Recently, I was invited for a conference in Guangzhou, China. After staying at the conference venue for 3 days, I had a free day to travel around the city:
I checked out early by 8 am. I was staying at Kai Rong Du International Hotel (Decent place, close to the metro, slightly expensive). The night before leaving, I made a list of places to see and the nearest metro stops. I left my luggage at the reception and took a backpack with basic stuff: A map of the city and metro, water, snacks, pen and paper.
The closest metro was Chigang. Once inside, it was easy to buy tickets at the machine as they also had English as an option. The price varied from 2 RMB for a couple of stops to 8 RMB to go to the airport (1 Euro – 7 RMB).
The first visit was to Yuexiu Park. It is the largest park in downtown Guangzhou. The park is a nice place to relax and has lakes and cultural relics. It is a huge park and I did not include that into my calculations. It takes at least half a day to go around the park, boat rides and visiting museums within the park. I only had 3 hours. So, at the entrance, I turned right and walked towards the south exit.
The weather was crazy though. Within an hour, it rained like 3 times which along with the humidity was a challenge!
Along the way, there were few interesting monuments:
Five Ram statue: The official emblem of Guangzhou and a famous tourist spot
Ming dynasty wall: A section of the city wall constructed during the Ming dynasty around 14th century
Sun Yatsen monument: Dedicated to the father of the nation and founder of China, Dr. Sun Yatsen. There was a larger memorial hall just outside the South exit.
Time for lunch. Being a strict vegetarian, it wasn’t easy to find good restaurants. During the conference days, there was one restaurant close to the hotel where after a lot of deliberations, I managed to get rice and vegetables (FYI, In Chinese, it sounds similar to Fan neige Shoe Shine :)). On that day, I wanted Indian food and went to Sharmaji (Link). It was tough to locate the place, but was worth it. All you can eat vegetarian buffet including rice, parathas, two curries, dal, raita, salad etc. for 60 RMB.
After a heavy lunch (not a good idea), the next stop was Baiyun Mountains. Unfortunately, the place closes by 5pm and by the time I reached the entrance, it was already 430pm. Missed the chance. Caution: The entrance is a fair distance from the Meihuayauan metro, better take a taxi.
After the disappointment at Baiyun mountains, the next stop was Shamian Island. As the name suggests, it is an island in the middle of the pearl river. It was a major hub for trade in the early days. It was given to French and UK authorities by Qing dynasty in early 19th century and used to house many consulates. An interesting part of the island are the various bronze sculptures depicting life in early days. There were few restaurants on the banks of the pearl river and I settled for a quick snack and the umpteenth drink of the day.
The final visit was to the most famous landmark of the city – Canton tower and Pearl River. It was at a walking distance from Shamian Island. It was almost sunset and a perfect time to visit. The tower lights up. Also, it is a nice time to walk along the Pearl river overlooking the city of Guangzhou. Time permitting, I would have liked to go to the top of the tower (costs 150 RMB). Instead, after a brief walk, I made my way back to the hotel to pick up my luggage. A final ride in the metro to the airport cost 8 RMB and took 45 minutes.
Overall, despite the heat and humidity, it was a pleasant day!
Tips for travel in Guangzhou:
1. No jeans :). Seriously, the humidity is killing. I lived 8 years in Chennai, and Guangzhou was on a different level altogether. Ideal attire is shorts and shirt.
2. Take lots of water. Keep drinking, otherwise it is easy to get dehydrated. I was sweating crazy after walking for barely 15 minutes.
3. Metro is the most convenient mode of transport. All options in English, clean, very frequent and cheap. Also, all the metro stops are air conditioned, so a welcome relief.
4. One of the best sites for travel in China – Travel China Guide. Also, download the Chinese (Simplified) to English language pack in Google Translate.
Some other pics: