Not Really a Blog

January 9, 2012

Arriving to China, what Guangzhou looks like

Arriving to China.

I left Hong Kong and jumped on a train to get me to Guangzhou (广州), a big capital close to HK (12 million people). This was my first experience and it was not so nice as I arrived in the evening during the rush hour.

Grabbing the underground is madness. The trains are overcrowded and the only way to get in or out is to push people like there’s no tomorrow. I learned this when a woman in her sixties pushed me like I was a laowai (老外)…

Anyway, I arrived to the East Station and had to go to the other main station and then take a taxi. Quite an experience for me being here in China for the first time. I didn’t see any westerner that evening (actually, I didn’t see any during my stay in Guangzhou), and had my first experience with people looking, no, staring at you. The thing is that they look at you as if you just came from a spaceship. Interesting.

Anyway, when I got out of the station, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the amount of people and the mess there. People queuing to get into the station and to grab a taxi. So I jumped on a taxi, thanks to some random lady who had written the address of where I had to go in Chinese. She wanted me to take the bus, but no way, no, I was not going to jump on a bus without even knowing where I had to stop. 10 minutes later, the taxi driver left me on a road, but not the hostel despite having given him the number. Now picture this, you’ve just arrived to mainland China and are left in the middle of a street, which is not light flooded at all, at the number 450 and you have to get to number 140. And you don’t even know if that’s the street you are looking for. It’s a bit unsettling.

Thankfully it was and 15 minutes later I arrived to this really nice hostel where they didn’t speak any English. Well, they did, but very basic. To illustrate how basic, I was trying to explain in basic English that I was going to stay for two nights and that I was leaving on the 22nd. But they wouldn’t understand me, so what I had to do is draw and airplane under the 22nd. That did the trick.

leaving using an airplane

How I explained I was leaving on the 22nd

I didn’t see much of Guangzhou, as I only wandered around during the morning, walking in this huge park. I was gladly surprised by the people in the park. There are lots of old people doing activities. From what I saw:

  • Dancing. Many different kind of dances. I even saw people learning how to dance pasodoble!!!
  • Martial Arts.
  • Working out. On their own or using the playground for children.
  • Singing and playing instruments

Martial Arts

Cat

Keep the danger away

Anyway, the weather was good, in their 20s. I even tried boiled peanuts, which seems to be something typical here. But didn’t like them very much to be honest.

But probably the most interesting place was this eatery right in front of where I was staying where they had bowls of soup with noodles, vegetables and dumplings for 10 yuan. Yeah, I used their chopsticks and still thinking that they were not looking very nice, but they were nice people (they were all the time smiling at me), I guess they don’t get to see much people like me at their place anyway. That, or they were cracking up with me…

Wonton Soup with dumplings

That was my trip to Guangzhou. Next day, a flight to Guilin.

China Southern Airlines

Summary:

Will I come back? To Guangzhou? If I’m in China, probably not, unless I have to, but don’t know, I spent only a day and a half here, so not enough time to decide if it’s worth it or not.

Macau

Having been told that I should definitely visit Macau given its proximity to Hong Kong, I booked accommodation for a day in Macau and a ferry ticket. The ferry takes approximately one hour from Kowloon so you can get there in pretty much no time.

According to wikipedia, Macau was given back definitively to the Chinese as a S.A.R in 1999 after agreeing on it a few years before. Located around 60 km from Hong Kong, it lies on the western side of the Pearl River Delta, bordering with the Guangdong province in China. The economy depends mainly on gambling and tourism. Yes, gambling.

Arriving to Macau and getting a visa for Europeans is just a matter of going through immigration and getting your passport stamped. We are allowed to stay for 90 days in this tiny territory which happens to be one with the highest density in the world.

Apparently the main influx of tourists to Macau come from mainland China, people who come here to gamble on the different casinos in the area. For this reason,  outside the port there are many free buses that take you directly to your hotel, hotel/casino or even to the casino itself. You can even use these even if you are not using the hotels and don’t want to walk to where you are going.

Having taken one of these buses, I drop everything, and wash some of my clothes, as this was very much needed, and then, let’s go and see what’s on offer on this town.

Starting to wander around when the sun was getting low, I get to see the enormous casino area. A place full of huge buildings with shiny banners and lots of (chinese) people queueing to get in. Buildings that look spectacular during sunset (and later in the evening) you get to see what feels like Las Vegas (never been).

Macau 2

Macau 1

A few shots here and there and I get to see Macau Tower at sunset, which looks absolutely gorgeous (澳門旅遊塔會展娛樂中心). The tower measures 338 m and has an observation point where you can do high adrenalin activities (no, not having time to go up, and probably not having balls of steel to try bungee jumping off it)

Sunset in Macau

Reflections 1

Now, if you walk into the old town of Macau it simply looks surreal, as it looks you are in a southern portuguese city, or even a spanish one. I felt at some points I was in the Sierpes Street in Seville.

Macau 5

Except that everything is in Chinese and it’s full of Chinese people, although you see some people of Portuguese origin here and there. There are Chinese street markets and food vendors everywhere. One thing that I tried here again (tried it in Hong Kong) was the grilled octopus.

Octopus

What these guys do is grill a piece of octopus and then they put it through a machine which basically flattens and shreds it so you wan eat it. In my opinion it’s a bit too dry but quite tasty.

Octopus ready to eat

Another street vendor that caught my attention was this place where they have a multitude of different foods in front of you, so you grab a dish and put everything you want in it, then hand it to the vendor who would boil it all and serve you with either spicy or non-spicy food (So I found out thanks to a local who spoke English and was telling me about it).

Street market

To be honest, it was quite tasty, but it all felt a bit weird not knowing what the hell I was eating, really.

Final product

On my way back, I had to go again through the casino area so I used the opportunity to take some good night shots with my camera, of the different casinos and the Macau tower against the sea water (gotta love the reflection shots).

Casino

Reflections 2

Reflections 3

Things that I learned here:

  • Chinese spit everywhere, no mater their gender.
  • Chinese mixed with portuguese is weird.
  • You can use your hair dryer to dry your laundry, but gotta be careful ;-)

Summary:

Surreal. It looks way too artificial, although the portuguese touch is quite nice.

Visit again:

Probably not, unless you want to gamble like there’s no tomorrow.

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