Yunnan Tour – Shangrila Day 6 (11 Days 10 Nights November 2015)

It was freezing cold when we got up in the morning after we left the comfort of the electric blanket in bed. So we put on our cold wear and went to the lobby café for breakfast. We pick our table near the fireplace that was heating up the place nicely with kettles placed on top to keep the water hot. We ordered western meals for breakfast consisting of eggs and toasts plus French fries. Coffee was good. We were really grateful for the hot meal on a cold day.

We had already booked a visit to the Shika Snow Mountain with Bodhi Inn the day before. We would be setting off slightly after 9 am. We were told it would be best to be up on the mountain late morning where the sun would be up and it wouldn’t so cold and the wind not too strong. As such, we returned to our room after breakfast to get ready for our day trip. We notified our children about our hike and then wished them a great day ahead.

With the reconstruction work of the Old Town on going, the hotel was informed that power would be cut off during most of the day and would only be turned on again in the late afternoon. So it would be a great time to get out of Bodhi Inn to avoid the freezing cold with no power supply available other than the standby power supply from the generator to power up essential services.

We headed back to the lobby and the hotel manager, Xiao Long was already waiting. He led us out of the hotel and we walked carefully through the dug out trenches and streets outside the hotel towards the entrance of the Old Town where the van was parked. We also brought along with us the oxygen canister the hotel loaned us just in case we needed it up on the mountain above 4500 m. Of course we were well prepared with water and with adequate cold wear.

The air was cool outdoor but with the sun up in the morning, it wasn’t as cold as our room. It was a bright and sunny day which would be great for our outing up on the mountain. The hotel charged us 220 CNY per person for tickets and transport to the base of the mountain and would pick us up after our visit. The cost for this tour would be much cheaper than going up Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in Lijiang.

Xiao Long started the van and soon we were leaving Old Town and headed towards our destination. After about 45 minutes, we arrived at the base of the mountain. He told us to request the staff at the office to call the hotel to arrange a pick up and he would drive over to get us. Having given us instruction and shown us the way to the cable car station, he left us to enjoy ourselves.

Surprisingly, there were few visitors going up the mountain on the day of our visit. The building of the cable car station was practically empty with the staff sitting around having nothing to do. All those chairs there meant for waiting passengers were empty. We got through the office and went to the cable car station launch site and not long after we were ushered into a cable car. My wife and I had the whole cable car to ourselves which was fantastic.

The ride up the mountain was great with trees on both sides of the mountain. The ground below the cable car was covered with some snow. As we looked down below, the hills were still green and the open grazing area was a little brown. Animals could be seen in the open having their leisure activity eating and enjoying the warn sunshine.

Continue reading Yunnan Tour – Shangrila Day 6 (11 Days 10 Nights November 2015)

Yunnan Tour – Lijiang to Shangrila Day 5 (11 Days 10 Nights November 2015)

This was the day we were looking forward to travelling up to Shangrila 3100 m above sea level. We wondered how it would be like to stay at that altitude and the scenery around town up near the top of the world. So with much excitement we got up from bed and prepared to head out for the day.

Our simple breakfast was the pastries we bought from Joy Bakery the night before at Qixing Street in town. Coffee and tea were nice and great with the bakery food. It was still early before 7 am and we had some time to chill out before heading out to the bus station not far from Hilton Garden Inn. Our bus ride would be slightly after 9 am and we were expected to arrive Shangrila around 2 pm.

Around 8.45 am, we checked out and were greeted by the friendly and helpful staff again. The Guest Service Manager was in a meeting so early in the morning. We were told by one of the staff he would be meeting us shortly to give us a ride to the bus station. That was good news indeed.

Not long after, he emerged from the meeting and greeted us heartily and he led us to the carpark and got into a very nice car from the hotel. Soon we were on our way to the bus station and we arrived in about 5 minutes. Having parked his car at the bus station, he helped us contact Bodhi Inn to inform the hotel we were taking a bus to Shangrila shortly and would arrive at 2 pm. He then told us one of the staff from Bodhi Inn would be meeting us at the bus station in Shangrila to bring us to the hotel.

