The land of our ancestors.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

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The sun set early in the country of light drizzles, fog, and ancient history. It was barely five but headlights of cars broke through the dimness of night, reflecting against the wet roads. With closed eyes and a warm enough sweater, it was easy to picture being amongst those of PE5, with Mandarin permeating the air and confusion clouding my banana mind, but open eyes revealed Chinese signboards, drivers on the wrong side of the road, fog as far as the eyes could see, and most repugnantly, spit stains on the ground, which served as clear reminders that we weren't in Malaysia anymore.

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Day 1 of our trip to winter-time-China proved to be cold and dreary yet beautiful with their raindrops on naked trees and small maple leaves juxtaposed against colourful neon lights of the city.




With my family, conventionality is out of the question and our Khoo adventure began this time around with a private family tour by none other than non-English-speaking tour guides.

"It would be fine, they said. The Chinese would understand English, they said."


You would think that the language barrier would be the biggest issue.. But in one day alone, we survived a closed airport counter (late by 3 minutes!), were almost lead away by the wrong tour guide (this was later resolved with our garbled Mandarin & help from our actual tour guide), and two con jobs by our guides (sort of..) which taught us that:
A) China is a scary place;
B) Never go on private tours again.

The first of these two happened at the tea farm. As we know, it's compulsory for foreigners to be brought to tea and silk factories in China.



Warm tea was such a welcome respite from the cold that we happily gulped it down.. UP TILL THE POINT THAT IT WAS TIME TO BUY SOMETHING.

Boom!! - the Chinese vultures attacked. "You HAVE to buy 3 bags of tea," our guide insisted. "The government has a quota for all tour groups". Of course they couldn't force us to buy la but it was hard selling to the extreme. It was just.. Tension. The previously nice tea selling lady's face was black as night and our tour guide (obviously commission-hunting) was being super insistent (and annoying!!!!!!)

This has never happened before because when we travelled to China previously, it would be in a large group whereby someone would have certainly bought something. At that point I was ready to stand up and ask if they would hold us down if we refused to buy! It was so aggravating. GAH.

But my parents, being the mature individuals they were, decided to pick their battles and let this slide because of the remaining four days we had left with him. They kept the smile on their faces, bought more tea concentrate instead (to the disgusting pleasure of the horrible tea selling lady) and all was done.


Most tours provide the option of additional shows or visits for an added fee. Having woken up at 5am, we weren't exactly in the mood for the show that night which was exorbitantly priced at 300 Renmenbi per person anyway. So, my mom told the driver that we weren't going for the tour.

And the vultures attacked once again. "We already booked the tickets." "I thought you wanted to go." "Didn't you already say yes?" "Everyone wants to go."


Right after the tea room incident, we weren't exactly in the best of moods to be dealing with such Chinaman-ness but weren't sure what else we could do so we asked the price. Seeing our faces which really weren't very happy as opposed to the afternoon, our driver immediately said, "180 Renmenbi."

This was close to HALF the initial price he gave us. Imagined if we hadn't kicked up a fuss. He would've probably pocketed more than ¥120x6 for himself. I know the whole country operates on commission, but seriously?? It hadn't even been 24 hours and yet we got "conned" twice. -.-

It was lucky (for him and for us) that the show really was brilliant and while didn't ease the sting of the con job, didn't feel like a waste of money either.



But hey, they may have grouchy waitresses and a tendency to exploit their tourists (but to be fair, where doesn't?), but when it comes to their performances, they sure get it right.

The rest of the days flew by in a blur of Mandarin, food, and culture, with ever-present conning all around.

We were treated to watermelon slices…


CHINA style!


With me heading off to the UK next year, and my sister to the US, us Khoo siblings realized that due to the holiday differences and distance, the trip would probably be one of the last few we would have as a whole family in a long while.

We hugged each other..


We annoyed each other..


And we jumped with each other..



That came with a fair share of violence as well though..


Poor Dom.. 

The last few days of our trip brought us to Shanghai which was a stark contrast against the wooden houses of old with its towering skyscrapers which stretched up way into the clouds.


Namely, the Shanghai World Financial Centre.


This picture is more me than the tower but meh, you can see something there at the bottom left. Smile with tongue out 


We were in a lift that went up 8m per second, causing ears to pop and grandmothers to be frightened.


But we came down safely it was all good. Open-mouthed smile 

At night, Shanghai had even more to offer in the form of its glittering city lights.





A rainbow bridge!

Being in China in neat little hotel rooms by night..


And a dose of culture by day..


.. wasn’t the easiest holiday. Everything was in Mandarin and for a banana like me, understanding the history was difficult and watching the news was exhausting. Coupled with the fact that my severe dust allergy and China’s ridiculous pollution levels has practically made me allergic to the country itself, my third time in China (WHY DO PARENTS LOVE THIS PLACE SO MUCH) just makes me even more grateful for having been born in a country like Malaysia, away from earthquakes, four seasons, and with languages I understand.

I want to learn Mandarin.. Very desperately and resolve to do so at a less busy time in my life. For now, I will leave my understanding of China to rough translations from my mother and research on Wikipedia. After all, a country like China is overflowing with trivia and information independent to China alone.

Because really, where else in the world can we find a pink Spongebob?

4 comments on "The land of our ancestors."
  1. haha the pink spongebob caught my eyes!

    ohh,i noticed that,most of chinese can't speak mandarin now.

    1. I found it funny when I saw it there! Aha and I wish I had learnt as a child.. I guess people value English over other languages nowadays. >.<

  2. HAPPY NEW YEAR TIFF!! Been a really really long time! I have heard lots of scam stories in China and that's why... i never go on tours, period. HAHA It's best if you really know a local in the city or a friend's friend (good thing Uncle lived in Shanghai when we went there, he's now ing Sheng zhen). Really hard if it's by yourself especially in a place like China. It's really a scary place. No offense also to my ancestors. XD

    Just curious, did you study Mandarin in your previous schools before? I being Chinese was enrolled in Chinese schools (except college of course) since kindergarten XD I come to appreciate my Mandarin-speaking-writing-reading skills only later in life. HATED it before. HATED IT.

    Man Shanghai in winter looks so different! I kinda miss that place... despite the grumpiness of people. Did you meet the really aggressive salesladies there? haha!

    2013 is gonna be AWESOME for ya! I can't believe you'll be studying in UK soon! Which school?

    Someday I'm gonna make a post and say "off to my flat in London/UK!" HAHAHA! Someday XD

    Have a blessed 2013!

    1. Hahah Tiff! We go on tours because it's convenient when we don't know the language and we also get to see those tourist spots, but it would of course be ideal if we know people around. Thus, if I ever drop by Phillipines... :P

      Haha and yes, I did study Mandarin! I was just.. really bad. I have basic communication skills, and really really basic reading and writing skills, but they pretty much declined after I dropped the subject at 16. :(

      Ahha and I've always been to China in winter! I wonder how it's like in summer. And yes, definitely scary! Don't touch anything if you don't want to buy anything. >.< *runs away*

      As for UK, I'm not sure about my school yet because I'm still waiting for my university offers, but I know that's the country I'm heading for around September?

      Ahahah and I hope your someday comes true! Heh, have a great 2013! :)


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