The ‘Bullet Scam’ at Manila Airport

The ‘Bullet Scam’ at Manila Airport

Before heading to the Philippines, there was one thing which really concerned me. This was the Bullet Scam. As I mentioned in a previous post, this scam is where Manila airport security people plant a bullet in your luggage. The first security check is fine, it’s not until you have the second security check already in the airport that this is when it happens.

The security people secretly plant it when you aren’t looking, and then call you over and tell you there is something suspicious in your bag. Low and behold, they find a bullet! You are not allowed to carry ammunition into the airport, so obviously this is a big deal.

Apparently the only way to get out of this is to give them money. Or else be held in the airport.

After we read about this we became extremely worried!

So you know what we did, we went out and bought ourselves some cling film and cello tape. We could wrap this around our bags and tape the zips! We definitely didn’t want our holiday to be ruined before it even began!

So the day came to leave, and I had the cling film and tape in my bag, wondering to ourselves when we should wrap our bags.

From Chengdu, we arrived in Manila airport after about 3 hours…. and we were looking around… and NO ONE had their bags wrapped. Not one person. We were thinking “ok… why isn’t anyone wrapping their bags?? Do they not know about this scam???”

And then we end up at our gate… relaxing until our next flight to Puerto Princesa. That was easy!!

When we arrived in Puerto Princesa we then had to take a 6 hour van right to El Nido. We were with another 8/9 people and I decided to ask them if they heard of this scam.

Nope, none of them heard a thing! I thought that strange, all over the internet in 2015 you heard of this scam happening… but apparently now it must have stopped!

So all that worrying over nothing! Oh and bringing cling film and tape with us!

When we were leaving El Nido, we decided to fly with Air Swift straight to Manila, instead of having to take the 6 hour van right. Once was enough!

El Nido airport is tiny! It’s not really an airport at all, it’s more like a big hut: the roof was covered with straw and it was all made out of wood. They even had free coffee, iced tea, juice and a little food. Don’t be expecting to go online though, there is no wifi there.

At the airport they don’t have an x-ray machine so they have men looking through your bags. He pulled out the cello tape and asked me “Why do you have this?? This is not allowed.”… I laughed and said “Oh it’s a long story”… he said again “You aren’t allowed this on the plane” to which I said “It’s ok… I can leave it here”.

The security men were really nice to us though!

So flying back to Manila we didn’t have our cello tape, but we didn’t mind. We realised that the scam must be over and we would be ok.

So if you are heading to Manila airport maybe check online and see if this scam is back up and running. You don’t want to be stuck in Manila airport I assure you!

再见

爱玲

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My Resolutions For 2017

With 2016 being quite a crappy year; the attacks all over Europe,  lots of celebrity deaths (which unfortunately will become more and more common),  the shock US election, and finally with Brexit… but, the year is nearly over! Hopefully 2017 won’t be as bad!

So I’ve decided to try my hand (again) and write my 2017 Resolutions.

1. Study Chinese

This time however, I’m really going to try and give it my all. Unsure of what we will do for 2018, I’d like to study as much as possible before I leave China. Read more Chinese books for learners, listen to more TV Series/ films. Try and speak more. If I don’t speak more I’d ideally like my listening to improve. Ha so my listening will be fantastic, but I won’t be able to speak a word!

2. Loose weight.

I’m never going to be as slim as all these Chinese girls, but I’d like to loose a little weight and become fitter. I’ll continue the cycling and start going running around our community.

3. Take up a hobby.

I’ve always said ‘studying Chinese is my hobby’… but when I start getting stressed about it, then I realise its not exactly a relaxing hobby. I’m thinking of learning how to make a few dishes, as I think knowing how to cook is important… oh and life saving! I’ll admit it, I don’t like cooking. I just don’t. But it’s a part of life so I really should learn. The thing is in China it’s just much more difficult.

Firstly, we don’t have a working over. Second we don’t have any cooking utensils, say for example a pan for the oven. It’s not like I don’t want to buy these things, its just the fact that we don’t want to buy them and then end up moving and having to sell it all. Plus our apartment is becoming smaller and smaller with each thing we buy. Third, it’s difficult to get the ingredients. There are green vegetables in Walmart here and I have no idea what they are! I’d need to take a photo of each veg and send it to my Mum so she could tell me what they are.Forth, they might not have the ingredient for a certain dish.

I look forward to going back home and being able to know exactly what I’m buying and where to buy it!

