Posts Tagged With: Guangzhou

36 Hours in Guangzhou

The Stunning Guangzhou Tower!

The Stunning Guangzhou Tower!

Out of Japan and into China! We landed last night, negotiated another new subway system to our hotel and checked into the lovely Guangdong Dasha Hotel near the heart of Guangzhou. We’re back to driving on the right hand side of the road, but it looks like we’re done with drinking water out of the tap for a while.

Our biggest impression after a day in Guangzhou? It’s hard here. We felt more like foreigners than we ever have in our lives. There is such little English spoken or written on any signs in Guangzhou. For the first time, the langauge barrier became a hinderance and a real issue. A huge chunk of our communication today, from directions to asking for a to-go box for food, was done in half-sentences and pantomime. Relatively simple questions such as trying to get a suggestion for dinner at the front desk of the hotel, turned into a painstaking process involving four employees. While everything was a bit different in Japan, we never had these kind of issues. There are far less Westeners here in Guangzhou, that’s for sure. We’ve been getting a lot of stares that come, we think, mostly out of curiosity. Still, we’d like to learn the phrase “What are ya lookin’ at?!” or “Do I have something in my teeth?” So many stares. It was really an eye opening day.

Brooke is confused

Looking at a boat schedule we were given…not understanding a word

Besides the staring, the general behavior of the people here has a much different feel. Unlike the polite, patient crowds we saw throughout Japan, Guangzhou has been full of Shovey McShoversons. People will not hesitate to shoulder past you to get on a train or to get in front of you in line. This same sense of urgency can be seen in the drivers, too. When it comes to street traffic, our primary goal quickly became to avoid getting flattened by a speeding taxi or bus. The drivers and pedestrians in this town seemed to be locked in an epic city-wide game of chicken. It seems cars definitely have the right-of-way and we were doing some serious heads-up walking when we crossed the street.

Our other immediate impression of Guangzhou is how friggin’ inexpensive everything was. A full dinner ran us about $15, taxi rides came to around $3 and a subway ride was about 75 cents…for two people! We took advantage by taking the morning to pursue stores (they love their malls in Asia) on the Beijing Road Shopping district. Endless deals complimented endless shops. After walking the downtown streets, seeing the colors and sites and a really, really difficult experience attempting to by boat tickets, we needed a break. So, we went to the one place where we knew everyone in the room would speak English – our comfy hotel room. We grabbed some beers and toasted to humility, to hubris and to travel in general.

Lunch!

Lunch! Somewhat tasty and really, really cheap

Although there have been some challenges today, Guangzhou itself has been very easy to navigate and a breeze to get around. The modern subway runs quickly and cheaply with a lot of innovative, high-tech features. Some of the stations look like they haven’t been open a month and new lines are being added each year. In fact, there was construction everywhere. Cranes on the horizon as far as they eye could see. There is a splattering of high-rise construction around every corner. For every recently constructed high-rise, there was another one half-built. We read that in 2007, 25% of the world’s construction cranes were in China and that seems to still hold true in Guangzhou.

After the best beef and broccoli I’ve ever had, our day ended on a particular high note with a stellar night cruise down the Pearl River. A popular activity, river boats cruise up and down the Pearl River through the center of town. The smooth hour-long ride allows you to see the illuminating, dazzling lights from just about every building – new and old. Every structure from stadium, to bridge, to apartment complex gets in on the act. Most spectacular is the Guangzhou tower. So, yeah, it’s about the 5th tower we’ve seen since arriving in Asia, but it really is the best one we’ve seen yet. It was the highlight of our day and showcased Guangzhou’s most signature feature.

The Pearl RiverIt was important that we ended our day with the river cruise, because our general feeling for today was frustration. We wish we spoke even a little Cantonese, but we barely know how to say hello. Even at our lovely hotel, miscommunication abounds. With that, we’re taking our 36 hours in Guangzhou and heading out of town. We are amazed when we think that we still have SO much trip left! We have lots to look forward to. Including a bus ride to Hong Kong tomorrow. At least, we think we’re heading on a bus to Hong Kong tomorrow. With all of the language challenges we’ve had today, we’re never 100% sure on what we’re doing next!

