Friday, February 1, 2013

China - Planning, Preparations and Using Couch Surfing.

Colombo Airport.. Ready to travel.

Planning to use Couch Surfing

It was September, 2012 when I actually planned to visit China again partly for business and partly for fun and Thailand on my way back. I was highly motivated to use couch surfing over my trip and started sending requests to different users in different cities. Muzammil, a very sincere friend of mine from CS Karachi group, guided me about who and how to send requests and how to sort out the cheapest fares. 

Finding Cheapest Air Fares

I used and ITA Matrix Software to sort out cheapest flight for the trip. ITA worked for me and found cheapest flight, Srilankan Airlines, from Karachi to Shanghai via Colombo and Bangkok. It cost me almost 59000 and was relatively much cheaper as compared to the only option behind, Thai Air, which would cost 78000. 

Using Couch Surfing

I'd like to share some mistakes that I made initially while sending requests. True hosts and most of the experienced CSers don't like copy-paste requests. Obviously you shouldn't be sending similar requests to all the users. This was what I was doing just to save some time and avoid frustration but just to know that there were no replies or replies only from newest CSers who I couldn't trust due to low trust factor. So, eventually, I started sending personalized requests to users and soon there were responses. 
I got invitations from a girl and a guy in Shanghai, a polish couple in Ningbo, a guy in Shaoxing, a guy and a polish couple in Suzhou, a guy in Yiwu. That was more than enough that I was expecting. I wanted to use couch surfing just for a different experience and not for saving some money. And definitely it was an awesome experience. 

I Like Hostels!

As a matter of fact, if planned, accommodation in any big cities of the world is never expensive at all. It was my previous trip to China when I came to know about the hostels. Hostels in China and Thailand cost me almost PKR700-800 only. Not a big deal at all!  


As I reached Shanghai at 11am, once more I checked with my potential hosts and the guy from Shanghai who wanted to host me. There was some problem and I couldn't surf with him. I told him that I was already going to another host. Then I called my second potential host and she was very happy to know that I was already in Shanghai and wanted me to wait till evening as she wasn't at home. I decided to go to the hostel I stayed in before as I was too tired and needed some good rest after a long journey. I got another call from her that she had told her friend to receive me and take me to her apartment. I didn't feel comfortable either and decided to go to the hostel. 

Shanghai was very cold and grey and the weather was quite possibly the source of depression and tension. This is what people usually say about grey weather. Next day I moved to my host's apartment. It was my first couch surfing experience. We shared different stories, cultural values, shared Chinese and Pakistani songs and had dinner. It felt like a very old friendship. 

Their Life and Culture   

I saw their culture and life style first time so closely. Their youngsters are smart, sharp, hardworking, independent, intelligent and responsible. Like my host who was 24, brave enough and confident, living alone in Shanghai for completing her masters and met her expenses by her own self. And the fact is that she was very confident, smart and worked too hard whole day to meet her requirements. Chinese people are fond of comparing too much. They tend to have latest mobile phones, pads and laptops and never like to be looked behind other mates. They would work hard only to accomplish that goal. Then they have to find a partner to get married with. Its necessary for them to find a partner and let their parents know about that. If someone is unable to find a partner, parents would look for them and arrange a meeting in a restaurant where both of them could meet, see and talk to each other for a long time. Still, its never parents' choice!


Finding Halal food is a challenge in China. However, I liked it and used to have anything that was available. Sometimes depending on biscuits and milk even. Duck eggs are available to help you get rid of hunger. Usually there's no Coffee or tea is available in breakfast. China is very famous for different kinds of tea but its just like water with leaves in it. It tastes not more than ordinary water.  
Chinese Grean Tea - This is what they always offer and it just doesn't have any taste.

Lizards, sea insects and other small reptiles or insects are easily available in the streets. They would prepare BBQ of your selected insects with a few minutes and are not too expensive. AMAZING!
I don't know which insect it it but its ready for BBQ.

Looks like chicken but its actually some sea food.
I often used to eat something like boiled bread with vegetable which they called "Pauzza" in Chinese. I used my Chines to English dictionary in iPhone, which had always been very helpful in explaining things a little. For example I told them Pauzza and then I opened dictionary to translate vegetable into Chinese which was "SU KI". So I ordered them "Pauzza Su KI" just to avoid Pauzza with Pork:). I liked it by the way. It was my favorite item as it often helped my fill my stomach when I had nothing else to eat. 

Tourists Places in Shanghai

The Bund

A very famous area among tourists with sky scrappers and Hongpoa River. It always feels very relaxed and cool to just go and sit on bench beside the river and observe people taking photos all around and having fun. Although the weather was too cold but I much better than summer specially for those who hate summer like me. 
The Bund at night.

Nanjing Road

Just a few hundreds meters ahead is the famous street called Nanjing road. This place is famous among tourist shopping lovers.
It feels awesome after dark at Nanjing Road
Yuyuan Garden

One of the historic sites with some ancient construction, built by some rich and famous person, Yuyuan garden is worth visiting to get some idea about Chinese civilization. 
Yuyuan Garden
Transprtation in Shanghai

Shanghai metro is definitely the most convenient and cheapest way to travel around the city. Almost with 10 metro lines, the underground train system covers almost every part of the big city like Karachi. The ticket range from 3Yuan to 8 Yuan at most. As a backpacker, I never travelled in Taxi during my whole trip. Taking metro from airport to hostel and then using public transport buses where there's no metro. 
The clean and relaxed journey never makes you feel tired
Things to remember

If you are going to look for Halal food, get it written in Chinese by some friend. I got written "no pork or pork oil". For me, its always fun and adventurous to keep walking in streets and look for required halal food and sometimes depending on biscuits and cakes when I don't find any.
Finding Halah food on streets is what I enjoy too much

No one is going to understand English and you feel it specially at train station and bus stations. So get details written in Chinese to avoid difficulties and frustration. Everything, however, gets done anyway but getting things written in Chinese makes me avoid frustration.

No comments:

Post a Comment