All was well and we thanked this friendly manager from Hilton Garden Inn who made our stay in Lijiang so amazing. All the hotel’s staff were really approachable and their service impeccable. The reason we chose to stay in Hilton Garden Inn was the location along the main road to facilitate our onward journey to Shangrila. The friendliness and helpfulness of the staff here was an added bonus indeed.

So we checked out the surrounding at the bus station after the manager from Hilton Garden Inn left having wished us a great stay in Yunnan. The air was crisp and fresh in Lijiang. At the main road, we could see the unmistakable Jade Dragon Snow Mountain at the distant far end of the road. It was a majestic and lovely sight.

Continue reading Yunnan Tour – Lijiang to Shangrila Day 5 (11 Days 10 Nights November 2015)

Yunnan Tour – Dali to Lijiang Day 4 (11 Days 10 Nights November 2015)

After a good night sleep, we were ready for more excitement heading up to Lijiang this morning. Our breakfast was the bread and cake we bought from Joy Bakery in Kunming the day before. Coffee and tea weren’t a problem with the kettle provided in our room. Yinfeng Hotel doesn’t operate a restaurant so no meals served in the hotel. Our simple breakfast was satisfying nevertheless.

It was still very early, so we went to the main street of the ancient town for a quick look around. It was quiet but there were street vendors selling hot food to those who were up and about their business in the morning. Most shops were still closed but the shop selling meat was already open for business.

We went over to the church at the corner for a proper visit. The door was open but the church was empty. We didn’t see any caretaker there. This was just a typical church building but should be quite historical in this UNESCO site. We didn’t venture any further after visiting the church and we headed back to Yinfeng Hotel.

Having packed, we went to the lobby to check out to wait for our transfer to the bus station to take a bus to Lijiang, 180 km away. Our pick up time was 8.30 am but the guys who were supposed to be at the hotel seemingly were not sure about the location of Yinfeng Hotel. The hotel staff received a call from one of the staff and direction was given. Not long after, a small little van showed up and we left with them.

We were glad we had stayed at Yinfeng Hotel right inside Dali ancient town. The staff here were extremely helpful and were conversant in English. They also made onward calls to our hotels in Lijiang and Shangrila to get direction and made arrangements for our transfer to their hotel. Anyway, we would be coming back to stay in Yinfeng Hotel during our return leg from Lijiang after visiting Shangrila.

Continue reading Yunnan Tour – Dali to Lijiang Day 4 (11 Days 10 Nights November 2015)

Yunnan Tour – Kunming to Dali Day 3 (11 Days 10 Nights November 2015)

We woke up to a beautiful day in Kunming. From our room windows, we could see Cuihui getting ready to welcome visitors for the day. People were already on the street and Cuihui was surely a place of interest to many people in this part of Kunming.

We left Grand Park Hotel and walked towards Cuihui to look for a place to have breakfast. Shops along the road were mostly closed so early in the morning. We reached Cuihui shortly and we checked out some eateries across the road. Some of the small restaurants were already packed with people sitting outside the restaurant enjoying their breakfast.

We decided to settle into one of the restaurants and had beef noodles for our first meal. Our noodles came and we tucked in to the piping hot noodle soup. Not many pieces of beef were found in the noodle soup and it was very spicy as well. We definitely preferred beef noodles in Taiwan than the one served here in Kunming. After this quick meal, we headed over to Cuihui to enjoy the park one more time before our bus ride to Dali.

Cuihui was already a hive of activities early morning. Young and old were exercising at the park. The air was fresh and a little chilly. It was already late autumn and winter was setting in soon so everyone was wearing a light jacket outdoor.

