03.09.2012 - 06.09.2012 27 °C
Day 340: Guangzhou, Guangdong, China 03/09/2012
A nice early start for our trip into mainland China. Feel a little apprehensive at this delve into the relative unknown and the chance to see behind the mystery that shrouds one of the world's superpowers, the most populous place on earth and the second largest nation on the planet in terms of land mass. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for this anxiety and slight uneasiness about reaching China - it is probably part due to some of the horror stories of the western press and the fact it is the last country on our trip. Oh well, onwards and upwards and after a quick jog to the park to throw some excess clothes in the charity bin we are away and on the road to....zzzzzz.......wake up somewhere near the border before going through the formalities with immigration. Soon through to the other side and it is 'Ni Hao' China!
We leave the bus quite luckily in the centre of the town (found only through some very fortuitous map reading) and after discovering we have left our canvas purchased in Cambodia in the parcel shelf of the coach, we rumble into the HSBC with all our stuff to change some Hong Kong dollars to Yuan. A very slow service makes me praise the lord for the development of internet banking and the fact we rarely have to go into the bank! A quick trip on the city's underground reveals both the enormity of the country we now find ourselves in and the sheer number of people in the People's Republic of China. Whilst the tube is extremely busy it is a very different energy and hustle to what we found in some of India's huge metropolises. Far more organised for starters...
After realising I am one of the few people on the continent without a smart phone we soon check into the (very nice) hostel on the banks of the Pearl River. An excellent and ridiculously cheap dinner of rice claypot meals and Pearl River beer follows and leads us to give into temptation and have a brief (long) afternoon nap. Bad idea. We then head out for some more good food and purchase some Chinese made electronics in one of the heaviest rainstorms we have seen in a while.
Day 341: Guangzhou, Guangdong, China 04/09/2012
A bit of a lie in this morning and we awake to realise we are a little unsure as to what we want to do with our day. We have a nice early lunch at the same place as yesterday and I entertain the chef/waitress/proprietor with my attempts at mastering Cantonese. A trip on the metro then follows as we decide to tackle the challenge of booking a ticket to Yangshuo nice and early, with the gleaming, efficient transport system again serving as a reminder to the size of this country's population. A triumphant victory at the bus station sees us emerge ready for our onward journey the day after tomorrow and a walk around the surrounding area sees us being gawped at, stared at and photographed 'covertly' by the locals. Echoes of the beginning of the trip and the realisation of being complete aliens in this society - both in looks and in language/cultural identity - dawns on us and China becomes a big and interesting place to explore...
Back on the tube and we see the modern face of the emerging superpower, with KFC and McD's making plenty of appearances in the city amongst the huge, ultra modern skyscrapers that are symbols of the power of this prosperous city. Communism? Really? A walk through a pleasant residential area reveals the cliches of China, with old men huddled around chess boards and an eighty year old woman with a vicious backhand on the ping pong table. Another huge thunderstorm forces us back to the hostel and a couple of games of pool and a beer with a young Chinese guy precede dinner.
Day 342: Guangzhou, Guangdong, China 05/09/2012
A couple of episodes of Only Fools on the new DVD player before we get up and grab a spot of lunch next to the road. The excellent noodles are made even better by watching the chef wrestling the huge mounds of dough he has prepared on the pavement and the whole process of dough to plate to belly takes about ten minutes. A quiet stroll down by the river ensues and we appear to be staying in the middle of the creative quarter, with advertising agencies and photography studios aplenty in the trendy business park adjacent to the hostel.
We return to the hostel for a low key afternoon at the pool table and an hour spent trying to log onto the HSBC website, which seems about as accessible as Facebook here in Guangzhou. We repack the bags trying a new configuration and a dinner chosen completely at random off a Chinese menu sees a spicy seafood ensemble delivered to the table, which leaves poor G a bit on the hungry side. A rescue package arrives for her in the form of a hastily picked up takeaway a bit later. Whilst we have not done as much in Guangzhou as we have in some other big cities, it has served as a great introduction into the ways of China and the challenges that lie in the month ahead.