(I know… number 3 is just full of excuses!)

4. Save money

I’d like to have saved some money during this year; mainly for when I go back home or go to Mexico.

5. Travel more

During 2016 we travelled in China, so in 2017 I’d like to travel more outside of it and see South East Asia, maybe New Zealand, Japan….I’d like to visit these places before I leave China anyway!

6. Figure out what to do with my life.

This is an important one. Every year that goes by… we say to ourselves ‘ok, we need to figure out what we are doing after Chengdu… are we going to move to a different city/ country? Back to Ireland or go to Mexico?’ But then it’s always ‘We’ll study a year and then decide’. I suppose the reason why I stress about life is because I feel I’m stuck in China trying to learn this language and I’m putting my life on hold just for this language that won’t bloody stick in my head.  I can’t be spending my life learning Chinese because by the time I learn it it’ll be time to settle down and maybe start a family…

Ideally my plan is to go home, do a course related to tourism, gain some work experience, then go to Mexico and learn Spanish. I’ll continue learning Chinese myself. But I’ll miss China a lot. I’ll write a post about what I’ll miss about China when I leave.

So these are my new resolutions. Let’s hope I can manage them so I’ll be happy with myself this time comes around next year!

Happy New Year To All My Followers!

再见

爱玲

Being Conned By A Taxi Man

Being Conned By A Taxi Man

I have been quite lucky in the fact that I haven’t been scammed; you hear in Beijing about people being scammed when they meet a student looking to ‘practice their English with you’ and you both go to a teahouse to drink tea. Then suddenly the bill comes and the tea is at an extortionate price. Obviously the ‘student’ and the teahouse are in this together, and they force the foreigner to pay.

This is quite a well known scam that most people going to Beijing should have heard about. But in Chengdu, I’ve never encountered a scam….

That was until 2 weeks ago…

When my boyfriends parents were here, we decided to go for some Beijing Duck. It’s a little far from our place, so we decided to hail a taxi to get there; costing 20元. About 4/5euro.

After our meal, we caught another taxi and away home we went. Every taxi has a meter, and usually it begins at 8元 and continues from that price.. I think it is based on every kilometre you drive… and it increases by 1yuan.

So naturally we presumed it would be around the 20元 mark. As we were driving, I happened to look at the metre…… 30元!!??

We were still not home… but it was already at this high price! I kept looking at it and the metre suddenly jumped another 2 yuan in a matter of 10 seconds.

‘That’s definitely not right’ I thought. It’s broken.

Then, to make things worse, I didn’t spot any information about the taxi man in the car. No card or details about him… You always see details of the driver on the dashboard. Definitely a dodgy taxi.

It was then when my boyfriend noticed the metre. He asked him why is it so expensive? And the taxi man didn’t reply.

Then, out of nowhere, he starts blabbering in Chinese to him. Huh…. throughout the whole ride home he never said a word…. and it was only until my boyfriend mentioned the price that he started talking.

He asked where we were from and how long have we lived in China. When we said 3 years… I’m pretty sure he copped on and thought ‘Oh no, these guys actually live here…. so they know rightly well that this metre is rigged…. well I can’t do anything about it now…’

So when we arrived home… the metre ended up at 45 元!!! What a ripoff!

He stopped the taxi and we immediately said that’s far too expensive… his reply was ‘You are foreigners!!’ 

And??? Just because we are foreigners doesn’t mean you have the right to rip us off. Obviously he doesn’t care about showing Chinese hospitality to ‘us foreigners’.

So we went back and forth with him about not paying and we settled it at 25元。 A much more satisfactory price.

I keep on wondering how he did it though; did he click a button when he saw us and thats when the metre changed? Or is the metre like that for everybody who uses it?

I didn’t know that type of thing existed. It looked like a normal taxi to us.

And apparently these fake taxis are becoming more and more common, as one student in our class said he got into 3 of these fake ones in the last year.

Thankfully we rarely take taxis, only taking them for the convenience of my boyfriends Mum and Dad being here.

But, it goes to show that these are about. In future, we will look at the dashboard and make sure there is correct information about the driver before we step into the car.

We certainly learned to be more cautious!

再见

爱玲

A Trip Down South

A Trip Down South

While my boyfriends Mum and Dad were in China, we decided we would take a small 5 day trip to Kunming. Kunming is just over an hours flight south from Chengdu, in Yunnan Province. We have heard good things about the city: it’s weather is much better than in Chengdu, there are quite a lot of expats living there, it’s cheaper, plus it’s a gateway to explore south east Asia.