The park was really beautiful and a great place to start our day. Seagulls were flying all over the lake enjoying their first task of the day. Along the lake, people were feeding the seagulls. It was such a lovely sight. We stayed awhile by the lake to feast on this fascinating sight watching the seagulls flying gracefully over the lake free from all cares in this world. Continue reading Yunnan Tour – Kunming to Dali Day 3 (11 Days 10 Nights November 2015)

Yunnan Tour – Kunming Day 2 (11 Days 10 Nights November 2015)

We woke up with much anticipation for the start of our Yunnan tour heading to Kunming this morning. It was just 6.20 am as we pulled away the curtains to watch the sunrise show from our suit room windows. It was still dark in Bangkok City but the sky was getting a tinge of greyish blue with a tiny red ball creeping up ahead above one of the buildings in the city. The clouds added to the beauty of the sunrise with the far end painting up an expanding stretch of pink turning red. The sun rose higher and pierced through some clouds and not long after, the city had awaken.

Breakfast time came soon enough as we needed to catch our late morning flight to Kunming. We went to the restaurant at 7 am. The restaurant was quite empty early this morning. This hotel does cater to tour group. So it was important to have early breakfast. We saw many Chinese tourists at the hotel the day before hence it was prudent to be early to avoid the crowd.

The restaurant was like any typical hotel restaurant and the buffet spread was fine with the usual local and international selection. Although Grand Sukhumvit Hotel Bangkok is a 5-star hotel, the buffet spread can’t be compared to other 5-star hotels like Sofitel or Pullman under the Accor Group. Anyway, we were still pretty satisfied with our breakfast, especially for the price we paid for our stay of just around $90 for the night and upgraded to a suit room. The service staff were quite good too.

Back in our room, we freshened up again, packed and checked our bags and then lingered awhile watching Bangkok City starting its day now with the sun fully out. Road traffic wasn’t very heavy yet but the city was gradually coming alive. Near to 8 am, we went to the lobby to check out. It was over in a moment and soon we were waiting for a taxi outside the hotel. Concierge helped us get a taxi willing to go on the meter. Next we were on our way to the airport.

We arrived at the airport without incident at 9 am. We took our bags and went to Thai Airways to check in our bags and then proceeded to clear immigration. Not long after, we were roaming the shopping mall like airport window shopping to wait for the call to board our flight. There were some shops that were quite interesting and we made a mental note to look at some watches from one of the duty free shops upon our return trip where we might pick up a watch that could be on sale.

Soon we were called to the boarding gate. We then took the transfer bus and boarded our flight to Kunming. The 3 hours flight was uneventful and we were served lunch onboard. The service of this airline was good. We disembarked, cleared immigration, collected our bags and then headed to the airport exit.

Our hotel in Kunming is the Grand Park Hotel Kunming located near Cuihui, the Green Lake area and airport bus 919B would terminate near this location. We then went to look for the counter to buy the bus ticket for the bus 919B to the city. It was just outside the airport slightly on the left. Having made payment of 13 CNY per ticket, we made our way to the left and boarded a waiting bus.

The airport bus was very new and pretty clean. The bus left not long after and two passengers were eating melon seeds on the bus. The bus driver told them to stop eating and not litter the bus. Along the way, the bus stopped at a few locations to pick up passengers. Some passenger alighted at different locations in the city as well. The journey was pretty comfortable and for the price of just 13 CNY, it was very good. Taking a taxi to the city would cost over 100 CNY. Continue reading Yunnan Tour – Kunming Day 2 (11 Days 10 Nights November 2015)

Yunnan Tour (11 Days 10 Nights) – Transit Bangkok

The beauty of Yunnan and the mysteriously captivating life in Shangrila highland made famous by the movie, “The Lost Horizon” decades ago had been on our mind for a long time. So we had been wanting to tour Yunnan for quite some time. Finally last year, we began to seriously plan for such a tour. The only time we could possibly take such a tour would be in November.

Having checked with a number of tour companies, the tour prices per person for a seven nights packaged tour to Kunming, Dali and Lijiang was around $1500, not including out of pocket money for shopping and dining. For a nine nights packaged tour including Shangrila, the cost would come up to about $2000 per person. There will be other expenses for tour activities to be factored in for such a tour as well.

As such, we decided to plan our own tour to Yunnan. Air ticket wasn’t cheap. Silk Air flies direct to Kunming but air ticket costs too much and China Southern Airline costs about $500 and needs to transit in Guangzhou. Thai Airways so happened was having a promotion for flight to Kunming but had to transit in Bangkok. The cost of the air ticket was under $430. So we took the deal and booked our flights to include a night stay in Bangkok on the way to Kunming so that we would arrive Kunming in much better condition.

