My winter 2018 trip to Asia. Day 8. Guangzhou, China

This is my last day in Guangzhou. I have a flight scheduled at 16:20.

As the last thing in Guangzhou, I want to visit the Guangdong Museum. It is located in the financial district of the city. It is a 5 kilometers walk in the waterfront following a green path that crosses one of the small islands in the Pearl river.

Meanwhile, I walk I have to cross many traffic lights. It’s quite common for people to wait for a while. And when the light does not turn green, they just cross the road. The waiting times are quite high, so I understand why people run out of patience. Also, there are not so many cars and they drive slow used to people crossing at any point. Cars respect the traffic lights, pedestrians not so much. In Guangzhou pedestrians, not cars, have the right to pass.

The green path is broad and well maintained. I like the attention to detail that the city has put into the place. Even the lights are disguised as bird nests to not disturb the natural feeling. Along the way, you can also find
children parks and dedicated paths for runners.

I arrive at the financial district. It is similar to the city center at Shenzhen, skyscrapers dominate the view with a big broad square at the center. It seems designed for giants, instead of normal sized humans.

The Guangdong Museum has been a disappointment. The building is magnificent and I could see it from far away. But par of the museum was closed. I cannot complain, the entrance was for free. Otherwise, I really like the parts that are open to the public. One exceptionally good part of the museum is their shops. They sell works in different art crafts showcased in the exhibits. From pottery to carved wood, there is a lot to choose.

As I get out of the museum, I see another interesting place. In between the tall buildings, there is a big library. The only library of this size I have ever seen, I saw it yesterday at Shenzhen. I’m short on time. That is a shame. At the library, the Guangzhou International Documentary Festival is taking place. But, I have no time to check what is there to be seen. 

I take the Automatic People Mover System (APM), it’s a modern driverless metro. It’s interesting to stay in the from the front seat as you can see the tunnel from there. Some small kids sit there. Another tourist takes a video, as I do. I change to Line 3 to the airport.

At the airport, I eat something. It is not great, but it’s good enough to taste the difference between Chinese food here and at home. The flavors are rawer. The seaweed tastes stronger. And the dish is spicier. And the rice, it’s one of the stickier rice I have ever eat. It is really easy to use the chopsticks. I am not a purist, I like Stockholm’s Chinese, Indian, and other cuisines from the world. Being, in China I like to try the local version. But, I am not a gourmet traveler.

As a dessert, I decide to buy from a shop with what looks like candies. I am not completely sure. This scenario has some similarities with the time that I first got to Sweden. To look at a package and not be sure what it’s inside. But its ten times more difficult, as the farther apart you travel the more different are the shared knowledge. I like what I got, even that nothing tastes as I expected. It feels more fruit-made and less sugar-based than the equivalent at home.

Everything is kind of different, but not in the airports or railways. There, there is an international language of icons and codes that allow for easy travel. I like to find unique things in the places I go. But, it’s reassuring to know that some things are the same and that it’s difficult to get lost. After watching “The Way of the Bug” in the airplane, I land in Shanghai.

My winter 2018 trip to Asia. Day 7. Guangzhou, China

I arrived yesterday and I got a good impression of Guangzhou. The area where I stay is quite different from Shenzhen. Guangzhou is made at human scale. Just by walking around, you get to pass all kind of shops, restaurants, and business. There are some tall buildings, but most are medium size and close to each other creating narrow streets.

I came across a pedestrian street. It is full of life. People approach me selling purses and watches. They are polite and go away when I told them that I am not interested. I’m just bringing one bag on this trip, and I need to be careful of how many things I buy. That is all I will do for today.

As I wake up the next day, the first place I visit is Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. It is an impressive building that hosts a theater and a small museum about Sun Yat-sen himself.

Sun Yat-sen (12 November 1866 – 12 March 1925) was the founding father of the Republic of China. The first provisional president of the Republic of China, Sun was a Chinese medical doctor, writer, philosopher, Georgist, calligrapher and revolutionary. As the foremost pioneer and first leader of a Republican China, Sun is referred to as the “Father of the Nation” in the Republic of China (ROC) and the “forerunner of democratic revolution” in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Wikipedia contributors. Sun Yat-sen. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Big building with a traditional Chinese style roof. In the front there is a statue of a man with a cane.

