I think the last time I wrote about my Chinese adventure and all the memories I have from this stay abroad was back in November. I know it has been a while since the China adventures, but today I am back to talk about China – Chapter 2, and how it is like to be living in Guangzhou!
As I mentioned in Chapter 1, I lived for 6 months in Guangzhou, Guangdong, which is located in Southern China. This is clearly not the biggest or the most touristic city in China, but I think it is still worth a visit. Today I want to walk you through some of my favourite areas and things to do there.
Guangzhou is a city of about 15 millions inhabitants, and you may also know it as Canton. It was one of the first entry gates for the Europeans, coming for trade in Asia. On top of that, many places in the city have a strong colonial heritage. Now, going back to my former blog, reading my articles and going through all the pictures, clearly, I was lucky to live there.
Why Guangzhou? Why China?
The reason why I decided to live there might be completely different from the one you might have, but I guess there will be some common points in the overall picture. This experience happened as my home university offered exchange opportunities, which I applied for. So, why China you’ll ask?! Well, I wanted to go far away, to a country where everything is different from what I knew. I wanted to go to a place where I did not speak the language and where I’d have to deal with things on my own.
Overall, I needed a challenge and I needed to prove myself a bunch of things. I got the opportunity to go to China, and it could not have been more perfect. Guangzhou is neither the biggest nor the most famous city in China. But it was the only one offered by my university. I am not including Hong Kong here due to the different status and regulations between these areas. So, this is basically why I went to Guangzhou and studied in Sun Yat-Sen University for 6 months! If you’re interested in knowing how it is like to study in a Chinese university, let me know and I’ll write a future article.
Why you should go
If I would have to sell this idea to you, here is what I would say: Guangdong Province has the best food in China (that’s what the Chinese say and I can only agree with them). If you love food as much as I do, I shouldn’t need to convince you any longer. Otherwise, the strong colonial heritage and incredible history might be something attractive. If not that, then the blend of extreme modernity and traditions is what makes this place special. Lastly, the Province is not packed with tourists or expats.
Moreover, Guangzhou, is very well connected. You can, literally, go anywhere from there! The airport is quite big, with a large selection of both national and international flights. While Hong Kong and Macau are just 2 small hours away, thanks to great train connections.
Things to see & do
There are actually so many things I want to tell you about in this article that it might take forever, so below are my favourite or most incredible experiences.
This little island – close by the city centre and easily accessible by public transport – is the area in Guangzhou which has the most colonial heritage. In addition, it is very easy to walk everywhere and reach the main sites. But perhaps the best thing is that the island is not just an open air museum, but a place where people live and go about their day just as anywhere else.
I believe the pictures will speak for themselves!
How to get to Shamian Island: 广东省广州市荔湾区 邮政编码: 510000, metro Huangcha.
The Tea Market
Next on the list, and probably one of my favourite things in Guangzhou, is the tea market! I love tea, and I literally drink it all day long and year around. This place is just heaven!
Though, not easy to reach by public transport as mainly locals go there. The place looks like a big market hall but with hundreds of alleys, and little shops everywhere. You can find tea (obviously) but also all accessories around it that you’ll need to serve it properly.
I think, the tea market was by far my favourite experience, but don’t expect anyone to speak English there. I’d recommend a few things before visiting it. First, learn a few words related to what you would like to get. Then, have a good translator and always negotiate prices!
How to get to the tea market: 广东省广州市荔湾区芳村芳村大道中508号, metro FangCun.
The Pet Market
Even though I am not really a pet-friendly person, I heard about the pet market and thought it would be interesting to go and see what it looks like. Clearly, I was not looking into getting a pet, but this is an experience like no other. Also something that you will never really find in Europe, and so I wanted to see it for myself. I believe it is super important to experience things before making any judgement on them. So use these chances! And as you can see, this was the perfect example. This is not something I am used to, nor a place I would go back to. But now, when people talk about a Chinese pet market, I know what it means.
So, if you want to, or have the time for it, I think you should go. This place is one of these unique and genuine experiences you’ll have when in China. And, overall, you’ll keep only good memories of it (especially if you like animals!).
How to get to the pet market: 广州市荔湾区芳村, metro HuaDiWan.
This is the best place to visit if you need some green and fresh air. You will clearly not be alone, but it is a great place to get out of the skyscrapers. As you can guess, Guangzhou is a massive modern city, and after a while, you will need some green areas. You will be dying to get out of the city for a bit.
The Baiyun Mountain overlooks the city and thus is a very popular spot during the weekend. If you can, go there on a work day and perhaps not when it’s foggy. The fog happens either due to the weather as we know it in Europe, or due to the pollution. Either way, you won’t have the best overview of the city.
How to get to Baiyun Shan: 广东省广州市白云区, metro Baiyun Park.
Zhujian New Town & Pearl River
As stated in the name, this area is one of the newest places in the city. It is full of skyscrapers and other massive buildings, great architecture, but also it is the heart of the business centre. However, it has much more to offer, as you’ll find, museums, the opera house, a park and a massive square. This is also the area where all the luxury hotels are located, as well as many Western restaurants and so on.
If you go in the evening, you’ll find a light show on the buildings and many other attractions. I doubt this place is ever empty, but I liked it. Just by the river, you can easily have a peaceful walk by the water.
The Pearl River crosses the city and splits it into two. Many buses and the metro allows you to commute between the two sides as much as you want. However, one of my favourite things to do, is walking along the river! There are always many locals there, dancing, training or just walking.
How to get to Zhujiang New Town: 广州市天河区 邮政编码: 510620, metro Zhujiang New Town/HuaCheng Avenue.
Of course there are a lot more things to do, as well as more touristic places. I’ll probably write more about these in the future and provide you with a city guide. Let me know if you’d be interested!