Tag Archives: guangzhou

Things to do in Guilin – China

14th April 2015

banner As our train pulled up to Guilin the mist parted to revel the towering mountains around us. Our first impression was Guilin was that it was all we had heard about and more. We had a week to enjoy our time here and we wanted to try everything Guilin had to offer the only problem was we were still suffering from the dreaded food poisoning we had caught in The Philippines. Our bodies were rebelling and we were fighting against our tummies to have a nice time.

We luckily had a beautiful room in the ‘Green Forest Hostel’ that let us rest up in a nice environment or as nice as a place can be when your body is trying to attack you. Unfortunately one of these rest days was Lee’s birthday. The poor guy had to spend his 30th curled up in a ball watching Sopranos with the rain pelting down outside. As birthdays go, it wasn’t the best. Like a trooper he pretended to like the crappy signs I made him and pretended the card I’d carried with me from Korea was special. He also received a voucher for a suit once we arrive in Vietnam (I feel to help lower the price of this suit I should also get lots of lovely clothes made…it would be rude not to after all).

14 16 After a ruined  birthday we had to bite the bullet and decided to head to the hospital. After a very quick, efficient visit and 36 pound later we were loaded up with all the pills China had to offer.They took effect after about 24 hours and we could finally explore. The city of Guilin is quite bustling. Set among the beautiful mountain islands this little city is a great place to wander around. There is the famous sun and moon pagodas to see in both the light and dark and the large delicious night markets that fill a large area of Guilin. We also discovered a small traditional street filled with street food and bakery’s that had our tummies rumbling for the first time in weeks and this time for the right reasons.

4 10 11 12 13 15 The only thing that was annoying about Guilin was the price of all the attractions. I stupidly thought that it would be free to see the famous rocks listed in the guide books such as Elephant Hill, but you had to pay to get in to every area. There is luckily always an opening on the river bank for a sneaky photo but it was never quite the same. It was about 7 pound for each attraction which was a little out of our budget. We picked a trip down the river to Yangsheo and a trip to the rice terraces and even that was pushing our budget to it’s limits.

1 2 The night market was our spot for every evening. Greasy noodles and Taiwanese breakfast pancakes. We wandered the streets daring to try foods with our delicate bellies and seeing the Guilin people go about their day. Guilin was a much nicer place to be than Guangzhou. People smiled and were helpful in shops. We always received a friendly smile when attempting to speak our broken Cantonese.

5 7 8 9 The day trips were the definite highlight of our trip to Guilin but the sheer amount of photos I took requires a special post and maybe an AA group dedicated to a shutterbug addicts. 3 signature

Our Chinese Train Debacle

12th April 2015

How would I sum up the Guangzhou train station?

hmmm…..let’s say…Hell!

a crappy photo of the hordes of people

a crappy photo of the hordes of people

If you , like us, come from the UK then catching a train is something you will be quite use to. You turn up about half hour before if you are being cautious. Get your ticket and wait on the platform. This is not how they do things in China.

If you want to get a ticket for a train in China you need to make sure you are at the station an hour to two hours before. This is because:

  1. The queues are 50 people long
  2. The Chinese people didn’t seem to know how to queue

I’m not a confrontational person but after Lee and I had been queuing for over an hour and 5 people tried to push their way to the front to buy 5 tickets each , I got a bit nasty. I put my middle school teachers face on and shouted a stern ‘no’ in Chinese and pointed to the back of the line that was a faint speck in the distance. The man looked confused since pushing in is a way of life in China.

By the time we got to the front of the line we had missed our train but luckily the Chinese train system must be use to the chaos since you are allowed to re-book your tickets once. We re-booked and hoped an hour to get to the train would be enough. When we rounded the corner to see the chaos that confronted us, we weren’t so sure anymore.

Once you’ve queued for an hour (2 hours on weekends) to get your ticket you must then push your way through the mess of people, refusing to queue, so that you can get to the waiting area. Here you must present your passport and ticket. After half hour we finally got through, with a new hatred of every person in a five meter radius. I was ready to start swinging and taking names.

From here everything was a battle. A battle to get on the escalator, a battle to push our way to the x-ray machines, a battle to show our passports and ticket again…honestly you’d think we were trying to get into North Korea not just ride a train down the road in the same country.

Once all the checks were done we were in the waiting area and had 10 minutes to wait before we had to queue and get on the platform. By the time we sat in our seats (which to Guilin in first class cost 16 pound each) we hated the world. Then a strange thing happened….just when you thought you couldn’t hate the world enough…you hate it twice as much. The man behind me kicked my chair for an hour even after I asked him to stop, every person around us was playing music loud without head phones and a man was having conversations on his phone so loudly that the baby five seats away was crying. If i’d every wondered what the depths of hell are, it’s a Chinese train. Lee and I looked at each other without saying a word and burst into laughter. The sheer chaos around us was insane. We calmed ourselves with the knowledge that this was the new fast train to Guilin that took only 3 hours instead of the old train that took 12 and watched Guangzhou disappear outside the window and turn into a beautiful landscape of towering mountains and rice paddies.

at least there was a nice view

at least there was a nice view

We didn’t know what to expect when we got off the train at Guilin but after what we had gone through the only thing I could think was ‘it better be worth it’. signature

 

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Two Days in Guangzhou

7th April 2015

banner 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.

11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 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.

1 2 3 4 7 8 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. 9 10