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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Once Upon A Time In China 3

Now that Dad is not feeling well, I am glad that we had gone on holidays together in the past. Looking back, it's great that we have the memory of happier times. Dad and I went once to Japan, bonding as father and son while crisscrossing the country from Tokyo to Hiroshima. Together with Mum, we also went twice to China. The first trip was actually quite a mess and we were also a bit unprepared for the cold weather, but the laughter and togetherness kept us warm. Now here's the story of the second trip, when we visited Hangzhou, Suzhou and Shanghai.

The vacation happened two years after the first one. As we were more experienced travellers than before, we were more adventurous this time. My parents flew from Kuching and I took off from Singapore to meet them at LCCT, the budget terminal in Kuala Lumpur at that time. We stayed one night in Bukit Bintang, exploring places nearby. We even managed to have an impromptu trip to Genting (where Mum won MYR 600 thanks to her beginner's luck). On the following day, we took the evening AirAsia X flight to Hangzhou.

When we were reaching the West Lake. 

We arrived around midnight. When the plane was descending, I could see that the whole area below us was pitch-black. A very unusual sight because cities normally light up at night! At the airport, I immediately got connected to WiFi only to figure out that Facebook didn't work. Then I remembered the great firewall of China and kissed my Facebook goodbye, haha.

Hangzhou revealed itself to us the next morning. It was quite a bustling city! We stayed at Huachen International Hotel and I found out that the famous West Lake was within a walking distance, so we had a stroll. While we were heading there, we stopped halfway at Kungfu (our favorite fast food restaurant in China) for breakfast. That's when we realised that the menu was not always the same. In fact, it was not as good and quite different than what we had in Guangzhou.

Mum and Dad at West Lake. 

Then, as we carried on walking, West Lake appeared right in front of us. It was a magnificent view. West Lake was so wide that it took us almost one whole day to explore. There were plenty of willow trees waving at us as the leaves were caressed by the wind. It was so inviting and relaxing that we could just sit there and look at the lake. This isn't something that I normally do, but it was just so peaceful that I couldn't help it.

While we were in Hangzhou, we went to Wushan Hill, too. We walked uphill, finding our way to the temple as the direction wasn't exactly clear. However, the temple was right on top, so all roads led to the temple, haha. The view was quite grand because we could see the city landscape. We took a picture that turned out to be the only family picture for the whole trip. Afterwards, we went all the way down and passed by Wushan Square where the street market was. It was meant to have the ancient vibe, but it was too commercialised, therefore it felt less authentic then it was supposed to be.

Posing at Wushan Hill. 

We also went to MixC, the biggest shopping centre in Hangzhou at that time. It was quite inconvenient to reach the mall because it was still very far from the nearest subway station. Apparently it was a high-end mall and not exactly fun for window shopping, therefore we ended up at the food court for early dinner. After going through all the troubles to get there, we took a cab on our way back. As I sat on the front seat, I regretted my choice immediately because the driver and the traffic were equally crazy!

Hangzhou was alright and West Lake was impressive, but in hindsight, we might have stayed too long there. As a result, we only spent one night in Suzhou, our next destination. We reached there around noon time and it didn't help that it was raining heavily the whole afternoon. As we couldn't go anywhere on our own, we took up the rickshaw ride offers. It was better than nothing, but not much to be seen either because the rickshaw was covered. We visited a factory where we had a chance to see how the silk clothes were made. The experience was jaw-dropping, really. Apparently it takes a lot of cocoons to die for one piece of silky garment!

The Humble Administrator's Garden, Suzhou. 

As the rain continued, we stopped at the museum and browsed the collection instead. The museum was not very far from the Humble Administrator's Garden, but due to the rain, we didn't go there and only had a visit the next day. And the garden would get you wondering why it had such a name, because it was so grand and there was nothing humble about it! The garden was so fantastic that it had a hut just for the owner to listen to the rhythm of the falling rain (such thing was considered as an entertainment back then).

I didn't think we got enough of Suzhou, but there wasn't enough time because right after the visit to the Humble Administrator's Garden, we boarded the train to Shanghai, the last leg of our trip. It was a short ride, only about half an hour. By the time we reached, it immediately felt different. Unlike the first two, Shanghai was a metropolis like Singapore, but a much bigger city! I loved the fact that I could see people from all around the world (including beautiful Russian girls).

The Bund, Shanghai. 

Pacific Hotel, the hotel we were staying at, was situated on the famous Nanjing Road. We passed by the crowded area and headed straight to the Bund, because when in Shanghai, that's what you do! It was like the landmark of all landmarks! Popularised by the movie Shanghai Grand, the Bund is so historical and so iconic that it's like a milestone for a Chinese to be there. I remember seeing how happy Mum and Dad were when they stood there.

