If you’re into history and food, these destinations may be of interest to you. I took advantage of a Jetstar promo and bought return tickets to Jieyang/Shantou for only $64. Here’s my itinerary:
Day 1 Jieyang airport is about half an hour from Chaozhou, an hour away from Shantou and two hours from Meizhou. You may actually start your trip from any of the three cities. For me, Shantou seems to be the logical place to start. The Jetstar flight timing is such that by the time you’re checked into your hotel, it’s almost time for dinner.
Fuyuan is the place to be for Teochew dishes.
After dinner, we took a long stroll towards Xiao Wu rice rolls (小吴肠粉), stopping by Suning mall along the way.
Day 2 The Shantou old city area is worth spending half a day to check out. Various traditional food outlets are littered throughout this area.
First stop, Laomagong (老妈宫) dumplings. It is named after the temple across the street, which is near the centre of the old city area.
To relieve the stomach from too much food, we visited the Shantou development museum, which is free admission and interesting enough. Still quite stuffed but had to proceed with lunch, at Fuhecheng (福合埕), just to check it off the list.
Day 3 There are frequent buses to Chaozhou, although it is somewhat annoying that the bus spends half an hour picking up passengers in Shantou before actually starting on the journey to Chaozhou. It is also possible to take a train to Chaozhou and the trip takes only half an hour (vs more than an hour by bus), but you may have trouble finding a taxi when you arrive! In fact, this was the biggest problem we faced when in Chaozhou. The taxis don’t go by meter and you have to haggle over the price. More importantly, you may not even be able to find a taxi when you need one!
Other than this very distasteful tourist trap of being swindled every time you need to get around, Chaozhou is a pleasant place to be, despite being very touristic.
Day 4 You could say this was the day when everything went wrong. My plan was to take a train to Meizhou. There was conflicting information on the train schedule and it turned out the 11am train I was hoping to take was no longer available since years ago. Lesson learnt: the train schedule that is actually available for booking online (via ctrip website for example) is accurate.
It’s unfortunate that Chaozhou and Meizhou are not well connected. There is only a single train trip per day at 530pm and two bus trips at 915 and 3pm respectively. The situation will be much improved when the high speed rail link is launched later this year (2019). If you’re interested to go to Meizhou, you might want to hold off your travel plans until the high speed rail is operational. It departs from the high speed rail station near Jieyang Chaoshan airport.
Anyway, I decided to catch a bus to Jieyang and transit to another bus for Meizhou. Little did I know, there was a detour from the usual 2 hours route from Jieyang to Meizhou due to road closure, and the journey became 4.5 hours! Anyway, this was still the best outcome possible, being able to arrive at Meizhou around 6pm. If I took the 3pm bus from Chaozhou or the 530pm train, I would have arrived at 8pm! It was raining the whole day anyway, and I may not have been able to do much anyway if I arrived at the planned timing 1pm.
Day 5 My original plan for the day was to visit the neighbouring small town called Songkou as well as the Nanyanfei tea plantation (雁南飞茶园) and Qiaoxi Hakka village (桥溪古韵). Instead, I moved the itinerary I had planned for the day before to the present day, and thankfully it worked even better this way.
Day 6 The plan for the day was to buy Hakka goodies and to have the final meal in Meizhou. The 1230pm bus arrived slightly ahead of the scheduled 230pm at Jieyang airport. Given we had more than 2 hours before the check-in counters open, we decided to explore the neighbouring villages. There isn’t any public transport at all, so we took a taxi to save some effort (the nearest village 孙畔村 is actually within walking distance). The fare had to be higher (20 Yuan) because the taxis usually take people into Shantou and Chaozhou instead of the nearby areas.
We knew we would arrive at the airport too early, so I did research and found out there were villages in the vicinity of the airport worth checking out.
The easiest way, and actually still relatively inexpensive way to go about this is to use a local SIM card with data roaming activated. I say it is relatively inexpensive because it cost only $8 for 1GB of data over a week if you use a Starhub prepaid card, and I think it is wise to do so. Forget about buying any other types of prepaid SIM card, or worse, renting a WiFi sharing device. M1 data passport is also very expensive ($25) in comparison.
Autumn turns out to be a good time to be in Northeastern China. The
weather is cool, and the colour of leaves in shades of red, orange and
yellow are breathtaking.
Harbin was especially mind blowing. They are obsessed about cleanliness! There is an army of cleaners tending the streets endlessly. Owing to Russian influence, the architecture is quite a bit more interesting than the generally drab ones built all over China during the 70s through 2000s.
Shenyang, in Liaoning province, is where people queue up to board transportation vehicles (and I have witnessed the same in Dalian a decade ago), something not emulated in other provinces. Their driving habits are horrendous though.
The only clue I had when searching for my grandfather’s hometown was my surname. As the Chinese proverb goes, that sounds like searching for a needle in the ocean bed, right? Fortunately, in the olden days, Chinese families, those with the same surname, stick closely together. An entire village would consist of families of the same descent. And so, just by searching using my surname, I managed to find two villages in Fuqing where people with the same surname as mine lived.
While my dad is from Fuqing, my mum is Hakka. Specifically, from Dapu 大埔. I didn’t plan for it initially, but after checking the map, i discovered that Dapu is not too far from the Tulou area. Well, afterall, the Tulou are built by the Hakkas. So, i decided to add on an itinerary to check out Dapu, even though my mum wasn’t so keen.
Dapu is located in Guangdong province, just bordering Fujian. Just so that we could do some sightseeing (because there isn’t much to see in and around Dapu, other than ancient dwellings which does not interest my mum again), i chose to visit the terraced paddy fields of Pingshan (坪山梯田).
For a long time, I had in mind to bring my father to his father’s birthplace. It finally came to pass. My grandfather came from Fuqing, Fujian. Since then, none among my relatives have gone back to visit, so nobody has an idea what the place is like. Not sure about you, but I find it intriguing to get a glimpse of how my ancestors lived.
When I chanced upon a cheap flight (S$280) to Xiamen, without second thoughts, I went ahead to book. If one keeps procrastinating, it will never happen.
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.