China is somewhere that is so alluring. Surrounded in the myths and legends of the orient. It is the first country as a child that I thought of as a far away and unreachable place. I also love the food. These reasons are probably why Lee and I decided right away that we were going to add China to our itinerary. We had already been lucky enough to visit Beijing and Shanghai last year but we felt there was more exploring to do. We got our visas in advance before we left Korea (through this company) and started planning.
We knew we wanted to visit Hong Kong and we knew we wanted to visit Guilin, famous for it’s mountainous landscapes. Since we knew that we wanted to hit these two locations it made logical sense that we should start at the mid point between the two, Guangzhou.
I knew nothing about Guangzhou before I started researching it and unfortunately I still didn’t know much about the place after I researched it. It seems that Guangzhou isn’t the bloggers main destination. Instead of being disappointed by this , it peaked my interest.
When we arrived in Guangzhou it was 1am so we headed to the taxi rank. This should have been an easy task but the angry, shouting taxi drivers trying to convince us aggressively to ride in their illegal , un-metered taxi’s made it quite difficult. I steered Lee away from their zombie-like grasps and found the taxi rank. Illegal and rude taxi drivers are such a problem in Guangzhou that the government has set up an English helpline. If a driver refuses to take you somewhere, is rude to you or won’t use the meter you can phone this number ‘96900’ and report them by giving their license number. I thought this may just be an excessive precaution until we stepped off the taxi rank and were directed to a driver who started hurling abuse at us because he didn’t want to drive to foreigners. To say we were a little shocked was an understatement. Luckily we navigated our way to another taxi who took us to our hotel. It is good to know that taxi’s only take cash here (in case you are coming from Korea) and also that if you go through a toll you will get an additional receipt when you pay since it isn’t automatically added onto the the meter fee. Our toll only cost up 15p so don’t worry they aren’t extortionate or anything. It cost us 120 yuan to get to the city centre (about 12 pound).
We found our hotel which was a bit dodgy on the outside but had a large and comfy room. We rested our heads and dreamed of all the exciting things we would be getting up to the next day…that was until 6am when building work on the room next to ours started. A power drill a few inches from your head at 6am is not the welcome most guests hope for.
Guangzhou had not started on our good side.
We got dressed and headed out to the city. The first stop on almost all our visits to new countries is weirdly the seven-eleven. Lee and I always rush to see what exciting chocolate bars they have and what weird drink flavours we can find. This is an odd tradition but it is a great insight into the country.
The rest of the day was filled with us desperately trying to find the shrines and markets we had read about online. We weren’t very successful. All we seemed to find were run down shops and a million Mc Donald’s. At one point there were three separate Mc establishments in my field of view. It was a little excessive. Even for fast food lovers like ourselves.
We headed back to the hotel room disheartened and missing Japan with its efficient, clean roads and kind people …..BUT we were determined to not let Guangzhou beat us. The next day we hit the town with a renewed vigor.
We started the day by accidentally wandering to a local park that had old Chinese ladies practicing their fan dancing by the lake and the large centre point compass of Guangzhou at the heart of the gardens. After this we took in the Comic City shopping mall by Gongyuanqian (on lines 1 and 3) subway station full of kitschy teenager clothes and accessories. I had to be wrestled away from a few clothes bargains. Then we headed to Shangxiajiu street, a pedestrianized market area which had some nice small shops and delicious smelling markets.
Lastly to finish off our day we went to the infamous Canton tower to take in the renowned rainbow lights. This was by far the best part of Guangzhou. The skyscrapers filled the air above us and Chinese traditional music filled the air. We walked along happily for hours until it turned dark and we were craving some deliciousness. This is when I forced Lee to experience something i’ve been trying to do for a while….we went to the Hello Kitty Cafe. I realise this is Japanese but we had one in Daegu , Korea that shut down the day I tried to visit. I vowed I’d enter it’s door somewhere. This pink powder puff of a place served lovely coffees and let Lee get in touch with his feminine side.
We headed back to the hotel happy and content, feeling we had made the most of our very short time in Guangzhou. It isn’t my favourite city by any means but it feels as though it’s ready to explode and become the second Shanghai. I’d be excited to return in 10 years and see what has been done with the place….but for now it’s not some where I’d be racing back to.