Friday, September 28, 2012

Asian Eyes' China - Fujian Xiamen

           Others places of interest in Xiamen worth mentioning are Nanputuo temple, Xiamen Wanshi Botanical Garden and Strange SlopeNanputuo Temple (南普陀寺) is a famous Buddhist temple founded in the Tang Dynasty in Xiamen. It is so named because it is south of the Buddhist holy site Mount Putuo in Zhejiang Province. Nanputuo Temple is located on the southwest of Xiamen Island. It is surrounded by the graceful sea and the Wulao Peaks behind the temple. The Wulao peaks is a small mountain range that rises on the island. It enjoys a picturesque view of Xiamen and the surrounding district of Haicang, Gulangyu and Zhangzhou City. Nanputuo Temple has many deep caves and verdant woods. It is adjacent to Xiamen University and Lu River. I first went to Nanputuo as part of a team building trip with my Chinese colleague. It was the large temple. Behind the temple, we did a short climb up a fleet of stairs, up some boulders and arrived at the viewing area of Xiamen Island. On the temple compound there are many rest areas and a lot of holiday makers were relaxing and playing cards game called '80 points'. It is also one of my team members favourite games and not long most of them also indulged passionately in them. No matter how hard I tried, I could not comprehend fully the rules of this card games.  
At the entrance to Nanputao temple
Ascending the hill at the back of Nanputao 
temple for a breath taking view of Xiamen island
        Xiamen Botanical Garden, also known as Wanshi Botanical Garden, is on the northern slope of Shi Mountain in southeast of Xiamen Island. It was set up in 1960 and its architectural layout was Chinese ancient garden-style residence. It is about 26 sq km and houses about 1,800,000 trees. Considered as one of Xiamen's 8 major views, this garden had more than 4,000 varieties of flora ranging from eucalyptus, cactus and bamboo to orchids and ferns. Its plant diversity is so renowned the garden has even become a major research centre. It was a tough hike from the garden entrance, however it was worth the effort. I had a great time looking at the odd shaped rocks, many of which are etched with inscriptions, caves, flower nurseries, a lake, and the Temple of the Kingdom of Heaven, mesh with the greenery. My favourite place was where a tree planted by a late China leader - not far from the garden entrance.  
Great collection of cactus at the far end of
Wanshi Botanical Garden
        A Strange Slope (怪坡 - Guai Po) is a place where a slight downhill slope appears to be an uphill slope to naked eyes. Due to the layout of the surrounding land, it creates an optical illusion that water flows uphill or a car left out of gear will roll uphill. The Guai Po we went to was at the east side of Xiamen Island. Kevin was driving and we were on our way to a dinner where we make a quick stop at the Strange Slope. It is an  unassuming small lane where it branches off from the main mountain road and it is here that the illusion begins. The main road is angled slightly downward, and together with the trees and surrounding rock when you turn onto it you get the impression that you ought to be going up. Though by no means a steep climb, when Kevin cut the engine and the car kept on rolling along. It was a weird sensation, as if we were being drawn forward by a magnetic force. We spend some 10 minutes there and satisfied, we moved on to our destination. A big tick on my to visit place list!
Tourists and locals alike tested the gravity at
Xiamen Guai Po

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Asian Eyes' China - Xiamen Gulangyu

