5 days itinerary of Shantou, Chaozhou and Meizhou

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.

Air-conditioned and hygienic
The signature dish, braised pork (隆江猪手). Marinated through and through and so delicious.
Raw crabs. Rich and creamy.
Large chunks of goose liver
The porridge is thicker than the Singapore version and it is better. Superior rice grains for sure.
Vegetables are always served in huge portions in China, and always very fresh
Pu Ning (普宁) bean curd. Deep fried and tastes very good when taken with the accompanying chives dipping.
The restaurant is huge, but you should still be there early to avoid queuing

After dinner, we took a long stroll towards Xiao Wu rice rolls (小吴肠粉), stopping by Suning mall along the way.

Opens 7+ pm to 4am
Some people are out off by the shirtless chefs
The pork, seafood and eggs is the more popular option and it is loaded with fillings
Seems quite easily put together but very tasty

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.

Hidden in a small alley but well marked
It is different from the Hokkien style dumplings we are used to. It is mostly savoury but also has red bean paste embedded, and served with sauce. Tastes good.
Besides dumplings they sell a few other items
Just around the corner, Aixi noodles
It is similar to the Fuzhou noodles but with much less Tahini. You can also choose Kway Teow.
Comes with soup as a set
What the old city looks like and it is in Chinese baroque style
Restoration underway and I think they may have gone a little too far in the “correction” done
I hope they retain the present looks. I even prefer retaining the plants growing on the roof
The center of old city, cslled little garden (小公园)
Iconic octogonal windoes

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.

Beef is a specialty of Shantou and Chaozhou
The beef ball was very springy and juicy
The original outlet, and they have outlets all over Shantou
There is a sense of serenity around here
Another age old store near the center specializing in all types of Kueh (粿)
No room for these
Quite a wide variety
The old buildings look sturdy and well ornamented
This is called almond and sesame tea, though it is obviously not tea. A little too starchy but delicious nevertheless.
Quite a few shops selling this but this one is one of the oldest, and it is air-conditioned!
Before dinner, we had a go at this dessert place famous for bean curd
On the left, cylinder shaped Tangyuan (glutinous rice dumplings) with filling that is called 鸭母捻, and bean curd on the right. There is a sticky feel to the bean curd and it is quite special.
The seaside corridor near People’s park
Shantou is full of seafood stalls called Da Pai Dang, and Cai Ji is a well known one that has been upgraded into a restaurant.
A small fish that is said to be popular in Shantou
A very interesting signature dish at Cai Ji, pumpkin in coconut milk. Also has yam cubes. It is like Bo Bo Cha Cha.
So good we finished it despite being very full

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.

Grabbed some Kueh before leaving Shantou. The chives and green bean ones are savoury while the dark red one is red bean.
Paifang street, the successful tourist magnet that all the neighbouring cities are trying to emulate
The traditional businesses, like this noodle shop, on Paifang street are slowly taken over by new enterprises.
Hanshanglou (韩上楼) is the biggest dim sum place in Chaozhou
The harkao is good. Overall, don’t expect Hong Kong kind of standard here. Price is reasonable.
The alleys around this old city area is fun to explore
Old city gate that is wide enough for a car to pass through
Ghangji bridge is beautiful and functional at the same time
Supposedly an ancient bridge but it is completely newly designed
The section of the bridge that is made up of boats
The boats are removed every day at 5pm
Ghangji gate, the old city gate
Huliangquan is a century old snack place along Paifang street
Popiah is called 春饼. They also sell other Teochew specialties like fermented beans biscuits.
Traditional way of making Popiah skin
The Popiah filling is green beans. May not work for everyone but I do like green beans.
This was totally unplanned for but the billboard grabbed my attention. Braised goose. Just around the corner from Hurongquan, built into the new East Sea Hotel that is still under renovation.
This was very good! And cheap too (80 Yuan)
The restoration effort is slowly progressing into all the alleys of the old city
Good thing they are preserving this ornamented wall
The streets are quite neat and they remind me of Japan
The old houses definitely look better than the modern ones
Fruit juice shops like this one is all over Chaozhou and Shantou
The fresh fruits are sprinkled with 甘草 which is a type of herb. You can choose to eat the fruits as is or blend them into juice. They add a lot of sugar to the blended drink so you might want to tell them to hold back on the sugar.
Another Chaozhou specialty, fish dumplings
They serve soup in the evening
You can taste the fish in the fish ball. A meaty feel which I like rather than the bouncy and starchy fish balls that’s been “improvised” to save cost.
Final food item to check off the list for the day – oyster omelette
Very thin and crispy. Thumbs up. I would say this is better than the ones in Singapore and Taiwan which are more starchy.
Even the locals come and walk about Paifang street at night. The shops stay open till around 10.