Next, we had to do our research on how to travel between the cities in Yunnan. Kunming is close to 1900 m above sea level and Dali has an elevation of 2000 m and more than 430 km from Kunming. Lijiang is about 180 km from Dali and has an altitude of 2400 m. Another 180 km away from Lijiang is Shangrila also known as Zhongdian has an elevation of over 3100 m.

We would have to fly into Kunming, travel to Dali, onward to Lijiang before heading up to Shangrila. This would allow us some time to acclimatize as we travel upward to Shangrila. We would take the same route back to Kunming before flying back to Singapore via Bangkok. This is the usual route for most travellers unless we fly out of Shangrila or Lijiang and transit somewhere before heading for home. Airfare would cost a lot more if we take this route which is not really necessary. The return trip back to Kunming would afford us more time to cover places we missed during our onward journey which isn’t bad at all. Continue reading Yunnan Tour (11 Days 10 Nights) – Transit Bangkok

Plane Crash Prediction at Changi Airport

Earlier this year, there was a prediction of a plane crash in Singapore that was supposed to happen yesterday. Specifically, the flight number, departure and arrival timings were mentioned. This flight SQ 879 is a daily flight coming in from Taipei to Singapore.

Predicted Airasia Transasia future SQ Flight at Changi Airport

Apparently, this guy Jucelino Nobrega da Luz from Brazil had accurately predicted the fate of AirAsia QZ8501 and TransAsia Airways Flight GE235 that crashed previously.

Coincidentally, the flight SQ 879 was cancelled yesterday. This led some to speculate whether Singapore Airlines was taking his prediction seriously.

Changi Airport Cancelled SQ879

Actually, Typhoon Megi was sweeping through Taiwan to China yesterday causing death and injuries across its path of destruction.

Typhoon Megi Kills one in China after Taiwan Destruction

So Singapore Airlines was unlikely paying heed to his prediction. In fact, many other flights were cancelled as well.

Singapore Airlines Media Centre News Alert on Typhoon Megi

Flights Cancelled, Schools Shut, Fishing Boats Recalled as deadly Typhoon Megi hits China

Which reputable airline would take into account unscientific predictions to operate their flights? Thus it was a peaceful evening at Changi Airport yesterday.

The worst thing that happened on this island nation yesterday was a hijack situation which was as rare as a plane crash. The situation had since been resolved with the hijacker arrested and the hostage freed.

Sembawang Stand-Off Resolved

Had Jucelino Nobrega da Luz predicted this incident, this crime might have been prevented. So take whatever prediction with a big bowl of salt.

Continue to travel and of course purchase travel insurance to hedge against any untoward incident which could happen anywhere in the world.

Robbed while on Vacation

Going on a vacation is a happy occasion but the happiness index could quickly head south when holiday goers fall prey to crime. Many years back, I had my wallet stolen while in Paris and another time I lost my wallet while shopping in Medan.

The experience was anything but pleasant. It would be a hectic realignment of itinerary and frantic phone calls to settle the serious matter at hand to add to the loss of personal items. This is definitely an unwanted distraction.

But falling prey to some other crimes could be much worse. We are not talking petty crimes like pickpockets or about carelessly leaving our wallet and mobile phone on the table in a café or a restaurant creating our own crime. There are crimes that are so serious that will not only cut short travel plans but terminate them.

We should be conscious of the fact that there are criminal elements every where in the world that specifically target tourists to rob them or even kill them during such attempts. Such calculations should be factored into out travel planning and do proper research about the destination where we wish to visit and the accommodation where we wish to stay.

Recently, a group of female tourists from Taiwan were robbed while they slept in their villa in Pattaya. The news report gave the impression that it might be an insider job. From the way they were checked into their accommodation till the time when they reported their loss to their hotel where help wasn’t given to report the matter to the police, this just doesn’t smell good.

Taiwanese Tourists Robbed of $2,700 in ‘Strange’ Pattaya Hotel

Continue reading Robbed while on Vacation

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