Ferry is the only option 
for tourist to reach 
Gulangyu from Xiamen 
             There are a number of interesting places in Xiamen that are worth checking out if you are a tourist.  Top on my list is an island off Xiamen Island called Gulangyu (鼓浪屿) which I have visited numerous of times. The Chinese name has musical roots, as 'Gu lang' means drum waves because of the sound generated by the ocean waves hitting the reefs and 'Yu' means "islet". Gulangyu is about 2 square kilometres in area and home to about 20,000 people. It is a domestic tourist destination where one can reach it by ferry from Xiamen Island in about 5 minutes. Gulangyu Island is renowned for its beaches, winding lanes and its varied architecture. The way to enjoy Gulangyu is by foot as this island is a pedestrian-only destination, where the only vehicles on the islands are several fire trucks and electric tourist buggies. The narrow streets on the island, together with the architecture of various styles around the world, give the island a unique appearance. As a place of residence for Westerners during Xiamen's colonial past, Gulangyu is famous for its architecture and for hosting China's only piano museum, giving it the nickname of "Piano Island" or "The Town of Pianos" (鋼琴之鄉) or "The Island of Music" (音樂之島). There are over 200 pianos on this island. In addition, there is a museum dedicated to Koxinga, Haidi Shijie Marine World (海底世界), a subtropical garden containing plants introduced by overseas Chinese, as well as Xiamen Museum, formerly the Eight Diagrams Tower (八卦樓).  
Gulangyu had good spread 
of seafood available
but it's at high tourist price
         I remember my first and third trip to Gulangyu. On the first trip with a Chinese colleague and a Malaysian colleague, we were being pestered by touts selling map or by tourist guides to hire them to show around the island. We were followed, cajoled and pleaded non-stop, one after another, when they saw that we were not accompanied by a guide. To stop the pestering, we finally relented and hire a young guide but we asked her to quietly follow us to keep other guides off. After hiring the guide, our stroll became more peaceful and we can enjoyed the serene scenery and take in the beauty of the island. We went to the museum and marvelled at many pianos on display and at the exhibits of all the past athletes who had won gold medal for China in Olympic games and other international sport events. Then we walked almost round the whole island before finally made our way back to the ferry jetty. We had lunch at a nearby seafood restaurant near the jetty. The seafood was nice but the price was on the high side. After lunch we did some sight seeings in myriad of shops selling souvenirs, foodstuffs, shirts, dried seafood, pearls, umbrella, fans, paintings and bags. I bought a Chinese painting entitled '100 children' for RMB80 after bargained down from an opening price of RMB300.
100 Children painting bought from Gulangyu
        On the third trip there with American colleagues, after the normal tourist sites, they all went to a pearl shop near the jetty.  I did not plan to buy any of the freshwater pearls, so just tagged along. I helped explained the price and the quality to my colleagues. Once they had selected the pearls and the lengths, the proprietor will then strung them into a necklace. Since they buy quite a lot, it took a while to process all the pearls into necklace. Once all necklaces had been strung and payment done, I was the last one to leave the shop. As I about to walk out the pearl shop, someone patted on my shoulder. I turn around to find the shop proprietor. A sweat broke out on my forehead "Oh, oh, what now", I said to myself. Before I can open my mouth, she continued "Today, I am very happy you brought in some many customers to my shop, and thanks to your help in explaining to these Laowai ('foreigner'), I had many sales. Let me know you what type of pearl necklaces you would like". I looked at her, puzzled written on my face, and then replied her "Sis, I do not need anything". However she did not take a no for an answer, and insisted "Sir, I will choose 2 necklaces for you. It is a small token for your help in my shop just now". In the end I relented and chosen a pearl white necklace and a black pearl necklace. I was still dazed when I exited the shop with the pearl necklaces in a pouch in my hand. Later when I confided this story to my Chinese colleagues, they told me that the necklaces were incentives and the shop proprietor may had mistaken me as a tourist guide. However I do not think that was the case - most likely she make a big kill instead. Ah, sweet memory of Gulangyu, tourist guide and pearl necklaces!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Asian Eyes' China - Fujian Amoy

