Friday 22nd May
I arrived at the hostel late on the Thursday night. The hostel, Sunshine Home, is actually a three bed flat in an apartment complex. This didn’t surprise me too much because when I came through Guangzhou three years ago I stayed in a similar hostel. It’s run by one woman who also lives there who was really friendly and helpful. We chatted in Chinese a bit which was good. I was staying in an all female four bed dorm and I have to tell you now; it was my first time on the top bunk during the whole time I’ve been in China and I was absolutely rubbish at negotiating getting up onto it and back down! XD Apart from that small challenge it wasn’t a bad hostel. The bathrooms were clean, the beds comfy and there was a balcony that overlooked a small park. At night it was lit up in beautiful lights which was a lovely way to end the day.
I woke up on Friday not feeling totally energised as my roommates and I had fiddled with aircon all night. I didn’t want it on constantly because the fan blew directly onto me and I didn’t want to get ill. Yet it was too hot to not have it on… Anyway, I was up and out by half past eight to get to the Safari Park in the south of the city. Becky and Tripadvisor had recommended it so I was quite excited. I’ve always enjoyed going to zoos. And this park was pretty impressive. They had loads of animals! Even had a ‘Safari on Wheels’ experience. I saw young pandas which are even cuter than the adult ones and some baby tigers as well. Utterly adorable!! It was definitely as good as Lisbon Zoo.
By two o’clock in the afternoon I was starving. I had refused to let myself eat anything at the Safari park because it was so expensive. I’m normally quite willing to “flash the cash” where food is concerned.. But I was having a stingy day. This “stingy” day led me to a McDonald’s. I had rocked up to Guangzhou without a coat or an umbrella. So, as I still had a Walmart gift card loaded with some money from our group winning the Mandarin Speaking Competition Best Performance Award I went in pursuit of finding the best umbrella ever. Hence the McDonald’s because by three o’clock I was ravenous and it was the first thing I saw when I came out of a metro station. I then headed to a big park on the northwest side of the city called ‘越秀公园’ Yuexiu Park. It had the famous Five Ram Statue and Sun Yat Sen’s Mausoleum (he has two! One in Nanjing where he is buried and one in Guangzhou). I also wandered to see his old office building which was huge and very well kept. The only problem I hadn’t really prepared myself for was the issue of mosquitos. I was bitten a couple of times and one of the bites on the back of my right leg is massive! 😥
By seven o’clock I was shattered and headed back to the hostel. I slept okay that night but this time a roommate left the window open. (She fell asleep before I was able to ask her to shut it. I couldn’t exactly climb over her to shut it either..) This was the perfect invitation for even more mosquitos. I woke up to find I’d been bitten at least four more times. Joy.
Saturday 23rd May
I started the day by setting off in the direction of the older parts of Guangzhou. I was keen to try the food as it is so famous for being some of the best food in China. And as I had had a cheeky McDonald’s yesterday, I definitely had to make up for it today. The lovely lady who owns the hostel showed me on a map where to go. Fortunately the hostel is close to the older parts and I’d be able to wander around and end up by the river easily. Guangzhou is like a chaotic Chinese version of Hong Kong. It has more character than Ningbo does but less than many other places like Nanjing, Beijing, Suzhou etc. I passed many food shops until finally seeing one that tempted me. I spotted 萝卜糕 (the turnip cake I made at New Year) and instantly had to buy it. I also purchased two types of small dumplings which were delicious. One was small and round and had pork and either crab or shrimp in it. The other was longer and looked more like a traditional dumpling. I was pleasantly surprised to find it contained sweet corn and carrot! Yummmmmy.
As I walked along munching away at my purchases, I noticed that the sky had darkened suddenly, the wind picked up and everyone started scarpering into shops and covered areas. And boom, here comes the rain. It’s raining so hard that I am being splattered by it when I’m sat at least five metres away from open air. Wow. I sat under cover for a good fifteen minutes before deciding to just embrace it and continue walking. I battled the wind and rain with my umbrella, occasionally having to fight that as well to make sure I wouldn’t get drenched. I am only in a tshirt and shorts because it is so humid here. I’ll tell you one fact about China. Most cities and towns don’t know what a proper drainage system is… If I had wellies I’d be jumping in those puddles like an excited three year old. However, in China’s case, one have to become a bit of a puddle dodging expert here. And sometimes, you’re actually lunging just to get to the other side of one! I headed to the Chan Chen Academy which is where Jackie Chan learned and trained to be a king fu master. It was very beautiful and had different architecture to other temples and traditional buildings I have seen before.
I then caught the metro down to an area called Shamian. It’s an old western and rich area of Guangzhou that used to be occupied (and still half is) by foreigners who moved to China during the 1900s. It was quite pleasant to walk through, but the more and more I see western style, the more I want to run back and see Chinese architecture instead. Is that crazy? Probably… Anyway, as it had been pouring with rain for aaaages by now, I stopped at a coffee shop for a hot chocolate.
Following that I headed to the metro again to get to Canton Tower. It was formerly known as the Guangzhou Astronomical and Sightseeing Tower but this is a bit of a mouthful so now is also commonly known as Guangzhou Tower. It’s 600 metre tall and was the tallest building in China before the Shanghai Tower was made a teeny bit taller. Unfortunately due to the quite appalling weather, this is all I saw:
I stood there for about five minutes before deciding to get back on the metro and head to the pedestrian street in the centre of the city. By this point I was pretty exhausted anyway so thought walking down past a few shops would be a nice way to end the day. Lisa had told me that Guangzhou is one of the best places to buy cheap clothing (not that I need any hehe) and it was common to have shopping malls being attached to metro stations. Once again I was headed towards a McDonald’s. Happy to stuff my face just so I could sit down. Luckily this time a doughnut place had placed itself in between us and I bought one. And looks were not deceiving. This doughnut was delicious! Feeling more satisfied, I headed up and out to see the Beijing Pedestrian Street.
As soon as I reached the street a few men appeared out of nowhere flashing pieces of laminated paper with fake bags on. They followed me as I crossed the road insisting that these bags were great. I just raised my eyebrows at them and said I wasn’t interested. One was sneaky enough to, as soon as I was passing him, he whipped out the paper out of his bag quicker than one could say “bag”. I again declined and ambled down the street. It was lit with all kinds of lights, music blaring from some shops’ speaker systems. I seriously love China. I ended up eating in a small basic Chinese restaurant off one of the main roads. I had ‘”drunken” chicken’ which is basically chicken that is cooked in a little bit of rice wine. It was really tasty! Then, feeling exhausted, I went back to the hostel. That evening I had two Chinese girls in my dorm room who had a good chitchat for a looong time. It was interesting to listen to at first but then my tired brain decided to switch off so I watched an episode of ‘Outnumbered’ to pass the time until I could sleep.