-Phil

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Categories: China, Destinations, Differences, Discounts, Hotels, Surprises, Transportation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Visiting China and Our Trip So Far


Neon Tokyo at Night
Greetings from China! By the time you read this, Brooke and I should have landed in Guangzhou and are likely out exploring the wonders of a brand necountry – our third on the trip after Japan and New Zealand. However, since the powers that be in China have decided to block internet access to WordPress (among other websites), we’ve written and scheduled this post in advance of arriving. We may be offline for a couple of days until we hit Vietnam, but that just gives us more time to get knee deep into unraveling the mysteries a new country.

On the way to the summit of FujiThis third leg, which we’ve dubbed our Southeast Asia section, is among the shortest portions of our Round The World trip. We landed on August 24th, so we’ll have about ten days to visit a small corner of China (which includes the Guangdong province, Hong Kong and Maccau), Vietnam and Singapore. For our Southeast Asia itinerary, we’re back to just playing it by ear with our stops and activities. We’re more than open to suggestions on anything that’s worth doing in the area. If you have any thoughts, please let us know in the comments section below!

That is one huge ass Japanese Lantern!We know, we know – ten days is nowhere near enough time to truly soak up the region, but we’re determined to make that time work for us. So far in both Japan and New Zealand, Brooke and I have had some long, full days where we’ve managed to pack in a ton. More often than not, we’re up and out of our hotel/hostel/guest house/yurt by early morning and then only returning late in the evening as a pair of spent but fulfilled travelers. Luckily, most of our beds and rooms so far have been uber-comfortable (notable exception – Reino Inn in Hiroshima. Blegh). We’ve been hitting the streets armed with city maps, transportation schedules and perhaps a travel guide to steer us to our next interesting discovery. Racking up the miles on our shoes, we’ve stumbled across wonders ranging from a magnificent a hot-spring geyser to the most stunning temple gate imaginable. And, yeah, sometimes a walk takes longer than anticipated or preferred, but that’s all part of the fun of not knowing precisely where you might be headed eighteen hours prior. At the end of the day, we tend to find ourselves exhausted but, if we’re lucky, just a pinch more worldly than we were that morning. The next day, we’re ready to get up and do it all again. To be fair, we’ve also had a handful of days where we’ve done relatively little. Thankfully, those are the days that help keep us sane and from burning out.

What is this strange yogurt?At this point, Brooke and I have been on this ole once-and-a-lifetime trip for a little under a month. In short, the trip has been going insanely well. This (temporary) lifestyle of being abroad and absorbing the culture, locations, landmarks, attractions and food has fit like a glove. The days are exciting, eye-opening and thought provoking. We’re constantly discovering locations that we didn’t even know existed a few days before – Miyajima in Japan is a great example. We’re learning a little bit more about how things work in parts of the world that are thousands of miles away from home. Which is incredibly important because that was one of our original primary goals in taking this voyage. Little things like learning that the Japanese tend to shun tattoos because most water parks and osens (spas) won’t let you in if you have one. Or the basic ins and outs of a Rugby game. Or even walking through the largest pedestrian cross walk in the world at Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo! We’re chalking up more memories than we can conceivably cram into our blog posts.

This map will direct me to the old sailing ship! Where could it be?So, what’s next? Come early September, we’ll be on a flight from Singapore to Copenhagen for three days in frighteningly expesnive Denmark followed by our Baltic Capitols cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines. We’re ecstatic for our cruise – in no small part because it will be nine whole nights in the same room and bed. A break from constantly searching for and checking into new hotel rooms. No need to schlep luggage around because our boat will be taking us from country to country! Also, we anticipate that it will be a nice change of pace from our time in Asia matched with a slice of easy cruise-ship living. But for now, let’s see what China has in store for us.

-Phil

Categories: China, Hotels, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized, Unusual Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

One day in Guangzhou

Note: Apologies for the delay in getting this post live, but it seems that China blocks access to the wordpress site. Interesting, no? We’ve landed in New Zealand and we’re catching up on a few posts now.

In the weeks leading up to this trip, we knew that we would run into our share of surprises along the way. All part of the travel experience. Still, we didn’t expect to fall into the very cool and astounding turn of events that we found ourselves in on our very first day overseas.

