 436php one way (Mla-Sta.Cruz)
  • overnight fee – 200php
  • boat – 400php/boat (there were 4 of us in it)

 

Related Post:

Overnight in Potipot Island

Overnight in Potipot Island

I made a lot of friends because of my love for traveling and there will always be those whom you share a special bond with. So we (I along with 3 more friends) hatched a plan to stay overnight in an island (qualifiers included: should be reached by land travel, not crowded, chill-out place) for some bonding time.

January 23-24, 2010

Meeting time’s supposed to be at 11pm because the last trip bound for Zambales is around midnight. It was a Friday and traffic was heavy. That was why even though Abby and I left Makati (we just had to attend a dinner on that night too ^_^) around 10, we were barely able to catch the last bus. We literally had to run for it!

and we're off for Caloocan bus terminal!

That bus ride was quite memorable. It was packed! Packed enough that not finding seats wasn’t enough. There was barely room for us to stand in. I seriously thought that I will have to stand for the whole 5-hour trip! Good thing it was for only 2 hours (!). The fact that I was catching up  stories with good friends sort of made the whole thing more bearable. After a couple more hours, it seemed like we were the only ones left when the bus conductor informed us that it was our stop, Dawal.

seeking shelter at a shed one early morning

It was still dark (4:30am-ish) and very cold (for which I was happy that I brought a jacket along) when we got off the bus.  We met a man whilst walking and he asked us if we’re going to Potipot Island. Turns out that he and his wife rent out their boat to travelers as well as provide cooking utensils if you ever need some. It was then agreed upon that he’ll bring us to  the island and fetch us the next day all for 400php with a pot of rice thrown in the deal. :D

Sta. Cruz talipapa

We then proceeded to the marketplace to buy some food, drinks, firewood and we had our first meal of the day there, freshly cooked arroz caldo. Yum!

mag-agahan muna tayo! :D

I thought Potipot Island was near Anawangin and Nagsasa Cove so I was sort of expecting a landscape similar to those two (think: pine trees, streams) that’s why when I saw the island, I turned to my friends and was like “Yan na yun? The usual tropical island with coconut trees?” I blame it on the fact that they’re both in Zambales which is no reason at all come to think of it. They laughingly answered “yes” but turns out it wasn’t just your usual island whatever that means. I hate not doing my research! :)

Potipot Island

There are huts for rent in the island but we opted to camp out. First agenda then is to choose our campsite  and to set up our tents.

campsite. :)

Afterwhich, we set out to do different things. They slept while I was enjoying having the island to myself (not counting the caretakers and my sleeping companions).

The day (more specifically the afternoon) was spent swimming, hanging out, lazing around, taking pics and trying to prepare for dinner and the night. Though we weren’t the best campers and we had some boo-boos, it was loads of fun! We even had a mini bonfire and ate burnt marshallows. hehe

mmmmm

The next day was special for us as we had an agenda even before going there: We were going to clean the island! Or at least try to pick up the litters along the coast. We ended up collecting around 2 garbage bags worth of plastic and other-trash-other-people-left-behind. The island’s caretakers were grateful for our help and we were more than happy to do our small part. :)

That being done, we did some last minute swim and photo op before heading back to the mainland and to metropolitan Manila. :)

Related Post:

Potipot Island Camping

DIY: Chinese Visa application

If you want to: visit Beijing’s Forbidden City and the Great Wall, see the terracotta warriors of Xi’an,  play with the pandas in Chengdu, visit Tibet, enjoy the scenery of Guilin, or do some shopping in Guangzhou just to name a few, then China is the country to visit for you. :)

Guilin's Li River viewed on top of a karst mountain


You may download the visa application form here:

Go to:

  • World Center (2nd Flr), 330 Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenue, Makati City. Megaworld Bldg. Located in front of Mapua – Makati.  ;)

Office hours:

  • 9am-12nn but they open the embassy at 8am. There’s already a long queue by 7:30am.

Applying for a Chinese Visa is easy if you have all the requirements.

Category L

L/Tourist Visa Requirement for First-Timers (Filipinos):

  1. Passport. A photocopy of the first (bio) and last (with details of contact person in case of emergency) page. Also, passport must have blank pages and be valid for at least 6 months before expiration.
  2. Roundtrip plane ticket. If not coming back to the Philippines, must present an onward flight ticket.
  3. Hotel booking or letter of invitation (from friend or relative living in China)
  4. NBI Clearance. Original copy, valid for travel abroad.
  5. SSS ID or E-1. Photocopy. OR a static information or contributions info. May be a print out from SSS online
  6. TIN ID or ITR. Photocopy.
  7. Bank certificate. Should have at least 50k and not more than a week old. Bring the original receipt for the bank cert. To be safe, bring your bankbook too.
  8. Certificate of Employment AND a photocopy of your company ID.
  9. Accomplished visa application form (to be provided at the embassy, may be downloaded too) affixed with one passport-sized photo. Photo should be against a light background.

After submitting all the requirements, you will be given a pink slip which means you’ll be getting your visa in 4 days if you will not opt to have it rushed. Also, a single entry visa is usually given to first timers; a payment of 1400php is made on the day you’ll claim your visa/passport.

For more info Chinese visa application information:

APPLICATION FOR VISAS FOR MAINLAND OF CHINA

Hope this help guys!

(updated on January 21, 2011)

Related Posts:

First time in Mainland China

To Guilin by Train

Cruising the Li River

The Quaint Town of Xingping

Trekking a Karst Mountain

Arrival in Yangshuo