Now that’s a Couch exchange!

Hi WordPress, I bet you’ve been sick of  lazy baby-photos posts I’ve been doing, now matter how many times I had drafted proper posts after birth, the story in whole and whatnots, but never mind that first, coz now that I’m catching up to finish the travelogue of China chapters although it’s been obsolete, but I had to finish anyway coz soon I’m gonna have a new chapter to write! *hint hint*

What I’m putting here first is, actually a long pending one, in March! Yes, when I was still pregnant :) Mischa, our CS host back in Urumqi in 2012 was visiting Malaysia (!) and when he said Malaysia it actually means the WHOLE Malaysia! He was having cuti-cuti Malaysia in KL, Malacca, Langkawi, Sabah, Sarawak, Penang, all the islands for goodness sake! For a month starting mid-March. Anyhow, it was funny when he had sent us a couch request. Although timing wasn’t as good as he arrived in KL the weekend that we were spending in Phnom Penh (when I say Phnom Penh, then it means ONLY Phnom Penh, but nevermind).

CouchSurfing

He was our second CS guest to stay after we moved to new apartment, the first being an Achehnese girl from Indonesia with her mum.

This is from our stay in Mischa’s house in Xinjiang university last time! :) Feel like knowing more about Mischa (and his feature in popular dating TV show) – head on to this travelogue report.

Urumqi with CouchSurfers

Right after train arrived, we’re now no longer strangers to Urumqi Railway station since having been here for short transit before Kashgar earlier. We quickly took Bus no 10 going to the Bazaar, and before that, we informed Nazar that we’re back in Urumqi and if he’s free for meet-up.

We’re also going to meet Hasnat – the Pakistani student I knew from Xinjiang Facebook page – whom we didnt have a chance to see during last short transit. Nazar said he would be free, so would Hasnat after his class, so I guess we’d spend time with them for afternoon. We waited for Nazar at the Bazaar as usual while having pomegranate juice.

Because of plans change, we didnt really prepare anything for Urumqi for today, so when Hasnat offered us to visit Red Hill, we just said OK. Nazar came first to meet us, and it was Zuhur time so we went to the mosque first. This is Uyghur mosque in Urumqi, among the biggest ones. Although, it’s only him and Az praying inside while I had to wait outside (no prayer space for women, unfortunately). Which later it was such a hassle to find a place for me to do prayers  which we ended up asking from a boutique so I could do my prayers inside.

So our itinerary for Urumqi is roughly like this:

Today (Wednesday): go around town with Hasnat, Nazar, later meet our CS host, Mischa
Thursday: visit Tianchi Lake, maybe overnight there
Friday: visit Nanshan pasture
Saturday: fly to Xian afternoon

But unlike Kashgar, Urumqi is a very big city that we’re not sure how to go to those places by our own feet, or probably we have taken Urumqi for granted for not having much studies on bus stations and routes (then again, least we thought that Urumqi is actually this BIG!) and getting to meet 3 locals here kind of made us less independent in a way ;D I mean, we can easily ask Hasnat and Nazar and Mischa and maybe ask them to go with us, no?

Having told Nazar our stories in Kuqa and how we managed to leave our shoes in the sleeper bus and now are left with crocs, he brought us to several shoe shops around the town to see if we like to buy our new shoes here. Which we couldnt find any – they look cheap but aren’t that cheap either, so we said we’re going to survive with crocs only. Later we asked Nazar to bring us to his favorite restaurant in Urumqi, and we ended up in this posh-looking restaurant!

We havent been in any restaurant this standard while traveling so I had to ask Nazar a few times if it’s expensive. And to our surprise, the food is rather affordable! We had two plates of polo rice (I share with Az), and a big portion of grilled lamb, all for 45 yuan. They even serve yoghurt as dessert. I was overwhelmed to see the big lamb chunk with bones and didnt really know how to start with it. It taste really good! Shortly when we’re done, I got a call from Hasnat that he’s arrived at Bazaar, then we directly made our way to the place again.

Now a group of Malay – Pakistani – Uyghur friends in Urumqi! :) We introduced ourselves and exchanged stories, and when Hasnat said he was bringing us to Red Hill, Nazar then offered us to leave our big luggage in his aunty’s house, some steps away down main road in the town. Nazar then left for having some matters and we’re now following Hasnat to Red Hill.

We aren’t fan of parks like this, let alone parks with heaps of tourists. But since it’s near and we dont have any other plans in mind and it’s Hasnat nice offer to bring us there so there’s nothing much to complain. Other than having to climb very high stairs to the top! (I had to stop several times taking breath). That’s the view of Urumqi city we get to see from the hill top. You wouldn’t imagine Urumqi looks like this, no? ;)

After Red Hill, we followed Hasnat to nearby tour agent office from which he took his trip for Tianchi Lake earlier, for only 100 yuan. Initially we had in mind to do the trip to Tianchi by ourselves as we did for Karakul Lake, but knowing that we dont even know which bus station to take in Urumqi, and the tour package is offering 100 yuan including transportation and entrance ticket (which we understood earlier from internet it’s 100 yuan alone for entrance) so we thought it’s a good deal and bought the trip for tomorrow from the agent.

When it’s getting dark, a friend of Hasnat, Nitasha came to join us. She’s a university mate of Hasnat, and although she’s from Pakistani descent, she lives in Saudi Arabia, and at the same time, an American citizen! (how complicated is that?). Our CS host, Mischa called us and joined us as well. Mischa is Kazakh Chinese and now we’re a bunch of multi-national group having a dinner at this decent restaurant. Pity that Nazar wasn’t around to join! Anyways. We had a large platter of spicy chicken and in fact the largest plate I have ever seen in my life! They dont serve forks so you’d better be good at using chopstick already!

