I was convinced to visit Guangzhou. I should have planned my trip better, taken more days off of work, done a loop of major cities in Guangdong, instead all I managed to do was take some pictures, buy scarves, and visit the Diaolou in Kaiping. Just like on my trip to Yangshuo I should have taken another day or two off from work as who knows when I’ll fly South again. My next trip may be even more random as I must travel again next month or lose my days off. Hopefully I’ve gotten better at traveling in China, too bad I seem to always travel alone and barely speak Chinese. Maybe in 2016 I can rectify both those problems as it looks like I will stay a while longer.
I meant to do more research, I got some advice from WeChat, but honestly I’d rather go to the things I think will be interesting and my enthusiasm to sit and wait for other people for hours is not high. Guangdong is maybe not as polluted as the Northern industrial towns and Beijing but having taken a bus ride for several hours outside of Guangzhou I assure you I saw no blue sky. It is quite hot and humid in Guangdong even into November so pack shorts. Christmas also comes early and you can pickup no shortage of decorations. In fact the things Guangzhou seems to be famous for are shopping and eating. I did walk through a couple city parks.
I did take time to photograph Canton Tower, but Guangzhou’s other newest skyscraper isn’t finished and isn’t lit up at night yet, but Guangzhou has plenty of illuminated buildings though not as many as Shanghai. I was going to crop a picture into 800 pixels by 400 pixels in order to be more optimal for Pinterest, but instead decided to go even taller and thinner. Going taller and thinner of course means I need even more text. I used to have so much to say but now perhaps I’ve learned my lesson. This is actually my second blog post of the evening.
Another thing I did differently was stay in more of a serviced apartment than a traditional hotel. I booked it through CTrip and I can’t recommend it for tourists. The location wasn’t bad nor was the price. My apartment was big and clean but although I had a kitchen I had no cutlery or pots or pans even my fridge didn’t seem to be on at first. What I really missed was having an actual lobby and a front desk you can ask questions of, the staff spoke little English. Serviced apartments are probably aimed at people staying longer or business people or even families. I had two queen sized beds in my room. I think unless I find a significantly better job I will have to start booking even more affordable lodging.
I probably should have booked my flight home through Shenzhen. I could have done a day trip to Shenzhen or even overnight but opted instead to go to Kaiping to see the Diaolou. They are trying to market this as a unique experience and I guess it is. It is an honest to goodness UNESCO heritage site but it is not that famous and not that impressive compared to say Angkor Wat. But it is several hours from Guangzhou by bus. It is doable in a day but you can not see all the villages. There are plenty of buses to Kaiping. Once at the Kaiping bus depot you take bus 17, the smallest bus. What they don’t tell you at the Kaiping bus depot information desk is that bus 17 drops you off on the side of the road and you walk about 2 km to the village of Zili which is perhaps the most famous, though isn’t the one featured on UNESCO’s website. There are a half dozen villages or sights and 40 km of walking trails. You could of course rent a bike, but there is a big free air conditioned bus which loops around the villages, but the information desk doesn’t mention this, but in order to get back to the bus depot you take 17 or 6. I should have researched this a bit more I guess.
I took the metro from the airport which is currently being expanded to my hotel. This took a long time. People asked me why I didn’t take the express bus on WeChat. Well let me tell you there are over ten different airport express buses and some of them go to hotels, some go to bus depots or train stations, they cost more than the subway and here is the kicker, they are slower due to traffic. So if you want to sit in an air conditioned bus book a hotel that a bus runs to and enjoy your slow trip into town. However if you are in a hurry to catch a plane and you packed reasonably light and don’t mind standing on a crowded subway, Guangzhou like Shanghai and Beijing has a huge modern subway that announces all the stations in English.
As always I uploaded my pictures to Flickr but this time although I took over 200 photos I uploaded very few. I just don’t trust the Internet in China. Flickr’s embed code seems to get fancier and fancier. I’ll just go with a few smaller embedded pictures and trust that the truly motivated know how to click on links. One day I will have to try the slide show feature. It also seems to fight with the WordPress plugin I use to make it easier to pin my images. Pinterest and Flickr feuded briefly but now they are cool, but Twitter and Facebook seem to be social networks of choice everywhere except in China where it is all about WeChat in 2015. I still refuse to join Tumblr though sometimes others seem to be able to share my embedded Flickr photos on that social network…
I was surprised that the WiFi in my hotel works better than in my apartment in Shanghai. I need a better job obviously and a different apartment in Shanghai. VPN access is not 100% reliable so although I spent time uploading photos and checking into Facebook in Starbucks and probably the Strand Beer Cafe not everyone can pull this off. Some free WiFi networks require a Chinese cellphone number others will let you get by with just following them on WeChat. Moral of the story download and install WeChat if you plan to travel in China.
Besides WeChat, CTrip, Apple Maps, the other app I download and used this trip was TripAdvisor. They have an offline Guangzhou city guide. Electronic maps are not perfect and some places I wanted to go were not in the guide, you really need a SIM card and a smart phone nowadays when you travel. I got a real map and I have a good sense of direction but there are scam artists especially near the largest bus depot so it is nice to be able to check a compass heading or follow a map rather than trusting random strangers have your best interest in mind. That said random people will help you in English but sometimes you are on your own. Downloading an app dedicated to the metro system may also be wise for each of the largest cities in China. I use the SmartShanghai app in Shanghai but while in Guangzhou I did use TripAdvisor a lot, but I just used a free paper metro map.
Apparently I have one more trip this year and if I stay longer I hope to do more short trips, but I also plan to study and pass the CFA® Level 2 exam next year and so my blogging and everything not related to work, the gym, or the CFA exam will be kept to a minimum.