Firstly, I wanted to showcase photos of my kids taken with some of the transportation vehicles/vessels we rode during the trip, spanning land, sea and air. If you have a kid who’s fascinated with various modes of transportation, a trip to the Pearl River Delta can fulfill his/her dreams. You don’t need to go to Europe.
I was thrilled to find out that it was possible to travel by ferry from the airport to all the major cities in the Pearl River Delta, via Skypier. You don’t have to clear the Hong Kong immigration, nor pick up your baggage after disembarking from the plane, what convenience! It is a little expensive, but well worth the price.
The eatery nearest the ferry ticketing counter and check in gantry is 一粥面 Super Super Congee and Noodles (quite lame sounding), and the food is quite decent. If you have time after collecting your ferry ticket, this is a good place to do your meal. There is only a 7 eleven store offering snacks at the Skypier dock area.
The ferry ride was the smoothest one I have had from as far as I can remember. Those I have taken to Macau and Zhuhai previously made me nauseous. Those I have taken to Batam were equally bad.
The two ports nearest to where I was planning to visit, Kaiping, was Zhongshan and Zhuhai. I settled for Zhongshan since I have not been there before (although I did visit the Sun Yat Sen memorial). There was no official taxi stand at Zhongshan port, so you do have to haggle with the taxi drivers who tout at the entrance. We managed to reduce the initial price of 150 Yuan down to 60, which was probably still at least 20 Yuan more than if the meter was used, but anyway it was within reason.
Zhongshan is not a congested place, unlike Guangzhou, and it felt more relaxing because of that. I chose to stay near Lihe plaza for easy access to services and food. I needed to get a SIM card so I could contact the driver who will be driving us to the attractions we were going to visit. Anyway, here is what I found out about getting a SIM card in China, and this is relevant to anyone who will be visiting China.
Prepaid data SIM card in China
First of all, you need to know that there is no access to Facebook, WhatsApp and Google services in China, unless you use a foreign SIM card. If these are what you are planning to use with mobile data, then getting a local SIM card is not for you, unless you’re tech savvy enough to know how to configure and use some sort of VPN service (which are mostly not free). If you are an m1 (Singpapore Telco) customer, you can sign up for their data passport service, at S$25 per month plust S$2 activation fee. Or you can get a roaming SIM card. The advantage of the latter is, you get data for both China and Hong Kong, for about S$25 including shipping to your home in Singapore. It is a better deal if you’re going to visit both Hong Kong and other parts of China on the same trip. The other options may be relevant to your needs also. It is not stated on the website whether you get access to Facebook and such with these cards from China Unicom, but i think it is safe to presume that you do.
The most basic local SIM card (i.e. no access to Facebook etc.) costs only 50 Yuan (S$10.40). I got the card from China Unicom (from one of their “Wo” branded shops), which offers the highest compatibility with non-Chinese phones. There is a compulsory one time fee of 6 Yuan for caller number display. This leaves you with 44 Yuan of remainder credit. There is also a monthly rental fee of 6 Yuan, which is waived for 13 months. What this means is, the remainder credit is intact for 13 months. This is pretty advantageous for someone who needs to travel into China frequently, like once every few months, as the SIM card will be usable for quite some time.
The fee for using data is 1 Yuan for 500MB per day. That’s right, only 1 Yuan (S$0.21). This is only for local usage though. For example, if you bought your SIM card in Shanghai, the tariff of 1 Yuan for 500MB applies only when you are within the Shanghai region. Once you travel out of that region, the tariff becomes 0.3 Yuan per MB. This gives you only 146MB worth of data if you had 44 Yuan credit, which is still enough for a few days’ usage if you merely used messaging apps and did very light surfing. If you know you’re going to be moving about a lot, there is another SIM card costing 70 Yuan that offers better rates for cross region/province data usage.
You need a passport, an address and a phone number for the registration of the SIM card. That’s right, a phone number. How on earth are you going to have a phone number before you own a SIM card? Anyway, just provide the hotel address and phone number, they won’t be bothered. They will also take a photo for the registration. I think a non Chinese speaking person can manage this process. You can probably just hand the person manning the counter 50 Yuan, your passport and a hotel namecard.
I think the SIM cards by China Unicom are very compelling, even when the shipping fee cost more than the SIM card itself. It is likely much cheaper than the data roaming service offered by your mobile service provider.
Having settled the SIM card and calling my rental car driver, we headed to the 58th floor of Hilton Zhongshan Downtown for a little indulgence – Italian food for dinner. The mains were rather pricey, so we opted for pasta and pizza. The food was quite authentic.
We also checked out the observation deck at the 60th storey. The observation deck was very poorly designed, as the spotlights shone onto the building affects the view much.
The next morning, we headed to our first sightseeing stop, Chikanzhen (赤坎镇). It took about two hours from Zhongshan due to traffic.
There are more than 10 types of clay pot rice to choose from, and being served in per individual portion, you get to eat more than one type, and still have room for other food.
Zili village is a 10 minutes drive away from Chikanzhen. It is one among three villages being developed as tourist attractions for showcasing Diaolou (碉楼). You can actually see Diaolou all around the region, but the most characteristic ones are probably found within the three. Anyway, if you have seen one, you probably got a feel of them all.
After the hour and a half walkabout in the scenic village, we were off on a 3 hours ride to Dongguan to meet a friend. Even though this part of the trip was not for sightseeing, it was just as enlightening. I got to see the ships travelling along the Pearl river. One of these ships might be carrying your Taobao purchased goods. I also saw endless factories, the communities of migrant workers that sprang up to support the manufacturing, the environmental cost of the resultant smog, and more. Despite the jobs and wealth generated by all these activities, one wonders of the perennial question – eat to live, or live to eat?
Anyway, one of the main goals of this trip was to sample the hairy crab that my better half craves for. Guangzhou or anywhere in the Pearl River Delta is THE cheapest place one can fly to from Singapore to get hold of fresh and inexpensive hairy crab, transported from Zhejiang province. Our friend in Dongguan made the arrangement to buy the hairy crab and had them steamed in a restaurant. Although the hairy crab is also air-flown from China to Singapore, it is not anywhere as fresh as eating them in China.
To be continued..