China map shaped like a hen, with a
leg lifted (Hong Kong) and another 

leg jutted out (Taiwan?)
          Xiamen (厦门), also known as Amoy or its Hokkien version - 'Eh Mng'), remains one of my top favourite cities in China. It is situated by China's southeast coast, overlooking Taiwan Island, separated by Taiwan Strait. Xiamen is in fact closer to Taiwan that anyone outside Fujian would know. Kinmen Islands, famous for its kitchen chopper knife, are being ruled by Taiwan, is less than 10 kilometers away from Xiamen. The closeness to Taiwan had spurred local tour agents to do a "Tour of Taiwan" from Xiamen. Even though technically it is not a hoax, but actually is a boat ride close to Kinmen Island for a glimpse of the Taiwanese island without actually landing on it. I once heard a story about China's shape is like a 'big hen', with a leg standing and the other lifted close to its body. Some said the lifted leg was Hainan island, but other referred it to Hong Kong and Macau which was returned back to China in 1997 and 1999. The other leg is Taiwan, still standing out there. Interesting to note also that since Xiamen is so close by Taiwan, Chinese government had erected a big billboard on its coastline facing Taiwan, to broadcast its political propaganda of "Peaceful Reunification and One country two system" to try to win over her neighbor. To counter this Taiwan erected a similar propaganda sign on Jinmen that faced Xiamen that stated "Three Principles of the People Unite China" - the political philosophy to make China a free, prosperous, and powerful nation.
"Peaceful Reunification" and "One Country 
Two System" billboard propaganda in 
Xiamen, aimed at Taiwan
"Three Principles of the People Unite China",
          After visited Xiamen, I must say in a way Xiamen is similar to Penang,  in fact Penang is one of Xiamen's sister city since 1993.  Both are on a main island, and both have other suburban districts on the mainland. Xiamen consists of  Xiamen dao (厦门岛 - Xiamen Island), Jimei, Tong'an, Haicang and Xiang'an with a total population of over 3.5 million people. Xiamen Island itself has close to 2 million people on an island about half the size of Penang Island. When one visit Xiamen Island, you will feel the crowds, the harbinger, the traffic jams and the high rise apartment buildings. Xiamen and the surrounding southern Fujian countryside are the ancestral home to large communities of overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia and Taiwan. My ancestors came from Nan'an (南安), very close to Xiamen and I still have some close relatives who lives there today. They are no longer in poverty and some are even better off than me!
           The first time I visited Xiamen was in October 2002 via Hong Kong. From the air as my plane approached Xiamen Gaoqi Airport, Xiamen city look brownish and garish, a sign of pollution. Landing at the Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport was a breeze. It is a modern airport with domestic flight terminal on the left and international flight terminal on the right. The first impression of Xiamen Gaoqi airport that caught my attention were those antique planes that hung onto the wall above overhead as we headed towards the immigration counter. The immigration process was a little bit cumbersome but I emerged out of the airport some 30 minutes later, with my fellow colleague in tow. While queuing for the taxi, we were harassed by touts and young chaps who thrust name cards with seductively dressed lady with phone numbers, onto our hands. The taxi service was good and every taxi uses meter - no need to hassle over the fare. Right before my taxi were about to pull out of the airport to my hotel, a young chap, around 20 years old, threw more calling cards into my taxi through the open window. I guess everyone also have KPIs to meet!
         In my previous posting I wrote about 3 culture shock lessons on the very first day itself. The lessons did not stop, in fact the following day I had another one more. That day, after dinner with my Chinese counterparts, we decided to walk to a shopping mall. It was about 10-15 minutes stroll along a busy road. The Chinese drove on the right side of the road like in America, but it was not an issue for me since I am used to America's road system. The honking was incessant, but what worried me most was the electric bicycle that can sneaked up on you without sound and gave you a fright. However what caught me by surprise was not the bicycle. As we neared the shopping mall, from afar I saw a big group of people congregated on a peddler frying some something. Then the smell hit me - the air was putrid and rancid, like someone's smelly socks not washed for ages and mixed with shit. I nearly vomited and had to pinch my nose to stop the inhalation. I cannot place in my memory what those smell was. However as I neared the group, I realized the smell came from the busy peddler frying a food called 'stinky tofu (臭豆腐) '. I have heard of stinky tofu before but never seen or smell or eaten one before. After the whiff, I will definitely not try them even though aficionados claims how good it is and some droll over it. Taiwan and Hong Kong had their own stinky tofu version and each claimed they have the world best. I just cannot force myself to stomach stinky tofu even though it was served in a restaurant setting. There was a rumor that stinking tofu was soak in shit. I hope the rumor came about because of its smell and not true. Yuck!     
Stinky tofu anyone? This food smells strongly, 
like durian or salted fish or heko or belacan. It 
is either one hate it or love it.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Asian Eyes' China - Minnan Guangnan

