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Seeing China the Muslim way - The Star, Malaysia

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  • Zafar Khan
    Seeing China the Muslim way By NORLIN WAN MUSA http://thestar.com.my/lifestyle/story.asp?file=/2004/3/14/features/7507734&sec=features CHINA has been an
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 14, 2004
      Seeing China the Muslim way


      CHINA has been an exciting destination for visitors
      since the days of Marco Polo but, for Muslims,
      travelling around can be a bit of a bother. There is
      much to see but, come meal time, there are few choices
      available, and there is always doubt as to whether the
      food served is halal. Some of the tourist attractions
      on the itinerary may also be inappropriate.

      Now, Muslims can take in the sights, and the food, all
      with total peace of mind. Since October last year,
      Reliance has been offering packages to Beijing and
      Shanghai, specially tailored for Muslims.

      The response had been positive, said Reliance Shipping
      & Travel Agencies Sdn Bhd marketing director Tan Kai
      Seng, adding that they recently introduced a similar
      package with Air China (CA) to meet growing demand.

      ‘‘China Air wanted to instil confidence among Muslims
      that it is capable of providing in-flight services
      that cater to their needs,’’ he said.

      Providing halal food on board CA flights out of KLIA
      was not a problem since all flights out of KLIA get
      their food supply from Malaysia Airlines (MAS)
      catering. The challenge was in catering for the flight
      back from Beijing.

      HALAL GUARANTEE...Muslims can enjoy piping hot dishes
      such as shabu shabu, which is similar to steamboat.
      As it turned out, the food served on board was not
      much different from that served aboard MAS flights.
      The menu included fried noodles, bread and scrambled
      eggs, as well as rice and fish or chicken, depending
      on the flying time.

      The five-day Reliance-Air China Muslim package to
      Beijing includes a four-night stay at a four-star
      hotel, Downtown Holiday Inn, return air tickets, three
      meals a day and sightseeing.

      Breakfast is provided by the hotel, which serves halal
      food upon request. The breakfast menu includes
      scrambled or hard boiled eggs, fried noodles or fried
      rice, breads and rolls, cereals, fruits, tea, coffee
      and fruit juices.

      Food served during lunch and dinner can be a hit or
      miss affair. A word of caution – the food may be halal
      but tends to be too salty and too oily at some
      restaurants. Even the soy sauce tends to be a bit too
      salty. So, be warned.

      To be on the safe side, ask the tour guide to inform
      the kitchen if you have certain preferences. Those who
      cannot go without spicy food for even a couple of days
      should bring along some chilli sauce.

      In general, the food should not cause any worries.
      There shouldn't be any doubts, as Reliance makes sure
      that for this package, the guests are taken only to
      Muslim restaurants.

      Most restaurants served, meat, lamb, and chicken.
      Seafood is very rare and expensive in Beijing. Most
      dishes are either deep-fried or stir fried, and most
      restaurants serve at least six dishes at a meal.
      Usually, there are more.

      Reliance tour manager David Yin said the Muslim
      packages are less hectic than the others. ‘‘This is
      because the tour does not include trips to the

      However, he added, ‘‘As most of our Muslim clients
      enjoy shopping, we allocate more time for them to do

      Shopaholics can look forward to shopping at places
      like the Lido Market, Silk Street and Ya Sui market.
      Clothes, DVDs, VCDs, shoes, tablecloths, cushion
      covers, quilt; it really is a shopping haven.

      OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Muslims who go for the special
      package get to visit the Niu Jie mosque in Beijing,
      which is not on the normal tourist map.
      Shopping here requires a certain technique, though.
      Once you master the art of bargaining, the game is on
      In earnest! The best part is you don't even need to
      speak Mandarin to be able to haggle! Remember – always
      haggle, and never pay the opening price quoted by the

      There are, however, places where the prices are fixed.
      These are normally the government-run places like some
      of the jade, silk and pearl factories. Shopping at
      these places comes with a guarantee that the items are

      Other exciting places include the must-see Great Wall
      of China, the Forbidden City, the Underground City and
      the Summer Palace. This part of the trip involves a
      lot of walking which means it is essential to bring
      along a comfortable pair of shoes.

      Another part of the package that makes it different
      from other tours is a visit to Ma Tian and Niu Jie
      mosques, as well as a chance to meet the Muslim
      community there.

      Air China now operates three direct flights a week
      from KLIA to Beijing but, beginning March 29, the
      airline will increase the frequency to four flights a

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