Where we waited for our roomWe had been debating and struggling with how to spend our 18 hour layover in Guangzhou (pronounced Guang-JO, not Guang-ZOW. It took me way too long to get this right). Lo and behold, it tuns out that a standard best practice among airlines (at least for China Southern) is that for flight itineraries that include layovers of 14+ hours, the airline will put passengers in a hotel room on their dime during the layover. In all the research we did and of all the people we talked to, this never came up. So, that came as incredibly pleasant shock at 6:30 AM this morning! particularly after arriving in steamy Guangzhou from a cross-Pacific flight when all we wanted was a shower and change of clothes. Turns out that instead of slogging around the international terminal, the day was filled with relaxation, a big lunch, naps and showers. Not exactly a back-breaking, rough layover.

Our first long-haul flight arrived with ease and triumph this morning. As Brooke wrote, riding in Business Class made for some sensational travel. The time on the plane qualifies as “super comfortable” and was even easier than anticipated. Sleeping soundly for seven hours doesn’t hurt. And the flight attendants were always brining you SOMETHING. A towel, a mint, coffee, etc. Now we have a solid base in which to compare our other long haul business class flights from other airlines. The bar has been set pretty high. Also made me realize that I would dig doing more/some/any! international business travel in my next job. We disembarked from this insane luxury and began our first of three visits over the next eight weeks to the Guangzhou (CAN) airport.

Pullman Guangzhou Hotel LobbyAfter walking to the China Southern Transfer Counter, the agent confirmed what we had been told in Los Angeles – since our next flight was so much later in the day, the airline would be happy to book a hotel for us. We asked them to confirm this like five times – partially because the langauge barrier made things a little murky and partially because we were incredulous and filled with glee-inspired amazement. We made a quick pass through immigration and customs where our near virgin passports received their first passport stamp of the trip. We swapped travel stories and made some affable new Australian and New Zealand travel friends as the airlines rounded up a few other business class travelers. Although the hotel option is available for all travelers, an agent eventually walked us across the street to the sensational Pullman airport hotel. The fine folks at Trip Advisor indicated that it is the 13th best rated hotel out of 1,800 in the city (!) and the rooms run about $125. It was one last, heretofore unknown perk of the business class ticket.

Our awesome free hotel room for 18 hoursSo, on day one in Asia, we stayed in what will likely be the nicest hotel that we’ll see for weeks. Brooke and I spent a fair amount of the day in awe. Walking around and checking out the giant lobby, oversized pool tables and snooker table (confession: I thought I knew what snooker is, but apparently I only have a vague notion), the self-playing piano and more. The hotel room was nice with a capital Niiiiiice. Complete with comfy robes, slippers, comfy beds with giant, head-melt-right-in pillows the size of Smart Cars. There was even a yoga mat in the closet. One of the nicer touches is that the bathroom opened up to the main room via a giant glass window that could be closed off by a giant mechanical shade. Handy for the two showers that we each took. Given the undeniably hot climate, Brooke was particularly appreciative of the ice-cold AC. The bottom line is that it this was a really nice hotel which we didn’t expect. We probably should mention that we almost blew every fuse in the hotel when Brooke plugged in her hair dryer, but that was an almost predictable debacle and it all worked out with electronics in tact.

Phil making great use of the free Yoga mat!We even managed to have a bit of an indulgent lunch at the Vegas-style hotel buffet between giant nap #1 and super-sized nap #2. We slept incredibly well on those lay-flat beds on the flight last night, but the jetlag is really starting to kick in. When dawn broke this morning, I had no idea what time is was back home and wasn’t even completely sure that it was (apparently, it was Wednesday). Time guru Brooke predicted and then confirmed that we were exactly 12 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time. In fact, from this point forward for the rest of the trip, we’ll be anywhere between one and fourteen hours ahead of East Coast US Time – getting closer and closer in sync as we continue to travel east.

Have I mentioned that this is all amazing? This is amazing. It just keeps getting better. It really does. Only a couple of days in and I’m getting a kick out of being on this incredible journey spanning some significant distances.

-Phil

check out the closing curtain from the bathroom

Categories: China, China Southern, Flights, Hotels, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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