Arrived in Guangzhou (pronounced guan-jo) from Hong Kong yesterday on a sleek new train. I had no idea where the baggage area was. Had paid as much for the baggage as I did my ticket! Then, as I emerged from the immigration check area, from out of nowhere came a man with my two checked bags. Then luckily headed down the escalators with a duffel, a backpack, a carry on and my personal bag without turning head over heels.
Hundreds of people with bags, buckets and sacks full of I don’t know what were sitting and squating on the dirty floor…trying to get to their families during Chinese New Year. Remains of food, paper and boxes were strewn everywhere. Apparently they had been here awhile waiting for trains further inland that had been canceled by the snowstorms. I had forgotten how the Chinese throw their garbage on the ground to be swept up by the next little old lady or man with a broom and shovel. Had also forgotten how loud and aggresive the language sounds. I fleetingly wondered how long it took Josh and Amy to get used to China.
No taxis to be seen. Apparently you have to walk down the street from the station to find the taxis but before I could do that I was approached by a man who offered taxi service. This little man took off, practically running, with my bags as if they weighed nothing. He never looked back as he left me scrambling to keep up several yards behind. But his car was no taxi. I suspect I paid handsomely for the cross town trip to the Hotel Elan. But I didn’t care. No way could I carry all those bags all the way down the street. And he knew it. Travel Tip: Walk out to the street and get a normal taxi with a meter. On the way he pointed out all the places I could buy different goods. I didn’t tell him I wasn’t here to buy anything.
Guangzhou, in this southern part of China called Canton, where most people speak Cantonese-not Mandarin, is a comparatively rich wholesale marketing area. Huge multi-level buildings harbor the latest trade fairs with goods made all over China. Nice hotels abound for buyers from all over the world. Down the street from me is a 6 story building with nothing but underwear! I thought to myself that the market niche for designers could be unending in China but they just copy. To get to the underwear building you cross the street through a huge underground tunnel with more underwear. Turn a corner and you can continue down the street, underground, for as far as the eye can see…all underwear! And that is just my neighborhood!
My hotel was listed in the Lonely Planet guidebook as a medium-priced one. No more cheap Chinese guesthouses with no heat for me in the winter! This is a brand new one, cheaply made, tucked in between noodle and tea shops on a busy side-street. It is a smallish boutique hotel, art deco style…roomy with all the latest bathroom fixtures…but best of all free WiFi. It has all the amenities…hot water kettle, refrigerator, safe, queen sized bed with 4 down pillows and blinding white sheets and comforter. I am going into some detail because this would be a 4 star hotel in the states. I am paying $40 a night with an elaborate buffet breakfast for no extra charge.
It is raining and yukky outside. Last night the ATM at the Bank of China around the corner was out of cash. Travel Tip: Apparently you have to go early in the day so this morning I scored some yuan. So aside from eating at an open noodle shop next door where I am starkly reminded how the Chinese spit their bones and other detritus out on the table beside their plates and bowls in front of them, or on the floor, I am staying inside to nurse a brutal dripping head cold.
I am discovering how much China has changed in the two years since I was last here. Where before there were maybe 4-6 TV channels there are now 70. One is listed as English language but only part of the time and then it’s full of propaganda. But you can watch dubbed U.S. sports events!
With luck I fly out to Beijing tomorrow night…30 miles to get outside the city to the airport.