         My ancestors came from South China. I always thought I am some sort of linguistic expert as I can conversed well in major Chinese dialects - Hokkien, Hakka, Teochew, Cantonese and Mandarin. However after my travels to China, I realized my knowledge on those dialects were just skin deep. There are more dialects that I can imagine.
          Fujian province attracted a lots of migrants from elsewhere in China, and they brought along with them their own local dialects. Over the years, in Fujian province, only left a handful who spoke Hokkien. I had always assumed if someone were from Fujian, they all spoke Hokkien, which is mostly not true. The Hokkien that I grew up with, spoken as my mother tongue, is actually a local dialect spoken only in Xiamen and its vicinity in the Fujian province. This Hokkien dialect is part of bigger dialect grouping called Minnan (闽南语), which also include Teochew and Hainanese dialects. Minnan are also found in Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore due to immigration from South China in the early immigrant days. In China most places are named based on objects and things. Therefore we have Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi and Henan, to name a few. Minnan was so called since it is south of the Ming dynasty capital. Beside Minnan, there are also Minxi and Minpei, meaning West of Ming and North of Ming, all of which dialects that cannot be understood by someone not from the same area. I had a chance to converse entirely in 'Lau Hokkien (Old Hokkien)' when I took a taxi from Marco Polo Hotel to Zhongsan Lu couple of years back. The taxi driver was amazed that a 'Haikui (海亏 - sea turtle)', a  term they used to call oversea Chinese, still able to speak Hokkien even though I was not born in China.
Many people do not know that Hokkien was 
part of a larger language group called Minnan. 
Other dialects under Minnan language are Teochew and Hainanese
         The Hakka dialect I grew up speaking is 'Feichiew Hak' which I learnt from my neighbours. As I moved out from my small village I encountered 'Kaying Hak' in Taiping, Chemor and Ipoh and 'Hopo Hak' in Kuala Lumpur, but none prepared me for my conversation with the elders I met in Yongding when visiting the Hakka Tulou. I was told they spoke other Hakka dialects called 'Meichiew Hak' and 'Chiewchou Hak. I kind of understand a bit, do not understand a bit, and had to inter-sped with Putonghua (Mandarin) when conversing with my colleague's dad. My Cantonese dialect is more fluid than my other two dialects encounter. I can hold lengthy conversation in Cantonese with my Guangdong and Hong Kong colleague, no problem. However I did not get the chance to practice my Teochew dialect in China nor I had a chance to visit the heartland of Teochew dialect i.e. ChouZhou in Guangdong province. My Teochew would have been rusty because I hardly get to use them nowadays.
A Teppanyaki chef eavesdrops
our conversation
        Once there was a hilarious communication incident when Mr. Tang and I visited Dalian, Liaoning province. Together with a few Dalian colleagues, we had dinner in a Japanese restaurant and ordered Tenpanyaki. The chef was a middle aged guy, preparing our dinner as we sat around his hot plate. As usual, Mr. Tang and I, being Malaysian, were at eased using combination of Hokkien, Mandarin and English, with bits of Malay interjected into our conversation. I noted that the chef tried hard to concentrate on his work, but at last he could not contained his curiosity and asked me in Mandarin, "Sir, I am sorry to be intruding, but I am curios to know where you guys are from. Your look and intonation sounded from the south but your dialect is very weird to me". I looked at Mr. Tang and then replied him, "Oh, we are from Guangnan province". The chef nodded and gave a nonchalant reply "Oh, Guangnan!", and continued frying the big prawns he had spread on the hot plate. It took him about a minute before he paused again, lifted his head up and asked "I am from the Guangdong but I have not heard of Guangnan province before". A big laughter erupted between Mr. Tang and me, and we started to converse in Malay and told him how a Guangnan dialect sounded like. We finished the meal with a smile to our face, but before we left, we confided the fact to the chef. We have invented a new state in China called Guangnan (广南), a new province south of Guangdong! Of course there is no such state, we were just pulling the chef's leg.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Asian Eyes' China - Culture shock