Here’s a short video to summarize today’s places and people:

CouchSurfing with Derek and Money

Early this year when I was busy on my routine since many months, during lunch time at office, go preheat my food at pantry, and eat at my working place, surfing internet. Mostly searching info on Xinjiang and China, and among that, finding possible hosts in CouchSurfing. When there’s very few CSer in Xinjiang, there are apparently quite a number from Chengdu, and I actually received a few invitations from Chengdu alone. Pity that Chengdu is not our main destination, and we’re not going to spend long in the city. Although, we might want to have a place to stay and meet people there.

I came across a profile belong to Derek and his wife from Chengdu, and instantly sent message asking if he could host us when we come to China in April. Surprisingly, he replied saying that he was coming to Malaysia first in March! They were coming for a short sightseeing in KL and one week diving in Semporna, Sabah. Derek is awesome guy, when I was hopelessly trying to find a way to get China train tickets (which you cannot book online.. I mean, the website is only in Chinese and does not accept foreign credit card!) Derek came as a savior, and helped us book all the tickets we need to get a ride on a China train. The other alternative is to book at train station itself, yet you cannot be secured with available immediate tickets.

Although we have yet to be a proper CS host (until we move to stay in a proper house, hopefully), it was great to hang out with guests from faraway. We picked them at KL Sentral and went for dinner at Syed Restaurant in PJ (for Az’s favorite mutton biryani). It was so exciting meeting someone whom you’ll visit them later in their place.. it’s so much like an exchange :) We shared alot of things about places in KL (and Sabah, as they’re heading to Semporna the next day) and they shared all the things about traveling in China we had to know. Also, we shared each other wedding photos from each other’s tablet! ^_^

I actually forgot to take photos during the dinner (too busy discussing!) and photos above were actually emailed by Derek when they returned to Chengdu. And this was meant to be published months ago, and the reason suddenly I posted now coz finally I managed the first China episode in our travelogue ;) of course, featuring Derek.

[jbox color=”gray” icon=”http://ilyani.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/P1100401-190×190.jpg” title=”Chengdu with Derek”]Now. We arrived around 11pm in Chengdu Airport, and the moment we got worried that we couldnt get through Derek’s phone when using mobile phone belongs to a girl in the same flight, Derek was right at the arrival hall, smiling and waving at us. We immediately followed him to his car, both surprisingly and unsurprisingly a BMW 3-series, and had a ride directly to his house. And the first thing we noticed when we landed in China other than Chengdu being so cold (brr!!), all the signboards and building signage are in Chinese and we hardly see anything English! (Read more..) [/jbox]

 

I know that first few days in China went pretty dull (long trains and trains) but it took us 3 days to reach our main destination!

Chengdu with Derek

Rewind to 24 hour earlier: Az just arrived in KL from KB at midnight and I have been mad at him since 2 days for cancelling flight ticket I had booked for him to come back 2 days earlier (for packing!). Now we barely have half day to pack for our China trip. I mean, I havent started yet! (My policy is I never do the packing alone while he’s away. No way!). But we end up too tired and sleepy to start packing at 1am (after work somemore) and decided to get up early morning to get started. It’s already insane to do last minute packing when you’re heading for 18 days trip overseas and you have to leave the house before 2pm to catch airport bus, still, we managed to wake up late that morning and hence a rush packing (ugh!). With a quick stop at McDonalds for brunch, 1 hour+ bus to airport, we almost had to kiss our trip goodbye when the luggage check-in counter was nearly closing! We were the last! I was gonna have a heart attack! End of rant.

Now. We arrived around 11pm in Chengdu Airport, and the moment we got worried that we couldnt get through Derek’s phone when using mobile phone belongs to a girl in the same flight, Derek was right at the arrival hall, smiling and waving at us. (Read here how we get to know Derek from CS). We immediately followed him to his car, both surprisingly and unsurprisingly a BMW 3-series, and had a ride directly to his house. And the first thing we noticed when we landed in China other than Chengdu being so cold (brr!!), all the signboards and building signage are in Chinese and we hardly see anything English!

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Last day in Delhi

Finally, after 2 weeks being in India, we have to realize that this wonderful journey has come to its end *sad*. Mr Bashir invited us to join him at his house for breakfast, and his resident apartment is located only a few blocks away from the shop office apartment (where we always had breakfast and dinner with the rest of the family, and other guests). And for the first time we personally met Mr Bashir’s wife, she’s a great lady and we both talked about many things, Mr Bashir gladly shared of how they both met (and later Az, delightedly wanted to share our stories as well =,=) and some valuable advice they gave us as newlyweds.

After saying (final) goodbye, we took auto-rickshaw to Metro station, and quickly went to Karol Bagh again to do a few last shopping! :P (Metro AIIMS change at Rajiv Chowk, then to Karol Bagh). On way back, we directly took auto-rickshaw for New Delhi Metro and from there you can get  Metro directly to the airport.

Here we are, fully dressed in Indian Kurta (bought at Karol Bagh!) and in fact, they were much cheaper than what I shopped earlier in Kashmir.

 

While waiting for our flight, we had to finish all rupees left by ordering this Domino’s Vegetarian pizza (tasteless in my opinion) .

 

Arrived in KL around 6am local time.