AirAsia X to Hangzhou - Journey of Self-Discovery

Taking a flight "home" is always full of anxieties. By home I mean my homeland where my ancestors originated- China.

xi hu in hangzhou

The thing is, I have grown up knowing Malaysia as my only mother soil. Knowing I am born and bred Malaysian, true Malaysian blood. And proud of it. Never have I seen myself a foreigner here, Chinese, like every other race here, is part of who Malaysia is.

The last time I stepped onto mainland China was two years ago during Chinese New Year 2007, it was tour trip with my mom and brother visiting the beautiful Li Jiang (Li River) from Guilin to Yang Shuo. But you know how tour trips are, boring and touristy.

So last month, I boarded my first Airasia X and flew straight into Hangzhou, said to be one of the most scenic and beautiful cities in China. Now the first thing you need to learn and know when boarding Airasia X.

Do not overpack.

excess luggage

Airasia X does not offer baggage allowance hence the first check-in luggage of 15kg will cost you Rm25 AND RM15 for any additional kg. Ouch.

Hence if you want to buy anything at all from China, just bring an empty suitcase there if you're taking a return flight with AAX.

My luggage was 16kg when I checked in. T_T

Please EAT before you board the plane.

expensive airasia X menu

Don't say I'm a cheapskate, there is a reason why you take Airasia instead of MAS airline, and it's certainly not because of comfort.

Unless you think RM25 for a plate of Pak Nasser's Nasi Lemak or Prosperity Noodle (note: airplane food) is worth spending money on,

selected menu on hangzhou and goldcoast flight

By all means, order away.

Why not throw in another bottle of duty free whiskey with your meal.

duty free booze on airasia X
Which is rather cheap in my opinion.

So ignoring my ever rumbling stomach, I dozed off on the plane (or I tried to) only to wake up 6 hours later finding myself at the airport of Hangzhou.

Now having missed my flight a day before (being late is never a good thing), I decided to skipped Hangzhou altogether and caught myself a bus to Shanghai which took another 2 hours on the road.

me on bus to hangzhou station
On the bus from Airport to Hangzhou train station.

Riding along the West Lake, I remembered the descriptions in Lonely Planet of how beautiful the West Lake of Hangzhou is, like stepping into a watercolor painting. It could have been true, seeing that I never actually toured Hangzhou on foot. But just passing along these streets, observing the local scene, people riding on motorcycle, couples on bicycles; I thought Hangzhou is a bit too beautiful, artificial almost.

riding along west lake

Reminds me of Melaka, how the city is beautified to cater the tourism industry. The river cleared up and street revamped, love birds holding hands singing and dancing by the lake that is crystal green to the depths, just like a scene cut out of a movie.

Nothing is wrong with that, don't get my wrong, but if I were to see visit a place that is artificially gorgeous and spotlessly clean, I would just go to Singapore. They're everything stated above and more, I mean, they bloody planted a whole jungle in a city-country. It's so amazing it should be listed in the Guiness Book of Record.

You can catch a bus from the airport to town at 15 yuan (RM7), which would make a stop at the train station on the way, here you could further intersect to other major cities like Shanghai.

On the bus, a lady conductor was conversing in Mandarin.

bus conductor in hangzhou

Thank my parents for giving me 12 years of Chinese education.

Travelling to China, really does feel like.. returning to home. A place of familarity, people of the same kind, of the same color, speaking the same language.

A feeling I have never felt before back in Malaysia. Which is true. I have grown up mixing with people of all races: Malay, Indian, Chinese, Baba Nyonya (Malay Chinese parentage), Ibanese, Chindian (Chinese Indian parentage), Mamak (Malay Indian parentage), Eurasians, etc. Switching in between Bahasa Malaysia (Malay language), English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, and Manglish (Malaysian English).

It got to the point when I don't even know what to converse in to a person whose race identity is difficult to identify (with all the blood mixing, a Malay can look like a Chinese and I won't be able to tell the difference between a Chindian and a Mamak).

Basically, this is my rule of thumb.

Parents: Mandarin
(When my grandparents were alive, they conversed in Hokkien)
High School and Hometown friends: Mandarin
Friends in KL: English
Friends not from KL: English
Strangers in KL: English (first attempt fail, switch to Cantonese)
Vendors or Chinese Restaurant waiters in KL: Cantonese
Waiters in Mamak: Malay

If all else fail, he/she must be a foreign worker, sign language is then applied.

But no, not in China.

Everywhere you go, it's Mandarin and Chinese (the race). Simple as that.