Marco Polo Hotels
First hotel that I stayed 
in China
        I remember my first time trip to China where I got doses of culture shock on the very first day itself. I was there together with a group of other colleagues from Japan, Malaysia and Singapore for a summit in Oct 2002. Only my American boss, Kevin and I stayed at Marco Polo hotel in Xiamen while the rest stayed in Holiday Inn Harbor View. The first culture shock was a funny incident. It was about 5.30pm, and there was a ring on my doorbell. I looked through the peep hole and saw a lady outside. I asked through the door "who is it?". She replied something about some service that I cannot fully understand - about a 'service and bed'. The thing that crossed my mind then was 'prostitute'. I told her I was not interested and then she left. Later I went down to the lobby, I complained to the front desk that I was disturbed by a 'prostitute'. The clerk attending to me gave a call to the concierge/security and had some heated discussion over the phone. Right then as I was waiting for her response, the lady who was outside my room moment ago came down through the lift and I pointed her out to the front desk clerk. The clerk looked at the lady, and in a hush low voice told me that there must be some communication breakdown. She explained that the lady was a hotel worker and her job was to perform a service called '开夜床' (roughly translated as 'prepare the bed for the night'. This lady will come in your room to prepare the bed, unfold the blanket and close the night curtain for you to retire in the night. She is not a p***", the clerk continued. Oops! I had mistaken her for something she was not. Sheepishly, I apologized to the clerk and hastily make my exit to prevent further embarrassment.
         I had prior arrangement to meet Kevin for dinner at 7pm at a restaurant outside our hotel. Since my hurried retreat from the lobby, and with half an hour to spare, I decided to take a stroll outside the hotel alone. It was early fall and the air was crisp and comfortable. There were numerous shops nearby selling knick-knacks, toys, fruits, soybean, small eating shops and shoe shops. I walked about 5 blocks before I made a U-turn and headed back to my hotel. On the way home I was approached by an elderly man on crutches, holding up a cup and thrusting it to me while mumbling for pity and small change. I did not entertain him and keep on walking. He was very persistent and kept on tailed me until I was quite near my hotel. To shake him off, I pulled out a 5 Yuan note and handed to him. Bad bad mistake. In no time, I was swarmed and surrounded by others - old men, ladies and even children, each shouted for handouts, whining why I gave the first guy and not them. Some even cried that they had not eaten for days to get my sympathy. They seem to appear from nowhere and the groups grew bigger and bigger to about 30 odds. They tugged at my sleeves, my shirt and did not let go. I was cornered, could not move an inch and did not know what to do. I shouted out for help in English, and luckily, the bellboys from my hotel heard me and pulled me away while scolding the beggars not to disturb me. I reached my hotel safely but still shaken from the experience. I was told that these beggars came from outstation and they used same tactic on visitors. Phew! What a scary experience.
I now think twice on giving to beggar
       Later I related the incident to Kevin who had been waiting for me. We decided to scrap the idea of having dinner outside. We went to a Chinese restaurant inside Marco Polo Hotel. I tried to impress my colleague with my Chinese and called out "miss, miss (小姐)" in Chinese, as I normally would do so in my country, to a waitress to take our orders. There were a couple of waitresses walked about but none came to our table even though they were within earshot and the restaurant was not busy at that time. After couple of tries, Kevin joined me in trying to get the attention of the waitresses, speaking in English of course. Immediately a waitress sprang to action and attended to us attentively. The following day when we were in office, we related this restaurant incident to our Chinese colleagues and we were greeted with laughter.  After the laughter subsided, Jane said "Here we would use the words "little brother/sister (小弟/小妹)" or "service person (服务人)" instead of "miss (小姐)" to address to waiter/waitress. In China, "miss (小姐)" was misused so much that they become a synonym to "callgirl (妓女)". So, when you called them "小姐 " in Chinese, they turned on a deaf ear on you", added Jane. Oh, no, not again, my face turned red again.
        First trip to China I learnt 3 lessons - extra hotel service, beggars and names calling. I would say it was indeed some sort of embarrassment records!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Asian Eyes' China - Bo Bing

