Went on a weekend trip to Jieyang (揭阳) to visit some relatives with my parents. Jieyang is a small prefecture city in Guangdong province. Although the predominant spoken language is teochew, apart from the really old, most people understands and speak Chinese as well. Like most Chinese cities, it is rapidly developing from farming and agriculture into medium and light industries. This industrialization brings much wealth to the people, as evident by the numerous plots of land, factories, and high rise condominiums owned by my cousins. According to my relatives, electricity had only been introduced to their house 40years ago. Gone were the days where they had to write to us, asking for donations of clothes or money. Now, on comparison, they seem better off than us…
My journey begain with a jetstar plane out from Singapore Changi airport to Jieyang Chaoshan airport. The flight journey is about 3.5hrs, and cost about SGD$200 one way inclusive of taxes. With a budget airline, you can’t expect the seats to be comfortable. However, given the relative emptiness of the plane, one can take up an entire row of 3 seats and sleep horizontally comfortably :D. However, given that this flight is flying into and out of China, and am appalled by the cabin crew’s command of Chinese.
Upon arrival at Jieyang Chaoshan airport, I was overwhelmed by my relatives that came to pick us up. Feels as if we were mobbed – all our luggages were taken from us, and we were ‘escorted’ to their cars. Jieyang Chaoshan airport is a small international and domestic airport, with only a handful of shops selling souvenirs and food. Like most airports in China, there is an airport express bus service, ferrying passengers to and from various locations in downtown and rural Jieyang, at a fraction of the cost of a cab. There is a bus that stops directly in front of the hotel I am staying at, and cost only RMB$24.
So, my relatives ‘escorted’ us to the hotel I pre-booked, Hefeng international business hotel (和丰国际商务酒店). It is a relatively new hotel, just opened in 2011, and has a ‘five-star’ rating. The most famous hotel in Jieyang is Rongjiang Hotel, and on retrospect, I should have booked that, as it oversees the Rong River and supposedly has better view. However, it was also the oldest ‘five-star’ hotel in Jieyang, first opened in 2005. And according to some comments online, the rooms were musky and service wasn’t great. Hefeng on the other hand, was situated next to a shopping mall, Guangbai Departmental Stall. Service at Hefeng was good, and rooms were really clean and spacious, with very comfortable beds and pillows. There is a free wifi spot in every room, which means you get a strong dedicated signal. Speed was good enough to watch HD movie streaming off China websites. Towels, coffee, tea and mineral water were replaced everyday, together with a meal voucher for breakfast. Don’t be too excited about the breakfast though. Selection was mediocre, and generally quite salty. I only ate it for the first day, and skipped it thereafter. Nonetheless, what do you expect from a RMB$10 breakfast? Hotel rooms were RMB$258 per night, and we stayed for 3 nights.
Public transportation around Jieyang is under-developed. There is no subway, and public buses are almost non-existent. Students walk or cycle to school, while adults ride their motorized vehicles to work. It was afterall a small farming town some 10 years ago. However, urbanization was rapid and much of the rural farmlands I saw 5 years ago, were already converted to 6-9 stories high factories/houses.
My first dinner in Jieyang was at a upscale restaurant called Dong Fang Yu Chun (东成渔村). Food was fantastic, and I ranked it as the number one restaurant I have tried in Jieyang. Though it is pricey in terms of Jieyang’s cost of living. For RMB$800 the group of 7 of us were ushered to a private room with a attached bathroom and pantry, and a couch where a tea set was placed for tea drinking. We were served about 10 dishes of fish, squid, oyster omelette, stewed duck, stewed cabbages, some cakes… Service was excellent. We had a dedicated waitress attending to our every needs, and frequently changing our plates, and our hot towels.
Other places we had our meals were not that wonderful, but sufficiently good in quality. One of the most expensive one must be the restaurant in Zhong Tian Wen Hua Hotel (中天文化酒店). Food was elaborately presented with lots of garnishes, and decorative carving. However, to my disappointment, it didn’t taste as good as it looked, and service was really bad. No one came to change our plates or refill our tea.
On this trip, I realized my relatives were quite well-to-do people in Jieyang, each owning a piece of land, and staying in 6-9 stories houses, they built for themselves, I also realized that buying an apartment in Jieyang, cost more, at least 2-3 times more, than building your own 9 stories house! My cousin attributed this to the location of his apartment, which faced the Rong river, a much coveted view. Then it struck me that my flat in Singapore cost as much as buying a piece of 150sqm land and building a 9 stories house on it, with private lift and interior furnishing. And to my astonishment, this cousin is in the business of printing money – paper money. He even joked that the money he prints is universal across all countries and banks.
On our sightseeing days, we visited a couple temples, and the West Lake of Jieyang. All these scenic spots paled in comparison to those offered by other Chinese cities, like Hangzhou, Shanghai, Qingdao…
Nontheless, Jieyang is a city full of history. Given a few more years, it will no doubt catchup in development with the more developed cities of Beijing and Shanghai. Afterall, it already has an international airport.