Yuexiu Park is situated north from the Memorial Hall and my next stop. A must visit in the park is the Zhenhai Tower, also known as the Five-Storied Pagoda. The Guangzhou Museum is located inside the building. The museum is very modern. You can find beautiful items depicting the history of Guangzhou in all of its five floors.

I enter into the old Guangzhou museum. It’s easy to mistake it with its new location as they are just a few meters apart and, in some old maps, it still keeps the label as the museum. Next is the Five-Ram Statue. Not surprisingly it is a statue that represents five rams. The story behind it is based in a legend. Five immortals descended each one riding a ram.  The immortals gave their blessing to the city of Guangzhou and left. Their five rams stayed behind and turned into stone.

In my way to the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, I saw a China Construction Bank office that I could use to withdraw some money. I get 1,000 yuan in ten 100 notes, that’s around 1,300 SEK. That should last for a few days.

The Chen Clan Ancestral Hall is a colorful building that hosts the Guangdong Folk Art Museum. The museum is dedicated to different kinds of craftsmanship. Ceramic, ivory, or wood objects are present in the different exhibitions. Most of the works depict Chinese men, women, and children in different day to day activities. Tourists are busy looking at the art, taking pictures and purchasing some art-work at the artisan’s shops or trinkets in the museum shop. 

One important landmark in Guangzhou is the Pearl River. As I get closer, I find one of the busiest and noisiest parts of the city. People carrying big sacks hurry up and down the street. Cars advance slowly, being constantly interrupted by the flow of people. The street fits in the stereotypical view of Chinese streets in a way that the rest of the city does not.

A few meters ahead, I’m in the Pearl River. The original Nanwucheng settlement was situated on the east bank of this river by 1100 BC. Nowadays, the city has expanded on both sides. And there are several bridges that cross it. I walk by the pedestrian waterfront path back to my hotel.

My winter 2018 trip to Asia. Day 6. Shenzhen, China

Early in the morning I check out of the hotel and start my second day at Shenzhen. I do not want to go too far away as I have booked a train seat at 13:45. I purchased the ticket at You get a code that you need to exchange for the real ticket. You can do the exchange at the ticket office and give them the number and show your passport. I did this yesterday when I got to Futian station.

The hotel is one minute away from the Futian Greenway that leads to Shenzhen Central Park. The Greenway has a beautiful scenery. Electric bikes going across and carrying people to their offices and parents and children to school interrupt the otherwise quiet place. There are two roads that cross the Greenway. But, there are underground passes for them that follow the path of the river, so, the cars do not interrupt your walk.

Shenzhen Central Park is big and quiet, attributes that it shares with most things in Shenzhen. The park has several lakes and is full of people exercising, from jogging to practicing Taichi. There are grandparents with their children. Somewhere there are people flying kites. The kites can be seen up in the sky. Some people are aerobic dancing in groups with loud exercise music as background. But, there is so much space that you can be alone by yourself just by walking away from the crowds. It is a blessing to be able to be close to nature in the middle of such a big city. 

After the park, I come across a library. I decide to enter. There is a lot of students learning from books and older citizens reading newspapers and magazines. It’s frustrating to see all these books and not be able to read them. But, by now, I’m studying Swedish. After Catalan, Spanish and English, Swedish will be my 4th language. Maybe to learn Chinese will be next.

There is stillplenty of time, but I decide to go to the Futian station. I will spend the next hour going around the underground. Futian links most of the metro lines with the high-speed trains. It’s the opposite experience that visiting Central Park. Here everything is artificial. You can’t see the light of the sun. The restaurants are preparing for the lunch peak time.

I enter the train waiting zone. It is way faster than Hong Kong, as there is no immigration process needed. But time tables are just in Chinese. To pass the first tickets zone I need to cross thru the Priority line. For the normal lines, you need a valid Chinese Id. That I do not have. I just need to show my ticket and passport, it takes ten seconds to cross.

A big screen shows the timetable for all the trains of the day. It only shows six at a time, the rest of the screen is covered in advertisements. It takes a while until I can see my train G6534 to Guangzhou South station. Once in the waiting zone, the gates open 10 minutes before the train departure. It is not possible to see the trains as they depart as the platforms are a level below the waiting zone.