Kunming is remarkably smaller than Chengdu, with about half the amount of people in Chengdu which has around 14 million. Not the most smallest of cities!

From the cities I’ve been to in China, I was surprised at how different Chengdu is to many others. The ones I’ve been to are in the east, and  it certainly shows how the east of China has dramatically become more ‘Westernised’, to me anyway, it seems to have lost some of it’s traditional culture.

Thankfully, much of the traditional ways of life are still seen in the West, so Chengdu and Kunming are definitely cities to visit if you want to experience a more ‘Chinese’ way of life.

Kunming very much feels like Chengdu… they both have sort of a ‘rustic’ feel. When we arrived the weather was glorious! Blue sky and it was quite hot! On our first day we decided to visit the Green Lake. We strolled around the lake and it’s surrounding area; watching people singing and dancing.

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The next day, the weather wasn’t very good. We knew from the weather forecast that rain was due, so we were definitely prepared! Although it was freezing!

We got a bus to a beautiful old temple called Yuantong Temple. Apparently it’s one of the most famous Temples in Kunming. Although the weather wasn’t the best, we still took some really nice pictures.

After this, we walked to an area near a University which has loads of stalls selling different food; I tried these spicy/sweet fried potatoes. They were really nice! Instead of putting lots of spice on them, they only put a little spice but they also add some sesame oil to them.

After that, we headed downtown and had a look in the shops and just had a nosey. The weather was becoming worse so we decided to head back to our hostel.

On Wednesday, we took a train around 6/7 hours to a place called Dali Ancient City. 大理. Dali is an old ancient city and it is a very popular place to visit for Chinese people. It was really nice, although one thing that annoyed us was that in the streets there were constant e-bikes beeping their horns and trying to swerve between the crowds of people. It was really frustrating. They should really ban e-bikes in the main area of the town. The constant beeping ruined the atmosphere a little for us.

If you plan on walking, I would recommend 2 days in the Dali Ancient City. However if you want to rent a bike, I would say one day would be fine to explore the area. We decided to walk, and quickly realised how big the area was! So I would suggest renting a bike or an e-bike.

Walking around the area, we stumbled across a beautiful small park. I have no idea what the name is, but it was really nice.

After our two days in Dali, we got another train back to Kunming. We could have taken a flight from Kunming to Dali, but it was too expensive, so it was the train for us!

We stayed one more night in Kunming and then caught our short flight back to smoggy Chengdu.

I really enjoyed Kunming, I’d I like to go back again and maybe even think about living there one day!

The two hostels in which we stayed at are:

Kunming: Kunming Cloudland International Hostel

Pros: Really friendly staff, atmosphere was nice, bedrooms were fine.

Cons: Location wasn’t at the heart of Kunming, so had to take buses to get to any place.

Dali: Dali Five Elements Hostel

Pros: Located just 5 minutes from Dali Ancient City.

Cons: Staff weren’t very friendly (didn’t smile once at us). No atmosphere in the hostel whatsoever. I didn’t like our room; the bedroom and bathroom were far too big and just had a weird feeling about it. Also, the shower pressure is literally non-existent. They gave us a bedroom with 3 beds but we only needed 2 so that’s why it felt big. I wouldn’t stay there again.

再见

爱玲

Two Mexicans in China

We have been busy lately, with my boyfriends Mum and Dad coming to visit; bringing with them plenty of Mexican food, nuts and my favourite spicy watermelon lolly pops. Oh and a very good quality Tequila with them!

So far they have really been enjoying their time here; walking around the area of our community, going to Walmart and Carrefour, and having a wander in and around Chengdu.

While we were not working, we brought them to a few famous places… we definitely had to bring them for some Chinese tea in a tea house, so they can experience the relaxed nature of Chengdu people.

High on the list was of course food! So far, they have both really enjoyed everything that Chengdu has to offer; hot pot, rabbit, different varieties of dishes… all they really liked.

This Monday we will take them to Kunming, a city that is south of Sichuan province. Here we will spend 5 days where will we have a look at the city, then we will go to Dali, a supposedly quite attractive ancient town. Although I have heard it is very touristy, but that’s no surprise in China!

They still need to go and see the famous pandas, and there are a few more places where we would like to bring them if we have time. Coming back from Kunming, we will have another few days in Chengdu to go to more places.

