We only spent three days in Guangzhou but it’s been enough to get a very good first impression of this city, mainly thanks to Isabelle who hosted us in exchange of setting up her dance pole. Isabelle, you made us feel at home from the very first moment!!
For our first night we decided to roam around with no maps, GPS, Internet connection, compass or even sextant (I forgot it at home, silly me…) only a sketchy subway map, and of course, we got lost! Getting lost in China is quite fun as street signs aren’t all written in latin characters, so we walked around the wholesale market, where you can find everything: clothes, mannequins, clothes hangers, all kinds of packaging and labeling, basically a big part of your closet, even what you’re wearing right now was made around here or at least some of its packaging! Anyway! Very chaotic streets where cars, motorcycles, bikes, pedestrians and street food stalls surrounds you. It was our first contact with a huge industrial city of more than 12 million people and growing! How did we get back home? We just asked for the closest metro station and we figured out we were way further that where we thought we were…
We opted to get a map for our second day! No compass yet but we’re working on it (no kidding)! Heading towards the business area we were suddenly faced with a very modern city, skyscrapers and mega-constructions everywhere, a great walk with an impressive architectural panorama, such as the Opera House and the Guangzhou Public Library, designed by the Japanese architectural firm Nikken Sekkei, highly recommended to see.
Heading down this Chinese “show of force” avenue that is Zhujiang New Town, we got to the most representative building of the city: the Canton Tower, located on the Pearl River side. It’s the world’s second highest tower with its 600m height!
Next day was yet again something totally different as we went off to see the most authentic and traditional area of the city, the Qingping Market, and it was big! There you will find vegetables, meat, fish, etc… as all markets, right? But how about 20kg cucumbers, turtles, frogs, snakes and many more? All as fresh as you can imagine as they’re all alive (except the cucumber…). In between those stand shops selling all kinds of dried ingredients used in traditional Chinese medicine: Ginseng, sea horses, deer antlers, and many other things we have absolutely no idea of!
And there we were, going left, turning right, and … lost again! Thank god we had a map this time… which was no use… For over an hour we wandered around, trying to find a street name that matched one on our map. While searching we passed from this traditional market area to a huge modern shopping street, it felt like time travelling! It was funny to see how those big official shops cohabit with the ones next street, which are all small and selling replicas. Somehow we managed to find our way back and ended up at the metro station where our Wednesday started!
Now what about food? Two words: cheap and tasty!
Our first real Chinese restaurant in China was fun… We quickly realized communication would be an issue, not many English speakers around here but some pictures on the menu helped us. When we pointed at some of them our waitress was just saying: “No! You no eat!” So we assumed that it meant something like: “Pardon me sir but I wouldn’t recommend this item on the menu as you might not fully enjoy its fragrant taste”. Moving on to the next one: same thing! Eventually we were able to order some mushrooms with smoked pork and some “not so spicy” beef as she mentioned… yeah right, not so spicy!
The quantity was more than enough and the bill less than expected! About 8€ for the whole thing where easily 5 people could’ve eaten well! That’s how we knew that Chinese people don’t joke with the food!
Without knowing it, we found out that Guangzhou hosts one of the world’s most famous circuses, Chimelong International Circus. So we gave it a try! And it turned out to be almost as good as the Cirque du Soleil! Clowns, dancers, acrobats, even the human cannonball was there! Add to this white tigers, monkeys, bears on motorcycles, giraffes, flamingos and many others. An amazing 1.30hour show that felt like 15mins. It was nice to see this spark in the eyes of the young and the elderly:
la magie du cirque.
On our last night we headed down to a Couchsurfing meeting to Perry’s, a bar that would be impossible to find as an outsider. Get on an elevator, 3dr floor, and there you are! The place was crowded with people from all over the world. Spanish, French, Chinese, Canadians, Americans, Mexicans, even some Special Forces from Cameroun (true story!). People are mostly in Guangzhou for work and internships and we didn’t hear anyone complaining about this city. It seems that there are many more opportunities here that what we thought!
Guangzhou, we’ll be back!
PS: We apologize for the poor quality of the pictures but this is China… Internet is incredibly slow over VPN and uploading those takes forever…