For the first time, I finally know what if feels like to return "home". To be around people of the same kind, people of my kind, people who speak my language, where 100% of the people think I am one of them.

And truthfully,

being at "home" feels odd.


34 kissed Nicole

  1. Video of mine shot in Hang Zhou early last year. You might get to see some of the places you've missed.

    Though I personally preferred the gritty metropolitan feel of Shanghai, there are many sights in Hang Zhou that left me nostalgic.

  2. Very Nice post.. Emjoy reading it! :)

  3. China is beautiful,if u have the chance do explore the western part,it offers landscape so unfamiliar to our eyes yet fascinating...ah by the way,even though mandarin is the common language there,not everyone is Han Chinese...

  4. if you feel that u truly return home when you're in china... does this mean that you do not feel that malaysia is ur home? :-(

  5. Yeah I know what you mean about "everyone looking just like you, or rather vice versa" and it does feel odd. In a way it's sort of like losing my identity as well, amidst a sea of yellow skins and chinese voices. But I guess that's the beauty of travel, gaining new experiences and at the same time, understanding more about ourselves inside. :-)

  6. Nicole,

    I don't like your sun glasses. They made you look old and like an auntie. Change them.

    Nicole, now your pictures are my wallpapers and screen savers too. Hope you don't mind.

  7. I understand the common affinity that u might feel with China, its food, language, people and customs being familiar. In a way it does feel like you're slipping into a comfortable 2nd skin but like u have said, we're Msians right down to our very core! There're times when i have travelled far & long but every time when i look out the window on approaching Sepang, and the sight of wide swathes of palm trees greet you, and you would know that you're home.

  8. i feel the same way when i visit china. it feels like returning home, even though i don't live there and my longest stay was just a month. plus, my mandarin is quite bad. i am chinese though... but i do get that feeling when i visit china.

  9. First time reader here and what a good read :)

    Having returned from living/studying in U.S, China and Hong Kong, I think it is pretty unique how living in Malaysia encourages you to speak at least 3 languages. I pretty much use the same rule of thumb but an extra thing to mine is the American English of the Malaysian English, adding in all the "la" and the "ah" to communicate better.

  10. u r truly a Malaysian =)

  11. I've been to China a couple of times. But i don't share the feelings of going "home".

    I have friends from China that calls me a 'Malay' because i'm a Malay-sian. I d remind them i'm a Malaysian Chinese, but somehow the idea doesn't get through. But they are always impressed when they see us being able to be multi-lingual. That is something I've always being proud of.

    Honestly, I do think we're better off and understanding than some of them. Most of the ones i know smoke, one or two would even smoke weed and get drunk all the time. Most of them are not sensitive to other races or religion and usually offend them. But we do. And you can't blame them because they are not exposed to such circumstances.

    I recall my friends telling me how one of them even said himself watching people eating with hands, probably disgusted him. Or even the smell of curry is considered horrible to them. I would laugh and somehow miss all those things and wished i can go back immediately and do them now XD

    I don't know about you. But i'm somehow glad i'm a Malaysian. ^^
    Despite all the things people say, we are attached to this land as much as those who claim we aren't are.

  12. heyz..thanks for the tips on air asia X..must remember to cash in or eat sufficiently before boarding the plane..><..

    glab to to be a Malaysian too~~

  13. hmm
    the liquor price kinda surprising

  14. hi nicole... i have been following your blog for quite some time now. However, this is my first time leaving a comment in your blog. i must say, i am impress with all your travels and enjoy reading it so much... i did picked up some useful tips for my own travel. thank you.

    i didn't know the meal in airasia x is so much more expensive than the normal airasia. i really like pak nasser nasi lemak tho. however, i might skip it when i take airasia x future.

    you are welcome to visit my blog. it is still very new.

  15. hey nicole... wondering still remember me or not... anyway, i more of a silent reader. i do hav a dream to travel to china like u but too bad, i know nuts bout chinese words but i can speak though... my sis is working in HK, most probably i will pop by China in October, wondering if u will stil b there or not... cheers!

  16. Nic

    Why kit kit kat kat over the food prices aboard AirAsia X and your trip to Hangzhou?

    If you can't afford, just say so and I'll buy you whatever if you want to bite or drink during the 6 hr flight or so. Where there's demand, there's always supply. And that's exactly what AirAsia X is doing biz aboard flight!

    China is such a vast country and certainly you can't profess to say that you have seen and experience it all with just a visit to Hangzhou. Wait till you see the north western part of it, yeah.........