Because the weather here is becoming colder and colder, that of course brings more smog. Thankfully there have been 2/3 days where the weather hasn’t been that bad. But I suppose they have been warned about the smog so they knew what they would expect!

There are some things that they have been surprised about; such as people appearing more rude than in Mexico. But they have also been surprised about our life in Chengdu and I think they figured out why we have been living here the past few years and what has kept us here.

So all in all, I think their holiday has been going well so far!

再见!

爱玲

Chinese Golden Week

Once again China has their annual ‘Golden Week’, where they all have 7 days holiday.. usually from the 1st to the 7th of October. During this time China becomes mad with people travelling here and there… but I certainly won’t be going anywhere!

It’s great to get a week off going to University, but unfortunately China is just too busy during holidays. Many just stay at home and relax, while others will venture out and join the swarm of other millions of people.

It’s such a pity though. I would love to go and travel during this time, but I know, from experience, everywhere you go there will most certainly be too many people. Plus the roads leading out of Chengdu will be jam packed with cars.

No, I think we’ll leave the travelling to the braver ones. We plan on relaxing, saving some money, try and study Chinese…oh and work.  Just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean the children have a holiday. Of course they will have tonnes of homework and will have to come to English class.

I asked one of my 14 year old student what were her plans for the holiday. She replied ‘I’ll go with my family travelling but my teachers gave me a lot of homework, so I will have to bring my homework with me and do it during my holiday’.

The poor Chinese students never get a break from school. I really feel sorry for them. No wonder many families are sending their children abroad to study now…

Her Mum is planning on sending her to America next year to study so fortunately she will be out of the Chinese education rat race to be the best. Although she is extremely clever, with the 2nd highest exam scores of her whole school for her summer exams. So she will be fine in America.

So with no school for a whole week… when I return I will certainly not want to get up early in the morning again!

再见

爱玲

 

 

Working, Studying & Living: Sorting It Out

For the past few weeks, we’ve been discussing what to do with our lives for the next year… and finally we’ve come up with a plan.

Working: Because I’m making hardly any money at the moment… although I do love the free time that I have, I’ve resorted having to go back to full time, well 15 working hours a week. This in my company is ‘full-time’.  I’ve managed to keep only working 3 days a week which is just great. I will dread the day when I have to work 7 hours 5 days a week. I’m really being spoilt here.

So working full time means I will be guaranteed my wage every month, whereas right now I’m paid by the amount of hours I teach.. so during the summer time I hardly get paid anything because students go on holidays.

Studying: We’ve also decided that this semester will be our last in our current Uni. I’ve really grown fond of it, plus I enjoy classroom based teaching. But every semester we are finding it harder and harder to get up in the morning. And at the end of the day I still have to pay 1 year tuition. We will miss everyone that we have met, even my teachers. All of them are so nice.

Instead of learning at the Uni, I will continue going to my private lessons in a private language school. It’s only 15 minutes walk from my apartment so it’s very convenient.

And as for Living: Unfortunately due to the enormous cost of rent in Xiamen, we decided to stay in Chengdu. It’s just too expensive. I really love the place, but I don’t want to be worrying about bills and rent just because I want to live somewhere sunny and pretty. I’d rather save my money and go travelling. Instead, when our apartment contract is finished, we will look at some apartments in the community that we already live in. We like where we live and we don’t want to have to lug our things miles away. Because we are going to be earning more, we want to upgrade to a bigger apartment… haha we might even get a balcony, and even a door for our bedroom!!

So right now, we are sorting out my boyfriends Mum and Dad’s visa to come to visit here, let our company know that in December I will be able to teach more students (they will surely be delighted with this), and begin to sort out the dreaded work visa for next year.

Every foreigner in Chengdu dreads that time of year when their visa expires. Enrolling in Uni is the easiest way to get one… but because we will be getting a work visa, we will need to go to Hong Kong on a ‘visa run’ as people say, plus we will get a medical certificate done.

I’m not too fond of going to Hong Kong. It’s expensive and crowded. However maybe this time round it might be different with my boyfriend being with me.

I hate having to sort visa stuff out. The people working there are not at all friendly and they can deny you a visa without giving any explanation whatsoever. Plus if you don’t have 1 piece of paper, that’s it: go home and come back when you get it. Oh and they need like 10 photocopies of every piece of paper you have. Oh they are very picky!

So, we’ve managed to sort out our plan for next year…. ha I won’t think too much ahead just right now or I’ll panic again!

再见!

爱玲