The memory got hazy after that. Apart from the Bund, I actually don't recall other places we went in Shanghai. I remember taking the Big Bus tour for sightseeing and we stopped for a while in Pudong to admire the CBD area. We also walked quite a fair bit in Shanghai, in and out Nanjing Road, just like any other tourists. Then I remember some places far that we went, a garden and a mall, but can't remember the name, haha. Finally, after one last dinner at Kungfu in Shanghai Pudong International Airport, we flew back to KL.

One and a half month after Chinese New Year 2014, it was still pretty cold in China (though hotels in the cities that we visited had heaters in the rooms, unlike their Southern counterparts). But the memory about it was warm. I remember talking with Mum as we walked in Suzhou at night, asking her what the secret of her long and lasting marriage is. She told me that after all the ups and downs that she went through with Dad, loyalty was the key. Now I understand why the pictures of them together were always vibrant and heartwarming at the same time...

That smile they had in Hangzhou.

Suatu Ketika Di Negeri Cina 3

Mengingat kondisi Papa yang kurang sehat sekarang, saya bersyukur pernah berlibur bersamanya beberapa tahun silam. Setidaknya kita memiliki kenangan di saat-saat yang lebih gembira. Kita pernah bepergian bersama ke Jepang dalam rangka liburan ayah dan anak, berkelana bersama dari Tokyo sampai Hiroshima. Kita juga mengunjungi negeri Cina bersama Mama. Di kali pertama kita ke sana, saya melakukan berbagai kesalahan dalam perencanaan dan kita pun kedinginan karena dinginnya cuaca, tapi tawa dan kebersamaan membuat liburannya berkesan. Berikut ini adalah cerita tentang liburan ke Cina untuk kedua kalinya, di kala kita menjelajahi Hangzhou, Suzhou dan Shanghai.

Dua tahun setelah liburan pertama, kita kembali ke Cina. Karena kita sekarang lebih berpengalaman, kita pun berangkat secara terpisah ke Kuala Lumpur. Orang tua saya terbang dari Kuching dan saya berangkat dari Singapura untuk menemui mereka di LCCT, bandara rendah biaya dipakai oleh AirAsia pada saat itu. Kita menginap semalam di kawasan Bukit Bintang dan bahkan sempat berkunjung ke Genting (dimana Mama memenangkan MYR 600 ketika bermain rolet untuk pertama kalinya). Di hari berikutnya barulah kita terbang ke Hangzhou dengan menaiki AirAsia X.

Saat mampir ke Genting. 

Kita tiba di tengah malam. Ketika pesawat mulai turun dari ketinggian, daerah di sekitar bandara terlihat gelap-gulita. Suatu pemandangan yang aneh karena biasanya kota-kota menyala terang di malam hari. Setibanya di bandara, saya pun menghubungkan telepon genggam saya ke WiFi untuk mengecek Facebook, namun ternyata tidak bisa diakses. Saya langsung teringat dengan saktinya firewall di Cina yang tersohor, haha.

Hangzhou memperkenalkan diri pada kami di keesokan harinya. Kotanya sungguh ramai! Kita tinggal di Huachen International Hotel yang berada tidak jauh dari Xihu, danau sekaligus tempat wisata yang paling terkenal di Hangzhou. Kita pun berjalan kaki ke sana dan singgah sebentar di Kungfu (restoran favorit kita di Cina) untuk sarapan pagi. Saat itu baru saya sadari bahwa menu restoran ini tidak selalu sama. Yang di Guangzhou dulu lebih enak menunya. 

Mama yang terlihat ceria di Xihu. 

Setelah bersantap pagi dan melanjutkan perjalanan, Xihu pun terbentang di depan kita. Indahnya danau ini bukanlah sekedar propaganda pariwisata. Xihu begitu luas sehingga kita membutuhkan waktu hampir sehari penuh untuk mengitarinya. Ada banyak pohon dedalu yang melambai-lambai karena dibelai angin semilir. Suasananya terasa santai dan damai sehingga cocok untuk duduk dan menyaksikan tenangnya danau. Hal ini bukanlah sesuatu yang merupakan kebiasaan saya, tapi untuk sekali itu saya duduk dan menikmati keindahannya.

Saat berada di Hangzhou, kita juga mengunjungi Bukit Wushan. Kita berjalan menanjak menuju paviliun yang berada tepat di atas bukit. Dari situ kita melihat kota Hangzhou yang berada di bawahnya. Setelah itu kita turun dan melewati pertokoan di Lapangan Wushan. Tempat ini bertema Cina kuno, tapi karena terlalu komersial, kesannya jadi tidak otentik.

