Accidental adventure at Zhongshan

Sunday, March 08, 2015

My first trip to Zhongshan, China was no less adventurous, at least better than what I envisioned earlier. Due to the long journey, my co-worker & I had to catch a flight a day before the workshop. Part of me dreaded the trip because the thought of seeing some of my less pleasant regional colleagues puts me off. The other half of me felt exhilarating about stepping foot on Hong Kong soil again after 18 years. How time flies...

Travelling to KLIA & boarding the plane was a breeze as there was no delay. I looked through the window & finally caught a glimpse of the A380 parked at a nearby skybridge. I just had to snap a photo of it to prove I was there saw it. Amazing, isn't it?

Our plane took off soon after, then arrived at the destination approximately 4 hours later.We were supposed to get on the ferry at the airport pier which will take us directly to Zhongshan. However, we weren't sure where to purchase the tickets & decided to ask for help from an airport staff. He directed us to pass through immigration & collect our luggage first then only proceed to the counter which sell the tickets. Boy, he was so wrong. The minute we left the terminal building, we were no longer allowed to re-enter the terminal building. To our dismay, the counters outside don't sell ferry tickets as it is only available within the terminal. Another way to get to the pier would be to take a bus downtown & walk approximately 15 mins in order to reach the pier.

We took a chance & opted to travel by road; bought coach tickets which will take us directly to our hotel, with our limited spoken Mandarin. The ticket lady rushed us over to an MPV & told us to get into the vehicle, together with other Chinese strangers. We were dumbfounded because we expected it to be a coach, or so we were told. Feeling desperate, we climbed into the MPV& the driver left the airport minutes later.

I couldn't stop myself from asking the driver where all of us are heading, just to be sure we weren't cheated & ended up getting lost. I panicked when the driver reluctantly replied that our journey stops at Shenzhen, not Zhongshan. So I gathered up courage to chat up with one of the Chinese lady sitting behind. Thankfully, she was kind enough to explain that the MPV will stop at Shenzhen bus terminal, whereby passengers will board different buses to go their separate ways. You wouldn't have imagine how relieved we were after hearing such comforting words with much assurance. God bless her!

The MPV journey took about 40 minutes to reach the Shenzhen border. Another 15-20 mins or so, we finally arrived at the bus terminal & we all parted ways from our fellow travellers. We made sure to board the right bus. This road trip took about 1 hour 30 mins & was no short of "interesting" views. While my colleague dozed off next to me, I stared out to the window & basked in horizon that whizzed by. Not that it was very scenic - the sky looked dreary with no sun & full of haze! At one point, I was freaking out silently when our bus was crossing a bridge built over a wide river at high altitude. If it wasn't the mist blurring the view, I could've peed in my pants. Imagine the bus crashing down the river from few hundred feet above...

The coach finally arrived at the 2nd last stop of another hotel before our destination. Other passengers alighted the coach & left the 2 of us. I mean, why would we leave when driver should be dropping us at the last stop. Again, we were cheated because the driver shooed us out, rudely telling Sheraton Zhongshan ain't the last stop. Flabbergasted, we wheeled our luggage to the hotel lobby & asked for help from the concierge. Sheraton is only a stone's throw & only takes less than 5 mins walk. What?! Walking in this chilly winter?! Okay, we still did since the hotel staff refused to call a taxi for us. At least she was right about the Sheraton being nearby because it is merely 2 blocks from where we came.

On a separate note, we were glad that we missed the ferry because taking the coach allowed us to arrive at Sheraton 3 hours earlier than expected. Why? We didn't have to wait for the ferry's scheduled timing which would require waiting time of 2 hours. Phew! The 2-day workshop was less eventful so I won't be elaborating on that.

On my last evening at Zhongshan, we went for some sight-seeing at downtown shopping malls. So far, the few shopping malls we went were not posh, more like neighbourhood mall equivalent in Malaysia. But oh boy, their stuff carries a hefty price tag. I don't mean luxury brands; they're brands like Levi's, Adidas & Nike. You get what I mean. Their food is not exactly cheap unless you know where to find them. Nevertheless, my first time strolling out in the street near end winter seems pretty fun. All wet & gloomy, but won't break a sweat.

Our China colleagues recommended a restaurant which serves popular seafood steamboat cum porridge. We found our way there & it was a less hygiene premise. But then again, why feel surprised when those good food haunts around Malaysia are not any better? Now here's the interesting bit, we need to pick our preferred raw seafood & veggies by weight, then the waiter will bring it to the table. Meanwhile, the waiter will pour uncooked rice with pork ribs into the wok to be steamed.

We put fish over the steamer & let it cooked based on pre-set timing by the restaurant. Once ready, we ate it & put the next seafood on the steamer without removing the still-cooking rice at the bottom. The steps are to be repeated until all the seafood or veggies you ordered are fully consumed. This cooking style is to allow the natural juices from sea produce & veggies to drip to the bottom & season the porridge well.

Trust me, we didn't need any sauce or salt to add on. As soon as the seafood & veggies were gone, we lifted the steamer & voila, the rice had became well-cooked porridge ready for a feast. One spoonful sent chills down the spine; just so exhilarating. It tasted so damn good. All the natural goodness in one big wok.

You have to go in a big group in order to enjoy this fantastic meal. Honestly, I'm not too fond of most Chinese food in this part of China but I'd have to admit this is by far the best Zhongshan dish I've ever tasted. If I'm ever returning, this restaurant is definitely the top of my must-visit places.

I thought the entire 4D3N trip will turn out to be exhausting & dull. No doubt there were less pleasant moments but I prefer to not mention here. At least, my colleague & I won a Xiaomi power bank from a group work. Not to forget the misadventures adding a slice of fun to the trip that I initially dreaded. Now let's see if the upcoming trip in June will be as exciting.