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.

Kway Chap for breakfast inside the courtyard of an old house.
This was truly tasty. The rice starch was thick and smooth.
The surrounding will keep you occupied before your food is served

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.

Headed for a Hakka meal right away. Food from a factory assembly line restaurant like this one is so-so as expected.
The Hakka noodles here (腌面) is said to be among the top ten in Meizhou (a commercially motivated listing so take it with a pinch of salt), but it was bland. The texture was good though. If you didn’t know, 腌面 is THE Hakka dish.
Abacus seeds (算盘子). It is more chewy than the ones we are accustomed to in Malaysia and Singapore. You can see that it looks translucent.

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.

Youluo street (油罗街) is the logical place to start the food tour of old town. It’s tragic that they destroyed the original facade of the old town and installed a completely homogeneous and uninspiring new facade. No soul. They got it all wrong here in Meizhou, unlike Shantou and Chaozhou.
The name of the street comes from the trade of selling fried snack items. Fried balls of pumpkin and yam being prepared.
A snack that would be familiar to Malaysians – Gaizaipeng.
Came to this little eatery by chance and the food was delicious
炒粄皮 is like Kway Teow, just slightly thicker. Full of Wok Hey.
This was the best 腌面. Texture and taste were superb. It’s true, as they say, that the best 腌面 is found in the little shops in the little alleys littered around Meizhou.
三及第汤 which is a combination of pork, liver and intestines.
Thick layer of oil and pork lard for the noodles
What the old town really looks like
Hidden in this quiet alley is a specialty glutinous rice balls shop Rongji 荣记
38 years selling just glutinous rice balls, amazing
The soup has pomelo skin
Not like any glutinous rice balls I have ever tasted. Super smooth and has a special caramel sweetness. The plain ones were actually the best.
Meizhou is quickly destroying all things they deem old and ugly
This corner of the old town is full of Clay pot rice restaurants
So fragrant you don’t need a lot of meat go with the rice
Donghu street is slated to undergo the “upgrading”, a pity
Already so full after all the food but must eat here
Take your pick, chair or bench seating
Got to try 梅菜扣肉 (pork belly with pickled vegetables), arguably the most famous Hakka dish
Huge plate of steamed fish belly. I really love Hakka steamed fish. It does not have much gravy like Hong Kong style steamed fish. The two dishes came up to only 56 Yuan, unbelievable!
Took a stroll towards the Hakka museum after lunch and came across this algae filled pond.
Traditional house
Pond adds aesthetics
Renjinglu, the former residence of Wang Zunxian
Once a consul general to Singapore, and later he represented the Chinese in San Francisco
The museum has many well presented exhibits like this fire dragon
The link bridge to the Hakka museum
The museum is very well put together
Model of a 围龙屋
Malaysians will be familiar with this figure
Singaporeans will know him
Figurine that captures a heartbreaking moment so well
1Q84 takes their coffee seriously. A good place to chill after the museum visit.
The typical look of a cafe in this region
Having seen a 围龙屋 in the museum, I chanced upon information about a restaurant housed in a 围龙屋 and promptly decided to go there. 万秋楼 is undergoing extensive restoration but was still open.
It was a mansion of a rich man, and does not look anything like the model shown in the museum
Dining in the courtyard
Had to try this dish 娘酒鸡. The chicken was too tough. The sweet gravy takes a bit of getting used to but is good.

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.