I tried the credit card in some stores and it was not accepted, I try again in the store in the waiting area to no avail. But, it is not for lack of modern payment systems. From UnionPay credit card to QR codes, the payment possibilities are many. I need to look for an ATM when I get to Guangzhou. I have been using the money that I exchanged before departing from Stockholm and there is not much left.

I booked a ticket for first class. A small waste of money, it was not so much expensive than a normal one. I get fancy snacks and a better seat. The seat doesn’t make a big difference for such a short trip, the snacks are tasty. Once in Guangzhou South, to get to my hotel I need to take the Blue line and ride 11 stations. I get to Haizhu Square without a problem.

My winter 2018 trip to Asia. Day 5. Shenzhen, China

I heard a lot about Shenzhen. As a city, it grew up faster than any other one. So I was curious to see it. That’s why instead of going directly to Guangzhou – place that I knew as Kanton – I decided to spend one day at Shenzhen.

The day started in Hong Kong where I do a last visit to the high-speed train station surroundings. The Kowloon Park is a quiet green space that even includes an aviarium. I take my time to take some pictures and watch the birds. Next and last stop is the Temple Street market. The night market is closed, but I visit the close by food market. It’s packed with people and very alife. Two characteristics that are true for Hong Kong as a whole.

It is recommended to start the immigration process at the high-speed train station one hour before departure. I was there one hour and a half and I do not repent doing so. The immigration process takes place in the station itself and is fast and easy. But you may find that people in the queue in front of you can take a very long time. Just make sure that if you want something to eat you buy it in the convenient stores of the station as once you start the process there are no more food shops. You will get help and guidance all the way in from the station employees.

The first thing to do in Shenzhen is to purchase a wallet card. I try to ask about it at a convenience store to no avail. I point to the card reader and ask for where to buy a card. Their lack of English knowledge and mine of Chinese makes for difficult communication. So, I move on. In the end, I purchase a one trip token. Once passed metro security, I see the vending machine for the Shenzhen Tong cards. I take the opportunity to purchase it. Even that all the text is in Chinese, it’s so easy that I get my card at the first try.

Shenzhen is not mainly touristic city. But, I find something to do. I visit Splendid China, Folk Culture Villages. It is a mixture between an open-air museum and recreational park. Even that I just see the last 10 minutes of one of the many live performances. It takes me around 3 hours to visit it. 
As with the History Museum in Hong Kong, or any other history museum, the park is designed to create a feeling of national identity. In this case, Chinese identity is composed of many different cultures inside the country. The park is divided into two parts. One part has miniature buildings that range from the Great Wall to the Forbidden Palace. The other one is a set of life-size villages representing all different cultures inside China. In the villages, you can see live performances and enter some of the buildings. If you are looking for a “real” experience, you can skip completely the place. But, for me it has been a fast way to learn how China sees itself thru its own eyes.

While booking the hotel in Shenzhen I had some doubts about its exact location. There where several hotels with a similar name. Before starting the trip, I purchased a China Unicom SIMM. It’s just 2Gb of data, but more than enough for my navigation needs. Having internet access and using the address and AMap it has been easy to find. 

And the day ends at the hotel room. Just the bathroom is almost as big as my entire room in Hong Kong. Shenzhen is a big city with big spaces, tall buildings, and big hotel rooms.

My winter 2018 trip to Asia. Day 4. Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong is a city very easy to navigate. Now I am able to move around without much trouble thanks to how compact the city is, how good is the public transport and the big amount of signs that help you to locate important landmarks.

A poster with signs written in English and Chinese. The three pink signs point to touristic spots like St. John's Church. The three blue signs point to transport stations like Central Station.

As I wake up early, I decide to go to the Peak Tram again. Today, it’s a day with less fog and the views should be better.

I get to the station before 8 A.M. The station is almost empty. When the groups of tourists arrive the queue is going to be discouraging. So, I buy a combined ticket to the Sky Terrace and the tram. This time the views don’t disappoint. The day is not perfectly clear. But, I can see far away and get a good grasp of the size and form of the city. Way better than the previous day.

The next spot to visit is the Chi Lin Nunnery. To get there, I take the red line and change to the green line at Mong Kok station. The metro system is very well designed. The onboard panel shows that at Mong Kok you can change directly from the red line to the green line direction Diamond Hill without changing platform. A kick jump from train to train and I’m on my way.

