I looked down in slight disbelief as I continued to open every door in the line with hope of finding something more familiar. Nope, just 12 holes in the floor responsible for fumigating the room with bodily fluids that one did not wish to inhale after 20 hours in transit.
But with no choice but to oblige, I took some tissue from one of the other journalists with me on the trip and drew a big breath.
Welcome to China – a country with a completely alien book of rules.
This situation arose immediately after stepping across the Chinese / Hong Kong customs border whilst we waited for our accompanying coach to get through customs.
After an hour of waiting for our coach to be released, having had our box of fruit confiscated in the process, we continued on in the darkness through to Guangzhou and our mind blowing hotel – The Garden Hotel.
I hadn’t previously heard of Guangzhou before this trip, and perhaps that’s because it sits shyly but proudly behind the likes of Shanghai in it’s tourist offerings, operating mainly as a business hub.
So why on earth would you go to Guangzhou?
Guangzhou (otherwise known as Canton) is the incredible home to Cantonese cuisine and sits in perfect proximity for combination with visits to the likes of Hong Kong and Guilin.
Whilst Guangzhou is undoubtedly rich also with culture and heritage, in my opinion – it’s all about the food here.
I experienced some of the finest and most experimental of dishes I’ve ever come across during my stay here in Guangdong’s capital (including chicken feet!). Whilst some dishes were certainly more pleasant than others, its safe to say Guangzhou surely has no difficulty awakening your senses.
The Cantonese (Lignin) cuisine is one of the 8 Chinese Cuisines consisting of 5400 recipes and 825 varieties of Dimsum – yep seriously! I mean, I got through a lot of food during my stay, but I can 100% see why round 2 is necessary.
First things first, barre a few dishes, I can confirm that the ‘Chinese’ we have in the UK is WORLD’S apart from Traditional Chinese food, well Cantonese anyway.
The Cantonese cuisine, from my recent experience, has a heavy emphasis on soups, dimsum and barbecued meats with a common occurrence of rice flour and rice starch in many of the dishes.
The soups, unlike in England, are most commonly water based flavoured by pork meat. The soups are usually served as starters and after consumption, one shouldn’t feel the need to eat such a big portion of food, leaving you feeling full yet light in the aftermath.
For the two days I was in Guangzhou, I was invited to dine in some fine restaurants including 5 Hotel, The Garden Hotel
+ Park Hyatt
– admittedly a sheltered but outstanding angle on the food.
had an incredible rooftop bar with views across the whole city}
If I could have had longer to explore i would have loved to dig right into some street food and mingle in amongst the local restaurants.
But for a first taste of China – it was a wonderful one, and it has most definitely left me wanting more.
In-between eating our way through Guangzhou, we visited both the Old and New parts of the City and even got hands on in a traditional Tai Chi class – which was considerably more difficult that it looks!
Old Town Highlights:
– Guangxiao Temple
– Chen Clan Academy
– Lychee Bay
China reminded me exactly why Asia remains one of my favourite places in the world to travel through.
Simply because I find nothing more captivating than immersing myself in a culture where I feel totally lost – like a 5 year old all over again.
I couldn’t understand what people were saying + people couldn’t understand me.
I had no network on my phone to use GPS, and so I was forced to observe my surroundings and navigate my way through a map.
I had never seen half the spices and pastries that were on offer and I had no idea what I was buying.
Each day became a series of interesting and uneducated guesses, fuelled by a body language conversations and a willingness to get lost.
And that is the true essence of travelling.
Adventuring through a ‘less touristy’ corner of the world, although difficult at times, is so rewarding and allows you to REALLY see life through someone else’s eyes.
Aside from the Chinese’s ability to devour and utilise a HUGE variety of animals right down to the last bone, it was the markets that stole my attention in a controversial way.
I saw both snakes in water and free roaming chickens outside restaurants ready to be chosen and served for supper.
I saw (and smelt from streets away) wet markets with buckets and buckets of fish and animals, some in water, some freshly split with a heart still beating, and some still wriggling over the chopping board despite being decapitated.
Selling in this way ensures the freshness of the given produce when purchasing.
Forgive me if that was a bit too visual or you don’t agree with it. This wouldn’t be a true representation of my experience if i skimmed the details… so I decided to go with it.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Guangzhou was an eye opening experience and despite being super jet lagged during my 48 hours exploring – I loved being thrown in the deep end and having to find my own way out.
Thank you FinnAir for the memories and for inviting me to experience my first taste of China!
I look forward to meeting China again soon 🙂
Come and join the adventure:
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