Meizhou neighborhood is abuzz with people shopping for groceries
Wuhua (五华) is most well known for Yong Tau Fu (stuffed bean curd) and I had to try them. This restaurant sandwiched between the other two supposedly does not “slaughter” customers, though I’m not so sure if that were true in the end. Prices were reasonable I think.
Bean curd wrap
Yong Tau Fu made with fresh bean curd, done in the most original style. Honestly speaking, I was too full from breakfast to be able to tell if it was really good.
Hakka style steamed fish. Had to have it one last time.

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.

Caught a glimpse of an old village near the airport from the bus. There are quite a few.
孙畔村 is the village nearest to the airport. Looks deserted. People are slowly moving out of these dwellings to modern ones.
Picture perfect. Authentic, unlike the famous mural in Penang.
Finally managed to try Chwee Kueh at the airport. Did not get to try them while at Chaozhou because the shops selling them don’t open early in the morning.
The Chwee Kueh is not as good as the ones in Singapore. These were tougher, much more oily and salty.

Not your usual Taiwan itinerary (Part 3)

Day 7 – I booked the Wang Gong clams picking tour (王功採蚵車摸蛤生態之旅) nearly two months ahead to ensure i got a place. You can do so via Facebook messenger, which was how i contacted them. Otherwise, you can also sign up for an adhoc tour at some of the restaurants in town, or, you could just walk to the beach area and DIY.

Riding the “Mad Max” vehicle is a major part of the fun. Cigarette-wielding badass-looking chauffeur, check.

Continue reading Not your usual Taiwan itinerary (Part 3)

Not your usual Taiwan itinerary (Part 2)

Day 4 – South bound. Main attraction of the day – Brown Boulevard, named so after the advertisement shot here. Win.

The eastern coast enroute to Taitung is quite scenic

Continue reading Not your usual Taiwan itinerary (Part 2)

Not your usual Taiwan itinerary (Part 1)

This is my third time to Taiwan in ten years. I have been to all the major tourist attractions, save for Taroko Gorge. Nevertheless, I managed to put together a 9 days itinerary that worked well.

Our trip began with sampling the beef noodles at Ling Dong Fang. At 9pm, there was still a queue. Waiting time was 20 minutes or so.

The new outlet has a nice facade

Continue reading Not your usual Taiwan itinerary (Part 1)

Europe one month itinerary

The highest concentration of nations is found in none other than Europe, which means you can experience the highest diversity of culture in the shortest time here. Europe also offers much in terms of places of historical significance, natural landscape, food, shopping and more, which is why you keep having to go back.

There are millions of permutations when planning for a Europe itinerary. Here’s how I am going to do it this time:

Days 1 to 8

Villa d’Este http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1025

Italy. I have been to Rome twice, yet there are many places near Rome I have not visited, such as Necropoli della Banditaccia (UNESCO heritage site) and Civita Di Bagnoregio. No trip to Italy is complete without a visit to The Mall, the famed luxury goods outlet centre. This would be my fourth time there. Continue reading Europe one month itinerary

Hokkaido 9 days itinerary

It took 3 days to work out this itinerary and book all the hotels, so you could say a trip to Hokkaido is actually not difficult to plan for. I do still need to work out details like where to go for meals, finding exact view points to see, as well as to book a rental car (that will be another blog post), but once the accomodation reservations are done, the rest are less worrying.

All my itineraries are planned with the same basic assumption – that i will never visit there again. This itinerary covers all attractions that are significant in Hokkaido, including places that seem less attractive, like Hakodate. I guess everyone has different preferences and pacing when it comes to how they do a trip, and few people will do it like i do. Nevertheless, i believe i have tips to share that may be useful for reference and consideration.

My trip happens in mid June, and unfortunately, the timeframe is in between the Pink Moss and the Lavendar bloom. Some people might be going to Hokkaido specifically for these. If so, to catch the Pink Moss, you need to be there mid to late May, and for Lavendar, mid to late July. Continue reading Hokkaido 9 days itinerary

Krabi and Phuket 4 days itinerary

I grabbed cheap tickets to Krabi, at S$60 per person, from more than a year ago, and it’s time for me to work out the details of the itinerary. I guess few would do this – visit both Krabi and Phuket in the same trip. In fact, i suspect very few know that Krabi and Phuket are only 3 hours apart by car.