        Everyone knew about lantern festival and mooncakes but not many, especially if you are not from Xiamen, knew about 'Bobing'. In this article, I will write about an unique Xiamen celebration called 'Bo Bing' held during the mid-autumn festivals. The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Every year when the Mid-Autumn Festival approaches, streets and lanes in Xiamen will come alive with the noisy clang of dices colliding with china bowl during moon cake gambling. Xiamen's 'moon cake gambling' is also called 'the Mid-Autumn Festival cake gambling'. The tradition of this 'Bo Bing (搏饼)" is still very much a Xiamen thing, except the game may be played by a small group of Xiamen immigrants to Shanghai and Taiwan. 
Previously Bo Bing was about gambling mooncakes

Zheng Chenggong statue in Xiamen, said 
to start the first Bo Bing tradition 
         'Bo Bing' custom is related to Zheng Chenggong (鄭成功), also known as Fukumatsu and Koxinga, a national hero. It was said that Zheng Chenggong stationed his troops in Xiamen more than 300 years ago. On the full moon night of the 15th day of the eighth Chinese month, officers and soldiers, who were full of the heroic spirit that overturned the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) and reinstated the Ming Dynasty, found it hard to avoid homesick feelings. To resolve and relieve soldiers' pains of homesickness during the festival, Hong Xu, who served under Zheng Chenggong, devised a mooncake gambling game to let soldiers admire the full moon and gamble for mooncakes. Zheng Chenggong personally approved that, during six nights from the 13th to the 18th of the eighth lunar month, the army would admire the full moon and gamble for moon cakes in turns according to odd and even dates. Later, this unique custom gradually disseminated and improved among locals, becoming an interesting folk activity.

The clang of dices in china bowl in Bo Bing gave an added
festive atmosphere
Scoring rules explanation 
       I had a rare chance to participate in a 'Bo Bing' game one mid Autumn in Xiamen during a team building outing. All the 'Bo Bing' game requires are six dices and a china bowl. There were 10 person in my table and each of us threw the six dices into the bowl by turn and the different dice numbers stand for different ranks of awards you will win. Nowadays, the moon cakes are not the only kind of award. With the upgrade of people's living standards, daily necessities, household appliances and even money can also be won. It is very common for departmental stores to have 'Bo Bing' sale where household goods ended up as prizes in this game. At my table the host had prepared prizes consist of moon cakes and household items like liquid soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, toothbrushes, washing powders, cooking oil, soy sauces and many other items one finds in bathroom or kitchen. The game has something to do with the number 'four', the more the better. The most I got during my turn was 3 'fours' only. I remember I won many household prizes that I would have trouble to take back.  Only one player will win the lucky title "Zhuangyuan" (状元) . Prizes exchange has made the game even popular among younger generations, I invited my table mates to swap with my prizes. At the end, when all the prizes had been won and the 'Zhuangyan' winner from my table had moved on to the grand table to compete for the grand prize, I put forth all my winnings to be 'Bo Bing' by the other 8 at my tables since I was a traveler, there just for the fun. That was the spirit of 'Bo Bing', and they all cheered and had a jolly good time. 
        Everyone went back with at least 6 months to a year supply of toiletries and kitchen's ingredients. I think the real biggest winners were not us but those business owners who held 'Bo Bing' sale!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Asian Eyes' China - Haunted Tale

         As travel is part and parcel of my work, I cannot run away from close encounter with the spiritual world. Since it is now Chinese Hungry ghost festival month, I would like to relate my tales in China that are still freshly etched in my brain. It was not the usual 'ghostly' stuff, but something more likely to happens to travelers, especially those weary after a long journey and most time than ever, our mind plays trick on ourselves.  I am sure everyone had their fair share of similar tales. 

