Guangzhou(nly) a Train Ride Away

After the whirlwind of the end of term, we only had one day to recover before Lucy and I headed on our next adventure: Gunagzhou. And it was an adventure indeed. We did a lot; we went to a safari park and saw pandas, we saw really big Buddhas, I took a sneaky picture of a man, I found The Dress, my feet died, we ate actual Chinese food. And I took several hundred pictures.

We hit a snag right from the off. I’d tried to book a train the day before as we knew that the trains to Guangzhou get fully booked regularly, but when we got to the station, the booking code was not legitimate and even now, I haven’t received confirmation of booking, although that might be because I cancelled it. So we had to buy tickets all over again. We were at the station at around 2pm. The next train available was 9pm. We had a lot of time to kill. We were both pretty hungry so now that we had our tickets, we headed off in search of food, and we found an Italian restaurant. We ordered food and abused the bottomless drinks situation. I had an utterly delicious carbonara that I inhaled until I was full and then ate very slowly. We also shared a garlic bread, and after a couple of hours, we both just about had enough space for a pudding. And we were on holiday after all. We wandered the shopping mall for a while after, as many tables had been filled and emptied in the time we sat there. We found massage chairs and both of us made the mistake of enjoying the first massage so much, that we got a second one, and it hurt a lot. The chairs did very deep massages, and two was too much. But hey, you live and learn. We found a Swedish shop which was very dangerous and we both bought too many souvenirs there. And finally, we got the train to Guangzhou. Once there, we got a Didi (Chinese version of Uber) to the apartment we were renting as we were too tired to try and deal with the Metro. It was a very cute little apartment, with just enough room to swing a kitten, but it had everything needed.

The next day, our adventure started for real. Lucy had found a safari park and after slow start, we went there. the park was insane. It was incredible. We saw so many animals and so many baby animals. They seemed to have a great breeding programme across the board.

We saw pandas, tigers, white tigers, giraffes, hippos, bears, elephants, chimpanzees, monkeys, mandrills, ostriches among others. So let’s have a look at some pictures.

We didn’t get a chance to see everything there, partly because it was just so big, and partly because about half way through the day, the heavens opened (there was the minor issue of a typhoon hitting the coast and weren’t far from the coast) and while neither of us minded getting wet because of how warm it still was, we were concerned about our technology – cameras, phones etc. We didn’t want them getting wet.  We must have spent about an hour cowering under the insufficient protection of two umbrellas; Lucy’s and one of those used in the UK to shelter our weak bodies from the sun, before we made a run for it and found ourselves in one of the gift shops. It was doing a roaring trade in floor-length-extra-large macs. Of course, Lucy and I had to get in on that, as we were both of a stature to have room to spare in these coats, under which we could shelter our technology and still see the rest of the park. And so we carried on, but the time spent sheltering from the downpour meant valuable time wasted not seeing the animals. However the damp tiger cubs were cute.

By the time we got kicked out of the park and got back to the Airbnb, we were cream-crackered and just wanted to go to bed, so we did.

Day two saw me making possibly the biggest mistake of the trip. Instead of wearing my slightly damp trainers, which we tried, tested and proven not to give me blisters, I decided to opt for my sandals, which I knew weren’t all that nice on my feet, but I hadn’t realised how much they bullied them. I was regretting the choice before we even got to the Metro but I was foolish and stubborn and so ignored my feet. By the end of the day they were hotbeds of agony, with enormous blisters on the bottom of my heel, and I was limping.

But my woes aren’t important, the tourist spots are. The first place we went was Guangzhou Museum, hosted in Zhenhai Tower.

The tower dates back to *checks Google* 1380 even though it has been destroyed and rebuilt five times during its history, which makes me think of the Only Fools and Horses bit about the broom. If the handle and head have each been replaced a number of times, is it the same broom? But anyway, it had a lot of exhibits, that were very interesting, and a lot of silver ornaments, as well, because silver stuff was very important to do with the growth of Guangzhou and general trade in China too.

Then we walked to the Temple of the Five Banyan Trees. Not sure what those trees are but they must be important, since the temple is notable for them. I think I found all five of them, but since I didn’t know exactly what they are, I just found five trees in the courtyard that looked the same.

We had two for one day, as the next stop was yet another walk to Guangxiao temple. En route, I found The Dress. The Dress was the dress I’ve been looking for since I arrived, that I can wear to my friend’s wedding in August. There have been many contenders for the dress, two of which I actually bought, but I wasn’t completely confident with either of them. And then I walked into a tiny little shop full of beautiful dresses and the little old lady started basically throwing them at me, calling them all beautiful, and trying to convince me to buy more than one. I tried on maybe five of them, including one with pockets, before I found the one that fit beautifully (the little old lady knew my dress size just from looking at me) and was just gorgeous and I knew I had to get it. There aren’t any pictures yet, because I’m not going to wear it until the wedding, and because these are available to everyone on the interwebs, I’m not even going to describe it. All will be revealed in a few weeks, once the wedding is over.

There were many very large Buddhas all decked in gold, some fat and laughing, some thin with big earlobes, and it was really interesting to see the Chinese people paying their respects, donating foodstuffs to the temple and generally worshipping Buddha. It was also not the most comfortable experience, as we weren’t there to worship. I don’t know Lucy’s religious affiliations, but mine definitely lean more towards atheism than any other religion. But we paid our entry fee same as the others and our respect towards it was in the photos that we took, even if one particularly sanctimonious woman told us off for taking them

The next event was our first proper misadventure of the trip. Following Google Maps to Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, took us to what felt like a dodgy back alley of apartment blocks, and we walked around in circles for a few minutes, although by this point, my feet were weeping in their fabric prison, so we gave it up as a bad job, and decided to head back to the Airbnb so that I could change my shoes, and we could regroup before heading out for food. Google was able to take us to the nearest Metro station and lo and behold there was the Ancestral Hall. There were only 45 minutes until the Hall closed, but we thought that was better than no minutes. But when we got to the ticket gate, they needed our passport or ID card to let us in, which of course neither of us had, because we are sensible tourists and had left them at the Airbnb where they would be safer than in our bags while we were touristing. So we didn’t go in and instead sat on the square outside the hall, listening to a small child play the violin incessantly.

After I worked up the courage to stand again, we followed our original plan, and spent a blissful hour with my feet in the air before I whimpered as I stuffed them back into my trainers so we could head out to Canton Tower.

The tower really is beautiful at night, and was one of the highlights although it was by far the biggest tourist site that we’d been to, and both of us were uncomfortable by the numbers. We were also hungry, so we headed away from the tower to find some food, and it gave us some better perspectives of the tower, since while it is impressive up close, taking pictures is easier from further away.

The next morning was the day we left, but we wanted to see one more thing; the Sacred Heart Cathedral, which was the closest tourist attraction to our Airbnb, so it was a short walk there to find it closed, because that’s what happens to Christian cathedrals on a Monday. But still the outside was pretty impressive and really quite incongruous in the middle of a Chinese city.

Then we were on our way home to collapse and sleep as we were very nearly touristed out.

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