Our China visa is for 20 days so after 8 days we made tracks Eastward. First stop Guangzhou, a large modern city near Hong Kong. We sort of muddle our way through China, never completely sure that we are doing the right thing or that we understand what’s going on – but somehow it always works out and we end up where we want to be. We rely on equal parts planning and helpful strangers with some luck thrown in…
Guangzhou is supposedly one of the best places to eat in China and home to Dim Sum. The receptionist where we were staying recommended a dim sum restaurant nearby where we had one of our best experiences. Not only was the food delicious but being the only westerners we were welcomed with such interest from the staff and some of the nearby diners that the whole visit became extraordinary.
The most difficult thing about Guangzhou was leaving… Not only did we have to queue for 45 minutes to buy train tickets the day before however we spent 30 minutes in a steaming ‘scrum’ trying to show our passports and enter the station to get on our train. It was thick with people, all trying to catch their trains and you couldn’t just go with the flow. You actively had to keep pushing towards the ID check while trying to stop people overtaking you. In the middle of all this, a guy was letting people climb over a barrier and enter the station that way. We saw him take money from some people and maybe it’s their way to deal with people about to miss their train?!
Apart from this we’ve found it relatively easy to buy tickets and navigate the busses and trains as long as we’ve done our research in advance and allow plenty of time.
We took the night train to Hangzhou, 200km outside Shanghai and from there a bus to Wuzhen, a famous ‘water town’, also known as the Venice of China.
It’s located at the Southern end of the world’s longest man made canal. Built hundreds of years ago for transport and irrigation of rice fields, it stretches all the way to Beijing. Wuzhen is just one of a number of canal towns but we were told it was the largest and best maintained / restored.
When we arrived my disappointment was clear as we learnt that the nicest / oldest part of town is cut off from the rest with a $24 pp entry fee at a main entrance which gave it a kind of theme-park feel, what no candy-floss, yes there was. Instinctively I looked for a bouncing mascot to come along and have its photo taken with us. Just thousands of Chinese tourists taking photos of themselves using their selfie-sticks at every opportune moment. I thought we were the only westerners there but during the day we spotted one or two other couples milling about.
The old town was really beautiful with far more impressive buildings than we expected, so it must have been an important centre at its peak. I really need to read up on some of these places. There was no information provided with the entry ticket or anywhere else for that matter. We normally rely on google for information but google is blocked in China, so there you have it. We wondered around in ignorant bliss…
The rain didn’t take away from how beautiful a town it was and we spent a good 8 hours walking, sitting, taking photos and Malene being asked by Chinese tourists if they could have their photo taken with her. I guess she was more of an interesting sight than the historical buildings and canals.
In retrospect we might have skipped Wuzhen given it wasn’t a normal functioning town with its residents devoted to tourism rather than normal day to day activities.TOP OF PAGE