Chi Lin Nunnery and the Nan Lian Garden are worth visiting. Rebuild in the 90s, the place is beautifully designed and the green plants, blue water and the song of the birds will make you forget the fast pace of the city.

Chi Lin Nunnery main entrance door. A wooden structure with small trees at the sides. In the background there is some modern tall buildings.

From Chi Lin Nunnery I started to walk towards the next metro station. I didn’t have any concrete goal beyond to see some non-touristic places. I pass by a neighborhood with very tall buildings, like everywhere in Hong Kong, and families with kids are all around the place. It’s Sunday. This is not part of the touristic destinations but the everyday life of the neighborhood residents.

As I get close to the metro station, there is a long line of people close to a temple. I decide to investigate it. The place is Wong Tai Sin Temple, a very well known and touristic place. People touch the bronze statues looking for good luck. I follow the crowd of people and do some of the same rituals. The temple is filled with smoke of burning incense.

Next stop is the Hung Hum Promenade. From the harbor is easy to get a good view of the city. Helicopters are crossing from Hong Kong island to the harbor on a regular basis. It’s a high-end commercial area. Similar crowds to the ones in the temple can be seen around. Crowds are similar in numbers. But, people here wear posh clothes and plastic bags with their purchases.

Finally, I get to the Civic Center. Still in the harbor area, but a very different atmosphere. I get distracted by the different artisan shops with a variety of products. It’s not as crowded as other places. From there I got to the Garden of Stars, were I just recognized a few actors’ names, on my way to the Tsim Sha Tsui metro station.

I have been able to see everything I had planned for Hong Kong. There is a lot more to see. But, for me that’s it. I have a ticket for the high speed train for tomorrow. I will leave in the morning.

My winter 2018 trip to Asia. Day 3. Hong Kong, China

Earlier in the morning, I took the metro to Kowloon station. While preparing the trip I read about the Octopus card, it is easy an easy way to pay the metro and can be used in all kinds of stores. So, I got one and started my trip.

Hong Kong high speed station with tall buildings in the background. A few people walks around, as it is early in the morning.

Close to Kowloon station, you can find the high-speed train station. I went inside to get more information, as I had not yet decided how to travel to mainland China. To my surprise, the trains go directly to the Futian station in Shenzhen. While investigating online I just saw the entry points to mainland China, but I missed the existence of the direct train. As I already have a ticket booked from the Futian station, it will be good to visit it as soon as possible to get familiarized with it. I will purchase a ticket from Hong Kong to Futian. Non-residents can’t use the vending machines and I didn’t want to waist too much time. So, I will need to go to tomorrow to purchase a ticket.

To get to Tian Tan Buddha I take the red metro line to the last station in 
Lantau Island. From the metro station, there is a cable car that leaves you at the top of the mountain. When traveling around I like to visit the most popular touristic places, they are the most visited places for a reason.

Back into the metro to the city a tourist asked me for directions. I was happy to be able to help, as after two days I already had some knowledge of the metro map. Hong Kong station is named after the city, but it is just one of many stations in the Hong Kong metro system. That can be confusing for someone that wants to get to the city.

As they are situated side by side, back in the city, I visited Hong Kong’s History and Science museums. The museums are mostly designed for children and students. So, it was a quick visit.

One of the key exhibits at the History Museum is about the opium war as it’s a fundamental origin to the current Hong Kong cultural identity. History museums are a good way of creating a shared identity for the residents. The museum also has an interesting piece on the origin of public housing in the city.

On 25 December 1953, a major fire in Shek Kip Mei destroyed the makeshift homes of refugees from Mainland China, leaving more than 50,000 people homeless. After the fire, and facing a surge of immigrant population, then governor Alexander Grantham launched a public housing program to introduce the idea of “multi-storey building” for the immigrant population living there, thus commencing a programme of mass public housing, providing affordable homes for those on low incomes.

Public housing in Hong Kong, Wikipedia

 The “Gilded Glory: Chaozhou Woodcarving” special exhibition was very interesting and a good addition as a less child-focused exhibit.

The Science Museum dedicates some space to conscience young visitors about human activities and pollution impact on Earth. And it shows how technology is an interesting option as a career path. Both exhibits are very common in science museums all over the glove.