There are slight differences to the kinds of attractions you find at Krabi vs Phuket. Besides islands and beaches which are common to both Krabi and Phuket, there are also on-land attractions such as hot spring, waterfall, lakes and mangrove in the region around Krabi. On the other hand, Phuket is far more developed and has more hospitality offerings as well as city vibe.

My initial plan was to just stay around Krabi, but i actually found it hard to fill 4 days worth of activities. Granted, i have two very young kids travelling with me, and safe for taking the long tail boat, we will not be able to be engaged in most of the water-based activities (e.g. kayaking) that are popular around here. So I thought, why not kill two birds with one stone. I probably won’t need to visit Phuket again.

Here’s what i have worked out for my trip:

Continue reading Krabi and Phuket 4 days itinerary

Pearl River Delta 5 days itinerary

Chikanzhen (https://postcardsfrombeijing.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/guangzhou-part-1-chikanzhen-and-kaiping/)

So, i picked up cheap flight tickets to Hong Kong. It cost a total of S$533 for 2 adults and 2 kids plus one piece of check-in luggage, which works out to be S$130 per person, in case you’re wondering. These are the cheapest tickets i have gotten for Hong Kong, ever. My last trip there was 2 years ago, and it was mostly a food trip. This would be my 6th time to Hong Kong. You can probably imagine that there’s almost nothing left for me to discover there. To make the trip more worthwhile, i decided i had to expand my exploration to places in the Pearl River Delta region. Continue reading Pearl River Delta 5 days itinerary

Jakarta 3.5 days itinerary

Situ Gunung (http://www.unmotivating.com/situ-gunung-park-indonesia%EF%BB%BF/)

Indonesia remains one of our favourite destinations for a short escape, and this time, we decided to fly to Jakarta. The last time we were in Jakarta was more than 5 years ago, and having spent only half a day in town in the wrong places (Ancol and Gandaria City Mall), i can’t say i have actually been to Jakarta.

Because we booked the flights rather late (less than 7 weeks away), budget flights were not budget friendly at all (it normally cost S$80 or less), and i ended up getting a flight on Malaysia Airlines for S$93 from CheapTickets. It does mean i have to transit in KL, adding 2.5 hours to the overall travel time, but i still feel better, paying more or less what a budget flight would have cost, but getting a non-budget flight instead. I’m rather impressed with CheapTickets by the way, as i’ve managed to book flights through them, more than once, for which i was prevented from completing the booking process on the official carrier websites, due to strange constraints or bugs on those websites. Continue reading Jakarta 3.5 days itinerary

Kyushu 8.5 days itinerary

Shiratani Unsuikyo (www.japan-guide.com)

This is the second leg of my 3 weeks holiday happening in May. Fukuoka is a mere 50 minutes’ flight from Busan, which is why I am combining a trip to Korea with a tour of Kyushu, southern Japan. Actually, the more important reason is that the open jaw flight (Singapore – Seoul, Fukuoka – Singapore) was being offered at the same promotional price by Vietnam Airlines (S$450) as booking a return flight. The downside to travelling on Vietnam Airlines is having to transit in Vietnam, which stretches 5 hours on my way to Seoul, but for the return flight, i specifically chose the longest transit time available – 21 hours, so i’ll have the chance to check out Hanoi. I’ll definitely do the overnight transit in Vietnam again if i fly with Vietnam Airlines in the future, for the food.

8.5 days probably sounds like a very short time to most people for going around Kyushu, and within this time frame, i’m actually going to cover Yakushima as well (pictured above), an island south of Kyushu (35 minutes flight time or almost 3 hours by ferry from Kagoshima). It is one among the most highly rated attractions in all of Japan (a UNESCO World Heritage Site, no less), so i’m making it a point to get there despite the trouble. Kyushu is relatively small compared to Korea and Honshu, so the distances are more manageable. I’m choosing to fly from Yakushima directly to Fukuoka, which saves me more than half a day if i travelled on land instead, and i think it is worthwhile despite the slightly higher cost. By the way, only Japan Airlines operates flights to/from Yakushima, and there is hardly any discount on the fare for such an exclusive destination, but you should do advanced reservations/purchase of the tickets anyway (more than 75 days ahead) to secure the lowest possible fare. Continue reading Kyushu 8.5 days itinerary