Offerings to ghosts - According to those with Ying 
Yang eyes, there were twice the number of ghostly 
beings present during Chinese Hungry Ghost 7th 
month compared to other months.
        The most memorable one was once I flown in from Shanghai to Xiamen on Dec 2004, arrived close to 2 am past midnight due to flight delay. The taxi took about 45 minutes to reach Harbor View Hotel near Zhongsan Lu. At the check in counter, was no one around and I pressed the calling bell. I woke up the clerk, and he groggily passed me 2 plastic keys. As usual I always knocked on the door to my room first before trying to use the electronic key on the door. The light indicator was red and continued to blink red after numerous tries. When I tried to use my second card, suddenly the door opened. Taken by surprise, I jumped 2 steps backwards. A white towel seem to hang on thin air at waist height. I nearly peed before I heard a loud voice"What do you want?". I was stunned and then realized the voice came from a tall dark figure with a lot of hairs, wrapped only in white towel. Not sure if he was human, words seem to stuck at my throat. Finally I blurted out "What are you doing in my room?" "What do you mean your room? I check in this afternoon" he replied, slamming the door before me. Stunned, I make my way down to the reception and related my story. The clerk checked his computer and paperwork before apologetically informed that the computer record was not updated and he had given me an occupied room. He upgraded me to a superior room. The next morning I over heard an Indian guy complained to the reception that someone tried to scare him in the middle of the night. Phew, what a fright!
An invisible pair of man's 
shoe paced up and
down the corridor outside 

my room freaked me out.
           Second story happened in Beijing during a tour in 2007 with my wife. We stayed at a local hotel close to Tienanmen. On second day of the tour, we went early for our breakfast in the restaurant in our hotel. It was buffet style and after we took our food we searched for a place to sit. I found a empty table and waved to my wife to join me. However, across the other end of the restaurant, a fellow tour mate gestured to us to sit with them instead. I asked if it was not OK to sit at the empty table, but he just mentioned that the empty table smelled funny and winked at us. Sensing some thing not right, we followed as told. We also avoided that table for the next 2 days before we switched to another hotel. After 8 days of tour we went home safely. On the plane, our friend told us that he saw a pair of man's shoes, no leg nor body, paced up and down the corridor, and stopped at the table that I intended to sit earlier. He used his hand to show it was a big pair of shoes, wore by those in military and every time it arrived at the table, it brought along a foul smell. Hearing this my hairs at the back of my neck all stood up. Luckily I only heard it on the way home, not in the hotel itself. Ah, the curse of ying yang eyes (one that can see ghosts)!
         Final story was in Shanghai where I attended a meeting with suppliers in 2008 together with colleagues from all over the world. I arrived at Shanghai Pudong Airport early evening and took 1.5 hour taxi ride to Merry Fair Hotel near Zhongshan Park. As usual I knocked at my room and then used my card on the room lock. The lock light blinked red. Then I switched to the second card and this time the light blink yellow. Hmm! I have never seen room lock blinked yellow before. Sensing something was not right, I went down to the reception. The clerk checked in his computer and declared everything was in order. He accompanied me back to the room and used one of the card on my room lock. The lock light blinked green and he opened the door. "See, no issue", he said, also testing on my second key. "If you want, you can change to another room", he added. Since I were running late for a dinner appointment with my colleagues, I declined politely. As soon as the male clerk left, with me alone in the room, my hair at the back of my neck started to rise. I brushed the thought aside, thinking it was the air conditioning blowing. I cleaned up and hurried downstairs to meet my friends. After dinner I came back to my room and tried to unlock the room. Again, first card key yielded a yellow light, but the second key lighted a green. I cannot slept the whole night as I kept on hearing noise of water drippings. I get up and checked the bathroom but nothing amiss. It was not a nice experience at all. I said a prayer and then tried to go to sleep, but the water sound continued on. I tossed and tossed, and out of sudden a big gush of water poured down from my room's ceiling and drenched the entire room and bed. I called up the front desk and 10 minutes later a maintenance crew came. I was evacuated to another floor and given complimentary dinner vouchers. The following morning I got to know that the noise of water drippings turned out to be caused by water pipe problem in a room a floor above mine. Water had seeped through the floor and short circuited my room door key system. Nowadays whenever I check into hotel, if a room door's lock lighted yellow, its time to change room!