    Yellow skin

  17. My rule of thumb is different from yours. For starters, I'm from Penang.

    Parents:Hokkien and English
    Friends with not very good English: Hokkien
    Malay friends: Manglish(English and Malay)
    Friends with good English: English
    Strangers: English or Malay, depending on her colour

  18. I don't quite agree; because while the change in environment at times capture our attention, I find the mainland chinese have a strong tendency to exploit the foreign chinese as they call it.

    I didn't like it when I was there, I hope its only bad luck on my side >_<

  19. I know why u felt kinda odd there. i tink it's cos u r used to stay in Msia. where they r all kinds of races . hehe. =)

  20. Duty free is cheap. I know it's a bad idea to drink on flights and all that (dehydration adds to the jet lag factor plus you get drunk faster at higher altitudes) but I still do it anyway. *shrugs*

    I haven't visited China yet, I've gotta do it to get back to my roots and all that.

    I have a hard time understanding the accent of the Mainland China native Mandarin though, you have that problem?

  21. I think all the air tickets & hotel accommodation must be sponsored by Airasia Marketing Department due to her face & write up showed in The Star. Same thing go to her new Dell laptop, it must be sponsored by Dell Marketing Department due to she can influence people here to take Airaisa rather than MAS, and buy or change to Dell laptop.

    It is something like what the Westin Langkawi did for her as a blogger and press.

  22. Hi Nicole and readers,

    Eastern, Central and Northern China are steep in history and food is in all varieties. For natural scenes, people and exotic culture, or just to get away from tourists, Western China is the place to be. In fact, those people don't look like Han people and most don't speak Mandarin. No smelly toilets in most places, because there are no toilets, bring an umbrella.

  23. I feel very at home when I went to HK. Because can speak my mother tongue, Cantonese, everywhere I go there.

  24. few lessons to learn in china, spitting, talk loudly, banging ppl, jump queue,squat down in public places, go toilet dont close the door(big or small, period or no period)no joke!!!, then you'll few even more like home

  25. I witnessed a big change from the last decade, the new generation has improved a lot. Clients of my age don't spit, don't jump queue and some speak more proper & fluent English than most Malaysian. Of course there are still millions of less educated people, but China has been opened to the world for only 20+ years or so. Hong Kong people used to be rude to Chinese tourists, then they took a 180 degree change in their attitude, as thousands of Hongkies' livelihood depend on the Chinese. Taiwan is the next to benefit from Chinese tourists as the door is recently opened for them. China is progressing, is Malaysia progressing? I don't know..... hope Malaysia Boleh

  26. How i wish i can actually travel like you...

  27. nicole i wanna kiss your lips, may i?

  28. So bad that you skipped Hangzhou. I would rather skip Shanghai than Hangzhou.

  29. If my memory serves me right the Pak Naseer's Nasi Lemak served on Air Asias flight only cost less than RM10 previously !! Wow..and it has gone up top RM25 ????? Next time I better tapau and sneak aboard !!

  30. No offence, but I would like to comment about this part:

    "Taking a flight "home" is always full of anxieties. By home I mean my homeland where my ancestors originated- China."

    You are holding a Malaysia I/C or a China I/C?

    If you are holding a Malaysia I/C, then u can't say that China is your homeland. You can only say that China is you "Root".

    The Root here means the place where your anccestor come from.

    Homeland means the place/country where you born and grow up at, not the place where you anccestor come from.

  31. datin is probably right. Your trips etc are all sponsored in return for some write-ups (though can be plain boring at times as if a katak has crawled out from underneath the coconut shell!) And that includes your babe - dell computer.

    Which why you never reveal as to where you get your $$$ from. Of course, the silent is most deafening.....unless you've a sugar daddy who you can run to for whatever lah. Ang ho see meh?


  32. Ladies and Gentlement.. Yeahhh... I am her sugardaddy. Without me, how can she travel so many places when she is not working? Thousand apologizes... i will pay Nicole more money the next time so that she will not be so cheapskate about the price of air asia food.

  33. Hi Nicole,

    I'll be taking Air Asia X to Hangzhou/Shanghai on 5th Jan 09

    So basically, where should i purchase the shuttle bus ticket from hangzhou to shanghai? From KL LCCT or Hangzhou airport?

    Thanks in advance.


  34. Hi Nicole,

    I can't really understand how if you arrived at Hangzhou airport and then took a bus directly to Shanghai that you managed to see West Lake.