Sunday, April 26, 2009

Xijiang Village: enroute to commercialization

A few months back, an email was circulating around with beautiful photos of Xijiang ethnic minority Miao village of Guizhou province and Fenghuang Old Town of Hunan province, both in China. A month ago, I visited Xijiang. It is the largest Miao village of China - more photos are in my Facebook album, link here:

Below are the 4 photos from that email (taken by a professional photographer with a superior camera!) and those that I took. It's obvious the village is undergoing changes in the name of tourism (read my observations below). Looks like it's going the way of many tourist attractions in China, becoming a touristy place with a steep entrance fee and glitzy commercialization. So go visit it ASAP... the earlier the better...

Xijiang village can be reached in about 45min from Kaili city via a new road. Previously, you had to go via Leishan town, a journey of maybe 2 hours. The public bus station at the end of the village is still there but a new parking lot for tourist buses has been built at the opposite end, together with a ticketing booth.

Xijiang village has already started charging an entrance fee since April 1. Officially it's RMB 100 per person but at that time it was RMB 60 trial period price. Well at least for the money paid, I had a pretty Miao girl serving me a welcome drink of rice wine.

(Above) This is the original village square with a Miao spiritual pole.
(Below) The new square is much, much bigger and built to stage cultural performances for future bus loads of tourists.

(Above) The original main street of the village with buildings on both sides.
(Below) New shoplots, still unoccupied, fronting the new main street. This street runs parallel to the river and links to the new village square.
I do notice that some concrete buildings in the earlier photos have been replaced with wooden ones (or maybe painted dark brown in a colour-matching exercise!), giving the village a more homogenous and pleasant look.

New bridges constructed adds to the atmosphere of the village .

The village is lit up at night.

Monday, April 20, 2009

June 17-21 Nha Trang, Mui Ne & Ho Chi Minh City tour

A little "promo" here for my coming June 17-21 group tour to Nha Trang, Mui Ne & Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Air Asia return KL-Ho Chi Minh City still cheap (as of today Apr 20) at only RM 331 /person !

For details, visit
To sign up, write to me or ring me up 6016-210 6951.
See you soon !!

*Photos above are either sent to me by my Vietnam tour operator or sourced from cyberspace.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Soy Milk & 'Oily Pieces'

Finally back in KL after tour leading our tour group in Guilin and its surroundings for 6 days. The 6 days tour was equally as eventful as the prior 9 days spent backpacking, as Mother Nature was continuing her mood swings in Guilin. But more on this later once I have the photos ready.

One of the first things I miss once back in KL was the regular breakfast combination of hot soy milk and 'yiu tiau' (aka 'yow char kuay' in KL) while in China. In Mandarin 'yiu tiau' roughly means 'oily piece', a very literal translation for this ubiquitious deep fried dough (for the uninitiated, it's something of a Chinese version of the doughnut, shaped straight rather in an 'O') . Yes in KL, you can get 'yow char kuay' and you can get hot soy milk BUT is there any place you can get both at a single hawker stand or shop and sit down to gulp/slurp the combination down ?? I may not be up to speed with the eating spots in KL so do enlighten me from my ignorance....

To me, the combination of a comforting bowl of hot soy milk with a crunchy 'yiu tiau' is hard to beat. Do look out for the oil used to fry 'yiu tiau', if it's dark coloured or foams during frying, it means the oil has been reused too long. That's bad for flavour and bad for your health. I like my soy milk with sugar but I discovered that in China, you can have salted soy milk as an alternative. You can also have a hot soy and 'yiu tiau' sit-down breakfast in Laos and Thailand, where the latter is called 'pah-thong-koh', and shorter in length, about 3 inches.

Another unbeatable combination in Laos and Thailand is black coffee (the local one filtered through a cloth bag - called 'cafe thung') with 'pah-thong-koh'. So far, unable to find this combination in China.... tea is supreme in China!

above: my breakfast stop in Mengzi, Yunnan

above: breakfast for 3 in Jianshui, Yunnan - all this for only 7 Yuan (approx RM 3.50)

above: Pah-Thong-Koh shop proprietor in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand

above: stall at Udomxai town bus station, Laos - the stall owner is from China
Lots of Chinese businesses in this part of Laos which is close to the Chinese border

above: Pah-Thong-Koh, local black coffee, chinese tea as chaser and grilled pork
at the popular stall under the mango tree, Luang Prabang old quarter.
.... regulars to Luang Prabang will know this spot .... :-)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Drizzle & Diarrhea Disaster

I'm still in Guilin and it has been a depressing day. Firstly, it has been raining the whole day, I mean from before dawn right up to now 8.30pm ! The rain alternated between light drizzles and heavier pitter-patter. This is not the thunderstorm we get in Malaysia where volumes of water are dumped in a short span of time. No flash flood of the sort that we get in KL but definitely dampens one's spirit considerably.

Secondly, I had a bout of food poisoning (another of my traveling companions was affected too). Prime suspect is the small restaurant we went for dinner last night.... packed with locals and very reasonably priced (66 Yuan, approx RM33 for a meal for 3 persons... 1 fish dish, 1 pork spare ribs, 1 taufu dish, 1 veggie dish and rice, ..unbelievable value for money). We overlooked the unhygenic condition of the restaurant and paid the price for it.

So today was spent in the hotel room and visiting the toilet a few times.... plans for a 2D1N trip to Xingping (a old town located on beside scenic Li River) was scrapped. We are now praying for bright and sunny sky for tomorrow...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Reporting from a cyberspace dungeon in Guilin...

Once again, I'm in an internet cafe in China, this time in Guilin. As per norm in China, the internet cafes are smoked filled (ciggie smoke), dark huge dungeons lit up only by the glare flat screens. Every night, China's gamers are engrossed in their virtual world - some will continue until wee hours of the morning - they quit when they manage to extract themselves from their make believe world, while some will drop to sleep in front of their screens...

As for me, I'm here to check my Renminbi 1.50 per hour (approx 80sen), this is really the cheapest internet rate I have had the good fortune to be charged.

Just completed backpacking trip that started with an overnight train journey from Guilin (Guangxi Province) to Guiyang (capital of Guizhou Province). I and 3 intrepid companions went to the following places in succession: Guiyang, Kaili, Xijiang (Miao minority village), Rongjiang, Chejiang (Dong minority village), Congjiang, Basha (Miao minority village), Liping, Longli old town, Zhaoxing (Dong minority village - with some fantastic scenery during our morning trek up the rice terraces) and back to Guilin, Guangxi via Sanjiang town. All these in the space of time from Apr 2 - 8 and using public transportation over rural roads and mountain roads. Can't wait to be back home to sort the photos for uploading to Facebook.

Meanwhile, the adventure continues as I will be traveling on until Apr 16. Stay tuned.....

Now I shall sign out. I can't stand the ciggie smoke in this cybercafe but hey!.. at least I'm happy to learn of the by-elections results: Pakatan 2 BN 1