Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wuyuan, Canola Flower Trip (江西婺源。油菜花) (1)

Call me a butterfly (!!)... but I do like flowers, especially pretty flowers...  Ever since I saw a picture of this place last year, I promise myself I will come here one day and the day has come.

Wuyuan, Jiangxi
Picture found on Google, no copyright infringement intended.

The best time to visit Wuyuan is March to April, when the canola flower is in bloom.  Coincidentally, I have a 4-day public holidays and it will be an absolute waste if I don't take this opportunity!  Thanks to a Taiwanese backpackers' forum (Chinese only), I found my travel mates, whom we click the moment we started talking.

Even though I am fluent in Chinese, the whole planning phase has been quite a challenge.  The banking infrastructure is different and it's hard to reserve anything without a debit or credit card issued by a bank in China.  Some of the people I talked to literally drive me nuts!  Nevertheless, I am much better with the Chinese travel websites, travel apps and IM apps now.

Below are some of the travel sites / travel apps / IM apps I found useful:

1. Ctrip (攜程) - especially useful if you don't read Chinese and all you have is a foreign credit card.  The only site that I know of that comes with multi-language support.  The tours are more expensive compared to the other sites.  Airfares and hotels are fine.  However, not all hostels are listed here.

2.  Qunar (去哪兒) / Feiren (騰邦) - introduced to me by the hostel owner I will be staying in Wuyuan.  Feiren accepts credit card.  It's one of the very few places where I experienced good customer service but it's Chinese only.

3.  Elong (藝龍) - also introduced to me by the hostel owner I will be staying in Wuyuan.  The beauty of this site is their English interface and there is also an English 24/7 English Customer Support.  I didn't use this site since I got everything done through Feiren and QQ.

4.  Lvping (驢評) - it's a mainland version of Trip Advisor.  It ranks accommodations and point of interests.  The site also provides external links for hotels / hostels booking.

5.  Dianping (大眾點評) - it's a mainland version of Yelp / OpenRice x Groupon.  It is one of my favorite apps whenever I visit China.

6.  QQ - it's the mainland version of Whatsapp, Line, WeChat, etc.  Almost everyone in China has at least one QQ number.  If you want instantaneous response and doesn't want to spend a fortune on long distance phone bills, QQ is your friend.

Unrelated to this trip but I was also introduced to Skyscanner and TravelBud lately, which are both amazing website / app for flight searching.  Skyscanner is similar to Kayak but more extensive and TravelBud is basically Hong Kong Airline's Smartphone App.  I bought a ticket to Beijing for July at an unbeatable price via this app.

With all that said, below is the draft itinerary of my 5-day trip~ Wuyuan isn't very big so 3-5 days is perfect~

Wuyuan Travel Map from Google, no coprright infringement intended.

Day 0 - evening flight to Hangzhou, take the airport shuttle to the Chengzhan Railway Station (leaves every 30 minutes, travel time is ~40 minutes) (RMB20).  Take taxi to hostel (Hangzhou YMCA International Hostel) (RMB11)  (Taxi from airport to hostel is around RMB110)

Day 1 - Spend half a day in West Lake (love that place!) or Longjing Village (龍井村).  Take the 14:20 bus to Wuyuan (travel time is ~4 hours) (RMB130).  Check in at hostel.

From my trip to West Lake, November 2011

Note: Hangzhou is famous for it's Longjing aka Dragon Well tea (龍井茶).  The best grade of this tea is picked before Qingming (清明).  This grade of tea is also known as 明前龍井.  The smaller the leaf, the paler the tea, the better (and more expensive) the tea is.  The other well known grade is 雨前龍井, which is picked before Guyu (穀雨).

Day 2 & 3 - Reserve a chartered car and visit the various sites in Wuyuan.  The tourist pass is RMB210 for 120 hours.  The most popular tourist routes are the east route and the north route.  Most hostels can and will recommend drivers.  Prices varies.  (The best quote I got so far is around RMB300 a day and this is peak season prices.)  Otherwise, you can join a local tour but you will have less flexibility.

Day 4 - Visit Sanqingshan (三清山) for the day.  The tourist pass is RMB150.

Note:  If you are a student, remember to bring your student ID.  They said they will recognize foreign student cards (to be confirmed) and there is a 30% discount for students!!!

Day 5 - Take the 08:30 bus back to Hangzhou (travel time is ~4 hours) (RMB130).  If time allows, take taxi to Chengzhan Railway Station and transfer to the airport shuttle.  Otherwise, take taxi directly to the airport.

I am looking forward to this trip very much!!!


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