Selain itu, kita pun mampir ke MixC, pusat perbelanjaan terbesar di Hangzhou pada saat itu. Tempatnya jauh dari stasiun kereta terdekat sehingga tidak praktis untuk ke sana. Setelah sampai, ternyata MixC hanya menjual barang-barang mewah sehingga tidak terlalu menarik. Kita akhirnya makan di pujasera yang berada di lantai teratas, lalu pulang ke hotel dengan menggunakan taksi. Pilihan ini segera saya sesali karena baik supir maupun lalu lintas Hangzhou sama gilanya.

Suatu malam di Hangzhou. 

Hangzhou adalah tempat yang menarik dan keindahan Xihu sangat memukau, tapi rasanya kita tinggal terlalu lama di kota ini. Akibatnya kita hanya memiliki waktu semalam di Suzhou, kota tujuan berikutnya. Kita sampai di kota ini saat hari menjelang sore dan hujan deras turun hampir sepanjang hari. Karena kita tidak bisa berjalan kaki, kita lantas menaiki angkong berkeliling kota. Kendaraan mirip becak yang ditarik oleh manusia ini ditutupi plastik karena hujan, jadi tidak banyak yang bisa dilihat oleh penumpangnya. Kita lantas diantar ke sebuah pabrik yang memperlihatkan bagaimana caranya kain sutra ditenun. Ternyata dibutuhkan begitu banyak kepompong untuk menenun sehelai kain!

Karena hujan masih berlanjut, kita pun mengunjungi museum dan melihat-lihat koleksi barang antik. Museum ini berada tidak jauh dari taman terkenal yang bernama Humble Administrator's Garden yang hanya bisa kita kunjungi di pagi berikutnya. Oh ya, walau nama tamannya memberikan kesan sederhana, taman ini jauh dari kesederhanaan. Taman ini berada di dalam sebuah rumah yang luasnya sungguh mencengangkan. Keindahannya patut dikagumi. Di tengah taman bahkan ada satu pondok khusus bagi penghuninya untuk mendengarkan suara hujan (di jaman dahulu, rintik hujan tergolong hiburan dan mungkin menjadi sumber inspirasi untuk menulis puisi).

Kalau dipikirkan lagi, saya kian merasa bahwa waktu kita di Suzhou terlalu singkat. Setelah kunjungan ke Humble Administrator's Garden, kita bergegas menaiki kereta ke Shanghai, kota tujuan terakhir dalam liburan kali ini. Lamanya perjalanan dari Suzhou ke Shanghai adalah setengah jam dengan menggunakan kereta cepat. Setibanya di sana, suasana pun terasa berbeda. Shanghai adalah kota metropolis seperti halnya Singapura, tetapi jauh lebih luas wilayahnya! Saya suka Shanghai karena berbagai orang dari berbagai belahan dunia bisa ditemukan di sana (termasuk juga gadis-gadis Rusia yang jelita).

Mama di Humble Administrator's Garden, Suzhou. 

Pacific Hotel, tempat dimana kita tinggal, terletak di Jalan Nanjing yang terkenal. Kita berjalan melintasi keramaian untuk menuju Waitan. Kenapa Waitan? Karena di Shanghai, semua orang menuju Waitan. Ini adalah tempat wisata yang paling terkenal di sana. Dipopulerkan dalam film Shanghai Grand, Waitan adalah tempat yang bersejarah dan memiliki arti tersendiri bagi setiap orang berdarah Cina untuk bisa berada di sana. Saya ingat betapa senangnya Papa dan Mama saat mereka berjalan menyusuri Waitan.

Dan kenangan saya agak kabur setelah itu. Setelah Waitan, saya kurang ingat lagi ke mana kita sebenarnya. Saat itu kita sempat keliling kota menggunakan Big Bus Tour, bis yang membawa kita ke beraneka pemberhentian khusus turis. Kita sempat turun di Pudong untuk melihat-lihat daerah perkantoran Shanghai yang dipadati dengan gedung-gedung pencakar langit. Kita juga pergi ke suatu tempat yang agak jauh letaknya, ke sebuah taman dan mal, tapi saya lupa namanya, haha. Akhirnya, setelah makan malam di Kungfu yang berada di bandara, kita pun kembali ke Kuala Lumpur.

Di Pudong, kawasan bisnis di Shanghai. 

Satu setengah bulan setelah Tahun Baru Cina 2014, cuaca di Cina masih sangat dingin (tapi setidaknya kota-kota yang kita kunjungi ini memiliki pemanas ruangan di kamar hotelnya, tidak seperti kota-kota di Cina Selatan). Meskipun begitu, kenangan tentang perjalanan ini penuh dengan kehangatan. Saya ingat saat berjalan dengan Mama di Suzhou pada malam hari. Waktu itu saya iseng bertanya, apa rahasia pernikahannya yang langgeng. Mama berkata bahwa setelah mengarungi kehidupan ini bersama Papa, dia merasa jawabannya adalah kesetiaan. Sekarang saya mengerti kenapa foto-foto mereka selalu berseri dan penuh dengan kegembiraan hati...

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