Published: November 25th 2007November 12th 2007
We walked to Hung Hom train station in Hong Kong to catch a train to Guangzhou. The train was very good and fast at 2 hours in length but was quite expensive. At some point in the journey we crossed from Hong Kong to Mainland China...we guessed we were in China by the change of building type (ie large grey high rises containing hundreds of apartments) and only Chinese characters on buildings were evident.
Guangzhou is not a large city by Chinese standards but with a population of 3.24 million it was no surprise that it had a brand new - but complex - metro system which we had to use to get to our hostel near the river. We had a bit of a problem when buying the metro tickets as they were not tickets but rather black plastic coins that you held up to a sensor to let you through the ticket (coin!) barrier. The metro gave us an indication that Guangzhou was a very modern city and this was obvious all over the city with there being few cars over 3 years old and modern infrastructure such as solar street lights and hi-tech CCTV cameras, the likes
we couldn't resist it...
even though we got some funny looks for taking a pic of a shoe shop!
of which we haven't seen even in the UK.
Arriving at our hostel we were very surprised by the standard of the room we got. The bathroom in particular was very plush (see the pic). For around £10 we got a hostel room better than most 5 star hotels and breakfast. The room even had a duvet - something we hadn't seen in 14 months! This was a clear sign it was going to get colder as we moved north which was to be a shocker from the 30 degree plus heat we are used to!
As moving to a new city goes, the day had gone smoothly, that was until we tried to find a decent restaurant. It wasn't that there was a lack of decent restaurants but rather that there are few that have an English menu. We stupidly, stupidly resorted to a Lonely Planet recommendation in the Shamian area (old colonial buildings) of Guangzhou, this was a BIG mistake...there's a surprise! We ordered 3 dishes - chicken with tomatoes, chicken with peanuts and beef with black pepper sauce. Yummy, you may think, but the chicken that was served was 95% bone, gristle, fat and hairy
skin, the beef that arrived was largely gristle and fat and we think that the waiters were having a laugh when they expected us to eat a bowl full of peanuts with our chopsticks (even the Chinese would have needed a spoon to eat this!). Overpriced at £9 we were worried that this would be an indication of future meals, but as we will later tell you our dining experiences got much better!
Now China was a bit more of a culture shock than what we expected, so much is in Mandarin (we guess as you would expect) with hardly any English at all. This didn't scare us but left us with a feeling of excitement and apprehension at the challenge. The Chinese people, at least in Guangzhou, were more affluent than we expected and the amount of construction and modernisation projects are evident almost everywhere you look. Our first impressions of the Chinese people in situ are that some of them are very loud, have a lot of character and life to them. There are also a lot of distinctions and differences in physical appearances, no doubt this is due to China's immense size. We certainly noticed how
shops selling 'stuff'...
...yep we didn't have a clue what they were selling!
strange it was to us that many couples only had one child and not the 2 plus upwards you often see in other Asian countries and there was an absence of pregnant women. The Chinese one child per couple policy is no doubt being adhered to.
In contrast to Hong Kong, Guangzhou had very few tourists, which is always a good thing in our book and all things considered China had started very well for us. On our second day we even found a brilliant restaurant hidden behind a shop front of flashing neon and dazzling/off putting disco lights. Were we going in to eat food or dance like John Travolta?...we weren't sure! We are glad we did go in though because we for 4 main delicious dishes, 2 large bowls of rice and 2 soft drinks for under £3. After 2 days of city exploring it was becoming clear that China was going to get us back in walking shape - something we hadn't done much of in the last 3 months...and something we were looking forward to as we hoped it would get rid of our growing beer bellies! The next leg of our journey takes us
The 'Guangzhou Express'
Well it wasn't really called that, we just can't remember it's official name!
to Yangshou, north-west of Guangzhou, which would be an 8 hour express bus, but first an hour walk to Guangzhou North bus terminal! Before we sign out on this blog, we'd like to ask you - based on the following - have we been in Asia too long?
1.We think squat toilets are great...the position makes the poo come out faster. But Neil can't read his book on a squat it's too difficult to balance (yes, he has tried!)
2.We now think why walk in a straight line when we can zigzag and stop dead randomly in front of people, thus making our walks more enjoyable and fun.
3.Why should we walk on the boring old pavement, we walk on the road giving a sense of adventure to any journey and it also gives Donna an opportunity to push some annoying moped drivers off their bikes
4.When a person tells us the price of something we immediately respond 'discount?' (we even did this in KFC once)
5.We *quite* like Westlife's new CD (?)
6.Neil likes to sing 80's love songs loudly to Donna (or anyone else around) whilst walking down the
7.If there is neon/flashing lights/loud music, we are drawn to the pretties like bees to honey
8.We don't queue any more
9.We don't hold doors open for people any more, we just let them slam shut in people's faces
10.We are happy to shoulder barge anyone in our way, particularly when getting to the front of a queue
11.We are mesmerised by TV in shop windows, karaoke places and fights in the street.
12.Opening an umbrella inside a shopping centre is no problem for us, it won't bring you bad luck...you never know when those fire sprinklers will go off!
13.We cross roads not caring if a car is heading for us at 40mph - he'll swerve you know! Green man means cross the road; red man means cross the road, no man means cross the road
14.We are not shocked at how bad toilets are - troughs and open cubicles are no problem for us!
15.We accept where there is a wall, there is wee...just hold your breath
16.We don't mind Asian's wanting their pictures taken with us...of course we'll charge a nominal fee
17.If a car
almost hits us, Donna just thumps and dents the backside of the car...but we always remember to run if the driver gets out the car!
18.We treat all people who say hello to us with suspicion (they are probably trying to sell us something) and take a swing at them with our rucksacks if we feel so inclined.
19.We know how to say 'no I don't want any' in 17 different languages and dialects
20.We no longer look at long journeys in terms of hours spent travelling but rather how many food vendor and toilet stops we'll have and whether we'll have goats or chickens sat on our laps!
21.The first things we ask strangers we meet are - what is your name, how old are you, where are you from and how much do you earn without even thinking!
22.We no longer shut our eyes for fear of death on fast and furious taxi journeys...we quite like the adrenalin rush
There are more photos below