Our fourth day in Shantou (汕头) was our last full day there. Hence we wanted to make the most of it. Instead of following the official itinerary with our contingent, Rachel and I decided to tag along with Nicholas who will be hosted by his Shantou relatives. In this way, we get to have the real local experience as opposed to lavish banquets and staged events, catered for tourists.
In the morning, Nic’s uncle drove to pick us at our hotel. He brought us to a famous stall near his place to have beef ball kway tiao for breakfast. The stall is said to serve to best beef ball in all of Shantou and one of the few left that still hand-made their beef balls. Rachel and I enjoyed our breakfast very much and devoured the tangy beef balls quickly.
After breakfast, Nic’s uncle brought us to walk around a local wet market and introduce us to some local food delights. The market was reminiscence of Singapore in the 80s. When I was a little boy, we had wet markets like these too where the fish and poultry are slaughtered live on the spot.
We then went to Nic’s uncle’s condominium for a quick visit. Nic’s uncle and aunt lives on the top floor of the condominium. There’s no lift, so we had to climb all the way up – a harrowing task for Singaporean brats like us, used to modern convenience.
Their home has a nice view of the city and the sea. The roof-top floor also belong to them and they have spent much effort converting it into a cosy little garden. There was a pet cat and some chickens kept in the garden. There’s also a tidy indoor area to sit down, smoke and sip tea.
One thing we observed about Chinese homes during this trip is that they always have a large tea-set in the living room. Guests are always served with tea and most Chinese men smoke too when enjoying their tea.
After seeing Nic’s uncle and aunt’s home, they drove us to the city outskirt to visit Nic’s family ancestral home and also to visit more of his relatives.
We had a sumptuous home-cooked lunch, choked full of Teochew delights at one of Nic’s relatives’ home. After lunch, we followed Nic as his uncle brought him house hopping. One of Nic’s relative owns a large ceramic and glaze factory. They gave us a tour of their factory and showed us the production process.
The Chinese were really hospitable. Even though Rachel and I were strangers, Nic’s relatives made us felt like one of them and we enjoyed ourselves very much that day.
The highlight of the day was scheduled for late noon – to visit a lavish hot spring resort, Dansuao Hot Spring Hill (潮安县东山湖温泉度假村), highly recommended by Nic’s uncle who drove us there. The resort claims to have an astonishing 99 hot springs! We reached the place at around 4pm and spend around two hours soaking ourselves in the many different types of hot springs there. Heavenly.
We managed to take a few photos of the place before Rachel got caught and was made to keep the camera in the locker. Other the hot springs, the resort also has massage facilities, a gym, sauna and many other items.
According to Nic’s uncle, this resort was built by a rich Singaporean Teochew businessman. With the advent of Shantou as a modern city, the man has received many offers to buy his resort recently, but he had steadfastly refused, seeing further potential in his investment.
After the hot springs, it was dinner time. Nic’s uncle and aunt brought us to a nearby remote restaurant that we probably won’t be able to find by ourselves. There, we had one of our best meal in Shantou. The fish was slaughtered on the spot and served fresh. The kampong chicken meat was really sweet and tangy. Vegetable was jade green.
We had tea after dinner and Nic’s uncle strike up a conversation with the restaurant owner who was a retired hotel chef.
Nic’s uncle then drove us to buy some food stuff for Nic to bring back to his relatives in Singapore. We were then taken back to our hotel where we bid farwell to Nic’s friendly uncle and aunt.
That ended our last full day in Shantou. Tomorrow, we will be leaving early in the morning to Singapore.
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