Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Holiday in China (2)

This post is in response to the responses to my earlier post on Holiday in China. I am quite amused at the response I got from my younger readers. Someone said "Walao! You are calculating it!" And may I know what is wrong with that? I think this is what we call generation gap. The younger people find it odd to calculate the cost and might think it spoils the enjoyment. They'd rather spend and not think about the money. That's how generation -X (or Y) think ,as compared to baby bloomers (people in the 50's and 60's). On the contrary, I think knowing your budget and spending within the budget makes the trip more enjoyable. When people hear the word budget (as in budget hotels) they think we will be miserable on the holiday having to budget our spending. This is absolutely not true. A budget is simply a summary of the various estimates for the trip. That way, we know how much to bring, we know how much we can splurge on the shopping, and we have no worries about overspending! When we prepare the budget, we should make a higher estimate especially on the food and shopping. I think my information on the costing of a holiday trip interests more people than shock them. Even though Generation Y may be laughing at us, I think money matters still play the most important component of planning for a  trip. Some people won't even think of a holiday abroad, not knowing how much it will cost them. More details on the costing.
What are the items of the budget?
1) Flight tickets
For certain items, the estimate will be very close or even exactly the same. For example the flight tickets. You can check much earlier and estimate how much it would cost. And it will already have been paid for, weeks before you fly. For certain destinations, you can save a lot when you fly budget airlines. But this is not necessarily true. Sometimes other airlines do offer fares which are only slightly higher than budget planes. For the comfort and service of major airlines, I'd rather not save the money on budget airlines. You have to check the schedule and the transit times. It's worthwhile spending more, booking from a major airline and don't have to worry about not being able to catch a connecting flight.
Transit at Guangzhou Airport

For this trip to China, I did not book Air Asia even though my connecting flight is through Guangzhou. One reason is that the flight to Guangzhou for Air Asia is from KL, which means we waste time changing flights. Another reason is the departure and arrival times. Sometimes it is better to choose a more expensive flight rather than save some money and bear the inconvenience. And it turned out to be a good thing I chose China Southern Airlines. 
On our way back from Xiamen, there was a heavy fog and many flights were delayed.

Our flight was also delayed and we almost had to spend a night in Guangzhou to catch the next day's flight. But since our booking was through China Southern Airlines, we need not have to worry as they will be responsible to make sure we get back to Penang. I informed the chief stewardess about my connecting flight from Guangzhou and she told me not to worry as they will do the necessary. True enough, someone was waiting for us the moment we set foot on the ground. He had our boarding passes ready and led us through a series of shortcuts until we finally boarded the connecting flight in the shortest possible time. First he brought us to the back of the plane to identify our luggage and make sure it will be transferred to our plane. He had all the luggage tags ready. Then he took us by buggy to the VIP passage and brought us to the security and immigration checkpoints, using business class lines to finally reach our boarding gate. Even so, it still took us some time despite our brisk walk. The young man attending to us was very efficient. I guess he does it everyday, helping transfer passengers catch their planes! For us, it was truly an experience....all the rushing. When we finally fastened our seat belts to take off, we had a good laugh thinking about the whole thing.
2)  Hotels
For China hotels, use the many reservation sites which only require us to pay at the desk. deposit no credit card guarantee required.
For other sites like Agoda or Asiarooms, you have to make advance payment.
Since no payment is needed, I made more than one booking for each night. If you don't show up, they will email you and you just explain why, out of courtesy. You can ignore them if you don't want to respond. If you have checked in, they will ask for comments. Write something if you want, otherwise just ignore. The cost? China hotels are so cheap. For CNY200 in big cities like Guangzhou and Xiamen, you get decent, clean hotels in nice locations. If you want more posh hotels, there are a lot of choices from CNY300. For smaller towns, the rate is much cheaper, my Dabu hotel is only CNY138 (good location, is clean and has heater in the rooms.)
Capital of Hakka Hotspring Hotel 

The Hotspring hotel has mirrors at the ceiling.

The Hotspring hotel in Xiayang at CNY198 ( includes breakfast and hotspring) is so cheap.

Hongkeng Tulou Village
Room at the tulou (Fuyulou, Hongkeng Village) 
Staying in the villages costs next to nothing (CNY100 including breakfast at the Tulou,
(for reservations and car hire, email Mr Lin at
Peitian Ancient Hakka Village
and CNY70 for room only at the Peitian Village)
Wu's Courtyard Home Stay at Peitian Village

The rooms at the Villages have been converted to look like modern hotel rooms but the building is ancient. It is quite an experience, a home stay. They will cook breakfast and meals for you . You get to savour local home cooked food at a cheap price.

Some of you might want to stay in a modern hotel instead.
3) Entrance tickets
After planning where to visit, you will already know how much to spend for the tickets. This might come to a big sum.
Gaobei tulou cluster - CNY50 per person to the tulou cluster featuring the largest tulou.

Hongkeng Tulou cluster CNY90 per person for entrance to the Village

CNY55 per person for entry to the Longkong caves, compulsory tour guide  CNY30 per group.

CNY115 person includes boat ride and mountain climb or CNY80 for boat ride only
By having all the entrance fees included it in your estimates, you have no worries. On conducted tours, we have been given the options to add "extra" tours and we usually will comply, otherwise you will be left alone while your tour mates go along. Unless of course everyone agrees not to go. Usually they'll go.
4) Food
I estimated CNY 20 for each breakfast for days when the hotel price doesn't include breakfast. Usually they charge CNY10 per person for buffet breakfast. In Xiamen, we didn't take the buffet breakfast but went sampling local street food. A basket of  nine xiao long bao's is only CNY6 and a bowl of misua kor only CNY5. I estimated CNY50 for lunches and CNY100 for dinners but ended up spending less. The most expensive dinner we had was CNY90 for the two of us, where we ordered 2 set meals and coffee.

If you need to drink coffee, better bring some. Its expensive in China. The cup of American brewed coffee I had in the Tulou  costs CNY20 and a bowl of noodles in Dabu is only CNY3.

 In the rural areas, meals cooked to order for 3 persons cost between CNY 50 to CNY80 and we usually cannot finish the food. I keep track of the money I spent so that I can share the information on my blog. I know my young friends are disgusted with having to do this but to me it is fun. On our last few days, we had quite a sum left, even though I had to spend more for transport due to change of plans, so we spent more on shopping.
5) Shopping
Initially I didn't plan to spend a lot on shopping but changed my mind and set aside CNY1000 for shopping. In the end, we spent more than CNY1000 on shopping because of surplus cash on food. Things are cheap in China because our ringgit is double the CNY. If not for the inconvenience of carrying we would have spent more. The warm clothing was cheap because the cold weather was ending. We bought some warm clothing in anticipation of more trips during the cold seasons.

Besides warm clothing,, we bought mainly tea leaves and preserved vegetables

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